Written by: Michael Den Boer on January 13th, 2009
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, February 10th, 1990
Director: Sonny Chiba
Writer: Shigeko Satô
Cast: Hiroyuki Sanada, Mika Muramatsu, Hiroyuki Nagato, Bunta Sugawara
DVD released: January 13th, 2009
Approximate running time: 108 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo Japanese
DVD Release: Cinema Epoch
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $24.98
Yellow Fangs is the directorial debut of action icon Sonny Chiba who in the 1970’s gained international fame portraying “Terry” Takuma Tsurugi in the Streetfighter films. By the time Chiba had stepped behind the director’s chair he had already nearly twenty years of behind the scenes experience as a stunt coordinator as part of JAC (Japan Action Club). Visually he infuses Yellow Fangs with a tremendous amount of style. Also the visual style of the film bears many similarities to that of one of Chiba’s most frequent collaborators director Kinji Fukasaku. The action sequences in Yellow Fangs are all exceptional. Even the bear attacks are handled with the utmost care. This is most evident in how Chiba shots the scenes where the bear attacks. He shows just enough that the bear never loses its impact when its attacks. The killings in this film are very gruesome and bloody. The standout moment in the film visually is a scene where a woman’s silhouette is seen through a wall before her bloody corpse falls through the wall.
The plot for Yellow Fangs is loosely based on a bear that attacked the villages of Hokkaido, Japan in 1915. The plot besides featuring an imposing nemesis the bear also does a good giving other subplots to evolve. The most disturbing part of this film’s plot is that the bear likes to single out its women victims as food. The most satisfying part of the plot is the evolution the relationship of a bear hunter named Eiji and a young woman named Yuki whose family was killed by the bear. The plot for Yellow Fangs has a Jack London feel to it with its snow peaked landscapes and lead character Yuki who has a wolf sidekick.
Hiroyuki Sanada is protégée of Sonny Chiba’s is cast in the role of Eiji. Performance wise Hiroyuki Sanada gives a well rounded performance that really showcases his range as an actor. Hiroyuki Sanada also composed the score for the film. Cast in the films other lead role Yuki, is an actress named Mika Muramatsu. Yellow Fangs appears to be the film that Mika Muramatsu has appeared in, which is shame since she gives the remarkable performance that stands out head and shoulders above the rest of performances in the film. Another performance of note is Bunta Sugawara who leads the expedition to capture and kill the bear known as Yellow Fangs. Ultimately Yellow Fangs is an epic tale that perfectly mixes drama and action.
Cinema Epoch presents Yellow Fangs is an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the film’s original aspect ratio. The source material used for this transfer is in great shape. Colors look robust and nicely saturated. Black levels are strong and details look sharp throughout.
This release comes with one audio option a Dolby Digital stereo mix in Japanese and removable English subtitles have been included. The audio sounds clean, clear, evenly balanced and at times dynamic. Overall this is a strong audio mix that is free of any audio defects.
Extras for this release include a three minute trailer for Yellow Fangs (in Japanese, no English subtitles), a stills gallery that plays with music from the film in the background and liner notes about the film written by film critic Bill Gibron. The lack of extra content is disappointing since this film has an interesting back-story being the first film directed by Sonny Chiba and how its financial failure at the box office nearly ruined him. Overall Cinema Epoch gives Yellow Fangs a strong audio/video presentation for its U.S. debut, recommended.