Rusty Knife (1958)

Film number two from the Nikkatsu Noir box reuniites us with the star of I Am Waiting, Yujiro Ishihara, again playing a young man trying to get away from a violent past… but this time the prospects for him doing so are markedly bleaker. Not only has he done time for a murder, he’s witnessed another murder along with two other men. The police are reopening the case and want them to testify, but the gang involved in the crime may have other ideas. Rusty Knife is a lot more obviously “noir” than I Am Waiting, with its atmosphere of urban violence in a relatively new town (having sprung up pretty much after the war in what was only the decade prior to the film’s making) already poisoned by corruption at the highest levels; it’s a fairly unsparing vision of how little time it can take for that sort of rot to set in. Similarly, Ishihara gives us a fairly unsparing presentation of his own character; in the previous film he stood outside the world of crime, but here’s he’s been within that world and his attempts to go straight are going to be complicated, not least by his own realisation that resorting to violence in the way he used to do is easier for him than he’d like. I still like I Am Waiting, but must be honest and say this is more like the thing for me, not as subdued and quicker to action. I really want to see the rest of this set now…

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