Eclipse Series 28 Review: The Warped World of Koreyoshi Kurahara – Intimidation

intimidationWelcome to the first of soon to be many entries into our new feature “Eclipse Series Reviews”.  Every first Thursday of every month we will take a film from the Criterion Collection’s Eclipse Series and give you our two cents worth on it.  What is The Eclipse Series? It’s “a selection of lost, forgotten or overshadowed classics.” Why have this feature every first Thursday of each month?  Well, why not?!  So, without further ado, on with the review of Intimidation from the Eclipse Series 28: The Warped World of Koreyoshi Kurahara.

I can’t think of a better way to get the ball rolling on this new feature than with the movie wikipedia claims to be the first ever Japanese film noir, Intimidation. I’m still quite skeptical of this “fact”, but if it’s on wikipedia than it must be true, right?

four-stars4Like any noir film worth its weight in cool, Intimidation wastes no time in announcing its stylish arrival as the first of the film’s few antagonists steps off a train and makes his way across town in a swagger that would give Humphrey Bogart himself a run for his money.  This stranger, donning the standard in classic noir getup one might find at their local costume store (trench coat, fedora, shades, shiny shoes and a pocket-sized handgun/lighter) wastes no time in making his character’s purpose known. He’s here to blackmail antagonist #2, the Vice President of a bank, for the sum of 3 million yen, which, as the currency rate stands today is roughly $31,800.00. But this is 1960, so I’m sure it was quite a bit more than that. Anyway, regardless of the actual amount, the point is – it’s a lot of moolah. So much moolah in fact that the bank’s VP, even after having just being promoted, can’t possibly pay it all by the short turnaround time his blackmailer has alloted.

spK05Now, this being a noir picture and all, having only the simple plot of blackmail would hardly suffice as primo noir. I like my noir to contain a few twists (minimum of 3), more than just two key players, and at least one saucy dame being thrown into the mix, and I have to admit, with the exception of the latter (unless your definition of a saucy dame is a drunk and nagging wife), first time screenplay writer, Kyo Takigawa doesn’t disappoint. And speaking of those who didn’t disappoint, Akira Suzuki‘s (editor) impressive way in which he was able to cut and paste Kurahara’s (director) film into an accomplished cohesively compact running time of 65 minutes is the work of a true talent.

Aside from this film’s highly entertaining storyline, and excellent all-around acting, especially from Kô Nishimura, whose an Akira Kurosawa regular and an actor I like to refer to as The Japanese Steve Buscemi, I was most intrigued by the slowed down and quieter way in which one of the more suspenseful parts of the movie was executed – the bank heist.  Perhaps it’s due to me being a sucker for all things heist related, all things Buscemi-esque, or a culmination of the two, but I had an enormous cool-aid grin slapped on my face throughout the duration of this scene.

Also making me smile were watching the detestable bullies as they chewed up most of their screen time with perfectly pitched embodiments of the Webster’s Dictionary definition of the film’s eponymous title – intimidation; “to make timid or fearful”.

It was never my intention to set out and learn something from my time spent with this escapist trek into the noir genre, yet somehow I did. I learned that if you keep you friends close, and your enemies even closer then you have a decent chance at intimidating your intimidator out of all his hard earned money.  I guess crime does pay, at least in this Koreyoshi Kurahara film it does.

Below is a 2:00 minute dream sequence from the movie

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