Koreyoshi Kurahara’s debut pic makes a lesser, but worthwhile entry in Criterion’s eye-opening collection of noir-tinged films from Nikkatsu Studio. Fast-rising Yujiro Ishihara plays the young, but retired boxer-with-a-past who falls for nightclub singer with a past Mie Kitahara. (He killed a guy with his fists out of the ring, and she went from opera to dives.*) Their tangled courtship runs the first two-thirds of the film, but things perk up considerably in the last act when an unsolved murder casts a shadow on the pair, turning Ishihara away from romance and toward cold-blooded revenge. The twisty revelations and bursts of violence really shake up the film, as if BRIEF ENCOUNTER/’45 had morphed into GILDA/’46. Kurahara’s direction remains a bit staid & functional, but he moves things along and lets the villains show a bit of pizazz before sorting everything out at the climax.
*In a boneheaded move, they try to foist off a classic CARMEN recording by the instantly identifiable Conchita Supervia as Kitahara’s.