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Stray Dog (The Criterion Collection)

Toshir˘ Mifune , Takashi Shimura , Akira Kurosawa    Unrated   DVD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 42.99
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Stray Dog (The Criterion Collection) + The Bad Sleep Well (Criterion Collection)
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A classic crime film steeped in the vivid environs of postwar Tokyo, Stray Dog is arguably Akira Kurosawa's finest film preceding the international success of Rashomon. A classic theme--the identification between criminal and crime fighter--is presented here in one of its earliest incarnations, as a promising young detective (Toshiro Mifune) struggles to retrieve his stolen pistol. The missing gun is used in a robbery and murder, and Mifune's superior (Ikiru's Takashi Shimura) is caught in the case's volatile crossfire. As the detective closes in on his lethal alter ego, his own moral compass spins out of control, into a psychological tempest that inspires Mifune to give one of his best early performances. Using real locations and a sense of sweltering heat rivaled only by Do the Right Thing, Kurosawa (who first wrote this film as an unpublished novel inspired by an actual incident) maintains an atmosphere of lurid urgency perfectly suited to this riveting film noir scenario. --Jeff Shannon

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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent psychological crime story... June 16 2004
Format:DVD
In the shadow of the American occupation of Japan after World War II during an extremely hot summer afternoon, Murakami (Toshir˘ Mifune), a young homicide detective, is duped by a pickpocket who steals his issued gun. Detective Murakami notifies his superior about the theft which causes him embarrassment and fear of being fired. The humiliation combined with the fear compels Detective Murakami to keep searching for the thief by going undercover. Murakami probes the scorching Tokyo streets and alleys with meticulously scanning eyes as he comes across a weapons dealer that has clues about the guns whereabouts. These clues help Murakami to continue the investigation as he is assisted by the shrewd Detective Sato (Takashi Shimura) to uncover further clues of the identity of the pickpocket. As clues accumulate Murakami seems to identify himself more and more with the criminal. This begins to wear on Murakami, but the understanding Sato keeps reminding him that he is doing the right thing.
Stray Dog is an intense criminal story that examines the psychology of the characters as in compares the similarities between criminals and detectives. These similarities are balanced on a thin line based on choice, which Kurosawa dissects studiously through the camera lens. Kurosawa's investigation of the character's psychology creates a spiraling suspense that is enhanced through subtle surprises and brilliant cinematography. The camera use often displays shots through thin cloths, close ups, and new camera angles, which also makes the film aesthetically appealing. When Kurosawa brings together camera work and cast performance, among other cinematic aspects, he leaves the audience with a brilliantly suspenseful criminal drama, which leaves much room for introspection and retrospection.
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5.0 out of 5 stars 4.25 Stars for this Noirish Kurosawa Gem June 3 2004
Format:DVD
If you've only seen Kurosawa's samurai flics, definitely give this a look. The strength of Stray Dog is certainly the imagery: the glimpses of everyday life in the early years of postwar Japan are as priceless as virtually anything from the silent era, and seeing such a young Mifune in his dandyish zoot suite is also worth the price of admission in itself. The rabid dog thru the opening credits frames the film wonderfully and returns to your mind well after you've turned off the TV. And here Kurosawa's greatest weakness (an apparently utter disdain for females) is graciously muted: women are portrayed in mostly unflattering roles but are at least allowed to show some bit of their sensuality (something which is utterly lacking in his later films). The ending is first marvelous then disappointing; the last 120 seconds or so might have better landed on the cutting room floor. The narrative thrill wasn't quite Hitchcock, and the noirish shadows weren't quite to the level of Welles or Wilder. But I am not complaining. While Stray Dog shows some of the undeveloped side of Kurosawa, it also shows traits he would have been better to have kept. All in all Stray Dog was a delight to watch.
Regarding the Criterion DVD, the image quality is really no better than a VHS tape. Occasionally scenes are quite dark or the picture is striped with dark lines. The DVD menu page is too dark and it was almost impossible to read the options. As usual, Criterion offers no subtitle options beyond English. And the price is tad lower, if still too high. But at least they have made it available.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A dark, striking film Dec 16 2002
Format:VHS Tape
This Japanese film noir was one of director Akira Kurosawa's earliest films, starring (a very young!) Toshiro Mifune as a police detective whose pistol has been stolen and fenced on the black market. The rookie cop carries a samurai-like sense of personal responsibility for the crimes that are committed with his gun following his lapse in vigilance; this sense of honor is not shared by his fellow officers, who hold a more pragmatic, modern view of things. Slow moving in the first half, the film picks up steam at the end, climaxing in as grim a showdown as any American movie of the same era. What takes so long is Kurosawa's presentation of pre-corporate, postwar Japan, which, with it's drug use, prostitution and ramshackle, peeling plaster slums is very different from the ultramodern, sleek image of Japan today. The transition into an American-oriented popular culture is extensively explored, from the jazz music and Hawaaian tunes that flood through the streets to a (somewhat belaboured) day at the baseball field. Takashi Shimura, who later played the philosophically-minded leader of "The Seven Samurai," also stars, as the veteran detective who shows Mifune the ropes. Kurosawa devotees will want to check this out -- it's worth hanging in there for the plot to develop.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Desperation Aug. 23 2002
Format:VHS Tape
Riding a crowded bus packed with people standing shoulder to shoulder in scorching heat a detective suddenly notices his pistol is missing. As the bus pulls to a stop he notices someone hurriedly get off and there begins a chase that lasts the entire movie. Kurosawa examines the mindset of desperate men. The criminals are desperate for a variety of reasons and the detective too is a desperate man because he soon learns that it his pistol that is being used to commit crimes which he feels personally responsible for. The incident proves to be the beginning of the young detectives education. The relationship that develops between this younger detective and the older wiser detective is fascinating taking Kurosawas samurai theme of old masters and young warriors and placing it in a modern setting. The older detective teaches the younger one that despite ones own self interest there is a code to respect. But he also learns much from his own field work. The young detective in desperation to retrieve the lost pistol goes undercover posing as an ex soldier down on his luck in an attempt to penetrate the blackmarket for stolen guns. These are some of the most interesting scenes of the picture as they are ripe with social commentary as the detective becomes one of the lowest of the low to catch his thief. The detectives tour of Tokyos criminal underworld is unforgettable and it is there that Kurosawas irony works best for the young detective acts as selfishly and recklessly and desperately as the criminals themselves. The film appeals on many levels. As enjoyable as any Hitchcock or Carrol Reed(Third Man) film. In fact the film reminded me of those English directors in its pacing and look and moments of comic relief. Read more ›
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars THEMATICALLY MORDANT, TECHNICALLY BRILLIANT
A young Tokyo cop has his handgun stolen. Driven to obsession he follows the trail of the pickpocket through the choppy underworld of 50s Tokyo in an attempt to regain his... Read more
Published on June 5 2004 by Shashank Tripathi
4.0 out of 5 stars Stray Dog - Criterion Collection
Murakami (Toshir˘ Mifune), a young police officer in 1940s Tokyo, finds that his gun was stolen while he was riding a packed bus. Read more
Published on May 21 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars New Criterion Collection DVD to be released in MAY 2004!!
The Criterion Collection will be releasing this movie for the first time ever on DVD. It will come out in May 2004. The retail price is $39. Read more
Published on Feb. 27 2004 by A Kurosawa Fan
5.0 out of 5 stars Homage & Echoes and Finally, Stubbornly Original.
I am not a Japanese film historian, so others can elaborate on that aspect. When it started, I wasn't sure I would take to this film, but it draws you in inexorably. Read more
Published on Dec 26 2001 by Archmaker
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wild Ride
This is one of the most thoroughly entertaining movies I have ever seen! The first forty minutes are stunningly sleazy! A delight to the eyes and ears. Read more
Published on July 5 2001 by Penny N. Vilela
5.0 out of 5 stars A consistently fascinating film
I foung this to be an absolutely fascinating film on several levels.
First, although we primarily associate Kurosawa with period films, this was one of his relatively few... Read more
Published on June 18 2001 by Robert Moore
5.0 out of 5 stars The best of Kurosawa's "postwar" movies
While this Kurosawa offering may sometimes seemed stalled, the camera work and studies of human nature in postwar Tokyo are a veritable time capsule. Read more
Published on Jan. 22 2001 by Vincent Mattaliano Jr.
5.0 out of 5 stars Top Five Kurosawa
Don't be fooled by the other reviews here: this is Kurosawa at his best and film-making of the highest quality. Read more
Published on Jan. 21 2001 by O. Elmore
4.0 out of 5 stars Masterful!
Two things struck me about the movie. One was the way Kurosawa conveys the impression of heat. The main characters are constantly mopping their brows. Read more
Published on March 9 2000 by Patrick Carroll
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