Hakuchu no Torima" is the portrayal of a violent rapist as seen through the recollections of his wife and one of his victims. As the film starts, Eisuke (Kei Sato) encounters Shino (Saeda ... See full summary »
A sharpshooter kills two prisoners in a police van at night. The guard on the van is suspended for six months; he's Tamon, an upright, modest man. He begins his own investigation into the murders. Who were the victims, who are their relatives and girlfriends, who else was on the van that night? As he doggedly investigates, others die, coincidences occur, and several leads take him to the Hamaju Agency, which may be supplying call girls. Its owner is in jail, his daughter, the enigmatic Yuko, keeps turning up where Tamon goes. Tamon believes he can awaken good in people, but has he met his match? Will he solve the murders or be the next victim? And who is Akiba? Written by
Seijun Suzuki, one of the crazier '60s Japanese directors, liked to provoke Nikkatsu executives' nerves here and there with his strange filming style, but even though Take Aim at the Police Van (the literal translation is even longer), based on Kazuo Shimada's story, is the strangest outing in the box-set, it's still fairly normal for a Suzuki film. His approach to traditional film noir is something else, really.
Right off the bat, you are asked to leave behind all logic and rationality - this is a Seijun Suzuki film, and logic is dumb. Logic is for pussies. Why is the protagonist suspended from his prison guard job for negligence when there really isn't a sensible way to react in the situation he was in? What exactly is the motivation of the agency owner and what's up with her sudden love interest in the prison guard? As you might expect from Suzuki, the plot is convoluted, under-valued and all over the place. It isn't as baffling as his later works, but still. Remember, this is the movie where the villains, instead of simply shooting the protagonists, tie them up in a gasoline truck and push it downhill, then leave the gasoline tap on the back open, so they can set the trail ablaze so that the fire catches up to the truck! It's a pity Suzuki never got to direct a James Bond movie.
Michitaro Mizushima (from Suzuki's Underworld Beauty) is a pretty boring main character, with an almost indifferent reaction to pretty much anything that comes his way. But one odd thing about him is that he acts to track the killers not out of revenge, but out instead to reform them. Or so I guess, because the movie doesn't really explain it well. The villain's death is almost the same as in Rusty Knife, but this one is better because of how outrageous it is. Another oddity about the film is a short nude scene of a woman who gets her boob pierced by an arrow. It's probably unusual to see nudity in a film this old, and it isn't even a pinku, or an independent or art-house production.
The widescreen photography is as slick as you'd expect, with a fetish for road warning signs, rifle-scope framing, immaculate chiaroscuro composition, and other noir staples. The soundtrack is far better than in the previous two films, but rather intrusive. Overall, this was a fun little studio film that leaves some space for Suzuki to play around with the noir style.
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