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  • 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.
  • Jun Negami and Fujiko Yamamoto are engaged and very much in love. He is a poor college student and her parents badger her into accepting gifts from wealthy suitor Eiji Funakoshi and telling her that he will pay for Negami's further schooling. If she really loves him, she will think about his welfare and marry the rich man, incidentally providing for their old age. The lovers quarrel, she marries Funakoshi, while Negami drops out of school and goes to work for a loan shark, trying to make as much money as possible. She's abused by her husband. They're perfectly miserable.

    Director Kôji Shima's opus on how two people in love can torment each other is abetted by a use of color I've never seen before. In the beginning, the color palette is bright, simple and garish. By the time they are unhappy, the colors are muted and the lighting is very dim. While this sort of soap opera, in which people are excessively miserable, is not to my taste, it seems to be very well done. I noticed that Kenji Sugawara, as the friend who tries to effect a reconciliation, has an acting style a lot like Toshiro Mifune. Given his his incredible star tatus in this period, it seems he had his imitators.
  • A penniless student and a wealthy man want to marry the same girl in 1890 Japan. The parents naturally think wealth should be chosen but the girl is only convinced after her mother tells

    her the wealthy man will finance the student's studies. So the

    girl thinks she is making a noble sacrifice by marrying the rich man. This ends up making everyone unhappy until a Hollywood


    The depiction of Japan in 1890 is OK as is the acting. The film seems to be saying follow your heart and not your parents.