1954 was, with the possible exception of 1953, the greatest year in the entire history of Japanese cinema. This was the year of, among other extraordinary works: Kurosawa's Seven Samurai; *two* Mizoguchi masterpieces, A Story From Chikamatsu and the great Sansho the Bailiff; two fascinating films by the popular Keisuke Kinoshita, Twenty-Four Eyes and The Garden of Women; the incredibly moving Sound of the Mountain by Mikio Naruse and also his very dark Late Chysanthemums; Heinosuke Gosho's lovely slice-of-life drama An Inn at Osaka... one could go on and on. So why, oh why, did the powers-that-be at the time choose to export to the West this reasonably well-made but otherwise utterly mediocre and lifeless melodrama? This work was reviewed by Bosley Crowther of The New York Times when released in that city in early 1956, and though he praises the film's technical craftsmanship, he rightly called it "emotionally stilted." (He also correctly pointed out that the best thing in it is the performance of Mitsuko Mito, playing a villainous but very human moneylender.) Almost nothing in this film works for me: the over-the-top acting of the "hero," the very limited range of the lead actress, the contrived plotting, the emotional disconnection and, above all, that terrible ending. Eventually, all of the 1954 masterpiece films I mentioned above, and more, made it to Western theaters and computer screens. By all means, check them out, and give Golden Demon a pass.