Umetsugu Inoue, Japan, 1957, 115 min., Japanese w/ English subtitles
In Inoue’s follow-up to The Winner, Yujiro Ishihara plays a seaman who joins the crew of a rusty cargo ship to avenge himself on his father’s enemy. Also on board is another new hand with a secret, played by a buff, shirtless Rentaro Mikuni.
Ishihara’s bad attitude immediately gets him into trouble with the crew, which he escapes with his fists. He finds an unlikely ally in Mikuni, who has reason to dislike and distrust him. Ishihara also attracts the attention of the two women on board, a sultry stowaway (Yumeji Tsukioka) and the captain’s high-spirited daughter (Ruriko Asaoka), who has already been claimed by the short-fused first mate (Hiroyuki Nagato).
The story, which Inoue first scripted when he was still an assistant director, does not play out in obvious ways, just as Ishihara’s character is hard to classify. He is neither a heartless toughie nor a pure-minded exemplar, but something new to Japanese films: a dirty hero with his own sense of justice and a way with song.
Inoue shot nearly the entire film aboard a real WWII cargo ship in Tokyo Bay, halting only when a typhoon threatened to send his ship, cast, and crew to the bottom. The real pitching, rolling, and spray of seawater he captured add to the air of danger, excitement, and, in the scenes of a cocky Ishihara singing to a wary-but-fascinated Asaoka, erotic tension.
Descriptions adapted from Mark Schilling in Asia Sings! A Survey of Asian Musical Films and Il Cinema