Written by: Michael Den Boer on November 27th, 2004
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 1976
Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Writer: Kazuo Kasahara
Cast: Seizo Fukumoto, Meiko Kaji, Hideo Murota, Tatsuo Umemiya, Tetsuya Watari
DVD Released: August 19th, 2002
Approximate Running Time: 96 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Japanese
DVD Release: Eureka Video
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: $24.95
Synopsis: The lack of incoming income has put a strain on most of the organized crime families. Financial instability leads to gangs trespass on other gangs territories to make ends meat. The police try to infiltrate these gangs in hope to subdue the tension that has been building. The Yamashiro clan is one of the underworld biggest and most brutal gangs. They have set their sights on the Nishida organizations gambling operations. The city is in chaos as the Yamashiro and Nishida organizations face off in an all out war. Detective Kuro a cop with a short tempter is the city’s only hope to defuse the situation.
Kinji Fukasaku’s Yakuza Graveyard was one of his final films to explore the yakuza underworld. Having become bored with this genre as his thematic ideas had come circle. Kazuo Kasahara who wrote Yakuza Graveyard’s screenplay also wrote the screenplay for Fukasaku’s Cops vs Thugs released a year before. The characters are more defined this time around and that action is not as chaotic. Fukasaku’s direction is in top form as he every trick in his arsenal. The action scenes shot primarily with a hand held camera have a documentary feel to them that adds to there gritty realism. Music is always an important part of any film and one of my favorite moments in the film is when Kuroiwa is tying one off playing his music too load. The neighbors have called the police because he is disturbing the peace. Kuroiwa resolves the situation by showing the beat cop his badge before knocking him out.
Tetsuya Watari plays Kuroiwa a cop with a violent streak that at times prevents him from seeing things clearly. Through the friendships he forms with the Yakuza and tendency to lose it at any moment Kuroiwa is prone to make the wrong decisions. Another excellent edition to the cast is Meiko Kaji who plays the bosses wife Keiko. Her performances are drastically different from her roles in Lady Snowblood and the Female Scorpion series. Instead of being a protagonist she is a victim in Yakuza Graveyard were she is pimped by her husband and a drug addict. One theme that runs through several of Fukasaku’s films that is present in Yakuza Graveyard is Japan’s ill feelings towards half breeds. The lead characters Kuroiwa and Keiko form a bound because of their mixed nationalities which also makes them outsiders. Fukasaku’s films are filled with anti heroes and Yakuza Graveyard has one of his most compelling ones in Kuroiwa.
Yakuza Graveyard is presented in an anamorphic widescreen that retains the films original 2.35:1 scope aspect ratio. The colors are flat and the image lacks detail as it looks soft giving it a washed out look. Color bleeding, artifacts and minor print damage are just a few of things this transfers has going against it. Grain is noticeable through out and despite all of this transfers short comings it is far from being unwatchable. The only audio option included for this release is the films original Japanese audio track presented in a Dolby Digital mono. Considering the age of the film and condition of this DVD’s transfer this audio track is clear and free of any distortion or noise. English subtitles have been included that are easy to read and follow.
The extras on this release are even more non-existent then Eureka’s other Kinji Fukasaku release. The only extra include is a brief overview of Kinji Fukasku’s career is presented in text form. Yet again what we get in quality from Eureka is what I have come to expect from a budget DVD label and the overall presentation is beneath a film of this stature. Yakuza Graveyard can also be purchased with Yakuza Papers and Street Mobster via Eureka’s Kinji Fukasaku Yakuza triple pack #1 which sells for not that much more then each of these films sells on their own. Yakuza Graveyard is another excellent production from Kinji Fukasaku and it would be hard for me to recommend Eureka’s DVD. This DVD is worth at least a rental until a better version comes along.