Stray Dog (film)

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Stray Dog
Nora inu poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAkira Kurosawa
Screenplay by
Produced bySōjirō Motoki
Starring
CinematographyAsakazu Nakai
Music byFumio Hayasaka
Production
companies
Distributed byToho
Release date
  • 17 October 1949 (1949-10-17)
Running time
122 minutes[1]
CountryJapan
LanguageJapanese

Stray Dog (野良犬, Nora inu) is a 1949 Japanese film noir crime drama directed by Akira Kurosawa and starring Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura. It was Kurosawa's second film of 1949 produced by the Film Art Association and released by Shintoho. It is also considered a detective movie (among the earliest Japanese films in that genre)[2] that explores the mood of Japan during its painful postwar recovery. The film is also considered a precursor to the contemporary police procedural and buddy cop film genres, based on its premise of pairing two cops with different personalities and motivations together on a difficult case.[3]

Plot[edit]

The film takes place during a heatwave in the middle of summer in post-war Tokyo. Murakami (Toshiro Mifune), a newly-promoted homicide detective in the Tokyo police, has his Colt pistol stolen while riding on a crowded trolley. He chases the pickpocket, but loses him. A remorseful Murakami reports the theft to his superior, Nakajima, at police headquarters. After Nakajima encourages him to conduct an investigation into the theft, the inexperienced Murakami goes undercover in the city's backstreets for days, trying to infiltrate the illicit arms market. He eventually locates a dealer who agrees to sell him a stolen gun, but when Murakami arrests the dealer's girlfriend at the exchange, he is distraught to find that she doesn't know anything about his missing gun.

Forensics experts determine that Murakami's Colt was used to mug a woman of ¥40,000, and Nakajima partners him up with veteran detective Satō (Takashi Shimura). After Satō skillfully questions the girlfriend, the two detectives learn that the dealer, who is using the alias of "Honda", is a fan of baseball. They stake-out a local high-attendance baseball game looking for Honda and manage to lure him away from the crowd before taking him into custody. A ration card found on his person reveals that the gun was "loaned" to Yusa, a disenchanted war veteran who has become involved with the yakuza to support himself. The detectives interview Yusa's sister, one of his yakuza associates, and his sweetheart, showgirl Harumi Namiki (Keiko Awaji); none of these visits produce any useful leads.

Murakami's gun is used again, this time to murder another woman during a robbery. He and Satō continue to question Namiki at her mother's house. She is still reluctant to talk, so Satō leaves to trace Yusa's movements, while Murakami remains behind hoping that Namiki's mother can persuade her to begin cooperating. Satō finds the hotel where Yusa is staying. He tries to call Murakami, but just as he is about to reveal Yusa's location, the criminal (having overheard the hotel owners mention that a cop is present) shoots Satō twice before making his escape. Satō, badly wounded but alive, staggers out the door, passes out from blood loss, and is taken to the hospital. A distraught Murakami is forcibly removed from the hospital on Nakajima's orders when he becomes disruptive and starts wailing loudly.

The following morning, Namiki has a change of heart and informs Murakami that Yusa called and asked her to meet him at a train station so they can skip town. Murakami races to the station and manages to get a positive identification on Yusa by taking into account his age, expensive suit stained with mud, and left-handedness, three tips he has collected over the past few days. Yusa tries to flee and Murakami pursues him into the forest; Yusa is able to wound him in the arm, but then panics, wastes his last two bullets, and throws the gun away. Murakami, in spite of his injury, wrestles Yusa down, handcuffs him, retrieves the gun, and takes him into custody. Days later at the hospital, Satō has recovered and congratulates Murakami on receiving his first citation. Murakami admits that he sympathizes with Yusa's situation, to which Satō replies that he will lose such sentimentality as he arrests more people and that he should focus on getting ready for the cases that he will need to solve in the future.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Black-and-white image of two men facing the left of frame, walking in front of a brick wall. A bold series of vertically striped shadows covers the entire image. The middle-aged man to the right wears a white fedora, a medium-dark suit, and an open-collared white shirt. In front of him, to the left of the image, a younger, taller man wears a cream-toned suit, a white beret and shirt, and a light striped tie. Each man holds a pistol in his right hand.
Stray Dog contains elements associated with film noir and was a precursor to the buddy cop film genre.

Kurosawa mentioned in several interviews that his script was inspired by Jules Dassin’s The Naked City and the works of Georges Simenon.[4] Despite being one of Akira Kurosawa's most critically renowned postwar films, Stray Dog was not always held in such high regard by the director himself. Kurosawa initially said that he thought little of the film, calling it "too technical" and also remarking that it contains "all that technique and not one real thought in it." His attitude had changed by 1982, when he wrote in his autobiography that "no shooting ever went as smoothly," and that "the excellent pace of the shooting and the good feeling of the crew can be sensed in the finished film."[5]

Release[edit]

Stray Dog was distributed theatrically by Toho in Japan on 17 October 1949.[6] The film received a theatrical release in the United States by Toho International with English subtitles on August 31, 1963.[6]

Reception[edit]

Stray Dog holds a 95% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 20 reviews, with an average rating of 7.90/10.[7] At the 1950 Mainichi Film Concours it won awards for Best Actor (Takashi Shimura), Best Film Score (Fumio Hayasaka), Best Cinematography (Asakazu Nakai) and Best Art Direction (Sō Matsuyama).[1][6] The film was included on Kinema Junpo's "Best Ten" of the year at third place.[6] In 2009 the film was voted at No. 10 on the list of The Greatest Japanese Films of All Time by Japanese film magazine Kinema Junpo.[8]

Remake[edit]

The film was remade in 1973, under the name Nora inu, for Shochiku.[6] It was later remade for television in 2013.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Galbraith IV 2008, p. 73.
  2. ^ Broe, Dennis (2014). Class, Crime and International Film Noir: Globalizing America's Dark Art. London: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 162–67. ISBN 978-1137290137. Retrieved June 9, 2017.
  3. ^ "FilmInt". Film International. Sweden: Kulturrådet. 4 (1–6): 163. 2006. Retrieved 28 April 2012. In addition to being a masterful precursor to the buddy cop movies and police procedurals popular today, Stray Dog is also a complex genre film that examines the plight of soldiers returning home to post-war Japan.
  4. ^ "DVD Review of Stray Dog by Gary Morris". imagesjournal.com. Retrieved 2011-10-12.
  5. ^ "Stray Dog: Kurosawa Comes of Age". criterion.com. Retrieved 2011-10-12.
  6. ^ a b c d e Galbraith IV 2008, p. 74.
  7. ^ "Stray Dog (Nora inu) (1963)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 1, 2020.
  8. ^ "Greatest Japanese films by magazine Kinema Junpo (2009 version)". Archived from the original on July 11, 2012. Retrieved 2011-12-26.
  9. ^ "Nora inu". Archived from the original on January 14, 2013.

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]