Battlefield Baseball (DVD)
Starring Tak (Versus) Sakaguchi, Atsushi (Sea Monkey) Ito, Hideo (Azumi) Sakaki
Directed by Yudai Yamaguchi
After having helped with the writing of both Versus and Alive for director Ryuhei Kitamura, Yamaguchi decided to take what he’d learned from both films and create an adaptation of the Gataro Man comic, Battlefield Stadium. The results are demented, sometimes hilarious, but above all, weird.
The story is of Seido High School, who’s principal is determined to see his team take place in some large baseball playoffs at Koshien Stadium. Just before the first game of the preliminaries, however, he learns that the first team they’ll be facing are the infamous Gedo High. They’ve not been playing for a few years, but now they’re back and inflicting terror in the hearts of anyone who’s ever wanted to pitch, hit, or catch a ball. Why? Well, the short answer is that they’re zombies. The long answer is that they’re zombies with no concern for human life and have a tendency to literally tear the opposing team to shreds.
So, as you can see, Seido has a good reason to be concerned.
Just in time, a new transfer student comes on the scene to save the day. His name is Jubeh Baseball (how appropriate), and he’s able to take town an entire squadron of dropouts in one fell swoop. The problem, however, is that he’s vowed to never play baseball again because of the fact that one of his pitches killed his father when he essentially threw it right through the man.
Of course he’s eventually convinced to come back and defeat the evil zombie team, and manages to re-unite with his family and learn the true meaning of teamwork in the process. In truth the film is kind of all over the place, but its tongue is planted firmly within its cheek, so you’re never really able to fault it for not being sure what it wants to be. Musical numbers, kung-fuing old ladies, and sentient dogs are just some of the bizarre things thrown into the mix that makes Battlefield Baseball so…unique.
Subversive Cinema, who jumped onto the market a few months back with their release of A Living Hell scored with the U.S. rights for the film, and have given those of us in the U.S. who may have seen other-region releases a full loaded package.
First off, picture quality does leave something to be desired, but that's because the entire film was shot through colored filters. There are no glaring issues with it, the picture just seems washed out until the end when all the filters are removed and it's all very clear. The 5.1 mix doesn’t do a lot to enhance the experience, though it’s pretty effective during the fight sequences. There’s also the option for 2.0 mono, as well.
There are two "making of" featurettes, the first far preferable to the second, simply because it’s a lot funnier. Star Sakaguchi is in a room being interviewed by a little boy, both of which are getting their respective responses from hand-held queue cards. It’s an attempt to make it look like Tak might see himself as more important than he is, but again it’s all done for fun. Questions are asked about particular scenes or fellow actors, then the scene discussed is shown filming, then it’s final version. It’s not desperately informative, but a pretty entertaining time nonetheless. The second making off is simply stuff shot behind-the-scenes with a handheld camera, which is never very much fun to begin with.
There are numerous deleted scenes, none of which take anything away from the final film, as well as outtakes. Outtakes always get me excited cause you think you’re really going to see the actors/crew screw things up, but in this case there are just some minor line flubs and the occasional chuckle, a bit of a letdown considering with all the choreography and makeup in this movie, there had to be more.
The true gem of the package is the first of a few short films, "Battle Guys 1”, which basically sees a battle scene between Jubeh and one of the villains re-done with Kubrick figures. If you’re not familiar with Kubricks, think the little men from Lego play sets and you’re pretty close. It does go on for a bit too long, but it’s still funny, unlike the second "Battle Guys", which is just repetitive. The "Ramen Short", about the quest of a young boy to make the perfect ramen for his dying grandmother, is damn funny, as well. There’s also footage from the premiere of the film and a karaoke video for one of the film’s songs. Very bizarre.
Then we have the commentary, which is pretty much insane. I’m not sure if you’ve ever tried to watch a foreign film with commentary by three or four (or five?) people that don’t speak your language, but damn is it ever confusing. I’ll confess I couldn’t make it all the way through the film with it on, but it sure does sound like they’re all having a great time together talking about their movie, and no one’s above digging on anyone else. If only I could’ve figured out who was saying what when, the experience would’ve been better.
The special features are rounded out with a set of trailers (actually I believe it was just one longer trailer inexplicably split into three parts), and trailers for present/future Subversive releases: Living Hell, Witch Who Came From The Sea, The Freakmaker, and The Candy Snatchers.
I’ll admit it’s a pretty full package for a movie I’m sure very few people have heard of, but Subversive gives it the same kind of treatment, maybe better, than the big studios save for their high-profile films. Gotta love ‘em for that!
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