Written by: Michael Den Boer on February 2nd, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 1963
Director: Seijun Suzuki
Writers: Ichirô Ikeda, Tadaaki Yamazaki
Cast: Jo Shishido, Ikuko Kimuro, Misako Watanabe
DVD Released: January 11th, 2005
Approximate Running Time: 92 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Japanese
DVD Release: Criterion
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.95
Synopsis: Joji Mizuno (Jo Shishido) is former cop who was framed by the Yakuza and sent to prison. Joji decides to uncover the truth behind his friend’s death when a friend of his turns up dead as part of an apparent double suicide. In his search for the truth Joji pits the two rival Yakuza clans against each other as he uses each side for his own gain. Will the Yakuza find out about his double dealings before he can find his friends murderer?
Youth of the Beast was the first of four collaborations featuring actor Jo Shishido and Director Seijun Suzuzki. Their most famous collaboration Branded to kill would end Seijun Suzuzki’s relationship with the Nikkatsu Corporation. Youth of the Beast also features a rare cameo by the films director Seijun Suzuki. Youth of the Beast’s first scene is shot in black and white before switching over to color for the rest of the film. This is a trademark that would find its way into several of Seijun Suzuki’s films. Youth of the Beast was a turning point for director Seijun Suzuki. The films opens in a stylistic black & white before shifting abruptly too several women laughing obviously in color. Early on in the film he demonstrates his creativity as a director in a scene that takes place in a night club. There is a one way mirror that can watch all the action on the floor and when we are brought inside this room it is sound proofed so that nothing can be heard outside of the room. His use of sound and editing during this scene is near perfection as the tension builds.
There are also scenes of depravity in Youth of the Beast like when one of the Yakuza taunts his girlfriend who is hooked on dope as she crawls across the floor. There is another scene that involves abusing women which involves a Yakuza boss who is sadist. This scene even though it is dark subject matter is beautifully shot by Seijun Suzuki as the wind blows with blood red sky in the back ground. The character of Joji in a similar fashion to Eastwood’s Man With no Name in a Fistful of Dollars takes two rival gangs too eliminate each other through his double dealings. There are two key moments involving Joji that are classic Seijun Suzuki set pieces. The first one is when Joji is pressed against a glass window as he is being held by Yakuza. They then place a blade under his fingernail as they slowly remove it. In the other one the Yakuza have tied Joji upside-down from a chandelier. Joji somehow during the commotion that is going on outside manages to get a gun off the table below him and free himself. Youth of the Beast is blessed with a solid cast whose performances are enhanced by an remarkable screenplay.
Youth of the Beast is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and it has been given an anamorphic enhancement for widescreen televisions. The lucid color palette exhibits nicely saturated tones. The black levels remain solid and detail is sharp through out. There are no problems with compressions and this transfer is virtually free of any print damage. Criterions high definition transfer is on par with the Seijun Suzuki titles released by Home Vision.
This DVD comes with only one audio option the films original Japanese language track presented in a Dolby Digital Mono. The track is free of any distortion or hiss. The action is crisp and the dialog comes through crystal clear. Overall it is hard to believe that a film that is over forty years old could sound this good. English subtitles have been included that are easy to follow and understand. Extras include two video interviews one with Seijun Suzuki which runs about five minutes and the other with Joe Shishido which runs about eight minutes. Both men reminisce about making the film and working together. Rounding out the extras is the films original trailer and liner notes written by film critic Howard Hampton. Seijun Suzuki spent most of his career making hardboiled yakuza films. Like his other entries with in this genre Youth of the Beast is filled with inventiveness that borders on chaos, highly recommended.