This Toshio Masuda film is a weak link in Criterion’s intriguing DVD set of Japanese noir titles from Nikkatsu Studios. Shintarô Ishihara’s story sounds promising: Young, ambitious D.A. can’t get traction against a leading mobster until an anonymous letter shows up with details on an old suicide case. Turns out, the man was murdered and there are three witnesses to the crime. The twist is that the same anonymous letter was also sent to the gangster in a blackmail scheme. So, who will get to the witnesses first, the law or the mob? If only the execution made good on the possibilities. But the story plays out without enough logic, and Masuda doesn’t show much compositional flair for action. (Some of the backscreen projection work is remarkably crude and the staging of the fight scenes make every punch look like a miss.) Oddly, the climax is pretty exciting even if it shows Masuda dealing better with trucks than with people. But in general, this title is best for completists and fans of the lead actor, Yujiro Ishihara who made many films with Masuda after this one.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: A tough D.A. who plants an ex-con inside the mob; a giggling pyschopathic gang leader; a flawed, but essentially decent ex-gangster . . . classic noir doings. Why not catch them all in KISS OF DEATH/'47 after seeing this?