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Ghost Canyon

'Hiroshima: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Eiji Okada, Yumeji Tsukioka, Yoshi Katô, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1953) 2020 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: 'Hiroshima' (1953) is a powerful evocation of the devastation wrought by the world's first deployment of the atomic bomb and its aftermath, based on the written eye-witness accounts of its child survivors compiled by Dr. Arata Osada for the 1951 book Children Of The A Bomb: Testament Of The Boys And Girls Of Hiroshima.

Blu-ray Verdict: In truth, and as I'm sure you would have fully expected, 'Hiroshima' is a bleak depiction of life in Hiroshima in the days leading up to the dropping of the atomic bomb (on Aug 6th, 1945) and the consequences of the attack, with a focus on the short, and long-term term effects of radiation exposure, especially on children.

The production is outstanding, with realistic recreations of the ruined city blended with authentic footage, and the cast (many of whom were not actors) is excellent.

The scenes of homeless, parentless, children trying to survive are especially poignant, notably the two siblings finding their family's rice bowls as they pick through the rubble of their home or the group of boys trying to teach the youngest enough English to beg for food from American servicemen.

The film is scored by Akira Ifukube, who a year later would write the iconic themes for the original 'Gojira'. His stirring music plays over the end, in which the people of Hiroshima congregate at the Genbaku Dome, the unbelievable scenes that feature the multitudes of extras for which the film is famous.

Not surprisingly 'Hiroshima' is unabashedly anti war, but is not simply a screed against the U.S. The contentious idea that the bomb would not have been used if the target population was white is briefly mentioned, but is counterbalanced by scenes of the Imperial forces deciding to lie to the Japanese public about the nature of the weapon and use the devastated city as a rallying cry to incite even more hatred of the Allied forces (in an attempt to reinforce the implacable resolve that defenders of the A-bombing maintain made use of the devastating weapons necessary).

While Hiroshima did have some military value as a target, the casualties were overwhelmingly civilian, including many children. The film's message is not an overly-simplified don't drop the bomb, but rather a more nuanced plea to consider the consequences beyond tactical or strategic objectives.

Furthermore, the film also touches on one of the lesser known consequences of the bombing - the survivors sometimes faced anger and resentment from the rest of the population for their unique 'victim status' as "Hibakusha" ("people affected by the atomic-bombs").

Unfortunately, the visceral impact the scenes of stunned survivors limping through the streets, filthy, burned and bloody, may be blunted to some viewers because they almost look like a parody of modern "zombie" movies.

Excellent: sad, and memorable and perhaps, in some small part, a contributor to nuclear restraint - despite the proliferation of the weapons (and the powers that wield them), and despite the numerous wars that have been fought since 1945, they have never again been used. [JR] This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Original uncompressed audio
Archive interview with actress Yumeji Tsukioka
Hiroshima Nagasaki Download (2011), 73-minute documentary featuring interviews with survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings now residing in the United States, with an introduction by the director Shinpei Takeda
New video essay by Jasper Sharp
Newly commissioned artwork by Scott Saslow
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Mick Broderick