Death Row Woman (1960)

26 01 2008

Nobuo Nakagawa is often considered the father of J-horror. This tag makes complete sense since Jigoku and Ghost Story of Yotsuya are early examples of the type of cinema that Japan is now putting out at a nauseating rate. Yet, with both of those films, I see truly personal films. Perhaps it’s the nostalgic value that both of those films hold, but I really think they’re just as truthfully, at least in an emotional sense, as any film I’ve ever seen. Death Row Woman, released in 1960, does little to back up this theory. Instead, it’s just a fairly interesting and sort of funny, Hitchcock-esque thriller.

Kyoko is accused of the murder of her father after engaging in an intense argument with him. She hasn’t done it, though. So she breaks out of prison and reunites with the man that her father had arranged for her to marry. There’s a lot of plot development that I don’t fully comprehend because it’s too “intricate” or whatever. I suppose I look too much for character development even in something rather mindless like this. Anyway, she ends up with this guy in a very happy (but confusing) ending!

Pretty much any problem I have with this film is a result of the “genre” it’s suppose to be confined to. Without getting deep into my cinematic principles, I’m not a big fan of plot-heavy film noir type things. I definitely prefer films to be relatively plotless and to focus more on the characters and so on. For what it is, this is pretty good. Nice cinematography, well-composed shots, and some really neat music to create some genuinely suspenseful stuff. On the other hand, most of the suspense comes in the first twenty minutes which is really just a rip-off of the final 15 minutes in Bresson’s A Man Escaped.

The only particularly memorable aspect of the film is Yoichi Numata’s performance as the inspector. I have always had a distaste for his performance as Tamura in Jigoku. It’s never good when a character comes off a villain and in that film, he does. In retrospect, it has more to do with the actual writing than his performance. I can see from this film that he could transfer his on-screen charisma to much more interesting roles. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that this film is a hoot or anything, but it is kind of funny.

I posted some more screen shots from the Beam/Eclipse DVD here.

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