Stray Dog

This is a 1949 film by Akira Kurosawa, and is supposedly a precursor of the buddy cop film genre, as well as one of the earliest police procedural films.

The story is about a rookie cop whose gun is pick-pocketed while he on a bus. He reports the theft to his superior and feels so much remorse that he tirelessly follows any lead to get his gun back. Things get worse when he finds out that his gun was sold in a black market and used in two shootings, one fatal. He is told to assist an older detective (Takashi Shimura), and together they track down the murderer.

Mifune, Shimura, and Keiko Awaji.

The film is mostly about the desperation and guilt Mifune’s character feels as he desperately tries to track down the murderer. Mifune was absolutely brilliant (this was his second Kuorsawa film), and his portrayal of a desperate man reminded me a lot of the main character in Bicycle Thieves, which was released a year earlier.

Takashi Shimura too was absolutely fabs. He appeared in many Kourosawa films, 21 in all, compared to 15 for Mifune. I have one of his Kurosawa films Ikiru on DVD somewhere, I must watch it.

Looking through the cast list for this film it came as no surprise that all of the cast passed away some time ago, but with one exception. A woman who was in one scene and is called “Wooden Tub Shop woman” is still alive at the age of 107 (the English version of Wikipedia says 108, but the Japanese version says 107), Noriko Honma is her name.

Noriko Honma

Compared to later Kurosawa films this is more crudely made, but even so it is still a well crafted film. It was very interesting to see post-war Japan. There were very few cars on the roads (dirt roads, even in the city), and the houses in the poor areas were just wooden shacks. I was surprised to see a rich part of town, apart from the dirt roads it looked like another world. Apparently, the black market scenes were filmed in real black markets.

Despite having been defeated in the war only five years previous to this film, Japan while being very poor seemed to be a vibrant and busy place. This was most evident in the baseball game scene which was actually filmed by a newsreel crew rather than Kurosawa himself (for authenticity). So it was an actual game filmed at Tokyo Stadium with a crowd of 50,000 people. The crowd were all wearing white (I guess there was clothes rationing or something) and the fervour of the crowd was obvious.

A most excellent film, one that I will watch again some day. I can’t quite give it a full score because there are better Kurosawa films, but not by much.

Date watched: December 15th
Score: 9.5/10
Film count 2018: 82

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