Kuroneko (藪の中の黒猫, Yabu no Naka no Kuroneko, 1968, Kaneto Shindo).

I’ve made no attempt previously to hide my love for the Masters of Cinema series, which have been responsible for some of the most glorious transfers of classic cinema I’ve ever seen in home media. You’re not just getting a bit of quick entertainment, but an object to cherish and, in many ways, a work of art in itself.

No corner is cut. Ever. The picture and audio quality is immaculate, facilitating a near-cinema experience should your set up allow. There is almost always a chunky booklet to accompany the disc, and the bonus features on the disc always try to go beyond just a couple of short interviews and a trailer. Even the menu looks rich and well-thought-out.

Kuroneko is no different.

It’s a supernatural horror film, much in the same vain as previous Shindo film Onibaba. It tells the story of the spirits of a mother and her daughter-in-law who had been the victims of a horrific attack at the hands of a group of samurai. They seek revenge having apparently made a pact with the devil, though the ramifications of this only become apparent later on in the film.

The rich chiaroscuro achieved by Shindo and cinematographer Kiyomi Kuroda are beautifully displayed here. Much of the film is spent in the depths of a forest as dark as the story being told. The atmosphere and tension is palpable; it really is edge of your seat stuff at times. There are several disturbing and violent scenes in there, but the harsh reality is not left to the viewer’s imagination.

Kuroneko was a film I sought out after seeing Onibaba, which was also released through the Masters of Cinema label. Similar in style and themes, both pack a lot of punches and are worth checking out. Shindo really was a master of cinema and here in the UK we’re lucky to have such a caring label willing to give the attention his films deserve, even if it is just a handful.

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