Video of the Day: Onibaba, a must see Samurai film noir


Onibaba, 1964
Director Kaneto Shindo
Director of Photography Kiyomi Kuroda
Art Director Kaneto Shindo
Cast: Nobuko Otowa as Older woman, Jitsuko Yoshimura as Younger woman, Kei Satō as Hachi, Taiji Tonoyama as Ushi, Jūkichi Uno as the masked warrior

While it cruises closely along the borders of horror, though at times dangerously so, Onibaba (The Demon Woman) remains the sort of realistic noir we relish at Noir Nation. Nevertheless, given the Gothic horror elements, it is not surprising that the influence of the film is most easily seen in the horror film genre. For example, the mask removal scene (the second of two in the film) inspired the look of the demon in William Friedkin’s The Exorcist, as well as the kinetic energy of the final exorcism scene.

Although tabled by some critics variably as a period piece and an erotic-horror, the exploration of light and shadow, a minimalist (low budget) approach to settings and props, and a highly expressionistic approach to storytelling, place it in the stylistic tradition of the earlier films produced in Hollywood by expat German filmmakers (click here to read more abut the highly influential German expressionists). The use of chiaroscuro, intense contrasts, hard shadows, and ample use of the eye light (and snoot) are among the many dead giveaways.

scene still onibaba mask and womanFor any lover of film noir, crime noir, or anyone interested in the Asian roots of Western horror films, Onibaba is a must-see master work.

Want a free ticket to see the film? Here it is:

A new DVD of the film, loaded with extras, interviews with the director and actors, behind the scenes interviews, and other treats, has been released by The Criterion Collection (click here for more info about the DVD and other related videos).

For a quick visual sense of the film’s look and feel, here are some still shots (click on image for a closer look). For more information about the film’s history and plot click here:


[Special Note: The film itself inspired this post. We have no relationship with the filmmakers or The Criterion Collection.]

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