Kino Lorber Releases Josef von Sternberg's Anatahan on Blu-ray and DVD
New York, NY -- April 19, 2017 -- Kino Lorber proudly announces the Blu-ray and DVD release of Anatahan, the final film of acclaimed director Josef von Sternberg (The Blue Angel, Morocco, The Scarlet Empress). This edition includes both a new 2K restoration of the uncensored 1958 version (Sternberg's preferred cut of the film), and the complete 1953 version, mastered from film elements preserved by the Library of Congress and Cinémathèque Française, restored by Kino Lorber in association with Lobster Films and L.E. Diapason.
This new restoration was released theatrically by Kino Lorber, opening at the Metrograph in New York City in February 2017, before moving on to engagements in other key national markets.
Anatahan will become available on Blu-ray and DVD on April 25, 2017, with a SRP of $34.95 for the Blu-ray and $29.95 for the DVD. Special features include three minutes of unused (nude) footage shot for the 1958 version, a visual essay by film critic and historian Tag Gallagher, an interview with the director's son, Nicholas von Sternberg, U.S. Navy footage of the actual survivors of Anatahan, immediately after their "surrender", the original theatrical trailer, the 2017 re-release trailer, and a comparison of the 1953 and 1958 versions.
Inspired by an actual event during WWII, Josef von Sternberg's Anatahan tells the story of a dozen Japanese sailors who are stranded on the remote island of Anatahan during the waning days of the war. The war ends, unbeknownst to the men, but it is then that they engage in their own private war: for dominance of their island domain and possession of the sole woman in their midst, Keiko, the so-called "Queen Bee" of Anatahan (Akemi Negishi).
Sternberg, a longtime devotee of Japanese culture, had been interested in making a film in Japan since meeting producer Kawakita Nagamasa during a visit there in 1936. World War II had put any chance of a collaboration between the two on hold, and it was not until 1951 that talk about working on a project together resumed. By then, Sternberg had become thoroughly discouraged by the Hollywood studio system, following his break from RKO Pictures (where he had lost creative control over his last two films for producer Howard Hughes), so the time was right to embark on a highly personal project.
Sternberg was inspired to make Anatahan after reading an account in the New York Times about the discovery of a group of World War II survivors on the Mariannas island of Anatahan. Resuming his collaboration with producer Kawakita Nagamasa, Sternberg formed a production company with Kawakita and arrived in Japan in 1952 to begin filming. The production was shot on a large jungle set constructed in an industrial complex, which afforded Sternberg complete control over the production, and filming was completed in 1953.
Sternberg said of the film, "The reason why I decided to make a film adaptation of the Anatahan incident was not because the incident is pertinent to the Japanese nor because it happened to non-American people. How do human beings behave in the most unfortunate situation? This point is what I am most interested in. It doesn't matter what kind of racial background these people have. This great story is almost as great as Robinson Crusoe...I am a humanist, and I love Japan. I will never make a film to displease the Japanese people."
Though the film was not a success upon its release in 1953, Sternberg was committed to finding an audience for it. In 1958, he created a re-edited version with newly-shot footage that included brief glimpses of nudity, and although this version was never widely released (at least until a 1976 re-release presented by his widow Meri von Sternberg), it represented the director's preferred version of the film that would turn out to be his last. In his autobiography Fun in a Chinese Laundry, Sternberg called Anatahan "my best film -- and my most unsuccessful one."
In 2016, Kino Lorber approached son Nicholas von Sternberg and licensed the film for worldwide re-release. The Library of Congress, which has preserved Anatahan's original assets (including a 35mm original camera negative and 35mm fine grain master) performed a 2K scan, which underwent additional digital cleanup and color correction by Kino Lorber producer Bret Wood. Working with Serge Bromberg of Lobster Films, Paris, Kino Lorber was able to obtain access to an original nitrate 35mm print of the 1953 French release of Anatahan, preserved by the Cinémathèque Française, which was instrumental in restoring the audio of the film, and which contained the less explicit footage later replaced by Sternberg in the 1960s.
This edition from Kino Lorber includes both the 1958 director's cut, which best represents Sternberg's true intentions for the film, as well as the complete 1953 version.
Inspired by actual events, Anatahan explores the conflicting personalities of a dozen Japanese sailors stranded on a remote island in the Pacific during the waning days of World War II. For a time, they maintain their military discipline, but when they discover a young woman (Akemi Negishi) living on the island, the paradisal island becomes a nest of jealousy, violence, and desire.
Filmed in Japan on elaborately constructed sets, with non-English-speaking actors, Anatahan was a deeply personal project for director Josef von Sternberg (The Blue Angel, Morocco, The Scarlet Empress), and provided a thoroughly unique capstone to his extraordinary career.
Blu-ray and DVD Street Date: April 25, 2017
Blu-ray SRP: $34.95
DVD SRP: $29.95
Blu-ray UPC: 738329214050
DVD UPC: 738329214036
Written, Photographed and Directed by Josef von Sternberg
Produced by Kazuo Takimura
From the book by Michiro Maruyama
Music by Akira Ifukube
Art Direction: Takashi Kono
With Akemi Negishi, Tadashi Suganuma, Kisaburo Sawamura, Shoji Nakayama
Special Thanks to Elijah Drenner, Serge Bromberg, Celine Ruivo, Nicholas von Sternberg
U.S./Japan | 1953 | B&W | 91 Min. | 1920x1080p (1.33:1)
English with optional English SDH subtitles | Rated PG
New 2K Restoration of the uncensored 1958 version (Sternberg's preferred cut of the film), mastered from film elements preserved by the Library of Congress and Cinémathèque Française
The complete 1953 version of ANATAHAN
Three minutes of unused (nude) footage shot for the 1958 version
Visual Essay by Tag Gallagher
Interview with Nicholas von Sternberg
U.S. Navy footage of the actual survivors of Anatahan, immediately after their "surrender"
Original Theatrical Trailer
2017 Re-release Trailer
Comparison of 1953 and 1958 Versions