Blu-ray Movie Review – Outlaw: Gangster VIP Collection (1968)

Outlaw: Gangster VIP Collection
Directed by Toshio Masuda (GANGSTER VIP), Keiichi Ozawa (GANGSTER VIP 2, GORO THE ASSASSIN, BLACK DAGGER, & KILL!), & Mio Ezaki (HEARTLESS)
Courtesy of Arrow Video and MVD Distribution
Original Year of Release: 1968
Blu-ray Collection Release Date: April 19, 2016

Outlawgangstervip

I have to confess I’d never heard of these Yakuza flicks until I got ahold of this collection. For some reason (probably because of my fondness for horror), I just never had an interest in the older “mob” films. But, man, I sure wish I’d been told about them before. These films are dark and gritty, and they supposedly paint a more realistic portrait of what life in the organization was like back in the 50s and 60s. If you are new to the OUTLAW: GANGSTER films like me, then you’re in for a real treat.

If you are not familiar with the OUTLAW: GANGSTER VIP COLLECTION, here is the collection’s synopsis courtesy of Arrow Video and MVD Distribution:

In 1968, acclaimed director Toshio Masuda (Rusty Knife, Tora! Tora! Tora!) and rising star Tetsuya Watari (Tokyo Drifter) teamed up for Outlaw: Gangster VIP, a gritty yakuza yarn based on the writings of real life ex-gangster Goro Fujita. The series offers up a depiction of the Japanese underworld that was unprecedented in its realism and its sympathetic portrayal of its protagonist as a man haunted by his past, unable to escape a life of crime. The success of the initial instalment spawned five sequels, continuing the story of the lone wolf “Slasher” Goro and his quest for redemption. The films presented a new kind of realism and violence that would prefigure Kinji Fukasaku’s Battles Without Honor and Humanity series, with their winning combination of brutal violence, gang warfare and sweeping romance, these films make for a unique and unforgettable viewing experience. The set includes six films in the Outlaw series released for the first time in the west: Gangster VIP, Gangster VIP 2, Heartless, Goro the Assassin, Black Dagger, and Kill!

I enjoyed every movie in this collection, and I am proud to have it in my library. Each film is masterfully done, and each has merits making it a worthy addition to the franchise.

Part of what makes this collection so great is that the films flow together so well, despite the different directors involved. While each looks great in its own regard, there’s no huge discernable differences between the productions of each. As a result, the film set has cohesion and substance, two attributes lacking in many of the franchises of today.

The films in the OUTLAW: GANGSTER VIP COLLECTION look excellent onscreen. The HD transfers give the picture a bold look, and there’s only a few grainy shots here and there (particularly in the opening credit sequences, when the Nikkatsu logo appears). This does not detract from the film experience at all, thankfully.

The acting in each film is great, with Tetsuya Watari portraying Goro, the main character. I had no trouble believing in the roles portrayed in each film, and Watari does a great job of maintaining his character throughout the sextet.

My favorite film of the OUTLAW: GANGSTER VIP COLLECTION is probably the first one, simply titled OUTLAW: GANGSTER VIP. The stark realism presented is a nice contrast to the over-the-top action films of today, and I found the whole movie immersive. I particularly like how Goro is represented as an actual human being with emotions, instead of an unfeeling, robotic killer, as seen in many other gangster/Yakuza films.

The OUTLAW: GANGSTER VIP COLLECTION is a big win for me, and I suggest giving it a look if you like mobster films. Granted, the films in this set are dated, but that doesn’t detract from the entertainment value at all. In addition to the HD picture and sound, the set comes with some nice Special Features that include:

•Limited Edition Box Set (3000 copies) containing all six films in the Outlaw series, available with English subtitles for the first time on any home video format
•High Definition digital transfers of all six films, from original film elements by Nikkatsu Corporation
•High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
•Original uncompressed mono audio
•Newly translated English subtitles
•Audio commentary on Outlaw: Gangster VIP by Jasper Sharp
•Visual essay covering the entire series by Kevin Gilvear
•Original trailers for all six films
•Extensive promotional image galleries for all six films
•Exclusive gatefold packaging featuring brand new artwork by Tonci Zonjic
•Booklet featuring an interview with director Toshio Masuda by Mark Schilling, plus new writing by Schilling, Chris D and Kevin Gilvear

MSB

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