Branded To Kill is a very bizarre film about a hitman, Goro Hanada (Jô Shishido), with a penchant for sniffing boiled rice. He’s got a wife, Mami (Mariko Ogawa), who’s horrible to him, so much so that she’s prepared to kill him; there’s another woman in his life – Misako (Anne Mari), but who doesn’t mind if she, herself, dies, and there’s a hierarchy of hitmen, and at the top is the person no-one’s ever seen, and some doubt he even exists. His name? Number One.
Hanada, by the way, is No.3.
After he cocks up his latest hit, what follows is a film which really didn’t work for me, but I can understand has developed a cult following given how it plays out. There’s some interesting visual touches at times, but for the majority of its length, it doesn’t half go on, even for a film running for a mere 91 minutes, and failed to engage me.
Odd moments include people who can’t shoot through the windscreen of a car that’s coming up close to them, yet they can cap a man in the back when he’s run off far away?? And there’s people getting shot who just *have* to fall over high-up balconies, or over the stair bannister, as if in an overacting flourish.
In addition, anyone who gets shot fails to exhibit any bullet holes, or even any blood spilling from their bodies! It’s a bit like The Expendables 3, which Stallone ensured would get a PG-13 in the US (and, thus, a 12A over here). However, the sexual side of things bumped the certificate right up on its original release, but these days it settles for a 15-cert.
The film is in its original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio and in 1080p high defintion and there’s an element of a hazy look which is present in a lot of Arrow releases, and a few years earlier, in a number of optimum/Studiocanal Special Editions such as the extended version of Leon, but aside from when that’s present, for the most part it’s a hell of a great print for a film that’s almost 50 years old.
For the record, I’m watching on a Panasonic 50″ Plasma TV with a Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-ray player.
Sound-wise, Branded To Kill is in mono, so the noise of any bullet ballets is fairly basic, and the rest of the time it’s either dialogue or silence. And even the silence is well used, as I can’t remember a film which used it in such great measure, and so it speaks to you almost as much as the time when speech or bullets are heard.
The extras are as follows – and they’re not in HD as they were made some time ago, but they are subtitled:
- Seijun Suzuki interview (7:08): Filmed in 2001, the director talks about the screenplay, and how his studio only made action films, at the time, as well as the censorship they had to endure due to occasional nudity. It’s a hell of a slow-moving interview, however, and not massively insightful.
A poster in the background also tells you that this film was once called “Style To Kill“.
- Jô Shishido interview (6:41): The main actor in the piece, who also talks about the censorship, as well as the director. Whereas the first interview was done with an interviewer, this one is a simple Q&A with questions appearing onscreen before Jô Shishido answes them. This interview was also filmed in 2001.
- Trapped in Lust (1:13:33): As described on the disc this film, by Atsushi Yamatoya, made in 1973, is “a delirious roman porno re-imaging of Branded To Kill”, with the screenplay written by Yôzô Tanaka, plus those who worked on Branded To Kill, and Seijun Suzuki’s regular contributors.
It’s very rare you get a full film as an extra, so if you loved Branded To Kill, you’ll enjoy this. The film is also in mono, and has just 6 chapters.
- Trailers: One for Branded To Kill (3:10), and one for Trapped in Lust (2:07), both in 2.35:1.
- Booklet: Also included in the package is a 28-page booklet featuring stills from the film, as well as artwork inspired by it, plus new writings about both the director and Trapped In Lust from Jasper Sharp.
The menu features clips from the film set to the theme music, subtitles are in English only and there is a lack of a decent number of chapters with just a bog-standard 12, the same low number a lot of distributors tend to use. Personally, I go by the rule of thumb of one every five minutes. .
Branded To Kill: Special Edition is out now on Blu-ray/DVD Dual Format Special Edition, and check out the full-size cover by clicking on the packshot.
Running time: 91 minutes
Distributor: Arrow Films
Released: August 18th 2014
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS HD Master Audio 1.0, DTS 1.0, Dolby Digital 1.0 (Mono)
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (Nikkatsuscope)
Disc Format: BD50 and DVD9
Director: Seijun Suzuki
Producers: Kaneo Iwai and Takiko Mizunoe
Screenplay: Hachiro Guryu, Mitsutoshi Ishigami, Takeo Kimura, Chûsei Sone and Atsushi Yamatoya
Music: Naozumi Yamamoto
Goro Hanada: Jô Shishido
No. 1: Kôji Nanbara
Michihiko Yabuhara: Isao Tamagawa
Misako Nakajo: Anne Mari
Mami Hanada: Mariko Ogawa
Gihei Kasuga: Hiroshi Minami
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.