Take Aim at the Police Van (1960)
It was a routine prisoner transfer until the prison van is shot at and prisoners die. Guarding officer Tamon (Mizushima Michitaro) is suspended for what appeared to have been negligence on his part. Tamon then takes it upon himself to figure out what it was the prisoners knew that someone wanted to keep quiet.
Take Aim at the Police Van (その語祖者を狙え） is the third film in Eclipse’s Nikkatsu Noir collection. For some years following World War II, the US military occupied Japan. Among other things, the GIs brought films noirs with them, and these movies proved to be extremely popular with Japanese audiences. Fearing losing competition with American and French studios, Nikkatsu jumped in and produced noir movies of their own.
Suzuki Seijun’s Take Aim at the Police Van was one such movie, and it followed a classic whodunit structure with the lead character having to search far and wide for clues and discovering he is risking his own life doing so. Admittedly, there is something I find quite charming of post-World War II Japanese pop culture in general, and Take Aim at the Police Van was no exception, especially with the slick cinematography and how things like rock-‘n’-roll were taking root in Japan.
For the purposes of the movie, the acting was more than adequate. Mizushima seemed to be exercising minimalist acting. I do want to say Watanabe Misako has her place next to Sophie Marceau, Kim Novak, and Kitahara Mie as one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen in a movie.
Nonetheless, I did find some plot holes and some things to be just a little too convenient. The biggest issue I had was the significance of the hooker stumbling out of a private show with an arrow firmly lodged in her breast. I feel like that scene was probably in the movie more for shock value than anything else. Also, I did find the ending to be just a little predictable.
With Take Aim, for just about everything the movie tried to be, I can probably recommend a better one to see. Want to see a good Japanese movie from the postwar era? Watch anything by Kurosawa Akira. Want to see a good movie where you get to see Japanese life in the 1960s? See Ozu’s Late Autumn (1960). Want to see a good noir film? Then you’re far better off with Carol Reed’s The Third Man (1949). Nonetheless, somehow Take Aim has its own charm that I think at least merits it a rental or borrowing from a library.