The earliest Suzuki Seijun film available in Region 1; it's newly released on DVD
For those who doubt the talent of Suzuki, for those who think that he was just some kind of a nut who really just didn't understand how to make a coherent film, I present to you his seventh film, Underworld Beauty, newly released on DVD by Home Vision Cinema. This is the earliest available Suzuki film, and the earliest I have seen. It is, by Suzuki's standards, very straightforward. The script, which is extremely good (unlike some of his more famous films, e.g., Tokyo Drifter), could just as easily been produced in America, or even by someone like Melleville in France. The director is already a master of style, and his brilliance is perhaps more recognizable even by those who don't like his later masterpieces. The story is too complicated to get into here. A gang is after some diamonds one of their defecting members swallowed just before he committed suicide. His close friend, Miyamoto, takes it upon himself to protect his younger sister, Akiko, who is now in danger, not only from the yakuza who want the diamonds but also from starting down the path of crime which led to her brother's death. Akiko doesn't even have the diamonds; she never even knew about them. Instead, her boyfriend, a sculptor and a student of human anatomy, cut open her brother's stomach and took the diamonds for himself. IMDb doesn't have the actors credited to their roles, but the lead actress (I think her name is Mari Shiraki) is exceptional. The actor who plays her greedy boyfriend is also very good. My sole complaint about the film is with the lead actor, Michitaro Mizushima, and his character. He's just not that interesting, and the performance is rather dull. Other than that, it's a remarkable crime picture. The black and white cinematography, at which the Japanese were particularly excelling during this point in history, is gorgeous. I can't wait to get to the next two films that Home Vision has released, and I'm desperately hoping they'll release more in the future. You know how you can help? Buy them now, silly!!!
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