Three Outlaw Samurai

Images from the film "Three Outlaw Samurai." (Photo courtesy of the Criterion Collection)

Despite occasional retrospectives at venues like (but not limited to) the American Cinematheque, Japanese director Hideo Gosha has never quite received the attention in the U.S. that he deserves. Now Criterion has issued his first feature on DVD and Blu-ray — hopefully to be followed by more.

Gosha is sometimes compared to Sam Peckinpah, which is apt in a number of ways. About half of his movies are samurai films, the Japanese equivalent of the western; he combined gritty pictorial realism with striking visual stylization; and he began his career in television. “Three Outlaw Samurai” (1964) was a sort of prequel to his TV series of the same name.

The visuals in his color films were particularly influential, but the black-and-white here displays some equally impressive compositions, with great physical depth.

Criterion's release is uncharacteristically bare-bones — the only extras are a trailer and an essay in the insert booklet — which may explain why it's priced to move, $10 cheaper than most of the company's releases. The audio isn't always perfect — probably the source material — but the image is clean, with a nice range of grays.

"Three Outlaw Samurai" (Criterion, Blu-ray, $29.95; DVD, $19.95)

-- Andy Klein