84. Film Review #8a: Criterion Collection Spine #413: Akira Kurosawa: YOIDORE TENSHI (Drunken Angel) (1948) (Part One)

A detailed analysis of the above film. Part One.

My history of watching Yoidore Tenshi (Drunken Angel):

1. My first copy of this film was from "Hollywood Attic" -- a dub which was probably from the first subtitled print (the first mention of this film in the New York Times archive is from 1952). The subtitles (white) frequently disappear completely against a light background, and were generally unreadable.

2. Finally, Home Vision Entertainment released the film on VHS. The actual print of the film wasn't much better than #1, but at least the subtitles were modern and readable.

3. And at last -- hurray! -- Criterion released it (Spine #413).

YOIDORE TENSHI (Drunken Angel) (1948)

Wow! It is like seeing it in the theater -- everything is crisp and focused, and of course the subtitles are brand new. Thank you, Criterion!


The Toho logo followed by a shot of some large puddles of dirty water. The credits are telescoped in and out [this is a new technique for Kurosawa]. Hayasaka's music is somber. At the end of the credits, it fades away and is replaced by the sound of

A guitar, playing a slow, sad melody. It continues until the gangster sits down (1).

Cut to the same scummy pond, but it is nighttime. The lights are reflected in the water.

Cut to three young women, hanging out. The one on the left is smoking, the other two are stretching and scratching themselves. They leave the frame right and we see the guitar player on the other side of the pond.

Closer shot of the man playing guitar. The camera pans down to the pond and in a slow, wide pan, eventually comes to rest on the two men in front of some buildings, standing by the pond.

Cut to a much closer shot of the two men. One of them is lighting a cigarette. The other slaps himself on the neck:

"The mosquitoes are killin' me!"

Cut to a dark room. A man comes in and turns on the light. The door closes behind him. He is Dr. Sanada (Takashi Shimura). He comes in, wiping himself with his handkerchief, and carrying a fan. Another man enters behind him, eyeing the door. His hand is bandaged. He is Matsunaga, a gangster (Toshiro Mifune). The doctor motion for Matsunaga to sit down. The doctor sits down, and

(1) Matsunaga slowly walks over and sits down as well.

"What happened?"

"Slammed a door on myself"

Sanada grunts. He puts a kidney-shaped tray on the table, motions for Matsunaga to put his hand over it, and turns on a desk lamp. He begins to unwrap the bandages. He pauses, seems startled at something.

"There was a nail sticking out," Matsunaga says.

"A nail, huh?" echoes the doctor. He brings his instruments closer to the lamp. He takes out a long pair of tweezers and begins to work on Matsunaga's wound.

Cut to a reverse angle, looking at the doctor work. He pauses and looks at Matsunaga. "This'll hurt a little," he tells him.

Reverse angle, on the gangster. He looks up at the doctor.

Reverse to the doctor again. He is poking and probing the wound. He pulls out a bullet.
He holds it up and looks at it.

"You call that a nail?" He looks at the gangster. He releases the bullet from the tweezers on a table, as the camera

Cuts to an ECU of the bullet on the table.

Back to the original shot of the two. "I won't bring you any trouble. It was just a stupid fight."

The doctor gets up and moves to a cabinet.

"Ask for Matsunaga at the station market. Everybody knows me," the gangster continues. The doctor turns and looks at the gangster. He has something in his hand...

Cut to the two men outside, by the pond. The guitar music begins again. One of them is turning around, moving to the guitar music and singing.

"...The hilltop we climbed together/
Had a view of the harbor...”

Cut back to the doctor's office. Sanada is singing along with the guitar. He breaks off part of the roll of bandage material he had in his hand. Matsunaga is smiling and looking at Sanada:

"I hear you look after my guys?"

The doctor slaps the back of his neck hard.

"Hey, Grandma!" he yells. He opens the door.

Cut to outside the door.

"Bring some mosquito repellent!" he yells. No answer.

"No such luck. She must have dozed off."

He goes back inside (but POV is still from the camera outside the door) without shutting the door. It begins to close on its own. He goes back to it and opens it again. It begins to shut. He goes back to it a second time. He looks the door up and down.

Close-up on Matsunaga.

Back to the doctor, examining the door, as if it were a patient. He finally puts something (a wastebasket?) in front of it and after making sure it holds the door open, he goes back to work on Matsunaga's hand.

Cut to inside again.

Close on the gangster and doctor -- some sort of chart on the wall is in the middle of the frame, dividing the two men. The doctor is putting medical clamps on the other side of his hand (we conveniently cannot see the area) -- Matsunaga is wincing with the placement of each clamp.

"Damn, that hurts."

"I'm warning you," the doctor says. "I'm pretty pricey. I make it a policy to rip off deadbeats."

Matsunaga is holding his arm, wincing in pain. "Hey, don't you use any pain-killers?"

The doctor is swabbing the wound. "Not for hoodlums like you," he shouts back.

Matsunaga is clenching his teeth in pain, holding back a scream...

Dissolve to the doctor, whistling -- and Matsunaga slumped in the chair, his hand all bandaged up. The doctor brings him a glass of water and turns off the desk lamp. Matsunaga drinks the water. He coughs. The doctor looks at him, but goes back to what he was doing.

"Gimme something for my cold, too," demands Matsunaga. "Can't seem to shake it."

Sanada: "Your high living substantially increases your risk of TB."

"I'm hardly the type." He gets up from his chair.

"There's no type. Don't kid yourself into thinking there is. Athletes get it all the time. TB can creep up on anyone. Trouble with TB is that you don't feel a thing. By the time the fever and coughing start, it's too late."

Matsunaga, who has a cigarette in his mouth, takes it out.

Doctor: "You scared?"

Close-up on Matsunaga.

"Scared?" he shouts back. He fills the frame, and then moves out of it. As usual, he uses these close-ups to move us forward to the next shot. As he leaves this close-up shot, we can see that he is smoking the cigarette...

"You talking about me?" he boasts, taking a drag from the cigarette, and moving towards the doctor. He flicks the cigarette away. The doctor follows its trajectory with his eyes.

"I'm no coward!" says the gangster. "You're really full of yourself. I hate doctors!" he continues. "All you do is exaggerate to make more money."

"Oh, yeah," Sanada fires back. "A doctor with five TB patients is riding a gravy train..." Matsunaga is coughing again. He storms over to the doctor.

"Okay, have a look then." He sits down. "See if it's TB or not."

"But with what?" Sanada responds.


"It's pointless to use a stethoscope. That's all mumbo jumbo. Doctors only do that to look professional. But I'm happy to set your mind at ease."

He throws back Matsunaga's shirt, and thumps on his chest. He puts on a stethoscope.

"But if anything shows up in this exam, you've had it.." He turns him around and listens from his back.

Close on Sanada. His eyes look serious and he looks at Matsunaga's back, then drops his eyes and takes off the stethoscope.

Cut back to the medium shot. "How am I?" barks the gangster.

Doctor: "Get some X-rays." Cut to reverse angle on gangster.

"I asked you how I am."

"I need to see an X-ray to be sure, but you've got a hole this size." Matsunaga is stunned...

Sanada continues: "Ignore it, and you can't lost long."

At this Matsunaga leaps to his feet and grabs the doctor.

"I'll kick your ass if you're lying!" he shouts. He throws the doctor down on a table.

You can watch this cut and tell that there are definitely no stunt actors involved -- Takashi Shimura takes a major fall from the half-crazed Mifune! It is fun to read AK concerning his "finding" of the actor for this, their first collaboration...

"...In June of 1946, in order to get into the spirit of postwar activity, Toho conducted open auditions to recruit new contract actors. Using the headline 'Wanted: New Faces', they got a tremendous number of applicants. On the day of the interviews and screen tests I was in the middle of the shooting of No Regrets for Our Youth, so I couldn't participate in the judging. But the actress who had been the star of Horses when I was assistant director said to me: 'There's one who's really fantastic. But he's something of a roughneck, so he just barely passed. Won't you come have a look?' ... I opened the door and stopped dead in amazement. A young man was reeling around the room in a violent frenzy. It was as frightening as watching a wounded or trapped savage beast trying to break loose. [Later], I proceeded to look in on the room where the jury was deliberating. The voting was against him. Suddenly I heard myself shouting, 'Please wait a minute.' With Yama-san's [Kurosawa's teacher and friend] recommendation, the young man squeaked through.

... The ordinary Japanese actor might need ten feet of film to get across an impression. Mifune needed only three feet" [AK, pp. 159-161].

And further:

"...in the case of Mifune, I was completely overwhelmed. And yet a film director can rejoice over a marvelous asset only to have it turn into a terrible burden. If I let Mifune in his role of the gangster become too attractive, the balance with his adversary, the doctor, played by Shimura Takashi, would be destroyed ... I was caught in a real dilemma ... the drunken-doctor performance Shimura gave was a superb 90 percent, but because his adversary, Mifune, turned in 120 percent, I had to feel a little sorry for him." [AK, pp. 161-62]

Back to our film:

As the doctor is being thrown down he is saying: "I'm not lying. Cut it out."

Matsunaga: "Liar!"

Doctor: "You jerk, I'm not lying."

Cut to a new angle -- on the ground, behind the two men. In the doorway, a young woman appears. Matsunaga gets off the doctor and buttons up his shirt. He walks toward the doorway.

"Idiot," shouts the doctor, throwing a pillow at the gangster. He leaves.

The woman is Miyo, the doctor's nurse (Chieko Nakakita). She enters the room, carrying a white pan. She bends down to pick up the pillow that the doctor had thrown.

"What's going on, Doctor?"

Cut to the doctor. "There's still hope for him. Just the type to ignore TB. At least it bothers him. Shows he's still a little human anyway. His kind hates disease...but he's worried -- it's proof he hasn't sunk too low." Miyo smiles, dusting off the pillow.

We're outside again. It is dark. We hear the guitar again.

"Did you see that looker go in?" somebody says. "Did you?"

"I've seen her before."

We can see three men. One of them is Matsunaga, who pushes the man who just said that.

"What's wrong?"

Cut to a long shot of the guitar player across the pond.

Cut to the pond again, the lights reflecting. Fade to black.

Up on a sunny day. Children are playing in the filthy pond.

Cut to a close-up of the doctor, yelling at the boy:

"Hey! Get out of there! You'll catch typhus!"

Long shot, POV behind the doctor: "Who's scared of typhus?"

"You fools! Get out of there now!"

"How cares! You're just a drunk!"

"I said, get out!" The doctor now begins to move towards the kids. They begin to scatter.
An extremely long shot showing the kids running and the doctor running after them. This cut is short, but shows the gloomy looking houses. The bright sky fills the top half of the frame.

Cut to a new angle -- the doctor stops running, picks up something and throws it.

"You brats!"

He is breathing heavily. He wipes his brow. He is dressed in a white suit, with a hat and a briefcase of some sort. He picks up a hat from the ground...a little boy appears...

"Hey, you came crying to me the other day with a bellyache. I recognize that belly button. You all better? This water'll make you sick. had a tummyache the other day, remember? I remember you! Well now? Don't drink here." He puts the hat on the boy. [As is frequently the case, this action also takes place in two different cuts. It begins in the original medium POV and continues in a close-up on the boy -- he is afraid the doctor is going to hit him at first -- he winces, but smiles when he realizes he was just being kind.] Reverse angle, close on the doctor. He is smiling at the child. But he turns his head and sees

A disgusting, bubbling cauldron of who-knows-what from the pond...

Cut to a close-up of a speaker, blaring music. A sign reads, "The Happy Market."

Cut to a busy, narrow marketplace. The doctor walks past the camera and down this alley.

Cut to a close-up of the doctor walking towards the camera. A voice is heard:

"Doc!" He turns and looks. A man emerges from behind the curtain of a small doorway.

"Doc, we got some good stuff in," he says, smiling.

"Your sake's closer to gasoline than alcohol," replies Sanada. This must be a normal conversation between the two men -- the saké man hardly seems offended.

"Oh, c'mon in." Sanada enters the bar.

Cut to inside. We see Sanada pull back the curtain [an action begun at the very end of the previous cut!] -- he sits at a table. The saké man gives him a glass immediately and begins to open a bottle. Sanada hears a voice, and his head turns. He rises from his seat and the camera swiftly pans to the left. It comes to rest on a man and the bar girl, Gin (Noriko Sengoku), who are having a drink at a table. The male drinker facing the camera seems embarrassed and turns his head away.

POV facing the drinker in profile [Sanada is at the table across the aisle]. Sanada comes over and slaps him on the back of the head:

"Fool! Slugging sake. I've had it with you." He returns to his seat. "Don't come back to me limping and crying anymore."

"There's no fooling you, Doc," laughs the saké man, as he pours Sanada a drink. "Take a sip and give me your diagnosis."

Meanwhile, the drinker, throws back another glass. The doctor samples the saké.

"Well, I don't think it's lethal."

"Well, now."

The drinker gets up and leaves. The doctor rises. "Damn. I meant to ask him..."

"About what?" asks the saké man...

"I'm lookin' for a Matsunaga ... one of those sharp-looking thugs that women go for. Kinda famous around here."

Saké man: "Sure, I know him. What do you want with him, Doc?"

"I got something to tell him. Where can I find him?"

Gin: "He stays at the dance hall all day."

Doctor: "Over on the main drag?"

Gin: "What do they see in that bag of bones?"

Doctor: "Hey sister. You stuck on him too?" He comes over to her table and sits where the drinker had been sitting.

Gin: "Not me."

Doctor: "Don't fall for a guy like that. Fall in love with someone like me. I may be scruffy, but you get free medical care." They all laugh.

Cut to a building and a sign (for the nightclub)...

Cut to inside the nightclub. Matsunaga is dancing with a girl, smoking a cigarette.
Nightclub music. They dance around the room.

"What's wrong? Feels awfully heavy," she says. "Is that 'cause you're packing?" She gives his left arm a slap. He breaks their embrace and we see that she hit him on his bandaged hand.

"Idiot." He leaves frame right, and she follows but the camera remains for a few seconds -- the male of another dancing couple follows them with his eyes, then looks back at his girl.

Cut to a table and chairs. Matsunaga sits down and crosses his knees. She sits as well.

"Don't be mad. You're not yourself today, like you're wasting away. I don't like you this way."

"I'm hot. Just can it."

"Drinking just makes you hotter. You stink of whiskey."

"I said, shut up."

The camera moves in on the gangster. His two flunkies come over to the table. One of them sits down; the other is smoking a cigarette, and tells him

"Hey, a doc's here to see you."

"A doc?"

"From last night. Bet he's up to something. Start a fight." This man has taken the other flunky's hat off and thrown it off. He then picks through the man's hair and pulls something out!

Cut to outside. The doctor is standing with his back to the camera. He wipes his neck.

Cut to close frontal angle. He is still wiping his neck. He has a popsicle which he puts in his mouth.

Cut to a side angle. The doctor is sucking on the popsicle. The gangster is just coming out of the doorway. The doctor looks up at him.

Cut to the close frontal angle on the doctor again. He sucks on the popsicle some more.

Cut to the gangster, smoking a cigarette. The doctor is in the background on the left, the gangster on the right.

"What do you want? Don't even think about blackmailing me."

"What the hell? You walk out on your bill, then pull the tough crap."

"I'm not so broke I'd stiff you." The doctor laughs and gets up and moves to the gangster's side.

"Pay me less, buy me a drink."

"That might get expensive."

"Don't act this way. Let's have a drink," pleads the doctor.

"No booze in there. It's not allowed," Matsunaga barks. He turns to re-enter the nightclub.

"Liar, you reek of booze." He sniffs him. "Smells good."

"You're a leech."

"That's what they call you."

"You've always got a line, huh?" Matsunaga takes a drag from his cigarette. "Follow me."

Cut to a view from across the street looking at the two men, who are walking out into the street together. The sign above them says: "Social Center of Tokyo" in English. They walk across the street, cross in front of the camera and continue down another street.

Cut to a group of people. They see Matsunaga coming. They all bow politely.

Another cut. Matsunaga takes a flower from a shop. The owners come running out and bow to him.

Cut to a long shot of Matsunaga and Sanada coming towards the camera. Matsunaga smells the flower and then puts it in his lapel. On the left is a doorway. Above it is a sign which says, in English, "Bolero." Matsunaga opens the door.

Cut to inside view -- Matsunaga coming in, the doctor following. Sanada takes his hat off. A couple is dancing closely in the foreground with their eyes closed. Sanada circles around the couple. We see several people leaving. The last young man out the door, pushes his hand against the head of the guy dancing with his girl. He opens his eyes and looks around. When his eyes meet where Matsunaga is probably standing, his girl has also seen the gangster. With a glance, she leaves and the man goes over to the phonograph. He throws Sanada his hat, and turns the music off and leaves, closing the door behind him.
Cut to Sanada, from behind. He sits at a bar. A curtain is lifted, and Matsunaga appears. He has a bottle of whiskey in his hand. He sets the bottle down and looks at Sanada.

"Let's be friends again. Have some of the good stuff." He sets the bottle in front of the doctor, as he goes to get glasses.

"About last night, it was because of all that crap you told me," he tells the doctor, as he slides a glass down the bar.

Cut to a side view, looking down the bar -- Matsunaga on the left; Sanada on the right.

"I've never had a patient as rough as you!, he says, loosening his tie. He takes the whiskey and unscrews the cap. He sniffs it.

Matsunaga: "Anyway, the dame who came in when I attacked you ... I've seen her somewhere before." Sanada looks up.

Sanada playfully punches his arm. "You're pretty smooth, but keep your hands to yourself. She's mine." He has poured himself a drink, which he now admires.

Cut to a close-up on the doctor. He has filled the glass to the top. He leans over and takes a sip.

"That's the real thing." He leans over to take another sip. Matsunaga pushes his head back.
Cut to medium shot.

"Come on, man. Tell me the truth. Where'd you find her?" he asks persistently. The doctor takes another drink. "It's bugging me." He takes the bottle of whiskey away. The doctor snatches it back.

"Not for you. I'll drink yours for you. With that hole in your chest, drinking's suicide."

Cut to close-up of Matsunaga. He looks unhappy to hear this news.

Cut back to the side view looking down the bar. The doctor continues:

"But never mind. I did exaggerate a little before. You stick to my orders." The gangster knocks the drink from his hand.

"Cut the crap! Why should I trust a quack like you?" He takes a glass and pours himself a drink.

"Don't take my word, get an X-ray."

"You trying to start a fight? Screw the X-rays." He gulps down his drink and begins to cough. The doctor reaches for the bottle, but the gangster pulls it away.

"Go home, get out!"

"You fool. It's your life."

"For me to live or die. It's none of your business."

"You're absolutely right. Who cares what happens to you?" He sits down again.

"But you see, he says finally -- "that TB bacteria inside you is my business."

Close on the gangster, looking scared and anxious.

Cut back to the side view. "I've got to kill as much as I can," continues the doctor. "Of course, death and cremation would do the job." He begins to reach for the bottle again, but...

Close again on the gangster, now enraged.

Cut back to side view:

"Asshole!" He has grabbed Sanada by the throat and is dragging him across the bar.

"Idiot, how dare you!" shouts the doctor as Matsunaga tosses him around.

"Fool!" He throws Sanada out the door.

Cut to outside the door. A crowd is peeking in through the window. They now turn to see what is happening at the door.

Cut to a close-up of Sanada landing on the ground.

"Asshole!" he yells and throws something at the door.

HORIZONTAL WIPE (to the left) #1

He's back in his office again, running water over his injuries.

"Dammit, what does he know? Like a lame horse. Might as well put him out of his misery."

He's talking to his nurse, Miyo. "I'm done with him."

"You know it's no good," replies Miyo, laughing.

"What's no good?" he shouts. He leaves the frame left.

"With you, once you've found a patient, you can't stop fussing about him," she answers, just in time to catch a towel he has thrown at her.

"I think you're being ridiculous," she says.

Up on the doctor holding a tweezers, waiting for his nurse.

"The whole medical profession's ridiculous," he says holding up his arm, while she assists him. "Doctors can't survive without patients," he continues. "But all we ever try to do is cure them"

"No, you're the exception," she says.

"Don't be silly. I'm just doing my job."

"But other doctors don't take it this seriously."

"They're not doctors, they're flunkies." He continues to treat his wounds.

"But doctor, you're far too blunt about the truth." He gives her a look. "I don't mean you should lie," she says, "but there are lots of ways to give someone the bad news ... You made a terrible first impression on me. You're always screaming at people."

He shouts at her. "Leave me be. This dog's too old to learn new tricks."

"Oh, my." Cut to a Sanada walking towards a window.

"I don't need you to tell me," he says, "it's just my nature. Otherwise, I'd be a society doctor with a fancy private practice." He pauses. "You know Takahama's clinic? Takahama and I were classmates at med school." He begins to walk away from the window.

Cut to Miyo. He walks in front of her and past her as he speaks:

"...looking back, he and I were like night and day even then. He was always buttoned down."

Cut to doctor sitting by another window, looking out: "...and what was I like? Pawned my own clothes to pay for brothels. It was my nature, but only if I hadn't strayed back then. But strays always have their reason." He begins to scratch his head in this cut; and we him scratching it still in the next...

Cut to frontal view -- Miyo and doctor.

"When I see that Matsunaga, I remember myself in those days. I feel bad for him." The doctor stands up. "It's not just his lungs that are sick. It's like he's sick to the core. He acts tough, and swaggers around, but in his heart I know he's unbearably lonely. He's still got a conscience tormenting him. His heart hasn't frozen over with evil just yet."

"Speaking of evil, any news of Okada lately?" Close on Miyo for a moment. Back on both:

"Isn't it about time for him to get out? He's already done three years and eight months. He gets out any day now."

Close on Miyo from behind.

Back to the doctor: "Don't worry about that, though. He'll never find you here."

Miyo, from the front now: "I'm sure he'll track me down. He's got a sixth sense. Besides, this is his territory."

Back to the doctor: "So what if he tracks you down? As long as you're serious about a clean break. Are you?"

Miyo: "Why, can't you see, doctor? How much I hate him? It makes me shake with anger. He stole my life from me."

Doctor: "Well, half of it, anyway."


"There, there. It's nothing to worry about ... time for dinner."

DIAGONAL WIPE (top right to bottom left) #1

A table. The doctor, the old servant (Choko Iida) and Miyo.

Doctor: "...just one more..."

Old servant: "No, you've already hurt yourself falling."

Doctor: "I didn‘t fall."

Old servant: "I don't believe you." She takes the empty bottles and exits.

Front view of doctor. He looks around, picks up his glass and drinks the few remaining drops. He picks up a chopstick and bangs it against the glass, singing:

"Grandpa gets himself falling down drunk/
Grandma sees him and can’t believe her eyes...“

Cut to old servant, poking her head out the door: "Oh, I believe my eyes."

The doctor puts down the chopstick. He starts to pick both chopsticks up in this shot, which is continued in the next

Cut to POV behind Miyo. The doctor is thinking of eating from his rice bowl. He looks at

"What is it? You‘re awful quiet tonight."

"I was wondering if I should see him once."

"See who?"

"Okada, when he gets out.”

The doctor puts down his rice bowl. "What for?"

Reverse angle. Miyo: "Maybe prison will have changed him."

Back to doctor: "Ridiculous. He‘s hardly the type. He‘ll come out like he‘s some kind of champion."

"But as a woman, I..."


"If I‘m not there for him when he gets out..." Back to doctor:

"You fool! Don’t think like a slave. You yourself just said, he stole your life from you. He abused you, gave you VD, and then left you like a dog."

Cut to Miyo, who turns her head away and begins to cry. Back to the doctor:

"And you still want to wag your tail and go after him? Fine. Follow him and die of syphilis."

Cut to the old servant, peering from the doorway.

Cut to the doctor. He begins to eat his rice. He puts the bowl down and sticks the chopsticks in it. Miyo is still crying. Cut to the old servant. She leaves. Cut to an overhead shot of Miyo and the doctor.

Miyo has stopped crying. The guitar is heard again.

"There he goes again." He slaps his arm.

"His music always brings out the mosquitoes." He yells out:

"Grandma, the mosquito net. I'm going to bed."

Dissolve to the dirty pond, the lights reflecting...dissolve/cut to the empty table where they had just been eating [a strange cut, with bad lighting problems in my copy] -- cut back to the black pond -- the camera pans up to the guitar player. Fade to black.

Up on the pond again, but it is daytime and it is raining.

Cut to the doctor's office, POV through an open window. He is looking at an X-ray. A young girl in a sailor outfit (Yoshiko Kuga) stands behind him. Close-up on the X-ray he is holding. New frontal POV: doctor and girl behind him. He is studying the X-ray. He holds it up.

"You’re much better," he begins. He brings the X-ray around so she can see it.

"You‘re sticking to your treatment? ... Just a little longer now. You’re an excellent patient." He hands her the X-ray. Kurosawa stays on the girl as Sanada speaks:

"But TB is a tricky old disease. It‘s a race between you and the bacteria. It’s like -- The tortoise and the hare ... that doesn’t mean you should run. Go like the tortoise, one step at a time. But it’s good to sleep like a hare."

Girl: "Doctor, I'm 17 now. Don‘t treat me like a kindergartner. "

(apologizing): "I didn’t mean to."

She smiles. "You're an amazing person."

He starts to tell her: "Fighting TB ..."

Girl, finishing his sentence: “’requires rational thinking.’ You‘ve said that a million times." She gets up to leave.

"Thank you," she says and bows. He nods back.

"Next time, I'll be much better," she adds. "Let’s bet a sweet on it."

He laughs lightly as she leaves, and prepares to pour himself a drink of medicinal alcohol and water. He sings:

"The hilltop we climbed together/
had a view of the harbor”

Close-up on the medicinal alcohol bottle (100% ALCOHOL) which he is diluting with water. He takes a drink.

"Next," he calls, but the next patient is already in the room, standing right behind him. It is Matsunaga.

"Oh, it's you." Matsunaga pulls a cigarette out of his case

"What do you want? asks the doctor. "You look like a ghost. Bet you’re starting to get some symptoms. What is it, fever?"

"Who’s got a fever? Look, I’m fit as a fiddle."

"What, then?" The doctor rises and puts his bottle down.

"The rain’s got me blue. Figured I’d have a drink with you."

"Man, you’re pathetic. Why can’t you be honest?"

“What the hell?“ Matsunaga explodes again.

Doctor: "You’re scared of being sick.”

Matsunaga advances on Sanada.

“Fool! I’m not making fun of you for that. We all have fears, we’re human...”

Sanada leaves the frame and Kurosawa stays on Mifune as the doctor continues speaking:

“...but you’re too ashamed to admit it. And you confuse that with courage. I‘d say you‘re all the worst kind of cowards."

Matsunaga has finally lit his cigarette. At this he starts towards the doctor, but stops himself. The doctor continues:

"Otherwise, why the tattoos, the tough talk and the strutting around?" He takes a drink. Matsunaga has picked up a pair of the big tweezers. The doctor keeps talking:

"...because you can‘t trust yourselves. None of it fools me." Matsunaga is using the tweezers to hold his cigarette.

“That girl who just left has a lot more guts than you ever will. She’s looking her illness straight in the eye. You don’t have a fraction of her guts. You’re still scared of the dark."

Matsunaga rises from his chair. The doctor flinches. The gangster stubs out his cigarette and walks over to where the doctor sits.

"Got you there, didn’t I?" asks the doctor.

Again, Matsunaga attacks him.

“What are you doing? Idiot! Trying to kill me!”

Miyo comes in when she hears the noise. She gets in between them.

"Why are you here? Go, please get out." she yells at Matsunaga...

"You beast!" the doctor shouts at Matsunaga. As the gangster leaves, the doctor begins to pick up everything in sight and hurls it at him. Nurse Miyo tries to stop him...

“Stop, Doctor!”

“Fool,” Sanada screams as he throws something else. “That that!“

“Stop it!” Miyo is trying to restrain him. It is only when he realizes that he has his precious alcohol bottle in his hand, that he stops! He takes a drink.

"What the hell did he come here for?” he wonders. He looks out the window.

Cut to outside. The gangster is walking away in the rain. Doctor and nurse watch him out the window. A sad music cue begins. Sanada’s temperament has completely changed.

"You know he’s got a fever, and no umbrella," the doctor remarks.

"Baka!” [subs: “You poor fool!"]. Miyo looks out the window after the doctor leaves. Fade to black.

Up on the daytime again. The doctor is walking up steps to a roadway. As he reaches the top, a car goes by and screeches to a halt.

"Hey, Sanada!"

POV inside the car. Dr. Takahama (Eitaro Shindo) opens the door.

"Hey!" Sanada greets him.

Doctor Takahama: "Still the same?“

Sanada: "Sure. You look like you’re still raking it in. Still killing ‘em?”

[In the previous VHS version, the translation went:

"How are you? Prospering? Kill a lot?" I liked that line enough to use it for my "image" caption, despite a new translation.]

Takahama: "You never change, do you? Where you headed?"

Sanada: "To the squatter’s village.”

“I’m headed that way. Hop in.”

“Excellent. Taxis are so hot." He enters the car and sits down.

Close on the license plate (“Takahama Clinic”) as the car takes off. The camera remains fixed on the white pavement for a few seconds.

Inside the car: Takahama takes a cigarette out of a case. Sanada looks out the back window, as Takahama lights his cigarette.

"This is wonderful!" Sanada exclaims. "Look how silly pedestrians are from the window of a car."

Takahama offers him a cigarette. Sanada takes the case, but closes it and examines it. He sniffs it.

"You have any spare liquor?"

“No, you’ll drink it."

"It’s for my patients."

"What about your ration?"

"I already drank that."

"You’re not young anymore. Go easy." The camera moves to a POV looking into the car from Sanada’s window. Takahama continues:

“Speaking of that, did you get a visit three days ago from a guy named Matsunaga?”


“Yeah, TB case.” Sanada turns towards Takahama, intensely interested:

“So, he had an X-ray at your place?”

“His right lung’s bad.”

“Can I see his X-ray?”

“That’s strange. I gave it to him the day I sent him to you. It was raining hard.” Sanada leans back, thoughtfully. Takahama continues:

“You’re the expert on his type. I told him to put his life in your hands.”

DIAGONAL WIPE (top left to bottom right) #1

Outside the nightclub. The doctor is fanning himself, waiting for the gangster to come out.
He does. Matsunaga:

"Oh, it's you. There’s nothing left to drink!" Sanada:

"Figured I’d drop in for a spin.” At this, Mifune makes a subtle little laugh and shrugs his shoulders. It’s a lovely, understated gesture.

Sanada picked up on it:

“No need to laugh at me. I’m actually quite the dancer.” He turns towards the music coming from the club.

“Right, that’s a tango. I love tangos ...” He begins to show Matsunaga how he dances.

“Quick, quick, slow, huh?” [in English]. Matsunaga corrects him.

“Idiot. That’s the blues!"

(Trying to cover his mistake) “A lousy band can make the blues sound like a tango!"

"Man, you’re a drag!"

"Oh, cut it out! But you better be grateful or God will punish you ... Here I am worried about a total stranger’s health. Sometimes, I have to admit I’m some kind of angel.”

“A dirty, stinking angel,” replies the gangster.

“Hmmph. Your filthy minds always imagine angels come looking like dance hall girls (he pantomimes a dancer lifting her skirt), but they’re like me!”

“Shut up, pain in the ass.”

Sanada gets in his face, but quickly turns away.

“Let’s quiet down and have a nice chat.”

“I got nothing to say to you.” He turns to leave.

"Don't you get it, you jerk? screams the doctor. Matsunaga raises his hand to hit him.

"Why won’t you just show me your X-rays? Dammit!" The gangster is stunned. The doctor sits down and wipes the perspiration with his handkerchief. He speaks softly now:

"Ran into Takahama. He told me everything. Stop acting like a stupid loser and just show up tonight. There’s no use irritating an old man. Got that?" He leaves, The camera remains fixed on his position -- we see the gangster's legs.

Cut to Matsunaga, from the side, worried.

Cut to the doctor from behind, walking down the street. He goes in and out of the light.

Cut to the gangster again, still stunned.

Dissolve. Up on the outside of the doctor's office. The door is opened by Miyo. A drunk Matsunaga staggers into the picture.

"Hey old man, you home?" he shouts. The doctor comes out in his kimono.

"You told me to come, so I’m here. A yakuza never breaks his word. When I make a promise, I keep it."

"Hmmph. You throw a mean tantrum." shouts the doctor. He motions to Miyo.

"Didn’t even have the guts to come here sober. You‘re pathetic."

Matsunaga (extremely drunk): "What? ... Pathetic? What the hell? You’re the pathetic one. Pestering me like some beggar."

Sanada: “Unbelievable! Up we go.” They carry him inside.

“This damn place!” (He slumps down on the futon.) “What a pig sty!" The old servant sits nearby.

"What a piece of work! Imagine what his parents would think!"

Matsunaga: "Parents? Who needs parents?"

Old servant: "Well, that’s a lucky thing."

Miyo: “Now, now, Grandma.” She is trying to arrange things around Matsunaga. The gangster eyes her:

"Who are you? Don't try to fool me.“ (He is sitting up, trying to sober up.) “I know you from somewhere." The end of this cut shows Miyo stepping out of the way, while the drunk Matsunaga half-lurches after her.

In the next cut, the doctor is coming over to Matsunaga who is still on the floor:

"Hey, give it a rest!" Matsunaga appears nearly unconscious. The doctor motions to the old servant.

"Get him some water." She rises. Matsunaga looks up at the doctor, confused:

"Who the hell are you?” (recognizing him) “...Oh, the quack. Hey, old man, that Takahama guy laid it on pretty thick about how great you are. But I don’t buy one bit of it. Can’t fool me! You guys have some kind of conspiracy going. "

Doctor: "Never mind that. Let me see that X-ray!"

"What? X-ray? I tore that thing to shreds. So up yours, asshole!"

[It seems that these new subtitles certainly give a better flavor of the original dialogue than my previous copies!]

"Tore it up! You fool!"

"I'm not scared of dying. I’ll die any old time. (sinking into a stupor) “...any old time.” He is nearly unconscious.

Sanada: “What am I going to do with him? (to Miyo) “... cover him up with something."

The old servant brings over the water -- and the gangster frightens her. The doctor sets the cup of water down behind him. Miyo comes in with a blanket, they cover him. Miyo discovers he has the X-ray with him, after all. The doctor looks at anxiously, staring at it for a long time.

Cut to the Matsunaga. He looks like a baby asleep on the floor. The guitar begins again.

"There he goes again. I don’t know who the idiot is, but he’s no mandolin player." At this, the gangster awakens.

"Show’s what you know. That's a guitar, not a mandolin ... (to himself) why waste your lip on this old man?"

"Listen to him now and then. And now it’s time for a listen. Look!” (showing him the X-ray) “... see that big hole you've got there?" Matsunaga raises himself up.

“Good ventilation.” He coughs and sputters while Miyo and the old servant look on.

Cut to doctor and gangster. The doctor offers him the cup of water. Matsunaga ignores him. He puts it into his hand. The gangster drinks. He crushes the cup in his hand, startling Miyo. Finally, he looks up at the doctor.

"Hey, you really think I’ll get better?"

"You will."

"Even now?"

"Yes, you will."

"Don't mess with my head!"

"You will."

"You laughing at me?"

“You have to do what I say.”

"What do you know? Get down off your high horse. ‘You have to do what I say.‘ Don’t make me laugh. None of this stuff is about me being afraid to die, you know.” (He has managed to stand up) “...I’m gonna die anyway. I’m not taking any orders from you." He collapses to the floor again.

Close on doctor. Close on Miyo and the old servant. Close on the gangster, lying on the floor. We hear the guitar again. The camera slowly pans away from Matsunaga to the pond, reflecting the lights, and continues a slow, leisurely pan until the it finds the guitar player (playing the same music we’ve been hearing since the start of the film)...

Close-up on the guitar player (the first). A man wearing black enters frame right. We see him only from behind. The guitarist looks up, then goes back to his playing. The man in black puts his fingers into his waistband. The guitar player looks up again, and this time he stops playing.

Cut to a reverse angle, now looking at the new man. It is Okada, the gang-boss (Reisaburo Yamamoto).

Guitar player: "Nan-dé" [What do you want?]

Okada: "Give it here."

Guitar player (not willing to hand over his guitar): "What the hell?"

Okada, threatening: "Give it here!" The guitar player gives it to him and Okada looks it over. He walks to a different spot and sits down.

Check out the beautiful composition Kurosawa creates with Okada sitting in the niche between two sections of a stone wall and the lights of the cabaret (“No. 1”) in the background. Okada begins to play (a completely different song).

The lights to the cabaret are seen in the background. Okada wears the traditional yakuza white hat!

Cut to the doctor (the music continues), covered with mosquito netting and attending to Matsunaga.

"What's wrong?"

Miyo appears. "Doctor, it's Okada!"

“What” Cut to close-up of Miyo, through the gauzy netting -- a terrific effect!

"Playing that guitar!"

"Yeah, suddenly it’s a whole different tune."

“That was Okada’s favorite song."

"Don’t be silly. I’m sure others know it, too."

"But..." Cut back to Okada. He finishes his song and walks over to the other guitar player. He hands him back the guitar.

"What’s that song you were playing?"

"Yeah, you wouldn’t know, would you? It was popular when you were just a kid."

"Oh, what's it called?"

"The Killer’s Anthem.“ (my old subs: “About killing.”) He walks away. The guitar player follows him.

"Who’s crew are you with, bro?"

Okada ignores his question. He is standing at the edge of the filthy pond. He looks around.

"Man, oh man, have things ever changed. The only thing that’s left is this stinking puddle." He throws something in the water. Fade to black.

Up on the daytime again, in a nice long shot of the neighborhood. Dissolve to Miyo, polishing a pair of shoes.

"Come back. I’ll write you a referral," we hear. It is the doctor's voice, but we do not see him yet.

"Have him plan out an attack and go after the TB bacteria.” The doctor and the gangster come into the frame. The doctor continues:

“As villains go, this disease is mighty clever.” He taps him on the shoulder.

“Strength doesn‘t make any difference. Matsunaga has put his shoes on and stands up. “No drinking, you hear!”

“Right. Old men are so repetitive,” replies Matsunaga, annoyed. Sanada stands, ready to confront.

“What the hell!”

Miyo, calming him: “Don’t, Doctor.” She hands Matsunaga his handkerchief.

“It’s still a little damp, but it was so dirty, I had to.” Matsunaga takes it and smells it.

Doctor: "And no women, either." Matsunaga nods and leaves.

Cut to outside. A train is moving on the overhead tracks, top frame, right to left. Matsunaga is walking, the camera from behind.

HORIZONTAL WIPE (to the left) #2

An example of dual-purpose wipe -- indicating some short passage of time, as well as artfully rushing the scene off the frame, with the motion of the train and the wipe going right to left!

POV inside a room. Matsunaga is opening the door. As he walks in, he catches a slipper Nanae (Michiyo Kogure) has thrown at him. She is lying in bed, reading.

"Where’d you spend the night? Been up to something bad? Come over here. I’ll spank you." Cut to Matsunaga. He eyes her. He eyes the shoe. He hangs the shoe on her clothes rack and leaves.

HORIZONTAL WIPE (to the left) #3

Cut to Matsunaga entering the bar. The bar girl, Gin, off-camera:

"It’s only morning, and you already look like a ghost." She enters the frame, left, wiping off a table.

“Am I that pale?"

"It’s been a long time since you stopped by. But joking aside, you’ve lost a lot of weight. Somebody been loving you too hard?" Matsunaga plays with the liquor bottle on the table for a moment, but refrains from pouring himself a drink. He leaves.

Cut to outside. The people are staring at him. Once again he passes the flower shop, takes a flower, the owners come out and bow...

Cut to another angle, Matsunaga walking towards the camera. Matsunaga walks over to the edge of the pond. He smells the flower. The camera pans downward to reveal the scummy pond. A shadow appears next to him.

Cut to a POV behind Matsunaga. It is Okada. He taps him on the shoulder.

"What’s that look for? Got out a couple days ago!"

Matsunaga, bowing: "Sorry, I wasn’t there to welcome you. You were in a long time."

“Hear you’re the boss around here."

Matsunaga, bowing again: "Thanks to you."

"I’m sure you’ve got a lot to tell me. Find us a spot where you’ve got pull." As usual, wonderful filmic geometry helps emphasize an important symbolic element: The scene, as framed at this point, is Okada and Matsunaga, on the left and right side of the frame, respectively, and a bubbling crater in the pond right in the middle.

They turn to leave. Matsunaga throws his flower right into the center of the bubbling crater. The camera remains on the flower. Cut to a close-up of the flower, floating on the scummy pond...

Cut to the bar owner, who comes out through a curtain, and Gin. The bar owner is smiling broadly.

“Come in.”

Gin: "You're always showing up and disappearing."

Owner: "Hey, he’s no neon sign, flashing on and off" He smiles again, picks up the liquor bottle, unscrews the cap and (pan left) pours a drink for the two gangsters.

Matsunaga: “Please excuse the poor hospitality.” He pours him a drink.

“Let’s have a drink.”

“Sorry, bro. Not today." Okada looks at him, confused.

"You got gonorrhea?"


"What is it, then?"

Matsunaga nervously scratches the back of his head. "I‘d sure like to, but..."

Okada: "Times sure have changed around here. After four years, this is how you treat my toast to our bond of honor?"

Cut to Gin and the bar owner. Gin walks through the curtains.

Cut to frontal view of the two gangsters. Okada throws back a shot and pours another.

"But if you can’t drink with me, that’s okay, too." He pours himself another.

Matsunaga: "Please don’t. I just don’t feel so great."

"You are a little pale."

"Hey, it’s no big deal." He turns his glass over. "Just one drink, then."

Okada pours him a drink.

Cut to close-up of Matsunaga. He throws back the drink.

Part Two


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