Home > Film, Reviews > DVD/Blu-ray Review: Branded To Kill – A Film By Seijun Suzuki

DVD/Blu-ray Review: Branded To Kill – A Film By Seijun Suzuki

Packed with wild ideas incorporating some of the most imaginative killings you’ll ever see on celluloid!

Branded to Kill Arrow FilmsDelirious, violent and bizarre, the perverse 1967 cult crime thriller Branded to Kill is widely regarded as being director Seijun Suzuki’s magnum opus, influencing major filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino, John Woo and Martin Scorsese. It stands out as being both a nonsensical and exceptional piece of film art that has to be seen to be believed.

Jo Shishido plays professional hitman Goro Hanada aka No 3 Killer, the third best killer on the best killers list, who gets sexually aroused whenever he smells and eats freshly cooked rice – a fetish hated by his wife Mami (Mirako Ogawa) who spends most of her time in the nude. As a hired assassin Hanada always completes his missions flawlessly. When he is approached by the beautiful and mysterious Misako (played by Indo-Japanese actress Annu Mari), she gives him an almost impossible mission of killing a foreigner. Having been told the plan, Hanada cannot refuse and has only three seconds to accomplish the task. During the assignment, a butterfly lands on his rifle causing him to miss the target and allowing the foreigner to escape. Misako informs him that he will now lose his rank, he is finished and someone will come to kill him; little does he know it will be her. Here’s where any form of normality ends and the surreal begins.

Branded to Kill

Branded to Kill is the film Jo Shishido is best known for internationally and the one that got Seijun Suzuki fired from Nikkatsu for making no sense and no money. The unconventional director was still under contract with Nikkatsu at the time of his unfair dismissal and so decided to sue the studio to protect his dignity. In all fairness to Suzuki, although the film was a box office disaster, it’s quite likely he was being used as a scapegoat for a studio already in jeopardy, largely due to the fact that television was becoming more popular and was keeping audiences away from theatres. But that said, Branded to Kill is not your average gangster movie, it’s totally of the wall in contrast to other more conventional titles within the genre. It’s packed with wild ideas incorporating some of the most imaginative killings you’ll ever see on celluloid, for instance, when Hanada fires a gun up a drainpipe and the bullet rickashades up through a plug hole blowing the victims brains out, or when Hanada floats up on a balloon alongside a tower block and shots his prey through a window; totally outrageous but incredibly effective nonetheless. The film’s uniqueness and avant-garde visuals makes it stylish and ultra-cool-looking and is laced with a melancholy moodiness; the monochrome cinematography is just outstanding.  The film is coated in surrealism and littered with symbolism such as Misako’s obsession with death and her large collection of butterflies which spreads throughout her apartment symbolising, many suggest, obsessive love. Trying to work out what it’s all about is half the fun though; the more peculiar the film becomes, the more engaged we, the viewer, become. And if you can’t make heads or tails out of it, why care, just enjoy it for its absolute madness and visual splendour. It truly is a masterpiece and deserves to be seen multiple times.

Branded to Kill

Released by Arrow Films in a new digital transfer on Dual Format Blu-ray and DVD the film has never looked and sounded so good. All dirt, scratches and debris have manually been removed and the soundtrack remastered.

It comes with a reversible sleeve illustrating original and newly commissioned artwork by Ian MacEwan as well as an illustrated booklet with text provided by Japanese film expert and author Jasper Sharp. Special features include brief individual interviews with leading actor Shishido and director Suzuki filmed in 2001. But the Pièce de résistance of this release is the accompany feature film Trapped in Lust (Aiyoku no wana), a roman porno (Japanese softcore pornographic ‘Pink Films’) version or rather re-imaging of Branded to Kill released in 1973 and directed by Atsushi Yamatoya. For all Japanese film lovers, this is worth the purchase alone. A full review of this film will be coming soon. To conclude the extras there are also original trailers for both Branded to Kill and Trapped in Lust.

Branded to Kill


Label: Arrow Films

Release date: 18 August 2014

Certificate: 18

Running time: 91 Minutes

Genre: Gangster/Cult

Director: Seijun Suzuki

Starring: Jo Shishido, Mariko Ogawa, Annu Mari, Koiji Nambara

Review by Spencer Lloyd Peet (Editor-In-Chief)

Branded to Kill booklet sleeve

Branded to Kill booklet sleeve

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