The next story is entitled The Woman of the Snow. A young woodcutter and his friend have ventured into the deep woods to gather firewood to sell at market. A tremendous snowstorm ensues and the two seek shelter in an abandoned hut. Sleep quickly overtakes them. The younger of the two awakens and is startled to see a female figure looming over the body of his sleeping friend. It appears that she is freezing him with her breath. Once she finishes with the older one, she turns to the younger, only to spare him because of his youth and his beauty. He is safe as long as he vows to never reveal what he has seen to anyone, not even his mother. His life depends on his ability to keep this secret!
The third story is entitled Hoichi the Earless. The story centers around a young blind priest with a penchant for reciting in total recall, the war songs of a clan of sea-faring Samurai long since dead. On one particular evening, Hoichi is on the outer deck of the temple when a mysterious stranger approaches him. At the stranger's request, Hoichi accompanies him to his master's "castle" where they request his recitation of the clan's war songs. Greatly honored by the request, Hoichi obliges them. The priests of the temple notice Hoichi's absence throughout the night and follow him. Only to receive the shock of their lives and his! To divulge anymore would ruin the story. Suffice it to say, the title plays a significant role in the telling of this story! Personally, this is my favorite of the four stories on the disc!
The final installment in this collection is entitled In a Cup of Tea. Herein, the story is told of a warrior who discovers the reflection of another while glancing into his cup of tea. Soon the warrior is confronted by this person in the flesh unaware that the being he sees is a very elusive phantom. In all, Kwaidan is an incredibly rich tapestry of the supernatural, that is masterfully woven.
The audio presented is in Dolby Mono. As with most Mono tracks, the audio is tinny and underrepresented. This holds true for Kwaidan. While the language was wholly understandable, there were times when the audio track was somewhat muffled. The film's original language (Japanese) is the only audio track provided. All of the aural information was centered in the front speakers and sounded pretty shallow on the whole.
The imagery for Kwaidan is stunning to say the least. From the opening title montage to the last of the end credits, you are thoroughly enthralled by not only the dazzling display of colors but the use of the colors is incredible as well. The film has a line throughout the print that appears intermittently. The colors are lush and beautiful even after 35 years. The line that I previously mentioned is the same color as the scenes so it doesn't really distract, it's just there.
The only extra for the disc is the film's original trailer.
I was spellbound by each story I have to admit. It could be due to my love of Asian culture and storytelling. But, you don't have to really love all of that to enjoy the film's presentation. This is a good movie/collection of stories. Each of the stories is gripping and conveys an incredible amount of information in a short amount of time. They actually play out like four feature films with a single film. This is my first experience with The Criterion Collection in terms of DVDs and I must say, I don't know what all the fuss is about. The only real difference I can note between a regular studio release and Criterion is, the booklet identifying all the feature films they have given their "special treatment" to or are anticipating treating. The film is incredible and the storytelling is first rate! TOHO Co. is one of my favorite studio houses and it's a real treat getting to see one of their films in this format. Will you like Kwaidan? That's hard to say. I guess it depends on how much you enjoy a good story. Like most Japanese cinema, the stories take their time to get to their points. Like the Maijin films of the period, they present a film that you know the conclusion to but, love watching it unfold at the same time. If this film had more extras, I'd easily call it a collector's edition, but as it's only got the trailer I can only Highly recommend this title to all fans of great storytelling!