While the film has never had an American release, it seems like Kinji Fukasaku‘s Battle Royale (based on the novel by Koushun Takami) has already been seen by every cinephile who has sought it out (I saw it just a couple of weeks ago at Los Angeles’ own Cinefamily, when it had its first American theatrical run). The film never got an official U.S. release, because its subject matter (kids killing kids!) struck a little too close to home when the film was first made and ready for U.S. distribution (in 2000, post-Columbine). But it has shown at various festivals and has been readily available on bootleg DVD in the twelve years since, though it’s still worth celebrating that the film is finally getting an official home video release in the U.S., thanks to Anchor Bay.
Of course, the timing of the release does coincide quite perfectly with another film based on a book that mines very similar territory. Like Battle Royale, the upcoming The Hunger Games film follows a government-sponsored fight to the death between teens. The comparisons between the two of been made many times, but as our pal Russ Fischer over at /Film notes, author Suzanne Collins “maintains that she had never seen or heard of Battle Royale before writing her books,” something he finds “difficult to believe — it seems like someone whose interests run to the sort of material represented in The Hunger Games would have known Battle Royale — but I suppose it is possible.” I agree with Fischer on this point, but while I think it’s possible that Collins had never heard of Battle Royale before she conceived of her three-book series, I think it’s insane that she’d never think to search something like “kids killing kids, book” or “fight to death, children, movie” while penning them, but hey, however she wants to play it.
Grab your backpack and check out the DVD and Blu-ray trailer for Battle Royale after the break.