Blu-Ray Review: The Saga of Anatahan (Masters of Cinema)

After his family emigrated to the United States when he was in his teens, Josef von Sternberg set out on a path to becoming one of the most iconic, difficult and dominating film-makers of the Golden Age of Hollywood. He discovered and ‘made’ Marlene Dietrich, working together with her seven times; most successfully on Blue Angel, Morocco and Shanghai Express. Von Sternberg made his last film in Japan. He had an unusual degree of control over The Saga of Anatahan; writing, directing, photographing and narrating.

Towards the end of the Second World War, twelve Japanese seamen are stranded on the forgotten island of Anatahan. The only other inhabitants are the overseer of an abandoned plantation (Tadashi Suganuma) and Keiko (Akemi Negishi), a mysterious young woman. Without any contact with the outside world, the men assume the war is still ongoing. However, as the years begin to pass by, their discipline completely falls apart. Each man’s only goal is to possess power over Keiko.

The Saga of Anatahan is a strange yet enchanting film. Through his voiceover, Von Sternberg acts as the impassive observer. Allowing us to witness events without becoming involved. Based on true events, it’s as much a film about what makes us human as it is a dramatic portrayal. His whole reputation is based around the use of light and shade, and once again he produces some incredible perspective shots. The Saga of Anatahan is a unique piece of film-making from a wholly remarkable director.

Special Features:

  • 1080p presentation from a new 2K restoration of the uncensored 1958 version of the film
  • Uncompressed PCM soundtrack (On the Blu-ray)
  • Optional English subtitles
  • The complete 1953 version of the film (Blu-ray only)
  • A new interview with Asian film expert Tony Rayns
  • Whose Saga? – A visual essay by critic Tag Gallagher
  • Saga: The Making of Anatahan – An interview with Nicolas von Sternberg
  • U.S. Navy footage of the actual survivors of Anatahan, immediately after their surrender
  • Unused footage originally filmed specially for the 1958 version of the film
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by Philip Kemp, alongside rare archival imagery

The Saga of Anatahan is released on dual format DVD and Blu-ray by Eureka Entertainment as part of the Masters of Cinema collection on Monday 14 August.

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