This early Suzuki entry in the crime genre, set in post-war Tokyo, is as interesting as its premise. Different people trying to recover a set of diamonds from the stomach of a dead guy. And like the McGuffin around which the pulpy story revolves (the diamonds), Underworld Beauty is every bit as beautiful.
Despite sharing many similarities in look and tone with American 40's film noirs, Suzuki here opts for a more subtle approach, infused with black comedy and sweet irony. With great performances from the cast (especially the younger sister of the dead man) and a tight, gripping story, what elevates Underworld Beauty further above standard fare is Suzuki's imaginative camera-work and b/w cinematography. The exterior shots of Tokyo capture the mood of the times, alternating between seedy roads and rundown neighborhoods to hip joints where American sailors are hitting on Japanese girls. Suzuki already had an eye for composition and framing which he would go on to develop later in his career, but here he's happy enough to implement it in the service of a pulpy genre picture.
Like many of the top directors of all time (from Leone to Wilder and Hitchcock), he was able to do genre pictures on studio demand yet instill his personal vision to make what started out as routine affairs into small pieces of art. Underworld Beauty is just that. A rough gem that will especially appeal to film noir fans.
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