Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
Original title: Tengoku to Jigoku
Japan, 1963. Kurosawa Production Co., Toho Company. Screenplay by Akira Kurosawa, Hideo Oguni, Ryuzo Kikushima, Eijiro Hisaita, based on the novel Kingu no Minoshirokin by Evan Hunter. Cinematography by Asakazu Nakai, Takao Saito. Produced by Ryuzo Kikushima, Tomoyuki Tanaka. Music by Masaru Sato. Production Design by Yoshiro Muraki. Costume Design by Miyuki Suzuki. Film Editing by Reiko Kaneko.
Not surprisingly, Akira Kurosawa was just as magnificent a filmmaker with modern-day stories as he was with the many period films he made. This film is an exemplary thriller about a wealthy industrialist (Toshirô Mifune) who is informed by kidnappers that they have taken his son for ransom. He instantly decrees that he will do whatever is necessary to get the boy back, until he realizes that his son is safe and sound with him in his home, but it is his servant’s little boy that the kidnappers took by accident. Now he is in a moral quandary: he’d like to do the right thing, but is it worth risking his financial situation for a child that isn’t his? The tension builds in one living room for the first hour, and then the second half finds the skilled policeman (Tatsuya Nakadai) trying to get the boy back before any money has to be paid. Forget any recent Hollywood thrillers like Ransom, this character driven film is the genuine article, a true spectacle of thrills and chills, with Japan’s two greatest movie stars appearing in one terrific adventure.