Kwaidan [Masters of Cinema] (Blu-ray Review)

Kwaidan Masters Cinema Blu-rayWinner of the Special Jury Prize at Cannes, Kwaidan features four nightmarish tales adapted from Lafcadio Hearn’s classic Japanese Ghost Stories about mortals caught up in forces beyond their comprehension when the supernatural world intervenes in their lives: “The Black Hair”, “The Woman of the Snow”, “Hoichi the Earless”, and “In a Cup of Tea”.  Breathtakingly photographed entirely on hand-painted sets, the film is an abstract wash of luminescent colors from another world. The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present the complete 183-minute original Japanese cut of Masaki Kobayashi s masterpiece on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK.

Kwaidan Masters Cinema Blu-ray


If you’re looking for the prototypical Japanese “horror” film that started it all in terms of genre and conventions then you have come to the right place. Kwaidan is a 183-minute anthology comprised of four supernatural tales.

All four stories revolve around man’s moral and spiritual compass. What is funny and caught me off guard was that certain themes and elements, for example, in The Black Hair and Woman in the Snow reminded me (and can even be considered foreshadowing) of films such as Ringu and The Ring. The spirits and ghosts in Kwaidan weren’t necessarily of the malevolent kind, they just wanted justice and maybe a subtle reckoning of sorts.

Watching Kwaidan and getting absorbed by the film was interesting, because of the way it was created. It’s ambitious and a colorful spectacle. I would have given it a perfect score but a scene here and a scene there meandered for a bit too much, but that’s my opinion – doesn’t mean it’s a bad film whatsoever.

Kwaidan was released to great acclaim overseas along with director Masaki Kobayashi. The real tragedy of Kwaidan was that it was an overly ambitious film that was trounced in the USA back upon release. It was also trimmed by almost 30-minutes and stayed that way for 50 years. I was originally only aware of the film in passing, because Criterion released their version a few years ago. I am only now getting to this Eureka! Masters of Cinema Blu-ray and it has been a long time coming. Kobayashi never reclaimed his glory after Kwaidan due to circumstance, which is unfortunate.

Now with this elegant Blu-ray release from Master of Cinema, audiences can discover a true supernatural “art film.” No, there’s no pretentiousness by calling it an art film – it’s a movie with about 95% painted sets, backgrounds, and even some scenery and skylines. Get a knife and fork and feast hearty on Kwaidan – it’s quite a feast for the senses!

Kwaidan Masters Cinema Blu-ray



Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Clarity/Detail: Eureka! Masters of Cinema have released Kwaidan on Blu-ray and they done a great job in its transition over to the high definition. Contrast and sharpness levels are strong and DNR is never a factor.

Depth: Kwaidan may have been filmed on large sets but the transfer highlights how expansive these sets are in terms of detail and scope. There are scenes involving colorful backgrounds and skylines that will engulf the viewer. The Blu-ray does a stellar job in making one feel like they’re in the story.

Black Levels: There are many scenes taking place at night or in very dark interiors. I did not notice any heavy crush – black levels remained deep and inky.

Color Reproduction:  The color palette is rich and vibrant. The color wheel exploded all over some of the sets an gave us a film that is literally a moving painting.

Flesh Tones:  Flesh tones are nice an accurate, with exception to some of the more supernatural ghost creatures.

Noise/Artifacts: I did not notice any instances of debris, noise, or scratches on this restored print.


Kwaidan Masters Cinema Blu-ray


Audio Format(s): Japanese LPCM 1.0 (48kHz/24-bit)

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: Kwaidan is presented in 24-bit 1.0 mono and all LPCM 1.0 should sound this good. The sound field is contained within the confines of this exceptional 1.0 track.  There are no instances of impurities, anomalies, or rattles. As I said before, all 1.0 mono should aspire to be this good.

Low-Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue levels were nice and balanced. In some of the vignettes, dialogue was mixed in with long stretches of chanting in combination with the spoken dialogue. There were no issues with the lively mixture.


Kwaidan Masters Cinema Blu-ray



The Kwaidan Eureka! Masters of Cinema Blu-ray set is one of the lovelier Blu-ray box sets to hit the marketplace in 2020 and we’re not even halfway done with the year yet. Kwaidan Also comes with an 100-page edition of Lafcadio Hearn’s original Japanese ghost stories. A new interview and video essay are included with this edition, as well. This is  Blu-ray set is tops!

  • Hardbound Slipcase
  • PLUS: A 100-PAGE Perfect Bound Illustrated Collector s book featuring reprints of Lafcadio Hearn s original ghost stories; a survey of the life and career of Masaki Kobayashi by Linda Hoaglund; and a wide-ranging interview with the film maker the last he’d ever give
  • 1080p presentation on Blu-ray from Criterion’s 2K digital restoration of Kobayashi’s original director’s cut
  • Original monaural Japanese soundtrack
  • Optional English subtitles
  • Kim Newman on “Kwaidan” a new interview with the film critic and writer
  • Shadowings [35 mins] a new video essay by David Cairns and Fiona Watson
  • Original trailers

Kwaidan Masters Cinema Blu-ray


Kwaidan runs over 3-hours, so give yourself ample time to settle in for the ride. The Blu-ray looks and sounds phenomenal and the special features are tops. You even get a 100-page accompaniment. Again, Eureka! Masters of Cinema continue to hit it out of the ballpark with these excellent Blu-ray releases so early in the year it’s going to take a lock brain racking to figure out my end of the year list! Kwaidan Masters of Cinema is highly recommended!



DISCLAIMER: This Region B Blu-ray review was judged and graded using the following HD Premium television set found HERE and Region-Free Blu-ray player HERE.  Make sure to check out all of our Blu-ray reviews archived HERE.  The images used above within the review are not actual Blu-ray screenshots. They are for illustrative purposes only.



Kwaidan is released on Blu-ray

in the UK April 27, 2020!




Kwaidan Masters Cinema Blu-ray


Kwaidan Masters Cinema Blu-ray


Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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