Release List Reviews Price Search Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray/ HD DVD Advertise
DVD Talk
Reviews & Columns
International DVDs
Reviews by Studio
Video Games

Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
DVD Talk Radio
Feature Articles

Anime Talk
DVD Savant
HD Talk
Horror DVDs
Silent DVD

discussion forum
DVD Talk Forum

DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
RCE Info



Graveyard of Honor

Graveyard of Honor
Home Vision Entertainment
1975 / Color / 2:35 anamorphic 16:9 / 94 min. / Jingi no hakaba / Street Date September 7, 2004 / 29.95
Starring Tetsuya Watari, Tatsuo Umemiya, Yumi Takigawa
Cinematography Hanjiro Nakazawa
Film Editor Osamu Tanaka
Original Music Toshiaki Tsushima
Written by Tatsuhiko Kamoi, Fumio Konami, Hiro Matsuda from a novel by Goro Fujita
Produced by Tatsuo Yoshida
Directed by Kinji Fukasaku

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

Kinji Fukasaku's scattershot yakuza saga poses as the true documentary story of a real post-war thug, a loose cannon far too reckless for the even his own gangland buddies. Filmed with an erratic handheld camera, it covers all the bases in corruption and venality but doesn't offer much insight to its subject or Japanese history.


Rikio Ishikawa (Tetsuya Watari) makes himself a notorious outcast in the post WW2 turf wars on the streets of Japan. He picks brutal fights with rival Chinese and Korean gangs, but also refuses to follow orders of his own leaders and is eventually given ten years' suspension from gang activity. Helped by sympathetic friends, he tries to rejoin but betrays every code in the yakuza book by striking one superior and killing another. With a long-time, long-suffering girlfriend, Rikio eventually becomes a drug addict.

In the 70s explosion of violent and increasingly nihilistic yakuza films, Fukasaku's Graveyard of Honor searches for originality with its 'true biography' account of Rikio, a violent sociopath who cannot function for a day without commiting some outrage or another. That's all we ever really learn about him, even with flashbacks to not-particularly illuminating childhood traumas. Even though an objective narrator peppers the story with regular updates on Rikio's criminal progress, the thug never becomes an interesting character.

Rikio is incapable of forming any normal human contacts, although he allies for a number of years with a fellow drug addict, and abuses a common-law female companion for decades. In true yakuza "meeting cute" fashion, she hides a gun for Rikio and is then cruelly raped for her trouble. In yakuza films women always seem to be drawn to the men who rape them, so this innocent starts a life of humiliation and drugs that the film treats as a positive relationship. The title refers to the aged and dying Rikio's act of giving her an honorable burial, which seems pointless after a life of mistreatment.

There's nothing wrong with picking a radical filming style, but Kinji Fukasaku frequently opts for visuals that express little but disorganized chaos. Early fight scenes crowd dozens of people before a jerking, blurring camera and the action is such a mess that we can't tell for a moment what is going on. Another scene has two people carrying on a conversation in the middle of a drunken orgy, shot with a long lens as loud revelers stumble and grapple all around them. We're incapable of understanding what the scene is supposed to telling us. There are plenty of scenes shot in a normal fashion, but Fukasaku's style is highly suspicious - it seems a way of getting a 'scene' in the can with the least effort possible.

There's plenty of violence, drug use, casual nudity and blood that looks like fire engine red paint, all shot in a disjointed way. The erratic technique substitutes pace for characterization, precluding our emotional involvement. Graveyard of Honor barely tells a story and is for yakuza fans entertained by the abstract, ragged edge of the genre.

Home Vision Entertainment's DVD of Graveyard of Honor is a stunning enhanced transfer of a movie that scrupulously hides any notion of design or preplanning. The blaring soundtrack is also clearly reproduced. The disc docus A Portrait of Rage and On the Set with Fukasaku laud the long career of the maker of Battle Royale and Battles without Honor and Humanity (soon to come to DVD) without really defining his merit for the unacquainted. Liner notes by Tom Mes place Graveyard of Honor within the evolution of the yakuza genre.

There are trailers for this feature and several other Fukasaku crime films.

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Graveyard of Honor rates:
Movie: Good -
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: two docus, trailers
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: September 21, 2004

DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

Advertise With Us

Review Staff | About DVD Talk | Newsletter Subscribe | Join DVD Talk Forum
Copyright © All rights reserved | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use

Release List Reviews Price Search Shop SUBSCRIBE Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray/ HD DVD Advertise