The zeitgeist of the last twenty years with Asian cinema has been a purely awesome and memorable era to be a part of, and it’s all thanks in part to Ryuhei Kitamura whose 2000 action horror, Versus, helped pave the way for my own fandom apart from Hollywood’s own investments, the “Hong Kong crossover” included.
Versus is a film that brings me back to a time when all the money I would ever have to spent would end up at the most convenient Suncoast outlet during my errands from 34th st. and Herald Square when the mall I’d routinely visit was still called the Manhattan Mall. Like with Steve Wang’s Drive and its “director’s cut”, that particular DVD store is one of three reasons why I allowed myself to have multiple copies of Versus – the others being CD Japan, YesAsia and the currently-defunct HKFlix.
To be honest though, were it not for a fellow member of a club I used to be part of back in college playing his bootleg VHS copy of Versus, I never would’ve taken a gander by then at the bloodied, one-eyed, leather-clad Tak Sakaguchi in all his heavily-armed and sword-wielding glory as the brainchild of a filmmaker whose inspirations were a mix of the works of such auteurs as Wes Craven and John Carpenter.
As much as I love Asian films and action movies in general, it can’t be said enough that Versus is a title I hold near and dear. I’ve immersed myself in the behind the scenes footage of previous DVDs more times than I can count, and really, it’s like visiting someone’s crib and hanging out for a few hours. Watching Kitamura and his team working together on this film brings a sense of warmth and joy, and it’s representative of why I’ve followed his career as much as possible ever since.
For me, it was kind of a new beginning, and watching and seeing all the videos of the film’s festival circulation makes me wish I was physically part of that experience. At the very least though, it feels damn good to get to push Arrow Video’s latest rework of an Asia Extreme Cult Classic like Versus. To add, it’s a new 2K render for Kitamura’s “Ultimate Edition” cut as well, featuring additional footage he shot in 2004 with most of the cast, Tak included.
Arrow just pushed the trailer above out this weekend and it brings back some amazing memories. The yesteryear mood of Napalm Films was that of a family, and as much as I wish to see another Kitamura/Sakaguchi pairing, and as much as I know that probably won’t happen due to the same reasons things happen in life that inevitably change one’s trajectory, it’s just nice to know we at least have this.
Arrow Video’s Versus hits Blu-Ray December 7 in the UK, and in North America the following day. Read here for details and pre-order links in both regions!