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  • 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Japanese Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
  • Introduction by critic Tony Rayns
  • "Imamura, the Free Thinker," a 1995 episode from the French television series Cinéastes de notre temps

Pigs and Battleships

Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Shohei Imamura
1962 | 108 Minutes | Licensor: Nikkatsu Co.

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $79.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #472
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: May 19, 2009
Review Date: May 8, 2009

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A dazzling, unruly portrait of American-occupied postwar Japan, Pigs and Battleships details, with escalating absurdity, the desperate power struggles between small-time gangsters in the port town of Yokosuka. Shot in gorgeously composed, bustling cinemascope, Pigs follows a young couple as they try to navigate Yokosuka's corrupt businessmen, yakuza, and their own unsure future together. With its breakneck pacing and constantly inventive cinematography, this film marked Shohei Imamura as a major voice in Japanese cinema.

Forum members rate this film 8.6/10


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As part of their box set of three films by Shohei Imamura, Pigs, Pimps, and Prostitutes, Criterion presents Pigs and Battleships in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on this dual-layer disc. The image has been enhanced for widescreen televisions.

The digital transfer on here is rather good. At first I figured some contrast boosting may have been applied but according to Tony Rayns in an interview found in the supplements the film was shot using high contrast black and white, so this may be the film’s intended look. The image is solid, sharp with an excellent amount of detail. Gray levels are very good, presenting distinct shades of gray and nice blacks.

Grain is noticeable on occasions, and the print looks to have been restored rather thoroughly, only a few small flaws present. A nice, clean looking transfer overall.


All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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The Japanese Dolby Digital mono track is a little weak, somewhat flat, showing the occasional promise of being more. It can be a tad edgy at times, but voices are strong enough as is the music. I noticed the voices of the American characters can sound a tad harsh at times, but it may be because they’re usually yelling. The audio track sounds to have been cleaned up, presenting nothing in the way of background noise. Not a strong mono track but it’s fine enough.



Criterion’s edition of Pigs and Battleships is currently only available in their Pigs, Pimps, and Prostitutes box set, which contains two other films. Each film gets their own disc and has their own set of supplements. This supplement review and the grade provided only reflect this title in the set, and not the box set as a whole.

Each release in the set only gets a couple of supplements, though Pigs and Battleships seems to get the most in terms of time.

Running at one hour, the longest supplement to be found within the entire box set is the documentary Imamura: The Freethinker, which appeared on the French television series, Cinema de notre temps. In it various people sit and talk with Imamura in various locations (waterfront, what looks to be a bar, a salon, etc.) where he goes over his career covering some of his films and getting into some of his experiences, like dealing with the Yakuza on “smut” films. He talks about working with actors and gives his opinion of them, talks about his relationship with his brother (who left him a list of 20 “must-see” films before he died) and researching for films. There’s also a little (very little) about Pigs and Battleships and his fears of an Americanization of Japan. While I appreciate the fact Criterion went out to find an interview with Imamura I wasn’t overly fond of it. There’s some good material in it that makes it worth watching but it’s a pompously directed piece, keeping the viewer at a distance from its subject. I would have actually preferred a “talking head” piece.

The only other disc supplement is an interview with Tony Rayns, who provides an interview on all the discs in the set. In this one Rayns talks about the troubles facing the Japanese studios during the 60’s because of television, and the directors that rose during this period, including Imamura and Nagisa Oshima. He covers Imamura’s early career directing B-movies for the studios and then moves on to Pigs and Battleships and the themes found within the film and the relationship between Japanese and American cultures (the American influence appearing to make the Japanese more materialistic.) He touches on the technical aspects of the film including the photography and the set design, and then finishes with the film’s acceptance (the studio hated it.) It lasts only 15-minutes but it offers a decent, brief analysis of the film and Imamura’s career. It’s a shame that Rayns didn’t provide a commentary for the releases in this set.

Also included is a booklet featuring an essay by Audie Block, which delves a little deeper into the film and makes some comparisons to other Japanese directors, specifically Ozu.

The entire box set isn’t fully loaded with features, but of all of the discs in here this one was my least favourite in the way of supplements. I enjoyed Rayns’ interview but wasn’t completely enthused with the documentary included here.



I like this box set a lot and recommend it without question. The films are all great works and the transfers are good across all. The supplements are slim but you can find this set for around $60 online working out to $20 a disc, which I think is worth it. Pigs and Battleships presents maybe the weakest set of supplements overall, but the digital transfer is just as strong as the others, if not slightly better.

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