Starring: Shin’ichi Chiba, Janet Hatta, Eiko Matsuda, Masaru Shiga & Tatsuo Endo.
Directed by: Kinji Fukasaku
Released just as the popularity of yakuza movies was waning in Japan, and as the country’s film industry was undergoing some fundamental shifts, Doberman Cop is a unique entry in the career of director Kinji Fukasaku (Battles Without Honor and Humanity, Cops vs Thugs), and reunited him with star Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba (The Street Fighter, Wolf Guy) in an American-style crime movie that mixes gunplay and pulp fiction with martial arts and lowbrow comedy to create one of their most entertaining films. Based on a popular manga by “Buronson” (creator of Fist of the North Star), Doberman Cop follows the fish-out-of-water adventures of Joji Kano (Chiba), a tough-as-nails police officer from Okinawa who arrives in Tokyo’s Kabuki-cho nightlife district to investigate the savage murder and mutilation of an island girl who had been working as a prostitute. Initially dismissed as a country bumpkin (complete with straw hat and live pig in tow!), Kano soon proves himself a more savvy detective than the local cops, and a tougher customer than anyone expected. As he probes deeper into the sleazy world of flesh-peddling, talent agency corruption and mob influence, Kano uncovers the shocking truth about the girl, her connection to a yakuza-turned-music manager (Hiroki Matsukata), and a savage serial killer who is burning women alive. Made to appeal both to the youth market with its biker gangs and popular music, as well as to old-time yakuza movie fans, Doberman Cop is an surprising oddity in Fukasaku’s career, his sole film adapted directly from a manga and never before released on video outside of Japan. Featuring Chiba at his charismatic best — channeling a Japanese Dirty Harry while doing all his own stunts — and Fukasaku at his most fun, deftly showcasing the combined talents of his “Piranha Army” stock company of actors and other regular players — Doberman Cop is a classic action comedy and a missing link in 1970’s Japanese cinema deserving of rediscovery.
Arrow Video’s release of Doberman Cop is presented in a dual-layered bitrate of 2.35:1 aspect ratio from a 1080p transfer. As noted in the insert booklet, the film was “remastered in high definition and supplied for the release by Toei Company. Ltd.” A reoccurring theme is the consistent blanket of a green canvas over the soft picture, which palettes the majority of these 70’s driven Japanese cult classics. The transfer is relatively soft and thick with consistent grain throughout the films 90 minute length. Sharpness to detail is almost non-existent giving this film a definition of a retro feel. Fortunately I was unable to experience any damage marks as the quality of the film’s dark and light lush tones were consistent, something we rarely see from vintage films. Aside from the discrepancies this film may have, this will be the best image transfer we will see for a very long time. Very watchable and a noticeable upgrade to Arrow’s previous film, Wolf Guy.
Doberman Cop is presented in a linear PCM 2.0 channel in its original Japanese audio. I am not a real big fan when it comes to the audio levels of these older films as they seemed to not be as clear as it could be, giving that more boxy effect in which at times feels a bit muffled. These effects also display a bit of a problem with sound effects and underscoring, but overall its as best as we are going to get. There are very few if not at all any noticeable clicks and pops during quiet scenes, but giving its lossless audio support, its satisfactory. Arrow films usually delivers on all counts, but this release is a bit of a disappointment to say the least. For those a fan of Doberman Cop, this is by far the best and only release that you will be presented with and to say its as good as its going to get. Fans will be pleasantly pleased.
- High Definition digital transfer
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
- Original uncompressed mono audio
- Optional English subtitles
- Beyond the Film: Doberman Cop, a new video appreciation by Fukasaku biographer Sadao Yamane
- New video interview with actor Shinichi ‘Sonny’ Chiba
- New video interview with screenwriter Koji Takada
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Chris Malbon
- FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s book featuring new writing on the films by Patrick Macias
I am a real big fan of Sonny Chiba and when I get to view any of his films that are remastered in high definition, its a real treat. Arrow video has never disappointed with their releases, even though some can be a bit disappointing, their special features makes up for it. Given that this release is one its own, it truly will put a smile on many Chiba faces across the world with enough supplemental features to entertain you to forget about the mediocre transfer. Overall 7/10 on this release and looking forward to more from Arrow video!
Production release: Toei Company, Ltd.
Video release: Arrow Video
Number of discs: 2
Runtime: 90 minutes
Case: Standard clear case
Release date: June 27, 2017
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1, Original 2.35:1
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Japanese LPCM 2.0