Watch Underworld Beauty (1958) English Subtitle Online ,
“Ankokugai no bijo” (original title)
All Genres: Crime | Drama ,
Release Date: 25 March 1958 (Japan) ,
Run Time: 87 min ,
Country: Japan ,
Languages: Japanese ,
Quality: DVD ,
Subtitle: English ,
Director: Seijun Suzuki ,
Writer: Susumu Saji ,
Stars: Michitaro Mizushima, Mari Shiraki, Shinsuke Ashida ,
Underworld Beauty (1958) Full Movie Story Line: This is simply one of those crime films that transcends its pulp nature and becomes art. It comes from Nikkatsu Studios and the writing, sets, etc. are as good as anything coming out of Hollywood at the time.
‘Ankokugai no bijo’ is very much an American film in style, simply set in Japan. It’s something like a Japanese master painting an incredible picture from an American photograph. The story is taut and sinuous, it’s unclear to me who wrote it, but it reeks of Cornell Woolrich as is moves inexorably toward it’s conclusion but with enough twists along the way that it doesn’t feel preprogrammed.
The director, Seijun Suzuki, is an auteur of the first magnitude, which is already fully visible in this his seventh film. Suzuki gives us ingenious images throughout and uses the wide angle (“Nikkatsu Scope”) frame like an artist. He’s abetted by Wataro Nakao’s beautiful black and white cinematography. Particularly well photographed are a scene in a sewer and the climactic shootout in a darkened building splashed with angular puddles of light.
The plot centers around some diamonds stolen by protagonist Miyamoto (Michitaro Mizushima, I assume) and left hidden while he spent three years in prison. Miyamoto is a morally ambiguous but honorable and seemingly independent yakuza thief. He swaggers through Tokyo in a black coat and hat, facial expression varying between a scowl and a sneer, it’s clear that he’s not unfamiliar with Humphrey Bogart. Akkiko (presumably Mari Shiraki) is the kittenish younger sister of Miyamoto’s partner. She’s on the verge of “going down the wrong path” and when her brother dies, not surprisingly as a result of Miyamoto and his diamonds, it’s up to the black-hat hero to save her, and maybe save himself in the bargain (wink).