Blu-ray Review: Graveyards Of Honor

When we normally discuss a film and a remake, it’s a competition. A majority of the time the argument breaks down to “Why did they need to remake this great film?” Often we view the remake as a cheat. It’s in rare instances where the original gets brushed aside. Many of the times that happens because the original version either gets buried in a studio’s vault or was in a foreign language. Do you want to see the film with big Hollywood stars or obscure actors that aren’t speaking English? Rarely does anyone say, “You gotta see both versions!” Graveyards of Honor is a boxset that contains both the original and the remake. The original was made by Kinji Fukasaku in 1975 during the time he was making the Battles Without Honor and Humanity films about the Yakuza. Graveyard of Honor was based on a novel about a real-life gangster Rikio Ishikawa. The movie was a big hit. In 2002, Takashi Miike created his own version after Ichi the Killer and Audition became international hits. Now both films have been joined together in The Graveyards of Honor and there’s no need to pick one over the other.

The original Graveyards of Honor (93 minutes) starts off with a bit of a documentary feel. Rikio Ishikawa (Tokyo Drifter‘s Tetsuya Watari) is a mobster who has no issue with robbing rival Yakuza members. He doesn’t believe in turf. He also doesn’t hold back Ishikawa doesn’t live by the pretenses of a code. He’s violent and won’t back down when he wants something. He’s also a massive junky all of which plays into his demise. Like Fukasaku’s other Yakuza films, Graveyard of Honor doesn’t hold back when it comes to showing the brutality in the underworld figures. There’s nothing glamorous in his depiction of evil. It’s gritty and nasty with violence coming from all direction.

Takashi Miike’s version of Graveyard of Honor (130 minutes) changes around the narrative a bit. Rikio Ishikawa (Goro Kishitani) isn’t born to be a mobster. At the start of the film, he’s just a bartender. One night a group of gunmen attack the club and Rikio saves a Yakuza chief. As payback, the lowly bartender becomes his right hand man. This power move allows his worse qualities to come out. He’s violent to everyone including women and fellow mobsters. Miike takes the film in a different direction by not sticking with novel and not making it a period piece. But he doesn’t soften the character of Ishikawa nor stray from the ending.

Both versions of Graveyard of Honor must be seen. This isn’t a case of one director doing a paint by number remake. Miike knew he couldn’t obscure Fukasaku especially since the director had just blown away audiences with the ultra violent Battle Royale. Both films show each director at their best when approaching the Yakuza crime genre. Graveyards of Honor will have you up all night with the underbelly of Japan.

The video is 2.35:1 anamorphic for the original and 1.85:1 anamorphic for the remake. Both show off the mobster details in 1080p. The audio is original lossless Japanese PCM 1.0 mono soundtrack on the original and Original lossless Japanese PCM 2.0 stereo soundtrack on the remake. Both sound fine as you hear a lot of bullets and punches thrown. The movies are subtitled in English.

Audio commentary by author and critic Mark Schilling on the original. He talks a bit about Fukasuka’s career in making Yakuza movies.

Like a Balloon: The Life of a Yakuza (13:11) is a new visual essay by critic and Projection Booth podcast host Mike White. He dips into the themes of the Japanese gangster films that were made during this era. He gives a sense of the conflicts in the film that you might not grasp since they don’t teach too much Japanese history in high school.

A Portrait of Rage (19:46) is an archival appreciation of Fukasaku and his films, featuring interviews with filmmakers, scholars, and friends of the director. The short is in Japanese with subtitles.

On the Set with Fukasaku (5:34) is an interview with assistant director Kenichi Oguri. He talks about life at Toei. He talks about how they worked together during a major strike against the studios.

Theatrical trailer (3:31) points out this is a Yakuza film with no equal.

Imagery gallery (4:40) includes promotional stills and posters.

Audio commentary by Miike biographer Tom Mes goes into Miike’s look at the underworld.

Men of Violence: The Male Driving Forces in Takashi Miike’s Cinema (23:46) is a visual essay by author and critic Kat Ellinger. She gives a bit of a comparison between the new films, but the focus turns completely on Miikie’s work around this time. There’s plenty of footage from the director’s other movies so you’ll be wanting not binge his filmography.

Interview Special” (17:59) features Miike and cast members Goro Kishitani and Narimi Arimori. This archival feature has the cast talk about what attracted them to the movie. Arimori talks about how she had just seen the original when this came out. Miike talks of what drew him to Goro in the lead role.

“Making-Of” featurette (8:02) has Miike working with the actors on how to make an entrance to a scene.

“Making-Of” teaser (2:13) has a bit more footage from the set with Miike lining up a shooting scene.

Archival press conference (4:17) features Miike, Kishitani and Arimori on stage from 2002. He talks about how you should enjoy his version of Graveyard and Fukasaku’s as two different movies.

“Premiere Special” features Miike, Kishitani and Arimori speaking to the audience at Tokuma Hall on June 3, 2002. Miike calls the film “visual therapy.”

Theatrical trailer (1:39) points out from the start that this is a new version of the tale of the most brutal man in Japan at this time.

Imagery gallery (0:50) are production stills and a poster.

Arrow Video presents Graveyards of Honor. Directed by: Kinji Fukasaku & Takashi Miike. Starring: Tetsuya Watari, Tatsuo Umemiya, Yumi Takigawa, Noboru Ando, Hajime Hana, Narimi Arimori, Yoshiyuki Daichi, Hirotaro Honda, Harumi Inoue, Renji Ishibashi and Goro Kishitani . Boxset Contents: 2 movies on 2 Blu-ray discs. Released: September 8, 2020.

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