Written by: Michael Den Boer on November 4th, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, April 21st, 1979
Director: Shohei Imamura
Writer: Masaru Baba
Cast: Ken Ogata, Mayumi Ogawa, Rentaro Mikuni, Mitsuko Baisho
DVD released: October 24th, 2005
Approximate running time: 135 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Japanese
DVD Release: Eureka
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £12.99
Vengeance Is Mine is the story of a con man and murderer named Iwao Enokizu (Ken Ogata) who kept one pace ahead of the police for seventy eight days.
This film is loosely based on the actually events of the seventy eight man hunt to catch Iwao Enokizu. Director Shohei Imamura who also directed the excellent Nikkatsu Corporation programmer The Pornographers would leave Nikkatsu in 1968 after completing the film The Profound Desire of the Gods. He would spend the ten years directing documentaries before returning to feature film making with Vengeance Is Mine. Visually the film takes on a more documentary approach in its story telling. This pseudo documentary approach to the film gives it a more realistic gritty look.
The non linear approach to the plot at first takes some getting use to it and once the main players are introduced it becomes a non factor as the story is overpowering. Ken Ogata gives the performance of his career as Iwao Enokizu. He plays the role with a sadistic glee as he kills each victim with little or no emotion. Iwao Enokizu would often take on the various personalities of some of his victims and actor Ken Ogata takes on this challenge perfectly as he shifts effortlessly from one character to the next. The film is told though the eyes of the killer which for its time and even by today’s filmmaking standards is quit rare.
There are several murders that take place on screen and a few times when women are ruffed up, still the overall tone of the violence is pretty low key as it never is done just to shock the viewer. Director Shohei Imamura has never been a director who spells things out for the viewer and Vengeance Is Mine like his other films force the viewer to dig deeper to find the films ultimate meaning. Overall Vengeance Is Mine is an engrossing film that never becomes dull during its 135 minute duration.
Eureka presents Vengeance is mine in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the films original aspect ratio. The colors look nicely saturated and flesh tones look healthy. Details look sharp through out except during some darker scenes were the image looks just a little too soft. Overall the image is in great shape and this is one of the better Eureka DVD transfers that I have seen to date.
This release comes with only one audio option the films original Japanese language track which is presented in a Dolby Digital mono. The dialog is clear and the music and effects sound evenly balanced. Overall considering its mono limitations this audio mix is more then adequate. Removable English subtitles have been included that are easy to read and follow.
Extras for this release include a video introduction for the film with filmmaker Alex Cox. Other extras include a 36-page collectable booklet that comes with extensive essays’ written by Jasper Sharp and Dr. Alastair Philips. Also included in this booklet are reprints of original promotional materials and many stills from the films set. Rounding out the extras is an audio commentary with film critic/filmmaker Tony Rayns that early on helps set up the action that is going on. Through out the duration of the track Tony Rayns has plenty to say about director Shohei Imamura and his insight into the film Vengeance is Mine is extensive.
Eureka has put together an impressive release that is on par with the quality we have to expect from companies like the Criterion Collection. Vengeance Is Mine realistic look into the mind of a serial killer that is often engaging despite its dark subject matter, highly recommended.