(director/writer: Senkichi Taniguchi; screenwriter: Akira Kurosawa; cinematographer: Junichi Segawa; editor: Senkichi Taniguchi; music: Akira Ifukube; cast: Toshiro Mifune (Eijima), Takashi Shimura (Nojiro), Yoshio Kosugi (Takasugi), Akiake Kono (Honda), Setsuko Wakayama (Haruko), Kokuten Kodo (Haruko’s grandfather), Fusataro Ishijima (owner of the Shikanyou Hotel), Eizaburo Sakauchi (Investigating Chief); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Tomoyuki Tanaka; TCM/Criterion/Hulu; 1947-BW-Japan-in Japanese with English subtitles) 

“Emotionally jarring film noir about 3 bank robbers, on the run from the law.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

First-time Japanese filmmaker Senkichi Taniguchi (“The Killing Bottle”/”The Smell of Money”) directs and writes the script with Akira Kurosawa, the future great Japanese film director and his mountain climbing enthusiast companion .

It’s an emotionally jarring film noir about 3 bank robbers, on the run from the law–
the old timer world-weary gang leader Nojiro (Takashi Shimura), the frightened elderly man who wants to surrender Takasugi (Yoshio Kosug) and the gun happy, fierce young one, Eijima (Toshiro Mifune, at 27 making his acting debut and when highly praised for his performance gives up his ambition to be a cameraman and instead goes on to become one of Japan’s greatest actors).

The bank robbers have escaped with the cash and head to the Japanese Alps, in Hokkaido, in Northern Japan, on Mount Hakuba. At first staying at the mountain’s Shikanyou Hotel
and then, with the cops closing in, the unskilled climbers try in the dead of winter to go over a passage only experienced mountain climbers can possibly climb. Takasugi panics and fires a shot, which causes an avalanche on the mountain that kills him. His comrades then find shelter at an isolated lodge, close to the mountain top, whose friendly residents, the sweet young girl Haruko (Setsuko Wakayama), her wise grandfather (Kokuten Kodo), and the experienced mountain climber Mr. Honda (Akiake Kono), welcome the strangers to stay until the road is open again to the hotel. They have no communication with the outside world and therefore have no knowledge they are hosting 2 dangerous bank robbers.

The generous lodge owners treat Nojiro with kindness, and he becomes sentimental when Haruko plays the Southern American song ‘My Old Kentucky Home’ and he wonders if in better circumstances he could have been a good family man and led a decent life instead of a life of crime.

This is a humanist/nature film about what it takes to be a good human being– a person who could live by the ‘mountaineer’s code’ like Mr. Honda to never cut the rope of another person who needs your help to survive, even if that person is no good (which was the film’s most significant scene).

REVIEWED ON 11/20/2022  GRADE: B +