Stray Dog

"As a part of my Kurosawa binge, I viewed Stray Dog yesterday and found it was relatively OK."

- Mairosu

Sanjuro (1949)

Director: Akira Kurosawa

Producer: Shojiro Motoki

Writer: Ryuzo Kikushima, Akira Kurosawa

Cast: Keiko Awaji, Minoru Chiaki, Ishiro Honda, Isao Kimura, Toshiro Mifune, Haruo Nakajima, Noriko Sengoku, Takashi Shimura, Hajime Taniguchi, Reisaburo Yamamoto

Running Time: 122 min.

Plot: The setting is Tokyo in the late 1940s, its streets blasted by war and its economy in collapse. When a detective loses his gun he must go undercover, descending into a hell teeming with characters as down and out and as desperate as he is.

Availability: This title is available at


MAIROSU'S REVIEW: [spoilers herein]

As a part of my Kurosawa binge, I viewed Stray Dog yesterday and found it was relatively OK. Toshiro Mifune is a young police officer Murakami, whose pistol is stolen during a bus ride. With the help of a more experienced colleague Sato (Shimura), Murakami unfolds a whole network of stolen firearm smuggling.

Stray Dog is usually described as Kurosawa's stab at film noir, though in my opinion it's more of a generic police drama. First 40 minutes before Sato is even introduced drag a bit - Murakami, after losing his gun, is advised to disguise himself as a "down and out" persona so he could attract the arms dealers, which is followed by good 10 minutes of non-dialogue footage of Mifune walking around Tokyo shantytowns and poor areas looking, well, bummy. He finds one lead which leads him to another, and he soon arrests a young woman which provides more info. Meanwhile, Murakami learns that his gun has been "rented out" meanwhile and that the user is a petty criminal who killed one person and stole money - something which definitely unsettles him. The film unfolds without great thrill and grandeur - Sato & Murakami get stationary from one clue to another, and in the end, after some struggle, the thief is captured. Which is not to say it's bad, but there are no notable twists here to speak of.

So what's worth noting here...first, it's interesting to see Mifune and Shimura basically dress rehearsing for their roles in Seven Samurai. Mifune is a young maverick going headfirst into everything, while Shimura is the more methodical, experienced cop looking more sharply and with more patience. As usual, Kurosawa uses weather to his favour - the whole film is set in sweltering heat which is well visible (every character is drowning in sweat and using towels and handkerchiefs every five minutes) and which adds some intensity to the story (esp. with Murakami who is stressing over his gun), and the finale, of course, is preceded by a heavy rainfall (which became a somewhat of a staple with Kurosawa later on).

There are powerful scenes in the second half of the film. There is one when the detectives are visiting the crime scene in which a young woman has been killed, and her husband goes berserk pulling out plants from his garden in rage. Then there is a drawn-out climax in which Mifune faces the killer, after some mud wrestling and botched gunshots. There is also another poke at the Japanese social values - when Murakami submits his resignation feeling dishonoured as people are being killed with his gun, he is urged to continue his work and put more effort in. Most interestingly, Kurosawa shows pity to the killer - his main motive is that his all belongings were stolen, so he turned to a life of crime after returning from the war. The killer is no psycho or such, he's just a guy who found reintegration into normal society after the war hard. His antithesis is Murakami, who suffered a similar fate but opted to follow a path of justice so to say.

I found music really detrimental to this film. Usually, you get epic scores with Kurosawa...good portion of this film is just followed by a daft "archive newsreel" sort of music, which really doesn't make it any more noirish. Pace of the film might put a casual viewer of as well (first hour really drags), but I doubt any casual viewer would stumble upon this of his own volition. At any rate, film improves as it goes on, picking up in pace and in "mystery".

Definitely not as good and thought-provoking as Ikiru, but neverthless a worthy Kurosawa non-jidai geki entry.