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High and Low (The Criterion Collection)

103 customer reviews

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(Oct 14, 1998)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Toshiro Mifune stars as a wealthy industrialist whose family becomes the target of a ruthless kidnapper in Akira Kurosawa's exemplary film noir. Based on Ed McBain's detective novel King's Ransom, High and Low is both a riveting thriller and a brilliant commentary on contemporary Japanese society. Criterion is proud to present High and Low in a luminous new Tohoscope transfer with new electronic subtitles.

Although best known for his samurai classics, Japanese master filmmaker Akira Kurosawa proved himself equally adept at contemporary dramas and thrillers, and 1962's High and Low offers a powerful showcase for Kurosawa's versatile skill. The great Toshiro Mifune stars as a wealthy industrialist who has just raised a large sum of money to execute his planned takeover of a successful shoe manufacturer. Fate intervenes when he receives a phone call informing him that his son has been kidnapped, and by unfortunate coincidence the ransom demand is nearly equivalent to the amount Mifune has raised for his corporate coup. A philosophical dilemma emerges when it is revealed that the executive's son is safe, and that it is actually his chauffeur's son who has been taken. What follows is both a tense detective thriller, as the police attempt to track down the kidnapper, and a compelling illustration of class division in Japan--the "high and low" of the title. Far be it from Kurosawa to make a mere thriller, however; this loose adaptation of the Ed McBain novel King's Ransom provides the director with ample opportunity to develop a visual strategy that perfectly enhances the story's sociological themes. The Criterion Collection DVD of this extraordinary film is presented in the original "Tohoscope" aspect ratio of 2.35:1. --Jeff Shannon

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Toshirô Mifune, Yutaka Sada, Tatsuya Nakadai, Kyôko Kagawa, Tatsuya Mihashi
  • Directors: Akira Kurosawa
  • Writers: Akira Kurosawa, Ryûzô Kikushima, Eijirô Hisaita, Evan Hunter, Hideo Oguni
  • Producers: Akira Kurosawa, Ryûzô Kikushima
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Letterboxed, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: October 14, 1998
  • Run Time: 143 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (103 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0780021509
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #125,139 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "High and Low (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By C. O. DeRiemer TOP 1000 REVIEWER on June 27, 2004
Format: DVD
Watched this a few days ago for about the fifth time and have been thinking about it ever since. I think it probably is my favorite Kurosawa film.
Toshiro Mifune plays a top executive in a shoe company who is secretly planning to take over the company. He wants to keep making quality shoes and gradually expand the market. The other executives want to make cheaper shoes and take advantage of the company's reputation. Mifune has raised every yen he can, including using his house, for the buyout, but his son is kidnapped. For the ransome he'll need all the money he's raised. He's prepared to do this for the sake of his son.
Then he finds out that the kidnappers made a mistake. They kidnapped his driver's son, who is the same age as his own. What a terrible moral dilemma. Would you or I give up every dime we had to save a neighbor's or an employee's son? Mifune does, and this act has a great effect on the police and the public.
The first half of the movie takes place in his house on a hill while all this unfolds. The second half is the chase to find the boy before he's killed and to capture the kidnapper. We move from the intensity of the dilemma unfolding in Mifune's home to the gritty business of the search which takes us into some of the lowest parts of the Japanese underworld.
Mifune is powerful in the role of the father, at first torn by the decision he has to make, then commited to finding his driver's son. Tatsuya Nakadai plays the detective, handsome, smooth, professional, and ultimately deeply touched by Mifune's integrity. Years later Nakadai played the leads in Kurosawa's Kagemusha and Ran. And it was good to see Mifune out of samurai costume.
High and Low is the work of a master. The DVD has the quality and extras one has come to expect from Criterion
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49 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Michael K. Beusch VINE VOICE on March 21, 2005
Format: DVD
Very rarely does a film improve upon the book on which it is based. It takes a visual master, working with an excellent screenwriter, to convey as much detail about a story as an author. However, Akira Kurosawa's High and Low manages to do it. The source novel, Ed McBain's 87th Precinct novel King's Ransom is a well written thriller that, nonetheless, doesn't really stay with the reader afterwards. Kurosawa, however, better known for his samurai epics, took McBain's story and gave it a depth never realized in the book. The famed director stays faithful to the novel, but fleshes out a simple detective story into a drama that makes social commentary as well as entertains.

McBain's Douglas King never really earns the reader's sympathy -- even though we can understand his motives. Toshiro Mifune's Kingo Gondo, in contrast, becomes a three-dimensional sympathetic character. Both men have their entire financial well-being at stake in the form of a hostile takeover bid for control of a shoe company. Both men, at first, behave selfishly, refusing to pay the ransom even though they are risking their chauffeur's son's life. However, McBain's Douglas King never shows the humanity that Mifune's Gondo does. Kurosawa adds a scene, not in the book, where Gondo pays the ransom and saves the kidnapped child. Even though his business deal is now dead and he is broke, he still reacts with relief and joy when the kidnappers return the chauffeur's son. It's an emotional payoff that McBain's book is sorely lacking and helps to flesh out the character.

Gondo is also a more sympathetic character partially due to the fact that his actions are at least partially dictated by Japan's rigid caste system.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Daniel S. on April 17, 2001
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
HIGH as Toshiro - Kingo Kondo - Mifune's house which lies on a hill, admired by the whole city. HIGH as Kingo's wealthiness that allows him to buy nearly 50 % of the shares of the society he's working for. HIGH as the moral integrity of this man who appears as a gentle capitalist never forgetting that money must be earned in a proper honest way.
LOW as the condition of Kondo's servant whose only son has been kidnapped. LOW as the morals of Kondo's partners who are the true villains of the movie, LOW as the expectations of the drug addicts of Dope Alley who seem have been forgotten by the prosperous 1963 Japan. At least, LOW as Takeuchi's chances to escape a police humiliated by the machiavelic plot he has imagined.
Adapted from one of Ed McBain " 87th Precinct " novels, Akira Kurosawa's HIGH AND LOW is a masterpiece. The first half of the movie takes place in the living room of Kingo Gondo. Kurosawa gives here an unforgettable lesson of cinema helped by a great actor - Toshiro Mifune - who is going to pass through the whole variety of feelings, from Happiness to Despair, in a 36 hours period.
The second half of HIGH AND LOW depicts the police investigations in order to discover the kidnappers. Another scene worthy to stay in the annals of Movie History is the expressionist description - by night - of the hot streets of the city. A cinematographical enchantment.
No bonus features with this Criterion release except for a booklet. Superb sound and images as usual.
A DVD zone your library.
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