Jujiro and Other Cut-Rate Japanese DVDs

Sorry again for the lapse in reports. I came down with the flu (yes, THAT flu) and then headed off to the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival (I'll report on that later).

I returned to find a package from Amazon that I thought I should report on.

As some of you may know, cut rate DVDs (usually priced at about 1000 yen, instead of the usual 4000-5000 yen) have been appearing in Japan for the last few years, most of which try to take advantage of the fact that films made before 1954 are technically public domain. Some have been the subject of court cases, as especially producers of Kurosawa's films have successfully argued in court that at least his films are still protected by copyright.

Still, many other films are coming out on these labels, though most are unknown, unacclaimed works that may interest only diehard fans or those who like the genre (there are a lot of jidaigeki). But perhaps to avoid the problems experienced with the court cases, some companies have recently been putting out really old films, including silent works in a market where the majors have mostly ignored silent films except by famous directors (such as the recent Criterion box on Ozu Yasujiro).

I was thus extremely surprised to see that Kinugasa Teinosuke's Jujiro (Crossroads, 1928) has recently been put out on DVD by one of these cut-rate labels, Disk Plan, in their Nihon Meisaku Gekijo series. I have of course been hoping that Kinugasa's A Page of Madness would come out on DVD since I wrote a book on the film, but progress on that has been slow (I recently found out that it looks like I might have to personally step in to get the ball rolling).

I bought a copy of Jujiro to check it out and, thankfully, the visuals are pretty good for the price (1000 yen). It is 74 minutes in length, which means they probably did at silent speed. There is no music, no menu, no chapters, and of course no subtitles, but given that this has never even come out officially on VHS (unlike Page of Madness, which came out on VHS in the USA about 20 years ago - that's likely the source for the bootleg VHS tapes and DVDs being sold on the net), it was amazing to see this. I wonder where they got the print. 

I also bought the DVD of Onoe Matsunosuke's Yaji Kita (1922) from the same company. That is much the same as Jujiro (though with few intertitles - as was the style at Nikkatsu in those years - the story is largely incomprehensible). Given that little of any Mattchan's films exist, let alone have come out on DVD, this was also a find.

Disk Plan has especially been putting out DVDs of silent films, some of which have also come out on regular labels for much more. But be careful: sometimes the prints they are using are quite different and the running time can be half of what exists elsewhere.

Some people on the net report some cases of bad DVD pressing, but my copies worked fine.

One list of such films is here.

I bought my copies through Amazon.jp (for those of you who can't read Japanese, you can try this link to their English page). You may be able to find them elsewhere. You can also apparently get them on the street in places like Akihabara.

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