It is now 55 years since the release of Akira Kurosawa‘s 1960 film The Bad Sleep Well. Starring Toshirō Mifune, Masayuki Mori and Kyōko Kagawa, and being the first film released by Kurosawa’s new production company Kurosawa Production Co, The Bad Sleep Well sought to expose the financial and political corruption in postwar Japan.
The result is a riveting revenge drama which features possibly the finest opening 25 minutes of any Kurosawa film but fails to maintain that level of brilliance afterwards. Kurosawa himself recognise this failure, noting that “even while we were making it, I knew that it wasn’t working out as I had planned and that this was because I was simply not telling and showing enough.” The reason for this was external pressure, which Kurosawa felt prevented him from being as direct as he had originally wanted to: “if you go any further than that you are bound to run into serious trouble. This came as a big surprise to me, and maybe the picture would have been better if I had been braver. At any rate, it was too bad I didn’t go further. Maybe I could have in a big country like America. Japan, however, cannot be this free and this makes me sad.” (Quoted in Richie 143.)
The film’s exact release date is actually difficult to pinpoint. Richie lists September 4, which IMDb copies but also gives September 19 as the roadshow (limited) release date, which seems odd. As Richie’s dates are in any case not always very accurate, I am bound to go with Galbraith who mentions that the first test screenings were held on August 22 and that the film indeed had its limited opening on September 19, with a general release following on October 1st. Although then there is also the Japanese Movie Database, which suggests a September 15 date for the limited release and October 1 for the general one. Go figure.
If you have yet to see The Bad Sleep Well, check out the Kurosawa DVD section for information about its availability on home video. The film has not yet been released on Blu-ray with English subtitles.