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

8.4
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Ratings: 8.4/10 from 15,087 users  
Reviews: 77 user | 89 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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Title: High and Low (1963)

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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

For the scenes in Gondo's house, an outside miniature set of Yokohama was built, complete with bridges and a moving train, and with lights for all the night time shots. For most day shots, they filmed in a studio living room set with the actual city of Yokohama outside. See more »

Quotes

Ginjirô Takeuchi, medical intern: I'd rather be told the cruel truth than be fed gentle lies.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession (2004) See more »

Soundtracks

Die Forelle
(uncredited)
Written by Franz Schubert
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User Reviews

 
If you like ransom/police storiesmysteries, and have interest in Kurosawa &/or Mifune, check it out at least once
30 August 2004 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

High and Low, like Yojimbo and Throne of Blood, combines elements to create something special while seeming rather routine- while Yojimbo seems like a bad-ass samurai flick, it has the ingredients of a western and satire, and Throne of Blood is a rather faithful, strange adaptation of Macbeth in the guise of a warlord/samurai tale, High and Low does a similar method. Akira Kurosawa, a filmmaker who gets film buff's ears lit up at the mere mention of him, can usually be counted on to keep a film interesting even if it may not be entertaining to some of the crowd that likes a section of his movies or another (there's usually a split between his samurai/medieval tales and epics, and his dramas about the tragedies of ordinary people).

Here he finds a middle ground- the story is taken from a hard-boiled detective novel, the kind you could probably buy for a quarter or fifty cents in the old days- as he tells of two stories interconnected at the hip, both with detail a commercial Hollywood director would brush off. The first is of businessman Gondo (Toshiro Mifune, with his usual bravura presence, but with enough nuanced and quiet moments for two movies), who is about to close a deal to get the shoe company he's worked for for years, when he gets a phone call. There's been a kidnapping- not his son, but his chauffeur's by default. Backed into a corner without options, he gets together 30 million he really can't afford, and gives it to the kidnapper(s). The police, meanwhile, are not about to give up, and start digging for clues with an in-depth investigation that goes to probe every possibility: the chauffeur's son used as a partial witness with drawings; a car; a trolly car; all this leads to nothing and everything, leading to a third act that's as riveting as the first two.

Although the acting by everyone involved, cop characters included (Tatsuya Nakadai and Yutaka Sada are surprisingly good, the later even with limited screen time), Kurosawa keeps the film deliberately paced. Another director (more modern perhaps, but maybe not) might cut to the chase quicker, cutting past most of the investigation details, and even the emotional high-points in the first act. But Kurosawa is as interested in the nature and details of what the police do as he is with the compositions, which are constructed and framed as only an artist would do. The film creates a superb juxtaposition as well- Mifune's Gondo is enraged about what will happen with his money, but his morals stand above everything in his business affairs. Meanwhile, the cops here aren't cruel and unforgiving, but professionals trying to crack a case that the audience can hang onto. And then when the "seedy" underbelly of the city comes into view, it's looked on with at least some compassion by Kurosawa, and it's not too over-the-top.

If all your looking for is thrill after thrill, like in Sanjuro or even Hidden Fortress, look elsewhere- the violence, by the way, is kept to a low level for this one (it'd even be quite suitable for kids, if they don't mind the subtitles and quintessential intensity in the Japanese style of film acting). But for tight, often gripping suspense in the IL' 'whodunit' mystery tale, this is a keeper. Manipulative, perhaps, yet in the hands of a master it's an exemplary deal. And, in the end, it even provides a sad, existential kind of conclusion as good and evil become blurred as the kidnapper looks through glass at the disillusioned Gondo. It's one of the great endings in world cinema. A+


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