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Stray Dog (The Criterion Collection)

4.6 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews

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(May 25, 2004)
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The Criterion Collection
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Editorial Reviews

Toshiro Mifune. A Japanese detective descends into a criminal underworld to find his missing gun-and the killer who's been using it. Directed by Akira Kurosawa. In Japanese with English subtitles. 1949/b&w/122 min/NR/fullscreen.

Special Features

  • Audio commentary by Stephen Prince, author of The Warrior's Camera: The Cinema of Akira Kurosawa
  • Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create, a 32-minute documentary on the making of Stray Dog
  • Booklet featuring an excerpt from Kurosawa's autobiography, Something Like an Autobiography

Product Details

  • Actors: Toshirô Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Keiko Awaji, Eiko Miyoshi, Noriko Sengoku
  • Directors: Akira Kurosawa
  • Writers: Akira Kurosawa, Ryûzô Kikushima
  • Producers: Akira Kurosawa, Kajirô Yamamoto, Senkichi Taniguchi, Sôjirô Motoki
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Color, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: May 25, 2004
  • Run Time: 122 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0001UZZSG
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,595 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Stray Dog (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Archmaker VINE VOICE on December 26, 2001
Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
I am not a Japanese film historian, so others can elaborate on that aspect. When it started, I wasn't sure I would take to this film, but it draws you in inexorably. Shot on location in Tokyo, remarkably just 3 or 4 years after the end of WWII, it most reminds me of a Japanese Naked City, with echoes and moments reminiscent of other American gangster films all the way back to Public Enemy and The Roaring Twenties of the 30's.

The location photography alone is fascinating in depicting the Japan of 1948 or 49. And the story progresses as a very young Toshiro Mifune wanders through various levels of that postwar society in search of the thief who stole his Colt. On hand also, is that wonderful actor in Kurosawa's repertory company that was the leader of the 7 Samurai, and here too, is the older & wiser mentor to Mifune.

Finally, the movie wins you over for its own reasons. Though early, Kurosawa's composition, framing, and directorial skill is evident. The performances are fine. The atmosphere and location photography ground the film in reality. And it is a more complex film and story than it first appears. And, like early Ford, there is poetry amid the restrictions of budget and resources. And like early Ford, it presages what was to come. Good stuff if you've a mind for it. 5 stars for those folks.
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Format: DVD
The sweltering heat of summer in the big city, the atmosphere of a metropolis in a time of drastic change, an idealistic young rookie out on a quest for personal revenge...

What can I say? Every time I think I have Kurosawa figured out he again amazes me with the incredible power of story-telling that he wields. While many will praise the master of Japanese cinema for his awesoem samurai epics, this one strikes a similar chord to High and Low, spinning a tale of social commentary in post-war Japan. There are differences though. Big ones.

While High and Low (like this film) tells us a great deal about police-work and the state of Japan after World War II (and the terrible things that people may or may not have been forced to do as a result of the social upheaval), this film is more personal.

Toshiro Mifune is probably the greatest actor in Japanese history, and his early performance here struck me very hard indeed. Previously I had seen Mifune as an old man and a rascal, but never playing a serious dramatic lead as a young man (ordinary Joe). When our young protagonist loses his gun, I can feel his shame and disgrace, and feel his terrible moment of panic. As the film progresses, he continues to scan every room as if it might hold some hidden clue, and his intensity is such that it worries his superiors and outright frightens normal people who get in his way. As the film progresses we watch the tension grow, and see his mind pushed closer and closer to the edge. He isn't worried about his gun. He is obsessed. Every new crime he hears about triggers the reaction "Was it MY gun?!
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Format: VHS Tape
I foung this to be an absolutely fascinating film on several levels.
First, although we primarily associate Kurosawa with period films, this was one of his relatively few contemporary films. Along with the utterly phenomenal IKIRU (1952) and HIGH AND LOW (1963), it is one of his three most successful nonhistorical films. Nonetheless, for us in the early part of the 21st century, it possesses a great deal of almost documentary interest for glimpses into life in post-war Japan. Released in 1949, it depicts a Japan that had not yet begun the strong enonomic recovery of the 1950s. I found the numerous images of individuals struggling on the margins of economic survivability to be riveting. This was seen not merely in the "stray dog" who possessed the gun of the main character, but in many minor characters, not all of whom we actually see. One of the truly sad moments was when Takashi Shimura (familiar as the head samurai of SEVEN SAMURAI, the dying man in IKIRU, and the woodcutter of RASHOMON) explains to Toshiro Mifune how a thief's stealing the cash a woman had saved for her dowry probably meant that she would not have enough money saved again until she was an old maid, implying that the thief had stolen not merely her cash, but her chance of happiness in life as well.
Second, seeing Toshiro Mifune playing a despondent, anxious, inexperienced, overly deferential detective was a completely new experience. It is a range of emotions that I had not previously seen him put on display in anyother role. I must add that I think most contemporary American viewers will find, perhaps, his character to be a little too groveling and impetuously stupid.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
If you've only seen Kurosawa's samurai flics, definitely give this a look. The strength of Stray Dog is certainly the imagery: the glimpses of everyday life in the early years of postwar Japan are as priceless as virtually anything from the silent era, and seeing such a young Mifune in his dandyish zoot suite is also worth the price of admission in itself. The rabid dog thru the opening credits frames the film wonderfully and returns to your mind well after you've turned off the TV. And here Kurosawa's greatest weakness (an apparently utter disdain for females) is graciously muted: women are portrayed in mostly unflattering roles but are at least allowed to show some bit of their sensuality (something which is utterly lacking in his later films). The ending is first marvelous then disappointing; the last 120 seconds or so might have better landed on the cutting room floor. The narrative thrill wasn't quite Hitchcock, and the noirish shadows weren't quite to the level of Welles or Wilder. But I am not complaining. While Stray Dog shows some of the undeveloped side of Kurosawa, it also shows traits he would have been better to have kept. All in all Stray Dog was a delight to watch.
Regarding the Criterion DVD, the image quality is really no better than a VHS tape. Occasionally scenes are quite dark or the picture is striped with dark lines. The DVD menu page is too dark and it was almost impossible to read the options. As usual, Criterion offers no subtitle options beyond English. And the price is tad lower, if still too high. But at least they have made it available.
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