Stray Dog (film)

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Stray Dog
Nora inu poster.jpg
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Produced by Sojiro Motoki[1]
Screenplay by
Starring
Music by Fumio Hayasaka[1]
Cinematography Asakazu Nakai[1]
Production
companies
Distributed by Toho
Release date
  • 17 October 1949 (1949-10-17) (Japan)
Running time
122 minutes[1]
Country Japan


Stray Dog (野良犬, Nora Inu) is a 1949 Japanese crime drama made in the film noir genre directed by Akira Kurosawa and starring Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura. It was Kurasawa's second film of 1949 produced by Film Art Association and released by Shintoho. It is also received as a detective movie (among the first of Japanese films in that genre)[2] that explores the mood of Japan during its painful postwar recovery. The film is considered a precursor to the contemporary police procedural and buddy cop film genres.[3]

Plot[edit]

The film takes place during a heatwave in the middle of summer in post-war Tokyo. Rookie homicide detective Murakami (Toshiro Mifune) has his Colt pistol stolen in a crowded trolley ride. He chases the pickpocket, but loses him. Remorsefully, he reports the theft at headquarters. After some preliminary investigation, he then goes undercover in the city backstreets for days, trying to infiltrate the postwar illicit arms market. He eventually picks up the trail of a gun racket.

Forensics discover that the stolen gun was used in a recent crime, and Murakami is partnered up with the veteran detective Satō (Takashi Shimura). After questioning a suspect, Satō and Murakami get a tip that their suspect may be a fan of baseball, and they attempt to stake-out a local high-attendance baseball game looking for a gun dealer named Honda. When they confront Honda, he points them to Yusa, a disenchanted war veteran who has cold-bloodedly resorted to desperate crime. They investigate Yusa's sister's house and his sweetheart, showgirl Harumi Namiki (Keiko Awaji), which does not lead to immediate leads.

The questioning of Namika: Keiko Awaji (right), Eiko Miyoshi, Toshiro Mifune (standing), Takashi Shimura (sitting)

Murakami's gun is used again in a crime, this time as a murder weapon. They continue to question Namiki at her mother's house. She is still reticent to talk, so Satō leaves to investigate Yusa's trail, while Murakami remains behind hoping that Namiki's mother can somehow persuade her to begin cooperating. Satō comes across Yusa's most recent hideout. He places a call for Murakami, but, just as he is about to reveal Yusa's location, the criminal (having received a tip earlier that he is being followed) tries to shoot Sato dead in the hotel phone booth before he makes a run for it. Satō, though badly wounded, tries to give chase but passes out from blood loss and is left for dead. A desperate Murakami arrives at the hospital soon enough to donate blood but is distraught when there is no word from the doctors if Sato will survive.

The following morning, Namiki has a change of heart and informs Murakami that she had an appointment with Yusa at a train station nearby. Murakami races to the train station and confronts a man based on his age and left-handedness, two tips he has collected over the past few days. Yusa is flustered by the unexpected confrontation and tries to bolt from the train station. Murakami pursues him into a forest and is shot in the arm, but Yusa wastes his last two remaining bullets. Murakami, in spite of his injury, still manages to wrestle Yusa down, handcuff him, and take him into custody. Days later back at the hospital, Satō has recovered and congratulates Murakami on his receiving his first citation. Satō tells him to forget about Yusa. He tells him that Murakami must get ready for the cases which Murakami 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, with an average rating of 7.9/10.[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]

Remake[edit]

The film was remade in 1973 as Nora Inu for Shochiku.[6] It was remade for television in 2013.[8]

Keiko Awaji as Harumi Namiki the showgirl

References[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g 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 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 January 3, 2017. 
  8. ^ "Nora Inu". Archived from the original on January 14, 2013. 

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]