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6 Degrees Entertainment

'The Mad Fox: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Hashizô Ôkawa, Michiko Saga, Ryűnosuke Tsukigata, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1962) 2020 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: Amidst a mythically-depicted medieval Japan, a court astrologer foretells a great disturbance that threatens to split the realm in two.

His bitter and treacherous wife conspires to have the astrologer killed, as well as their adopted daughter, Sakaki. The astrologer's master apprentice, Yasuna, who was in love with Sakaki, is driven mad with grief and escapes to the countryside.

There, he encounters Sakaki's long-lost twin, Kuzunoha, and the pair meet a pack of ancient fox spirits in the woods, whose presence may be the key to restoring Yasuna's sanity, and in turn bringing peace to the fracturing nation.

Blu-ray Verdict: Glorious, all-encompassing and empathic movies such as this furthers my belief that the tragic monster/love interest is usually more interesting than a film’s male protagonist.

Strange eruptions from Mount Fuji call for the prognostication of a skilled scholar, but when he's killed en route to the palace his pupils go head to head to replace him; slowly leading one to madness and (eventually) shape shifting foxes.

The film is absolutely gorgeous. Awhile ago I questioned why anyone would make a film if they were not going to go as all in as Nobuhiko Obayashi did in 'House,' but this film gets closest to that masterwork as I've ever seen.

Traditional animation, kabuki theater, stagecraft, practical effects, and more make the film often seem magical. It feels like an old folk story.

Unfortunately, that all said, the actual story is a wee bit muddled. I mean, sure, there's a very clear break between the plot of the first half and second, and both stories are more interesting apart than together (even if they do justifiably connect).

The protagonist's descent into madness, like 'Gate of Hell,' screws up the plotting of the film, making it unclear where it's going or what the purpose is, and the biggest mysteries are all left forgotten or (for the most part) unanswered.

Don't get me wrong though, for 'The Mad Fox' is still GREAT, if a bit long, but definitely (and highly) recommended for anyone looking for something obscure and odd - but who isn't expecting to come across a new favorite, so to speak. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Brand new restoration by Toei
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Original uncompressed mono Japanese audio
Optional newly translated English subtitles
Brand new audio commentary by Japanese cinema expert Jasper Sharp, recorded exclusively for this release
Original theatrical trailer
Image gallery
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matt Griffin
+FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Ronald Cavaye and Hayley Scanlon

'The Mad Fox' Original Trailer