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High and Low (1963)
"Tengoku to jigoku" (original title)

8.3
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Ratings: 8.3/10 from 14,885 users  
Reviews: 76 user | 88 critic

An executive of a shoe company becomes a victim of extortion when his chauffeur's son is kidnapped and held for ransom.

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(screenplay), (screenplay), 3 more credits »
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3 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Kyôko Kagawa ...
Reiko Gondo
Tatsuya Mihashi ...
Kawanishi - Gondo's Secretary
Isao Kimura ...
Detective Arai
Kenjirô Ishiyama ...
Chief Detective 'Bos'n' Taguchi
Takeshi Katô ...
Detective Nakao
...
Jun Tazaki ...
Kamiya, National Shoes Publicity Director
Nobuo Nakamura ...
Ishimaru, National Shoes Design Department Director
Yûnosuke Itô ...
Baba - National Shoes Executive
Tsutomu Yamazaki ...
Ginjirô Takeuchi - Medical Intern
Minoru Chiaki ...
First Reporter
Eijirô Tôno ...
Factory Worker
Masao Shimizu ...
Prison Warden
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Storyline

An executive mortgages all he owns to stage a coup and gain control of the National Shoe Company, with the intent of keeping the company out of the hands of incompetent and greedy executives. He needs the same money, though, to pay the ransom that will possibly save a child's life. His resolution of that dilemma -- the certain loss of the company vs. the probable loss of the child -- makes for one distinct drama, and an ensuing elaborate police procedure makes for a second. Written by levin <levin@world.std.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

26 November 1963 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

High and Low  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Color:

| (Eastmancolor) (inserts only)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Most of the outdoor Yokohama shots were filmed on location, with a few exceptions, mostly due to the cold winter that was setting in. The scene where Gondo unknowingly meets the kidnapper on the street had to be filmed indoors. See more »

Quotes

Reiko Gondo: [to her husband, about their son Jun] He takes after you. He likes violent games.
See more »

Connections

References The H-Man (1958) See more »

Soundtracks

The Magic Begins
(uncredited)
Performed by Yumi Shirakawa
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Kurosawa at his best and most subtle
1 August 2004 | by (Los Angeles, Ca.) – See all my reviews

This is one of those rare movies I had to watch twice to catch all the meaning and beauty of its construction, that is how sleek and polished this film is. The storyline is deceptively simple -- a businessman named Gondo is about to take control of the company he's worked in for years when he's told his son's been kidnapped. It turns out the kidnappers got his chauffeur's son by mistake, but they still want him to pay the ransom. If he does, he will be financially ruined. If he doesn't, he will be reviled. Which will he choose? This makes up the first half of the movie, culminating in a breathtaking scene on one of Japan's bullet trains. The second half is the police search for the kidnapper/murderer and how a case is built that will take him to the gallows.

Now this sounds like your typical cop thriller, the type Hollywood churns out with one hand tied behind its back, but Kurosawa makes it into a meditation on honor and decency, and on how one's choices can lead one to Heaven or to Hell in little steps that seem to be taking you nowhere. Gondo is an honorable man who worked hard to built himself a life of wealth and power. This is no small feat, considering Japan is not known as a society where one can easily change one's station in life, so this adds to his dilemma; he will not only lose his fortune, he will also lose his hard-gained power and respect in the business community, all for a child that is not even his. And not only will he lose but his own wife and son will, as well. But to NOT pay the ransom means he will lose everything in him that is human and decent, and his wife and son will suffer from that, too.

This is a big deal -- not just in Japanese society but in the world as a whole. It doesn't matter if you live in Nepal or Kenya or Argentina or New York City, when faced with the choice of losing your position in your society or losing your soul, which would you choose? And would you still make that choice knowing that even if the cops catch the bad guy, it will make no difference in your own circumstances? Just a glance at some of the recent stock scandals gives you a good idea of where most people fall in their choices. And even Ed McBain, upon whose novel this movie is based, knew how hard it would be to give up your world for your spirit; his businessman refuses to pay the ransom.

To me, this movie is Kurosawa at his best and most subtle. Every shot is composed and measured and done just right. Not all films have to have bombs exploding and chase scenes and people going "Boo!" to affect you; sometimes just a man riding on a train en route to what he knows will be a catastrophe to him and his world is enough to make you thank the heavens for a story well told.


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