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The Asian ApertureStray Dog (1949)
POSTED BY JASON FETTERS, April 28, 2013    Share

The winning combination of Akira Kurosawa, Toshiro Mifune, and Takashi Shimura ignite in Stray Dog, a police procedural and film noir.

The time is Post WWII and the place is Tokyo as homicide detective Murakami (Mifune) is riding on the trolley. At the next stop, a thief takes off with his Colt and Mifune is forced to hit the streets and chase him down. Unable to capture, Murakami must return back to headquarters and face the music. Already riddled with shame, Murakami is smacked with a punishment of working for half his pay for the next three months. Life is hard for a rookie.
His saving grace is Sato (Takashi Shimura) a veteran detective who helps keep Murakami in line and shows him the ropes. After questioning a girl, they get the name Yusa out of her. Then it is off to a baseball game to track down a gun dealer named Honda. Kurosawa really shines here as he shows off Japan’s love of baseball with plenty of fantastic action shots of the game.

To further add insult to injury, Murakami’s gun is used by Yusa in several crimes including murder. Eventually Sato and Murakami track down Yusa favorite girl, the dancing showgirl Harumi Namiki. Namiki lives with her mother and is described by another character as a “Mama’s girl.” Sato and Murakami show up at her apartment and the intense questioning begins. Namiki is silent and refuses to even look at the detective. Thankfully the mother intervenes and argues with her daughter to help out with the case. This is where Stray Dog has some of its best dialogue as the detectives and the mother team up on the reluctant daughter.

Slowly and slowly the pieces are put together as Sato and Murakami track down Yusa. Even Harumi warms up in the end and helps out in a big way.

Kurosawa is a true genius with regards to all the technical aspects of filmmaking but he really shines right at the very beginning when writing the script. Stray Dog was inspired by Jules Dassin’s The Naked City and Belgian writer, Georges Simenon, creator of Detective Jules Maigret who appears in several novels.

On release by Toho in 1949, Stray Dog was a commercial and critical success. However Kurosawa looked back on Stray Dog with scorn, complaining that it was “too technical,” and “all that technique and not one real thought in it.” He changed his mind in 1982 writing in his autobiography that the shooting of the movie went well and that everyone involved on the set was enthusiastic.

Stray Dog won several awards back in 1950 at the Mainichi Film Concours including Best Actor Takashi Shimura, Best Film Score Fumio Hayaska, as well as, Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction.

Stray Dog should enjoy a revival in Japan as a television remake came out in 2013. I hope that Japanese audiences who like the TV show will go back and see this movie. The pacing is excellent and the teamup of Mifune and Shimura is unbeatable.

Highly Recommended

5 out of 5 Stars

"The Asian Aperture" is ©2013 by Jason Fetters. All contents of Crazed Fanboy are ©2013 by Nolan B. Canova and Terence Nuzum.

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