High and Low (1963)

High and Low (Tengoku to jigoku)
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Written by Hideo Oguni, Akira Kurosawa etc. from a novel by Evan Hunter (Ed McBain)
1963/Japan
Kurosawa Production Company/Toho Co.
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental

Ginjirô Takeuchi, medical intern: …Besides, it’s amusing to make fortunate men taste the same misery as the unfortunate.

Repeat viewings do not lessen the pleasures of this one.

Kingo Gondo (Toshiro Mifune) is the factory manager of National Shoe Co.  He has been quietly buying up stock in order to take charge of the company.  There is a dispute between the director/stockholders who want to make stylish but cheap and profitable shoes and Gondo who wants to make a quality product.  It is clear that the other stockholders want to force Gondo out if he won’t go along.  Gondo has now mortgaged everything he owns in order to acquire the final shares that will give him a majority.

At this precise moment, a kidnapper seizes a boy that he believes to be Gondo’s son.  Gondo is only too happy to pay the ransom.  But when it turns out the kidnapper seized his chauffeur’s son by mistake, Gondo has a crisis of conscience.  The remainder of the movie is a police procedural covering advice given during the kidnapping itself and later the search for the kidnapper and the money.  With Tetsuya Nakadai as the lead detective on the case.

I’ve always loved this one.  Maybe it’s because I enjoy seeing Mifune in his more subdued roles.  I have to admit that the second act drags a bit and that the scenes in the heroin den are perhaps overdone.  Nothing that mars my enjoyment of the story though.  Recommended.

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