Have Your Say: Is Arrow's FEMALE PRISONER SCORPION Boxset True Or Too Blue?

Editor, Europe; Rotterdam, The Netherlands (@ardvark23)
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Have Your Say: Is Arrow's FEMALE PRISONER SCORPION Boxset True Or Too Blue?
(Yo listen up, here is a story, about a little guy that lives in a blue world...)

There is this issue buzzing around in Blu-ray forums about that Female Prisoner Scorpion boxset from Arrow. The extras and everything are nice and all, and the image is sharper than in previous sets, but... and this is a BIG but with these films... the accusation is that Arrow's set has screwed-up colours. All four films look rather blue when compared with earlier releases.

Arrow has already released a statement, acknowledging that the transfers have a tendency towards cyan, and says this is due to doing a very rigorous and correct restoration and transfer on such old materials, and that these colours accurately reflect the source materials they got from Toei Studios.

Here is a comparison between the Eureka boxset from seven years ago (which had the first three films), and the current Arrow set (which has all four of them). All shots are from the second film, Female Prisoner Scorpion: Jailhouse 41.

As in the image at the top of this article, the Eureka boxset shots are on the left, and Arrow's are on the right. You can click the image below to see a larger version.

So what do you say? Which colour-scheme would best fit how these actually looked like on the big screen? Please chime in, in the comments below. The more knowledgeable on the subject, the better, but please HAVE YOUR SAY!


Note: I took shots from the DVDs in both sets. I didn't take shots of the Arrow Blu-rays, but rest assured that colour-wise, they look similar to the Arrow DVDs.
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Female Prisoner ScorpionKaji MeikoShun'ya ItôFumio KônamiHirô MatsudaTooru ShinoharaMeiko KajiRie YokoyamaYayoi WatanabeYôko MiharaCrimeDramaThrillerFumio WatanabeYukie KagawaKayoko ShiraishiMikio NaritaReisen RiYasuharu HasebeMasakazu TamuraYumi KaneiHiroshi Tsukata

More about Have Your Say

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More about Female Prisoner Scorpion: Jailhouse 41

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More about Female Prisoner Scorpion: #701's Grudge Song

Around the Internet

Ard VijnAugust 23, 2016 6:24 AM

I'll kick off with Arrow's notes on the transfer:


(In full:

The films of the Female Prisoner Scorpion Collection have been exclusively restored in 2K resolution for this release by Arrow Films and are presented in their original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with mono sound.

A set of low-contrast 35mm prints struck from the original 35mm film elements were supplied by Toei Company, Ltd. These prints were scanned in 2K resolution on a pin-registered 4K Northlight Scanner. Picture grading was completed on a DaVinci Resolve and thousands of instances of dirt, debris and light scratches were removed using PFClean software. Overall image stability and instances of density fluctuation were was also improved. All restoration work was completed at Pinewood Studios.

The images on all four Female Prisoner Scorpion films favor a noticeably cyan/blue look throughout. This look was inherent in the film materials supplied and relates to how these lab materials were created, as well as how the original elements have faded over time. With these restorations, we have aimed to present the films as close to their intended original style and appearance as possible.

The original mono soundtracks were transferred from the original 35mm optical sound negatives and were conformed and restored at Pinewood Studios.

Restoration supervised by James White, Arrow Films

Materials made available by Toei Company, Ltd: Daichi Yashiki )

arturoAugust 23, 2016 7:01 AM

So the colour in the DVD version that I own got it wrong, and the Blu-ray version got it right? What source did they use for the DVD version 7 years ago?

Mitch DavisAugust 23, 2016 7:58 AM

I'm almost certain that the then-new 35mm print of JAILHOUSE 41 (from Vitagraph Films) that we screened at Fantasia way back in the day didn't look so teal in its colour timing, but then, it's difficult to know if that print was entirely accurate in its lab work.

I've got bottomless love and admiration for the work Arrow do, and I think the SCORPION box is an absolute miracle. It's also very clearly a labour of love. Now that I've seen their comments addressing the colour issue, I'm satisfied that they did the best they could with the materials they were given. I should stress, however, that fundamentally altering the colour palette of a film is no small thing, particularly in a context of restoration, which is a very close cousin to preservation. It's not something I could ever imagine the Arrow team being reckless about, and it's clear that they weren't.

Even with the unfortunate shifts in colour, the new transfers look transparent to pristine 35mm prints, which is just amazing beyond words for once-nearly-unseeable films like these. In the old print collecting world, a somewhat off-colour but mint print would still be a cherished prize, and that's how I see the new transfers (though the colours, however inaccurate they might be at times here, are still rich, and detail, density and contrast levels are impressively strong). The supplements,which I've only just started digging into, are thoughtful and up to Arrow's typically high standards. Overall, I think the set's absolutely fantastic and I'm confidant it will rank among the very best home video releases of 2016 come the year's end.

Ard VijnAugust 23, 2016 8:44 AM

Thanks for destroying my cognitive dissonance, Mitch! Much appreciated.

MarcAugust 23, 2016 10:14 AM

(pasted from FB) So
my .02 on the issue, if anyone is interested, is to consider the
radical (new? original? ) color timing in the context of the films
themselves. I didn't have anything to do with the new transfers, as
producers don't generally get involved in technical
issues according to Arrow's production model. Their technical head did
bring it to our attention after the transfers were done, however, and I
compared the new transfers to several older ones; clearly, the
differences were obvious. But when I considered the color timing when
watching through the entire films, rather than looking at mere
frame-grabs, it made much more sense to me. Far from the entirety of the
films have been given that blue-cyan cast; in fact, it's only certain
scenes and when watching the films, you realize that it's the most
surreal or phantasmagoric scenes which have the bluest tones. The
"realistic" outdoor scenes in JAILHOUSE 41, for instance, or scenes
involving the yakuza in parts 1 or 3, or the police, are much more
"realistic" in their skin tones and other color timing, and much closer
to the older DVDs' color timing. Given that these films are all heavily
radical in their production design, photography, staging, editing, use
of music and montage, and that their general ambitions go far beyond
what was standard for Japanese studio exploitation product at the time, I
don't think we should be surprised if the color timing turned out to be
equally radical and excessive.

Mikko KoivistoAugust 23, 2016 10:30 AM

Nice, but I wish you had used one of the good dvd transfers as comparison point. The Image/Eureka transfer you used is generally considered the worst (and oldest) dvd transfer Jailhouse 41 has ever received.

A better comparison point would have been Toei's Japanese master (R2J Toei DVD,
R1 Discotek DVD, Amazon Japan HD stream)

I took comparison captures from my Toei DVD:

(edit: updated cap 2)

The thing is:
- the old Japanese masters doesn't have the blue tint
- the old French masters don't have the blue tint
- the original trailers (on Arrow BD) don't have the blue tint
- people who have recently seen these films on 35mm in Japan don't recall a blue tint
- I've never come across such look before on 70s Japanese cinema *
* I say this as someone who lives in Japan and has seen hundreds of 60-80s JP films on 35mm in the recent years.

And then there is the contrast issue. If you've only seen the Arrow version of Jailhouse 41, try the Discotek dvd. You'll discover new characters in some shots. No kidding.

Jason GrayAugust 23, 2016 11:05 AM

I don't doubt Arrow did top work with the prints they were given, but bold color palettes aside, for momiji (2nd row grab) to be colored that way in a film or TV prod. would be an obvious error -- like making pine trees yellow for no reason.

It brings to mind something Friedkin said in his Cannes master class: one thing he did not miss about film were all the prints that had to be junked because they were timed wrong.
i.e. that print that remained in good physical shape because it wasn't in circulation may have another story.

One-EyeAugust 23, 2016 1:36 PM

This damn cyan tint is everywhere these days.

Someone online wrote a great thing about how aggressive colour correction in modern blockbusters only serves to make CGI look less realistic. They used JURASSIC PARK and JURASSIC WORLD as their prime example.

PARK was shot in very natural tones which help immeasurably in helping the then-primitive CGI elements blend in and appear 'real'. Whereas WORLD is so drenched in this cyan tint that the overall look of the picture has no resemblance to reality and thus the vastly more superior CGI never looks remotely realistic.

These FPS remasters look like a shit show. Perhaps not as bad as what Friedkin allowed to be done to THE FRENCH CONNECTION but it's still a damn shame.

Mikko KoivistoAugust 24, 2016 1:29 AM

I must admit I do not have the Arrow set (I cancelled my pre-order when the first screen captures came out). I'm basing my comments on the hundreds of screen captures that I've seen, as well as the two promotional videos Arrow posted on YouTube, so perhaps there is more than meets my eye. I also acknowledge the possibility that the films were intended to play with the Arrow look, even though that look cannot be found on the Japanese or French DVD masters, original trailers, or (apparently) the 35mm prints currently circulating Japan. Everything is possible.

However, I'm not sure the more "realistic" scenes always resemble the DVDs. For example, see these three comparison screen captures from Beast Stable. Media Blasters DVD is above, Arrow BD bottom:




The first capture is so dark and blue, that you basically can't see her red dress. In the second capture her face is a mixture of blue, green and white. In the third capture, her shirt is radiating like she has Fukushima Daiichi under her shirt.

On the more surreal side, here's an interesting comparison between Jailhouse 41 Toei DVD and Arrow BD. Notice how most characters have disappeared from the Arrow.


I stole most of those screen captures from "cakefactory" at blu-ray forums. All credit to him:

Ok, I think I've been going on about this for too long already. I'll give it a rest now. It's not that I want to hurt Arrow in any way; rather the contrary, I was very much looking forward to the set but sadly found it better to stick to the DVDs. The bonus features look great, though.

BtoFuAugust 24, 2016 2:19 AM

I cancelled my pre-order because in the end I decided that I couldn't justify the price when I only really care for Jailhouse 41. That being said I caught the news of the Arrow transfers and when I saw them for myself it only made the process of cancelling easier on my mind. I'll stick with the Discotek release for now.

Ard VijnAugust 24, 2016 5:11 AM

Ooh brother, now THERE's a theory...

Ard VijnAugust 24, 2016 5:19 AM

Going through the boxset I have to say it is a marvelous one. I get the impression Arrow worked wonders with what they got from Toei, and especially in the UK it is a massive upgrade from what was available there (even if you just look at the DVDs...). I love the extras, and it would easily be one of the highlights of this year (and maybe it still is)... if it wasn't for this damn color controversy.

Thankfully, the films are compelling enough for me to stop noticing the tint and have my brain go on auto-correct after the first minute or so. I'm definitely still happy to own this release, and I see it as a veritable museum to the films in it. However, I'm also happy I happen to own one of the other versions, with the brighter color-timing...

William NealAugust 24, 2016 8:44 AM

To hell with all this color discrepancy whining. How about a more SERIOUS conversation about what you get and what is available and the fricking EXPENSE? WHY IN HELL is there NO ONE with the expertise to show the way in the blogs about Order of Release Titles, in Japanese and English first!!! I recently purchased a 3 box set and got Scorpion, Beast Stable, and that other one, the one with the OTHER director, but still with the same lovely actress, the one who apparently does not have her real name on it, and who interestingly, has the sound of her voice on the music, as she's the one singing her song.
I laughed and cringed at Scorpion, and was creeped out with Beast Stable, and, am not sure where I am with this, but, you get my drift, I hope, because apparently there's a 4th picture I don't have, and they tell you there's three and on 2 of my dvd's they say: This is the third and final chapter. Bullshit! There are 4 films with this actress and more films after with another. SO, let's get some clarity on all this bullshit first before we go to the Super Frustrations with the minutiae of color, timing, release prints, lax lab work, and, can't you just adjust your TV'S? ;)

Ard VijnAugust 24, 2016 9:39 AM

"WHY IN HELL is there NO ONE with the expertise to show the way in the blogs about Order of Release Titles, in Japanese and English first!!!"

Ehm... I think there are plenty of people with that expertise. I think everyone who has so far responded in this thread has a pretty clear view of which titles exist in this series, and what order to watch them in.

Jason GrayAugust 24, 2016 11:26 AM

A guess, but if the same (incorrect) timing was applied to all four films -- with their very close tech and production circumstances -- similar visual problems would crop up.
With the state of things here I'd be amazed if any J-company's int'l dept sprung the $3K or so for each newly struck 35mm print for an overseas licensing deal. (That's a general comment. I have no knowledge of the particulars of this deal).
In any case I hope it's rectified as it looks like an amazing set.

William NealAugust 24, 2016 8:20 PM

Right. You all know everything. My point was that the internet is a shambles. You meaning I have to dig to this screenanarchy thing to get a mix on the fuss of blue verses orange or what as that. Adjust the monitor. One can have 2 of the same models side by side, and still they'll have discrepancies. The cools thing here is, Hey, I have the box set with the BLUE prints. Yeah, well I have the box set with more true color. And then there will be the person bragging that they have ALL VERSIONS POSSIBLE, ALL VERSIONS RELEASED INTO THE WORLD, simply because they're so freaking rich, ocd, ocs, bfd, etc and or all of the above. ;)