A batch of new Criterion Blu-rays came my way as the weekend approached, and they were all terribly exciting. I was glad that Criterion got to do the Blu of Days of Heaven; as I understood the situation, Paramount had what amounted to right of first refusal as far as a high-def rendering of the film was concerned, so they could have put out the painstaking master created by the Criterion crew itself; but the studio chose not to, so now we get the Criterion Blu-ray with the Criterion extras and all's right with the world. It is absolutely breathtakingly splendid. There's also a Blu-ray of Nicholas Ray's landmark 1956 Bigger Than Life, which I'll be writing about at greater length soon; it's staggeringly beautiful.
I have to admit I was particularly interested in the Blu-ray of Yojimbo, because it's the film I've known the longest, and the one I've seen the most crappy-looking versions of. Going back to the panned-and-scanned, washed-out versions that screened on PBS in the late '60s/early '70s, when I was between the ages of ten and 12. I'd heard of Kurosawa because of Rashomon, I guess, and had seen a dubbed Throne of Blood in WWOR; Yojimbo blew me away right away, because of that shot in the beginning with the dog carrying a human hand in its mouth. And then I'd think, "The plot of this thing really is an awful lot like A Fistful of Dollars." I learned, eventually. And saw Yojimbo many, many times, and read Red Harvest, and all that. And while many versions of Yojimbo I'd seen were improvements over what had run on television back in the day, I'd never seen it look really great.
Which this version does. The above shot is, as usual, made with my camera, from my plasma screen. So it's not ideal. But it's better than ball park in this case. Look at the crow's feet around Toshiro Mifune's eye, at far left, for instance, or the rim of the sake bottle; that's the level of detail that pervades throughout. I'm actually moved to see this film, and its companion piece Sanjuro, which is also coming on Blu-ray, looking so beautiful. It really is like a dream come true.