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High and Low (The Criterion Collection)

Toshir˘ Mifune , Yutaka Sada , Akira Kurosawa    Unrated   DVD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
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Toshiro Mifune stars as a wealthy industrialist whose family becomes the target of a ruthless kidnapper in Akira Kurosawa's exemplary film noir. Based on Ed McBain's detective novel King's Ransom, High and Low is both a riveting thriller and a brilliant commentary on contemporary Japanese society. Criterion is proud to present High and Low in a luminous new Tohoscope transfer with new electronic subtitles.


Although best known for his samurai classics, Japanese master filmmaker Akira Kurosawa proved himself equally adept at contemporary dramas and thrillers, and 1962's High and Low offers a powerful showcase for Kurosawa's versatile skill. The great Toshiro Mifune stars as a wealthy industrialist who has just raised a large sum of money to execute his planned takeover of a successful shoe manufacturer. Fate intervenes when he receives a phone call informing him that his son has been kidnapped, and by unfortunate coincidence the ransom demand is nearly equivalent to the amount Mifune has raised for his corporate coup. A philosophical dilemma emerges when it is revealed that the executive's son is safe, and that it is actually his chauffeur's son who has been taken. What follows is both a tense detective thriller, as the police attempt to track down the kidnapper, and a compelling illustration of class division in Japan--the "high and low" of the title. Far be it from Kurosawa to make a mere thriller, however; this loose adaptation of the Ed McBain novel King's Ransom provides the director with ample opportunity to develop a visual strategy that perfectly enhances the story's sociological themes. The Criterion Collection DVD of this extraordinary film is presented in the original "Tohoscope" aspect ratio of 2.35:1. --Jeff Shannon

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars GRAND-DADDY OF THE COP MOVIE GENRE Oct. 15 2003
And I thought Kurosawa was big on Samurai movies. This is a stunning cop thriller grounded in real-life Japan of the 60s.
Toshiro Mifune is an honest and hugely successful businessman who loves his job as a shoe factory exec and is in a battle for corporate control against a pack of hyenas. He has mortgaged and borrowed and scraped to raise the money for a surprise coup to takeover the firm. Until his son is kidnapped.
But then there is a major plot twist: it is not his own son who was taken but his son's friend, the chauffeur's kid, and the ransom demanded is atrocious. If he forks the dough, he stands to lose everything he has worked so hard for, but can he simply sacrifice the chauffeur's child because it is not his? From here on High and Low (perhaps better translated as Heaven and Hell) is a riveting "police procedural."
Watching Kurosawa's maestro camerawork is a rare, almost unique experience, he is a man in complete control of his visuals and his subject matter. The DVD is letterboxed and the print B&W. This not only lends beautifully to a cinematically compelling human drama, but it also draws you into the theme emotionally.
A superb film, captivating from start to finish. Highly recommended!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Fine Movie From Akira Kurosawa May 3 2003
A wealthy shoe tycoon plans to take over the company, and things go wrong. Intrigued?...me neither.
I watched this movie expecting a mediocre showing from my favorite director, but what I got was a wonderfully done film with a lot to say.
Toshiro Mifune plays Kingo Gondo, a successful shoe tycoon with dated ideas. He believes that shoes are important because they support the entire weight of the body, while his partners just want to produce cheap stylish shoes that women will buy over and over. His partners want to vote him out of power, so Gondo comes up with a plan to buy enough of the company so he can sway the vote. Things go wrong when a man calls and says he has kiddnapped Gondo's son and he'll need to pay an amount of money, nearly equal to what he needs to keep himself in the company, he cooperates right away, but he finds out that the kiddnapper made a mistake and has kiddnapped his driver's son instead.
what follows is a interesting look into the process of catching a criminal and a study on the social structure of japan (one of Kurosawa's favorite subjects). What makes this movie stand out is the fact that it is not exagerated, the process of solving the crime seems long and drawn out, yet it still manages to hold your attention. Another interesting detail is the fact that Mifune owns a shoe company, in most kidnapping movies, the target is some rich AND famous person. Gondo, while rich, is certainly not famous, he is basically a glorified shoe salesmen, which makes the story that much more realistic.
Along with the kidnapping, the movie also focuses on the differences in classes. Gondo lives high on a lofty hill, while the kidnapper lives down with everybody else in the sweltering heat, hence the title high and low (or heaven and hell).
I'd recommend this movie to anyone who like crime dramas or japanese cinema.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece June 15 1999
Format:VHS Tape
Kurosawa's study of a crime is like nothing I've ever seen. It begins wrenchingly with the kidnap of a rich industrialist's child, but the kidnapper has snatched the wrong child and the industrialist must confront his own financial ruin to save his chauffeur's child. The movie shifts its focus in the second third of the movie to the detectives who try to catch the kidnapper. They are dogged, heroic, determined to catch the kidnapper. They succeed, and the last third of the movie shifts to the kidnapper who is portrayed with the greatest empathy so that the viewer is left wondering who after all is the villain (or is it all of us?). A movie that can be seen and re-seen without ever giving up all its meanings. Toshiro Mifune heads the superb cast. This movies has it all, deep compassion, enormous suspense, dramatic situations, wonderful characters. It was Kurosawa's interpretation of Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment."
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5.0 out of 5 stars This Is An Extraordinarily Good Film June 27 2004
Watched this a few days ago for about the fifth time and have been thinking about it ever since. I think it probably is my favorite Kurosawa film.
Toshiro Mifune plays a top executive in a shoe company who is secretly planning to take over the company. He wants to keep making quality shoes and gradually expand the market. The other executives want to make cheaper shoes and take advantage of the company's reputation. Mifune has raised every yen he can, including using his house, for the buyout, but his son is kidnapped. For the ransome he'll need all the money he's raised. He's prepared to do this for the sake of his son.
Then he finds out that the kidnappers made a mistake. They kidnapped his driver's son, who is the same age as his own. What a terrible moral dilemma. Would you or I give up every dime we had to save a neighbor's or an employee's son? Mifune does, and this act has a great effect on the police and the public.
The first half of the movie takes place in his house on a hill while all this unfolds. The second half is the chase to find the boy before he's killed and to capture the kidnapper. We move from the intensity of the dilemma unfolding in Mifune's home to the gritty business of the search which takes us into some of the lowest parts of the Japanese underworld.
Mifune is powerful in the role of the father, at first torn by the decision he has to make, then commited to finding his driver's son. Tatsuya Nakadai plays the detective, handsome, smooth, professional, and ultimately deeply touched by Mifune's integrity. Years later Nakadai played the leads in Kurosawa's Kagemusha and Ran. And it was good to see Mifune out of samurai costume.
High and Low is the work of a master. The DVD has the quality and extras one has come to expect from Criterion
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Another powerful social commentary on modern Japanese society by the...
Concerned with the fate of the company he spent his life helping to build, a wealthy industrialist decides to gamble it all and stage a daring takeover attempt. Read more
Published 24 months ago by Jamie MacDougall
4.0 out of 5 stars Delivers the excellence we expect from Kurasawa
Those from high and low positions in modern industrial Japanese society clash in this drama. While I don't easily commit to watch a long subtitled movie, this one kept my eyes... Read more
Published on June 5 2004 by paul_howard
4.0 out of 5 stars a great movie and one of Kurosawa's best.
This review is for the Criterion Collection DVD version of the film.
This film is well written and based on the Novel "King's Ransom" by Ed McBain. Read more
Published on March 29 2004 by Ted
5.0 out of 5 stars Humanity and compassion triumphs-for the life of one boy
Based on King's Ransom by Ed McBain, High And Low (original title Heaven And Hell) tells the story of Gondo (Toshiro Mifune), head of National Shoes' factory production, who... Read more
Published on Feb. 1 2004 by Daniel J. Hamlow
3.0 out of 5 stars Mostly For Kurosawa Fans
* Akira Kurosawa's 1963 thriller movie HIGH & LOW begins with
Mr. Gondo (Toshiro Mifune), more or less the vice-president
of manufacturing of Japan's biggest shoe... Read more
Published on Oct. 18 2003 by Greg Goebel
5.0 out of 5 stars High and Low
"High and Low," Kurosawa's 1963 crime film begins in the peaceful mansion of Gondo (Mifune), who is involved in shoe production. Read more
Published on July 21 2003 by "reel07"
3.0 out of 5 stars 45min too long
Kurosawa's visual style is, as always, brilliant here, but it's his writing--good, at best even in his greatest efforts--that fails him. Read more
Published on May 26 2003 by Django
4.0 out of 5 stars Heaven and Hell
This amazing achievement of cinema simply takes hold of your sub-conscious and does not let go until the Japanese characters of "the end" fade onto screen. Read more
Published on Oct. 30 2002 by Paul Broadstone Jr.
5.0 out of 5 stars Tension, Kidnapping, Detective Work, and Ladies Shoes
I have recently seen three restored Kurosawa films at the theatre: Throne of Blood, Rashomon, and High and Low. This was easily the best, with Throne of Blood coming in second. Read more
Published on Oct. 15 2002 by T. SIMPSON
5.0 out of 5 stars House at the Top of Hill.
Like many of Kurosawas classics this one revolves around a mans dilemna as to whether he should act for selfish reasons or rise above his selfish concerns and act for a higher... Read more
Published on Aug. 23 2002 by Doug Anderson
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