Udaka is a new, post-war city where corruption has already taken hold. A persistent district attorney wants to arrest and convict Katsumata, a laughing, self-confident thug. The D.A. gets an anonymous letter about the suicide five years’ before of a city council member. Evidence about the case leads the D.A. to Tachibana, struggling to go straight after involvement with the mob and a prison sentence for killing the man responsible for the rape and suicide of his fiancée. One of Tachibana’s friends is Keiko, the daughter of the dead councilman and the ward of another powerful official. How do these stories connect?
Rusty Knife was the first smash for director Toshio Masuda, who would go on to become one of Japanese cinema’s major hit makers. Top Nikkatsu stars Yujiro Ishihara and Akira Kobayashi play former hoodlums trying to go straight, but when the authorities come looking for their help the pair realize the past isn’t so easy to shake.
Rusty Knife is set in Udaka, a newly born post-war city that’s always corrupt to the core. It’s as harsh and stark as any film noir city you’ve ever visited on screen, and the outcomes are harsh too. Like all good noirs, there’s one man – in this case a perisistent district attorney – intent are restoring order to his own little corner of a chaotic universe. When he insists on dragging former thugs into his investigation of the local crime syndicate things go sideways for all involved. As Robert Mitchum said about his gallows in Out of the Past, “Build ’em high, baby.”
As a celebration of Nikkatsu, Rusty Knife could be the poster child for the studio’s effort in the late fifties. It’s jazzy, it’s cool, it’s gritty and it is straight-up film noir. It was also rewarded at the box office. For good reason, director Masuda went on to direct a fifty-two features for Nikkatsu in ten years, many of them box office hits. If you’re looking to see a different side of Japanese cinema, do not miss Rusty Knife.
— Brandy Dean (Pretty Clever Films)
Subtitles:English, Russian (muxed)