Halloween has come and gone for another year, and the world is once again going headlong into Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s. However, this latter part of the holiday season is not for everyone. For those who would rather avoid everything related to this time of year, Arrow Video has something to pass the time in the form of the new re-issue of The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch. Originally adapted from a classic manga “comic,” the movie debuted in 1968 through Japanese studio Daiei Studios. Originally scheduled for release Sept. 21, Arrow Video is apparently now scheduled to re-issue the movie Tuesday for Western audiences on Blu-ray, more than half a century after its premiere. Arrow Video’s recent re-issue is a strong new presentation of the cult classic movie and will appeal to the movie’s fans as well as to horror and fantasy fans. Its appeal comes in part through its central story, which will be addressed shortly. The expansive bonus content that accompanies the re-issue is just as important to the movie’s new presentation as the story if not more so. To that end, it will be examined a little later. The re-issue’s pricing rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later, taking into consideration all the noted content. It will also be examined later. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the re-issue’s presentation. All things considered, they make the movie one more of the best of this year’s new DVD/BD re-issues.
Arrow Video’s recent Blu-ray re-issue of Daiei’s 1968 horror flick, The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch is a surprisingly engaging and entertaining presentation especially for those who perhaps have never seen the cult classic. The movie’s appeal comes in part through its story. The story is adapted from a manga “comic” that was originally crafted by famed manga writer/artist Kazuo Umezo. The publication in question is identified in one of the bonus features added to the re-issue. It and more background will be addressed in the examination of the re-issue’s bonus content. The story here in question centers on the innocent “orphan,” Sayuri (Yachie Matsui) as she is randomly reunited with her parents, following so much time spent at an orphanage. The reason for her being in the orphanage is never explained away. This will also be addressed in the bigger discussion on the movie’s bonus content. As Sayuri settles into her home, she starts to discover that the home is plagued by a very negative force, this after she tells her amnesiac mother that she wants her sister Tamami (Mayumi Takahashi) to be allowed to leave the home’s attic room where she lived for however many years. Tamami starts to terrorize Sayuri, apparently unhappy that this new person is in the house. As the story progresses, Tamami shows that she is willing to go to great lengths (including the threat of murder) to get Sayuri to leave. She wants Sayuri out that badly. Eventually the revelation is made that Tamami and Sayuri are not in fact sisters and that there is much more at play. That will be left for audiences to discover for themselves. Tamami is not the only threat, either. There is also another person in the house who does not want Sayuri there. The two end up working together to a point to try and get rid of Sayuri, though there is a surprise as the story reaches its climax and finale. This will also be left for audiences to discover for themselves. The whole of the story is well worth watching, even if one is not a fan of manga or Japanese cinema in general, but into horror. The appreciation for the story is enhanced as audiences take in the expansive bonus content featured in the movie’s re-issue.
The bonus content consists of a new feature-length audio commentary presented by film historian David Kalat and a separate 27-minute featurette, “This Charming Woman,” which finds manga and folklore cholar Zach Davisson. There is also an in-depth look at the movie in the presentation’s companion booklet that was penned by author Raffael Coronelli to expand on everything discussed in the other noted bonus content. Kalat’s commentary points out a number of plot holes in the story, not the least of which being why Sayuri was in the orphanage to begin with. He also makes note of how Sayuri’s mother got amnesia in the first place. He gives credit to the explanation that her mother was involved in an accident, but also points out there the story never even explains what accident led to the amnesia. As if that is not enough, he also brings up the issue of why the back door of the cab that Sayuri hails late in the story opens but no one gets in or out. Ironically, for all the problems that Kalat points out in the story, he openly supports them, stating in his own words, that he feels they add to the story’s presentation in a unique way. That in itself is sure to get audiences talking. On a separate note, Kalat also uses his commentary to share the connection that the movie has to another famous Japanese cinema franchise, that of Gamera and its sequels. As it turns out, director Noriaki Yuasa is directly tied to that franchise, according to Kalat’s information. That is sure to generate even more appreciation for this movie among fans of the Gamera franchise. On yet another interesting note, Kalat opens a discussion on the fairy tale aspect of The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch, but does not go into full depth about that connection. Davisson expands on Kalat’s comments in his separate featurette.
Davisson expands on Kalat’s comments by pointing out the connection that the movie has, going all the way back to the stories of the Brothers Grimm. He notes that while this story is based on a manga “comic,” it still incorporates the “feared mother” aspect by making Ms. Shige (Sachiko Meguro – Warning From Space, The Precipice, Kurotokage) the feared mother/step mother figure since Sayuri’s biological mother is “incapacitated” by her amnesia. His commentary on this topic makes a person look back in hindsight and say “aha” in the best way possible. Additionally, Davisson offers audiences some history on Umezo’s career in manga, noting that Umezo started his career at the young age of 18, and that he would go on to be a groundbreaker of sorts in the genre of body horror in manga. As if all of that is not enough, Davisson, like Kalat, points out that this movie was not the ony one of its kind. He stresses that in Japanese cinema, movies involving half animal figures was hardly abnormal and that in fact the movie came out a a time when monster movies were at the height of their popularity in Japan. Davisson points out here that as a result, the movie has never been considered a ground breaker, but is still a cult favorite among the bigger monster movie genre in Japanese cinema. That is sure to bring about its own share of discussion. Between these discussions and others that he delves into over the course of his nearly half-hour featurette (including that of the role of women in cinema in Japan at the time), Davisson adds even more engagement and entertainment to the overall presentation, showing even more why the re-issue’s bonus content is so important.
Where Davisson and Kalat leave off, Coronelli picks up. He adds to the overall bonus content by making note of the role of snakes in the Japanese occult belief system. He compares it to the role of the fox, which according to him, is the more common occult “familiar” figure in Japan. From there, Coronelli goes into a deeper discussion, explaining the role that each animal has in the Japanese occult, and then ties that discussion back into the snakes’ appearances in the movie. This makes for its own share of interest. This is the most important of Coronelli’s discussions as much of the other content in his notes echoes what Kalat and Davisson have already touched on in their discussions. All things considered, the overall bonus content here makes for such a rich background to the story and enhances the re-issue’s overall presentation so much. When the primary and secondary content is considered together, the whole makes the re-issue’s pricing just as important to examine. That is because of how much the content offers audiences to appreciate.
The average price point for the forthcoming BD re-issue of The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch is $29.76. That price was reached by averaging prices through Amazon, Target, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, and MVD Entertainment Group’s store (the company is working with Arrow Video to distribute the re-issue in the United States). The re-issue was not listed through Walmart and Books-a-Million. As an added note, Barnes & Noble is currently listing the re-issue at a sale price of $19.99 rather than its normal listing of $39.99. If one were to consider that price, it would being the average to $33.76, and would make the listing of $27.99 (at Target and Best Buy) the least expensive and well below both averages. Amazon’s listing of $32.88 is below the upper average, but above the lesser of the two averages. Considering that the movie is technically an import, those higher prices are to be expected. Keeping that in mind, they are less hard hitting, and regardless, it makes those $27.99 listings still just as affordable and worth the price, considering the noted overall content. To that end, the pricing for this re-issue is still its own positive, since there are some prices that while up there, are still relatively affordable, even with the movie being an import. Keeping this in mind along with the engagement and entertainment that the movie’s story and bonus content will offer audiences, the whole once more shows why this movie is another of this year’s best new BD/DVD re-issues.
Arrow Video’s forthcoming Blu-ray re-issue of The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch is a surprisingly impressive new presentation from the home entertainment company. Its appeal comes in part through its story, which is one part horror and one part fairy tale a la The Brothers Grimm. It will leave audiences guessing throughout about so many items, but in the best way possible. That and the general story itself does plenty to keep audiences watching. The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its new re-issue adds even more to the presentation’s appeal. That is because of the history and background that it adds to the movie. That background and history gives the movie so much more depth through everything discussed. Keeping the content in mind, it makes the re-issue’s pricing its own positive. While not hugely inexpensive, the pricing will not break any viewer’s budget. That is especially understood when audiences keep in mind that the movie is an import. Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch. All things considered, they make the re-issue one more of this year’s top new DVD/BD re-issues.
The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch is scheduled for release Tuesday through Arrow Video. More information on this and other titles from Arrow Video is available at:
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