Thursday, July 23, 2009

In short: Drifting Detective - Tragedy In The Red Valley (1961)

A small airplane carrying the industrialist Mr. Nagumo crashes in the snowy Akaiwadake Valley, killing Nagumo and his pilot. The Powers That Be decide that the crash was caused by bad weather and a too reckless pilot, but the pilot's sister Misako (Harumi Sone) can't believe that her brother would have risked his life senselessly.

She travels to Akaidawake Valley where she stumbles into the conflict between the evil, yakuza-employing developer Kido and a saintly father daughter duo running an orphanage on land belonging to the dead Mr. Nagumo. Can it really be a coincidence that Kido suddenly has paperwork signed by Nagumo that transfers the land the orphanage is built on to him?

Fortunately, Nagumo's former corporation has asked the detective Goro Saionji (a very young Sonny Chiba) to look into the matter. Goro and his remarkable skills at fisticuffs, rifle-shooting and horse-riding will surely bring light into the affair, but not before he has earned the respect of Kido's newest henchman, the clownishly dressed sharp-shooter Tetsu the Spade.

Young Kinji Fukasaku directing an even younger Sonny Chiba in a programmer that plays out like a serial-minded Western - what could possibly go wrong? Not much, I have to say. Unless you're one of those people who just can't abide films that are made only to let their audiences have a fun time, that is. In that case this surely isn't the film for you.

Everyone else should be too distracted by fake but fun brawls, flying dynamite, pleasant shoot-outs and a permanently laughing and smiling Sonny Chiba to care about the slightness of the whole enterprise.

Fukasaku was already a perfectly capable director at this stage of his career, with a real gift for the fast pacing this type of film needs to have to work. His energetic style is a perfect fit for a pulpy adventure film like this one.


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