(Review from A Tribute to Toshiro Mifune: 40 Films Starring Japan's Greatest Actor)
Director: Akira Kurosawa. Screenplay: Keinosuke Uegusa and Akira Kurosawa. Photography: Takeo Ito. Music: Fumio Hayasaka. Co-stars: Takashi Shimura, Reizaburo Yamamoto, Michiyo Kogure, Chieko Nakakita.
"...With the appearance of Toshiro Mifune as the gangster in Drunken Angel, this was the first picture in which my original idea was totally turned upside down. Shimura's portrayal of the doctor was excellent, but I just couldn't restrain the overpowering force of Mifune's performance. Naturally, as the title indicates, the doctor was supposed to be the film's hero. But what a shame it would have been to stifle Mifune's vitality. He reacts so swiftly to direction, you know: If I say one thing, he understands ten. I decided to turn him loose." (Akira Kurosawa)
Drunken Angel, the third film of his career, was
the movie that made Mifune
The moral ambiguities of both doctor and hoodlum
make for a script of extraordinary subtlety. As Donald Richie has described
them: "...the doctor is a kind of angel because he is absolutely
determined to do good, the way other men might be determined to do bad.
Like the hero of Red Beard, he knows precisely wherein good lies and nothing
will stop him. But Mifune is a kind of angel too, though of a darker breed.
He is the kind of angel one wrestles with, and the doctor must play Jacob
to this dark, unknowable power." With two superb performances from
his protagonists, and with a furious passion to depict the depravity of
postwar Japan, Kurosawa created a masterpiece.