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4.5 out of 5 stars
Stray Dog [1949] [DVD]
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on 30 April 2013
Rookie detective Toshiro Mifune (Murakami) gets his gun pick-pocketed and embarks upon a journey to retrieve it. He starts out alone but eventually teams up with a wiser cop played by Takashi Shimura (Sato). All the while, his gun is being used in more and more deadly crimes and his sense of shame and dishonour drives him onwards to rectify the situation. The gun has seven bullets, and by the end of the film, all of them have been fired.

Director Akira Kurosawa delivers a high quality effort in capturing a tense atmosphere and stifling Tokyo heat. The characters are entertaining and the dialogue realistic with some memorable scenes, eg, the chorus of girls dancing in the nightclub and then running backstage to relax - this is where we first encounter Keiko Awaji (Harumi Namaki), who has a significant role as the killer's girlfriend. We are led to believe that Mifune has many similarities with the killer Isao Kimura (Yusa) - they have just chosen different paths.

I must mention the dialogue - one particular gem is the moment when a woman's emotional behaviour is very frankly put down to her being on her period. How true. Hollywood just wouldn't dare.

The film draws you in from the start, although it's overall length could be shortened. There is one scene which is a montage of shots of Mifune wandering around the shady districts of Tokyo. Whilst the accompanying music to this is interesting, we get the point after a couple of minutes. There are a few sections like this where the director drags it out a little too long. A good film. No-one has mentioned this yet but is it significant that Mifune doesn't actually speak his dialogue - he barks it like a dog?
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on 1 April 2013
I watched this film many years ago but never forgot how much I enjoyed it.
Kurosawa was a "Master film maker" who's films are now all classics. Many have copied his style and content also, but few have managed to equal him. John Sturges remains one to come close with his Magnificent Seven,( his tribute to Kurosawa's, Seven Samuri.)
Stray Dog is a quite compliced story of a young detective and his guilt at having his handgun stolen and later used in a murder. His subsequent race to find it is not only beautifuly filmed but equally well acted by the two main charcters.
This is another to my growing collection of "classics".
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on 2 January 2004
You can see the process that was to flower in Kurosawa's later films, taking shape here. Yes the search sequence in the film is perhaps a little too long, but the story, written by Kurosawa, is sound, and the drama leads you on. The chase scene used in this film was the inspiration behind the French Connection, and the telephone call from the hotel was adapted William Friedkin, to help illustrate Gene Hackmans charichter.
The weather, is hot, and this is set up with panting dog from the very onset of the films titles. Stray Dog is a film about the difference in outlook between a calm, wise but jaded senior figure (Takashi Shimura) and his young impaitentent but more forgiving rookie (Toshiro Mifune). See this film, if for no other reason than the wonderful backdrop of post war japan.
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on 12 October 2016
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on 5 June 2013
A beautifully rendered version of Kurosawa's brilliant film. Whether you're a Kurosawa fan, a fan of film noir or just a general movie nerd, this is the ideal introduction, gift or addition to your collection.
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on 31 July 2016
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on 30 October 2002
i had never seen this film till it was on at 1am last boxing day. i stayed awake and watched it and was glad i did. it is a really excellent japanese film noir with believble characters, wonderful atmosphere and a plot that sucks you in straight away. if you like kurosawa films you'll love this, if you don't, you'll probably like it anyway
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on 9 August 2013
`Stray Dog' is Akira Kurosawa's 'Ladri di biciclette'. But, the movie doesn't reach the top level of Vittorio De Sica's masterpiece.

In `Stray Dog', the main tool (a gun) of a homicide investigator is stolen. He offers his resignation to his boss, for he wants to become a private detective in order to recover his gun. Instead, his boss assigns him as an assistant to a senior homicide detective. Together they will try to find the thief and get the pistol back.

`Stray Dog' is an outstanding picture of the Americanized Japanese society after WW II with its baseball and its nightclubs. It is a society split between the wealthy few (also the black marketeers) and the many poor. The majority of the population is struggling to live decently. Both the thief and the homicide detective are war veterans, whose luggage was stolen on their way back home. But, they chose diametrically opposite `professions'.

A must for all Akira Kurosawa fans.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERon 6 January 2006
Stray Dog gets off to a surprisingly slack start, not helped by some utterly redundant narration that repeats what we have heard in the previous scene and will see in the next. Because it’s Kurosawa, some might ascribe some higher purpose to it, but since he immediately abandons it, it seems more a lack of confidence than design. At other times he seems to be overly in love with his footage: there’s not a duff shot in the wildly overlong poverty montage of Toshiro Mifune going undercover as a vagrant, but it’s hard to justify the seven minutes given over to the scene.
Yet the film gradually exerts a grip as it becomes increasingly clear that Kurosawa’s intent is not just to deliver a thriller but also a movie dealing with the effect of crime on its victims and the dehumanising effect on both those who commit it and those charged with retribution, as rookie cop Mifune takes his first steps down the road that will inevitably lead to the death of sympathy and empathy. For all his western influences (not least a music score that constantly threatens to turn into Warren and Dubin’s 'Remember My Forgotten Man' from 'Golddiggers of 1933' without ever quite going that far), Kurosawa avoids a hardboiled approach: Mifune’s experienced partner Takashi Shimura is no hardass, although his easygoing amiability disguises a lack of compassion in what has become a repetitive job without urgency: while Mifune takes every crime committed with his stolen gun on his own shoulders, Shimura brushes aside his concerns by pointing out that if the killer hadn’t used his gun “he would have used a Browning instead.”
There’s a good sense of time and place, a post-war Tokyo when it was still a wooden city in the midst of a sweltering heatwave leading to a storm, and there’s a good occasional sense of detail, such as the great piece of detection at the end as Mifune eliminates the other suspects waiting at a train station. However, it does rely on a little too much contrivance at times: is it really credible that Mifune would forget not just to inform his colleagues of the killer’s location but set off without a gun? This isn’t Kurosawa at the peak of his powers by any means, but there’s definitely the sense of a filmmaker working his way up.
On the plus side, the BFI's DVD boasts a good transfer but compared to the wealth of extras on the R1 Criterion disc, a few pages of text biographies and a single poster image make for a poor extras package indeed.
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on 19 September 2005
"Stray Dog" is, worlds away from the Hollywood pacing of modern films it is reflective,emotional and mentally engrossing. Every scene seems to emerge from the celluloid perfectly formed,crowded backstreets,glowering skies and intense passages of drama are all superbly poised.
Kurosawa dwells on the morals and issues at the heart of the story(no plot revealed here,sorry!), the post-war poverty of a defeated Japan and the age old viewpoints of the young and the old,of expereince and inexperience.
A heatwave dominates the whole film, people are bathed in sweat from noon to night,windows are flung open, this contributes to a tense feeling of claustrophobia,many of the characters seem at breaking point.
Reminiscent of Fritz Langs great detective films of the thirties,"Stray Dogs" is a mental and visual feast of Asian cinema.
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