1949, Movies

野良犬 aka Nora Inu (1949, Akira Kurosawa)

I have Toshiro Mifune, the biggest Japanese actor of his generation, in more films that I could count. But when I first saw him in this, I didn’t even recognize him. I guess it’s his age and lack of beard. So many of the films I’ve seen him in were made just a bit later.

This really feels like an odd plot to start with, if only because I am used to crime films set in worlds where guns are everywhere, even older American gangster films have guns everywhere. The idea that one cop would be this obsessed over getting his gun back only makes sense in certain countries. (Or maybe it always makes sense but at this extreme it doesn’t quite.)

This might be one of the earlier buddy cop movies. I suspect there are probably a few from the US in the ’30s and ’40s but I can’t remember, off the top of my head, if I’ve seen another film this early to spend so much time on the relationship of the two cops (once they are finally pared up, of course.)

This movie has one of the early great sports arena pursuit scenes. Again, I’m not sure how many movies had done this thing before, I can’t recall any off the top of my head. It became a trope, I just don’t know where it originated.

I’d always admired Body Heat for how hot it looks but you gotta think Kasdan watched this film when he decided to make the heat a main character. This is definitely among the hottest looking movies ever made, in spite of the B&W. The amount of sweating that is taking place…

As usual, with Japanese films, the acting is pretty over-the-top at its worst, but you just have to know that going in. The rest of the production seems pretty great – lots of location shooting (including a stadium), some neat shots, a Western score that certainly sounds like it belongs in a crime film.

On the whole, I think, it’s a pretty good film and could be a bit of a landmark in Japanese cinema.


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