Takashi Miike’s legendary Japanese crime film is every bit as gory and extreme as was on its initial release (which got it banned in three countries). Ichi is a bizarre and violent tale of rival crime families, colorful enforcers, and how a mysterious, masturbating assassin is connected to them all. The film also helped bring mainstream American attention to director Miike (fun fact: since 1991 he has directed over 100 films, recently the acclaimed Blade of the Immortal) and now Well Go USA has released a beautiful new remaster of the uncut and unrated film.
However, beautiful might be a relative term here. If you’re expecting a crystal-clear digital image like you’d see in a modern Hollywood film you’re in for a surprise and possible disappointment. This is due to the unusual stylistic route Ichi took in production. Apparently Miike shot the film in 16MM and then had it scanned into Hi-Def to edit it and then burned that back to a 35MM inter-negative for release. This inter-negative was therefore already a copy of a copy, blown up from a lower resolution film stock. The inter-negative was then scanned in 4K and color graded and outputted to 1080p to produce this Blu-ray release; so some muddying of blacks and loss of sharpness has occurred. However, I also believe all this manipulation (at least up to the inter-negative) to be a deliberate style choice that is part of the film’s aesthetic. The image is noisy and crunchy as hell (as gritty as its subject matter), but also bright and clear; if that contradiction makes any sense. It is not technically pristine but it is fully how the director meant for it to be seen.
The rest of the disc is somewhat underwhelming. Outside of an interesting Audio Commentary by Miike and the author of the original Manga (itself in Japanese and subtitled in English), there are only a still gallery and trailers for features. The remastered image itself is enough to make this the ‘Definitive’ Edition and the best way to own this film on Blu.
Back before I started attending Fantastic Fest or SXSW or had even heard of midnighters I discovered Behind the Mask the old fashioned way, stumbling across a new disc on the shelf of the local Best Buy. I remember first being a little annoyed that it wasn’t a straight forward slasher and then being totally captivated by the uniqueness and creativity of the concept. In a world where Freddys, and Jasons, and Michael Myers are all real, a documentary crew is following a budding slasher killer as he preps for his debut as the unkillable monster Leslie Vernon (complete with backstory and pre-selected victims).
The film is a fun and fresh take on the great franchise killers of the 80’s and features a number of appearances from horror greats Robert Englund, Kane Hodder, and Zelda Rubinstein (also look for Walking Dead star Scott “Hershel” Greene in a pre-Dead role). The transfer for this release is a ‘new HD master from a digital intermediate’ which I’m assuming is the best available source, but be prepared for a lot of digital noise (especially around some of the lower res digital video parts). Even so, the image is clear enough on a 1080p screen that it’s not distracting and this is by far the best home presentation this film has ever had or is likely to have.
Collector’s Edition Bonus Features:
- NEW HD master from the digital intermediate
- NEW Joys and Curses – interviews with actors Angela Goethals, Ben Pace and co-writer/co-producer David Stieve
- NEW Before the Mask: The Comic Book – an interview with comic book artist Nathan Thomas Milliner
- Audio commentary with co-writer/director Scott Glosserman, moderated by filmmakers Adam Green and Joe Lynch
- Audio commentary with Nathan Baesel, Angela Goethals, Britain Spelling and Ben Pace
- The Making of Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon featurette
- The Casting of Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon featurette
- Deleted and Extended Scenes
- Theatrical Trailer
Adam Ruhl is a writer and life long Cinephile. He is the Executive
Cinema Editor of Pop Culture Beast’s Austin branch; covering festivals,
conventions, and new releases. When not filing reports, Adam can be
found stalking Alamo Drafthouse Programmers for leads on upcoming
DrafthouseFilms titles. Adam once blocked Harry Knowles entrance to a
theater until he was given extra tickets to a Roman Polanski movie.