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Kiyoshi Kurosawa was blacklisted for four years by the Japanese film industry powers that be after turning in a film that was intended to be a nudie sex romp, but conveniently left out the nudie sex. The producers were not pleased.
THE GUARD FROM THE UNDERGROUND was his first venture on return from his exile. I've read that "GUARD" is Kurosawa's homage to early 80s American slasher films. I think this does the director, who also wrote the film, a disservice. I think saying "GUARD" is merely an homage neglects a great deal of Kurosawa's unique style and talent that is evident throughout the film. He manages to take a fairly straightforward story; a killer on the loose in a building filled with trapped employees, and makes it stylistically interesting. There is humor, some social commentary, and more then one intriguing death scene.
I know I'm reading more into the film then is probably there, but "GUARD" seems to touch on the styles of many films and genres. With the protagonist being trapped in an unfamiliar environment with a menacing hulking man stalking the halls, I was reminded of the old Universal horror films, most notably, FRANKENSTEIN. I think pushed a little further, and if shot in black and white, "GUARD" would have made a unique homage to that film period. Also, I thought of Dario Argento when the slow moving killer would make his appearances. Like Argento, Kurosawa is slow to reveal the face of the killer, even though his identity had been established early on. There are also many close ups of hands and shoes as the stalking menace makes his way to each victim. Unlike Argento, however, there is relatively little graphic violence and most of the killings involve the thuggish creature clubbing his victims to death. An exception to this is a unique scene involving a locker. I thought it was inventive so I won't reveal the exact nature of how the locker is used so as to not spoil it.
I think fans of Kurosawa will appreciate GUARD and enjoy seeing some of his earlier more mainstream work. The film shows indications of a style he would expand upon in his later projects. Non-Kurosawa fans might find GUARD a little slow paced and might enjoy some of his later work, like PULSE, as a good starting point, or the exceedingly brilliant CURE.
Kurosawa is one of those rare directors who always seems to present something interesting in his films no matter what the genre or subject. THE GUARD FROM THE UNDERGROUND, while not one of his best, is certainly another example of what a talented director can achieve with a fairly simple storyline.
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