EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|STRAY DOG (NORA INU) (director: Akira Kurosawa; screenwriters: Ryuzo Kikushima/from the novel by Akira Kurosawa; cinematographer: Asakazu Nakai; editors: Toshio Goto/Yoshi Sugihara; music: Fumio Hayasaka; cast: Toshiro Mifune (Det. Murakami), Takashi Shimura (Det. Sato), Isao Kimura (Yusa), Keiko Awaji (Harumi Namaki, showgirl), Eiko Miyoshi (Harumi's mother), Noriko Sengoku (Girl), Reisaburo Yamamoto (Hondo), Fumiko Honma (Wooden Tub Shop woman), Gen Shimizu (Police Inspector); Runtime: 122; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sojiro Motoki; Janus Films; 1949)|
an engaging thriller that follows along the lines of
a typical Hollywood crime drama, but blends in
conventional Japanese concerns."
by Dennis Schwartz
A Dostoievsky influenced
black-and-white film noir directed by Akira
Kurosawa ("The Bad Sleep Well"/"Red Beard"/"Yojimbo"),
that's based on his novel. It's a postwar police
procedural film, set during the American occupation
and during a sweltering summer in Tokyo. It's an
engaging thriller that follows along the lines of a
typical Hollywood crime drama, but blends in
conventional Japanese concerns. The screenplay is
credited to Ryuzo Kikushima. It's considered
to be the young Kurosawa's breakthrough film.
Tokyo detective Murakami
humiliated that his police Colt gun is stolen on a
crowded city bus by a pickpocket due to his
carelessness, but his resignation is not accepted by
the police inspector. Instead he's teamed with veteran
detective Sato (Takashi Shimura), and the detectives conduct a thorough
investigation, doing much leg work, which leads them
to slum areas and through an underworld black market
operation of selling valuable hot guns.
Like in a Dostoievsky novel, the
sensitive young homicide detective, an army vet,
learns to face his own criminal impulses. The cops
methodically track down gun-runner Hondo and through
him discover that the Colt thief is the dangerous
28-year-old stray dog Yusa (Isao Kimura), who robbed a poor woman
of her wedding ring and shot her in the arm and next
in panic kills a happily married woman to rob her of a
mere 50,000 yens. This makes the stray dog a mad dog,
feels responsible for the crime spree. The guilt-ridden and
has to be calmed down during the entire manhunt and
constantly told it's not his fault, by his wise
paternal mentor Sato.
Both Mifune and Shimura are Kurosawa favorites and
appeared in many of his films. Though a minor film, it
showed the Americans that the Japanese can make decent
crime films like they do in Hollywood. The location
shots keep things authentic, as we visit a chorus line
to see the killer's 16-year-old girlfriend Harumi (Keiko Awaji) shake her booty and to a
professional ballgame to watch how the cops arrest
Hondo in a packed Giants' stadium without putting the
crowd in danger.
It's all good, but never
impressed as something great. It's more technically
proficient than anything else.
REVIEWED ON 3/29/2013 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ