aka ある脅迫 aka Aru Kyohaku
Story by Kyo Takigawa
Screenplay by Osamu Kawase
Directed by Koreyoshi Kurahara
An arrogant bank manager named Kyosuke Takita (Nobuo Kaneko – The Magic Serpent) is about to move on to the executive board, but gets enveloped in a blackmail scheme and must try to rob his own bank in a desperate attempt to come up with the funds. His sad sack childhood friend Matakichi Nakaike (Ko Nishimura), who Takita has used and degraded, becomes a scapegoat, and soon things devolve into a murderous mess. Intimidation serves up a slow-burning lesson of treating people well, but aside from the tense robbery sequence in the middle, there are few high points to recommend hunting Intimidation down immediately.
You can’t examine Intimidation without seeing the obvious class consciousness of the film. Takita is in the upper echelon of society, who married into money and is set for easy street. His friend Nakaike is stuck on the lower rung, his few opportunities were snatched away by Takita, or twisted around to make it seem Takita was solely responsible for them. Nakaike’s lack of confidence doesn’t help him, and much of his time is spent making excuses for his friend and doing things in the background like warming sake. The bank manager sees Nakaike as an unmotivated chump who they keep around only for Takita’s benefit, sort of ironic due to the manager’s later confession that he doesn’t understand all the loan paperwork that Takita has been handling for him.
Despite the class struggles, Takita’s downfall is he is an arrogant bastard. He’s so used to getting his way and shooting up the ladder of success that he doesn’t care at all whoever he steps on during his climb. Even people who are loyal friends that would have made great companions he treats with disdain, only using them for his own ends. His childhood friend Nakaike seems a complete tool, Takita talking down to him in front of the bank manager. Takita talks like Nakaike owes him everything, and he’s such a screw-up that he’d be on the streets if it wasn’t for Takita. Nakaike’s lack of confidence doomed him to forever be in Takita’s shadow. When Takita’s around, Nakaike fades away and Takita gets all the focus.
Takita’s arrogant ways have attracted a bit of attention in the form of a mysterious man who has evidence of shoddy bank loans that Takita made. Takita later covered their losses with more creative accounting, but there is enough evidence to expose him and put him in jail. The man demands a large sum of blackmail payable by the next day, more money than Takita has lying around. But there is plenty of money in the bank vault…
Nakaike’s sister Umeha (Mari Shiraki – Underworld Beauty) berates him for putting up with Takita’s crap, but she’s also embittered because Takita dated her for years, only to immediately drop her when he had a chance with the bank president’s daughter, the same girl Nakaike liked. But as usual, Nakaike backed off once Takita moved in. Despite her anger, Umeha still harbors feelings for Takita, even trying to spend a few more hours with him in bed, but Takita has a bank to rob.
Intimidation gets comparisons to Rififi for a few reasons, the most obvious being the bank robbery scene that is mostly silent. The reasons for the silence are completely different, Intimidation is mainly Takita trying to mask his identity from his friend, and unsuccessfully so. Nakaike can barely cover that he knows how Takita is, his facial reactions both appear as shock at what his friend is doing and then further shock at how bad he seems at covering his identity. We also learn that at some point, Japanese banks had employees spending the night at the bank to keep an eye on things and to handle night drops. If you are thinking that’s an avenue for someone to force their way in, then you are correct. Soon everything that can go wrong with the heist is going wrong, but the quick-witted Takita can use his higher class stature to bluff his way out of the fallout, which means once again the target is square on poor Nakaike. But just when Takita thinks he’s gotten the best of his blackmailer and can go on with his life, a whole new issue presents itself.
Ko Nishimura is the perfect Nakaike, content to play second fiddle and make excuses for his friend’s behavior. He plays the dummy to such a degree Takita doesn’t even notice his gaping mistakes during the robbery leading to his easy identifiability by Nakaike. The weirdness is wondering why the pair would even be friends in the first place. Perhaps young Takita needed someone to boss around as a child, and Nakaike was just happy to belong and in awe that someone so popular want to be his friend. Takita might have even been nice once before the lure of money and power twisted him to look out only for himself.
Part of the problem was I saw Intimidation as part of a triple-feature, and it was sandwiched between two much better films, Underworld Beauty and Pale Flower, so Intimidtion‘s Hitchcock imitation got left in the dust both coming and going. Still, it’s satisfying to see Takita sweat. He’s just such a jerk, and and soon as the drama has passed, he goes back to his old way, perhaps even worse. Perhaps Intimidation would be best seen during a marathon of other Japanese B features, but I don’t think I’ll be giving it a second chance any time soon to test my theory.
Rated 6/10 (warming the sake, night shock, lotus watch, the wife, the blackmailer, logo)
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