High and Low (1963)
A high powered shoes executive (seriously) is in the middle of an important business deal when in a case of mistaken identity his chaffeur’s son is kidnapped and held for ransom instead of his own. He struggles whether he will ruin himself financially for someone else’s child while the police struggle to capture the kidnapper.
I have to say, in this age of ACA debates and healthcare being treated as some luxury item that you have to earn, the rationalizations being employed by the rich executive Mr. Gondo (Toshiro Mifune) and his lackey hit extra hard. While the thirty million yen being discussed here, is a whole lot more than people are going to have to fork over on an individual basis here, I couldn’t help make the mental comparison between him needing someone to tell him he had no obligation to help this child that wasn’t his kin and the gelled up twits on CNN smirking about how if poor people wanted to have iPhones they shouldn’t expect to be able to be subsidized the SO MUCH more it costs when they have an operation, illness or accident.Winced so much at the detective having to keep his face in check while the father and his business partner kept trying to get him to absolve them by stating that despite the fact that the kidnapper kept literally saying he would kill the kid, he didn’t really mean it. Which obviously, he didn’t do since people don’t usually keep the wrong kid they kidnapped to not still get the money.
Also I gotta say, the whole plot machination of the police telling him ‘but it’s not your son, so we can’t arrest him for extortion’ made me a little skeptical. I mean c’mon, you can still arrest him for kidnapping and endangering a child, and if the penalty for extortion is worse than that than your country’s legal system is a bit wonky.
Eventually the movie turns into one of those fun, following the threads of an investigation procedural, and I was digging it. And then the kidnapper is introduced and he is RIGHT out of a French New Wave movie. All shades and cigarettes and insouciant brutality.
The scene where he slowly rises up out of a bunch of flowers while smoking I could NOT stop laughing.
Not surprised hearing it was adapted from a hard boiled detective novel, it had that feel of winking homage to policemen in shirtsleeves combing through the dark underbelly of society tales.
This flick was available at the NYPL and probably also is on Filmstruck. Lady Picture Show recommends popcorn for the back half where it stops being a family drama and starts being all detectives talking tough and chasing leads.