Kaidan (Kwaidan) (Ghost Stories) (1964)

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Movie Info

Kwaidan is an impressively mounted anthology horror film based on four stories by Lafcadio Hearn, a Greek-born writer who began his career in the United States at the age of 19 and moved permanently to Japan in 1890 at the age of 40, where he eventually became a subject of the empire and took on the name Koizumi Yakuno. Hearn became a conduit of Japanese culture to western audiences, publishing journalism and then fiction incorporating traditional Japanese themes and characters. "Black Hair," the first tale, concerns a samurai who cannot support his wife; he leaves her for a life of wealth and ease with a princess. Returning years later, he spends the night with his wife in their now-dilapidated house, only to awake to a horrifying discovery which drives him insane. In "The Woman of the Snow" (deleted from U.S. theatrical prints after the film's Los Angeles opening; it is on the DVD version), two woodcutters seek refuge during a snowstorm in what appears to be an abandoned hut. A snow witch appears and kills one of them but lets his partner free. Years later, the survivor meets and married a lovely young woman, only to learn her true identity. The most visually impressive tale is "Hoichi the Earless," in which a blind musician is asked by the ghost of a samurai to play for his late infant lord at a tomb. The monks who house the musician cover him with tattoos to prevent any harm coming to him, but they forget his ears. He returns from the engagement with his ears cut off; however, his misadventure propels him to fame. "In a Cup of Tea" concerns a samurai who is haunted by the vision of a man he sees reflected in his tea. Even after he drinks from the cup, he still sees the man while on guard duty. ~ Tom Wiener, Rovi
Rating:
NR
Genre:
Art House & International , Drama , Horror , Science Fiction & Fantasy , Special Interest , Romance
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
 wide
On DVD:
Runtime:
Studio:
Criterion Collection

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Cast

Tatsuya Nakadai
as Woodcutter
Rentaro Mikuni
as Samurai
Michiyo Aratama
as First Wife
Misako Watanabe
as Second Wife
Ganjiro Nakamura
as Head Priest
Noboru Nakaya
as Heinai
Joichi Hayashi
as Yoshitsune
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Critic Reviews for Kaidan (Kwaidan) (Ghost Stories)

All Critics (17) | Top Critics (3)

The first episode builds an effective mood through its elliptical action and long, slow tracks through empty rooms, but this 1965 film soon levels off into academic stylization.

Full Review… | September 19, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

It is a compendium of four ghost stories adapted from Lafcadio Hearn, so determinedly aesthetic in their design and style that horror frissons hardly get a look in. Very beautiful, though.

Full Review… | June 23, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Couple these sound effects and voices with some remarkable pictorial images and the consequence is a horror picture with an extraordinarily delicate and sensuous quality.

Full Review… | May 8, 2005
New York Times
Top Critic

Extraordinary as Kwaidan's spectacles are, I'm even more impressed by its soundscape, the work of the great composer Toru Takemitsu.

Full Review… | November 18, 2015
Vue Weekly (Edmonton, Canada)

A classic.

March 17, 2009

A colorfully exotic offering but lacks the visceral power to explore the horror genre.

Full Review… | October 31, 2008
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Audience Reviews for Kaidan (Kwaidan) (Ghost Stories)

½

It takes real talent in an artist to make a ghost story scary and poetic, and here are four of them. Before, only in the Powell/Pressburger films I had seen such pictorial beauty.

Pierluigi Puccini
Pierluigi Puccini

Super Reviewer

a film containing four short films that are ghost stories from various points of the samurai era in japan. while all four stories were compelling, my perfect rating is mostly for the third story called "hoichi the earless man". hoichi is easily the greatest ghost story i have ever seen on film, with wonderful acting, flawless cinematography, and a haunting storyline. it was a pleasant suprise to see takashi shimura appear as well. the art direction and cinematography for all four stories was essentially perfect, and these four stories assemble to make one of the greatest films i have ever seen.

danny d
danny d

Super Reviewer

Four supernatural Japanese folk tales: a samurai is haunted by regret when he leaves his poor wife for a rich one; a snow-spirit spares the life of a young man on one condition; ghosts demand a blind harpist perform for them; a man sees an apparition in a cup of water. Slow, beautiful, hypnotic, poetic; eye-popping sets and masterfully eerie music. A masterpiece.

Greg S
Greg S

Super Reviewer

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