The Warped World Of Koreyoshi Kurahara (Eclipse Series 28) (Criterion) is an introduction to another of the lively directors who flourished making crime thrillers, youth dramas and other genre films as new generation of young, ambitious filmmakers hit the studios in the late 1950s. This set, from Criterion’s budget-minded line Eclipse, presents five jumped-up pictures made for Nikkatsu through the 1960s by Koreyoshi Kurahara, a contemporary of Seijun Suzuki and Kinju Fukasauku working in the same popular genres.
Intimidation (1959), a tightly-wound crime thriller about a predatory bank manager, a meek, submissive assistant and a blackmail scheme, serves as kind of a prologue to the films to come. It opens on a train barreling through the screen to deposit a flamboyant urban gangster in a sleepy rural town but the rest of the film slows to a more classically controlled piece of filmmaking, a quietly oppressive psychological drama with the obsessive dementia of a Patricia Highsmith novel. There’s a murder, though one of opportunity rather than premeditation, and a superbly-executed one-man heist, but ultimately it isn’t about money, it’s about vengeance and control, and that makes things a lot more unpredictable. It’s a well-tempered piece of genre filmmaking — the corruption and mind-games all play out behind the façade of social decorum — and Kurahara shows he has the chops, but it’s with the subsequent films that he breaks out of conventions and into unpredictable territory.