An unimpressive outing from revered Japanese director Masaki Kobayashi. He seems to miss the ironic edge in this baseball saga, trying too hard to convince us of something we already know: Money Corrupts. The simple story is laid out in a jumpy manner that makes things a bit hard to follow, but basically we’ve got a hot baseball prospect & his university mentor being wooed by a handful of free-spending pro teams. The escalation in gifts & cash quickly start to cascade down thru the boy’s family (with the expected negative results) while we focus on one of the pro scouts & the player’s longtime handler. Kobayashi (or his scripters) needlessly complicate the situation with a health crisis that adds a bathetic note to the big dramatic choice of which team will win the bidding. So while the film succeeds in leaving a nasty taste in your mouth, perhaps a less melodramatic angle might have given us something to think about.
DOUBLE-BILL: Billy Wilder’s blackest film, ACE IN THE HOLE/’51, gives some idea of how this might have worked.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Keiji Sada, who had his signature role in this film as the sympathetic scout, keeps striking poses that make him look like a very lean Greg Peck. Meanwhile, the rumpled mentor, Tokue Hanazawa, is even more of a match for Michel Simon! Not a face you expect to see twice.