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Onibaba on Blu-ray from Masters of Cinema in February

19 December 2012

Kaneto Shindō, one of Japan's most prolific directors, received his biggest international success with the release of Onibaba [The Demoness] in 1964. Its depiction of violence and graphic sexuality was unprecedented at the time of release. Shindō managed – through his own production company Kindai Eiga Kyōkai – to bypass the strict, self-regulated Japanese film industry and pave the way for such films as Yasuzo Masumura's Mojuu (1969) and Nagisa Oshima's In the Realm of the Senses (1976).

Onibaba [or Onibabaa, in its alternate spelling] is set during a brutal period in history, a Japan ravaged by civil war between rivaling shogunates. Weary from combat, samurai are drawn towards the seven-foot high susuki grass fields to hide and rest themselves, whereupon they are ambushed and murdered by a ruthless mother (Nobuko Otowa) and daughter-in-law (Jitsuko Yoshimura) team. The women throw the samurai bodies into a pit, and barter their armour and weapons for food. When Hachi (Kei Satō), a neighbour returning from the wars, brings bad news, he threatens the women's partnership.

Erotically charged and steeped in the symbolism and superstition of its Buddhist and Shintō roots, Kaneto Shindō's Onibaba is in part a modern parable on consumerism, a study of the destructiveness of sexual desire and — filmed within a claustrophobic sea of grass — one of the most striking and unique films of Japan's last half-century, winning Kiyomi Kuroda the Blue Ribbon Award for Cinematography in 1965. The memorably frenetic drumming soundtrack was scored by long-time Shindō collaborator Hikaru Hayashi.

Onibaba makes its UK Blu-ray debut on 25th February 2013 courtesy of Eureka's Masters of Cinema label at the RRP of £20.42.

The release will feature a gorgeous new 1080p HD transfer and the following extras:

  • Full-length director’s audio commentary by director Kaneto Shindō and the stars of the film, Kei Satō, and Jitsuko Yoshimura

  • Video introduction by Alex Cox

  • 8mm footage (40-minutes) shot on location by lead actor Kei Satō

  • Original theatrical trailer

  • Production stills and promotional art gallery

  • 36-page bookletwith a new essay by Doug Cummings, an English translation of the original short Buddhist fable that inspired the film and a statement from writer/director Kaneto Shindō about why he made Onibaba