The Bad Sleep Well (1963)
Director: Akira Kurosawa.
Starring: Toshirô Mifune (Kôichi Nishi), Masayuki Mori (Public Corporation Vice President Iwabuchi), Kyôko Kagawa (Yoshiko Nishi), Tatsuya Mihashi (Tatsuo Iwabuchi), Takashi Shimura (Administrative Officer Moriyama), Kô Nishimura (Contract Officer Shirai), Takeshi Katô (Itakura), Kamatari Fujiwara (Assistant-to-the-Chief Wada), Chishû Ryû (Public Prosecutor Nonaka), Seiji Miyaguchi (Prosecutor Okakura), Kôji Mitsui (Reporter A), Ken Mitsuda (Public Corporation President Arimura), Nobuo Nakamura (Legal Adviser), Susumu Fujita (Detective), Kôji Nanbara (Prosecutor Horiuchi)
Kurosawa's film about a man seeking revenge against the Japanese company that murdered his father
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
Nishi and Iwabuchi Wedding Party. Some attendees arrive late to the wedding. The ceremony is almost over. The journalists and photographers arrive. They ask: "Have the Dairyu executives arrived?" Yes, they have. The journalists say they want to speak with the executives immediately, so they won't disturb the banquet.
The bride and groom are led out. The bride is limping. She is partially disabled. She trips and almost falls, but is caught by a man named Itakura. They go in for the start of the banquet. The journalists run to surround the newly arrived police detective. The detective wants to know why the journalists are interested in the wedding of the daughter of Public Corporation's vice president? The journalists ignore that question and demand information from the detective. They know the police have searched Dairyu and grabbed the accountant. They want to know if the president or the director will be next? The detective says nothing.
Mr. Wadda comes out, but is called back in to his seat before the journalists can mob him. Nevertheless, Wadda has to go with the two policemen there. The journalists ask who is this Mr. Wadda? The man is the assistant chief of contracts for the Public Corporation. The journalists now rush to call in their story about the arrest of another officer from the Public Corporation for Land Development. The journalists believe this to be a bigger story that that of embezzlement at Dairyu Construction. The speculation is that there is a kickback scheme between Dairyu and Public Corp.
The wedding feast is about to begin. The master of ceremonies is Shirai, chief of contracts for Public Corporation He says the president of the firm, Arimura, acted as the matchmaker for the wedded couple. The couple are now presented. The groom is Koichi Nishi, the secretary for vice president Iwabuchi. (A journalist cynically comments that Koichi, a pal of Iwabuchi's son, only became a secretary after the engagement.) The bride is Yoshiko, an alumnus of the Keitoku Girls School. The cynical journalists says the groom only married the bride in order to guarantee his own success in the firm.
The reporters now turn their attention to a top administrator, Moriyama. The cynic points out Iwabuchi to the other reporters. The fellow who seems to be the senior reporter of the entire groups says that five years ago, there was an illegal bid for a government construction contract. Furuya, an assistant, committed suicide by jumping from a 7th story window. The three, Iwabuchi, Moriyama and Shirai, cleaned up the graft situation. Then they were given positions at the Public Corp.
Moriyama proposes a toast to the newlywed couple. He says that he is a stand-in for the groom's father. It is said that Nishi lost his parents during World War II. Moriyama toasts to the future of the newlyweds. Hastano, president of Dairyu Construction, is now introduced. He gives his best wishes for the newlyweds. Nishii's brother-in-law, Tatsuo Iwabuchi, now speaks. He gets a bit too serious when he tells Nishi that if he hurts his sister, he will kill him.
The couple will now cut the wedding cake. The cake is brought out. At the same time another cake is brought in. It is a model of the business building with a rose placed in the window slot on the seventh floor from which Furuya jumped to his death. The various officials are upset when they see the second cake come in.
The newspaper carries more stories about the investigation of Dairyu Construction as it now spreads to Public Corporation. Dairyu executive Miura agrees to be questioned. Wada of Public Corp also agrees to the questioning. As the scandal continues, Miura and Wada are arrested following the issuing of indictments.
The construction company officials wined and dined those responsible for giving out the government contracts at Hatsufune Restaurant. The restaurant owner describes Dairyu as an "upstanding client".
The news in the newspaper is about the prosecution floundering in the construction case. As the prosecutor runs out of time, the arrested executives are expecting to be released soon.
The interrogator for the prosecutor questions Wada. He says that there is no question that the bidding was rigged. Interrogator Nonaka accuses Wada of giving Dairyu the contract on a silver platter. Wada remains silent as he has done for three weeks now.
The prosecution has been getting tips and directions from an anonymous "informer". A note comes in saying: "Look at taxi receipts from Hatsufune's regular company." The prosecutor has already looked at those receipts. He speculates that the information coming in to their office is probably from the same guy that pulled off the second wedding cake stunt. The prosecutor decides to let Wada go, but they will charge Miura with embezzlement and put more pressure on him to talk. They will let Miura go, but then soon arrest him again. As soon as Miura gets out of the Tokyo Detention Center, he is presented with another warrant. Miura is shocked when he learns that he is being charged with embezzlement. His lawyer tells Miura that the company president told the lawyer to tell Miura: "I know you'll see this through to the bitter end." This shocks Miura and he throws himself under a passing truck, committing suicide.
The press accuses the prosecutor of helping out the company in an assassination of Miura. They want to know about Wada for he has not been home after talking with Moriyama and Shirai. The prosecutor only says that they are conducting a thorough investigation.
Public Corporation for Land Development. Site Three. Wada walks up into the mountains to a volcano site. He thinks about throwing himself into the volcano, but gets scared. He gets up again to kill himself, but is stopped by Iwabuchi's son-in-law who calls him a lapdog of Moriyama and Shirai, because Wada would kill himself just because the two men told him to. Nishi takes Wada back up to the edge of the volcano to see if he still wants to commit suicide.
The newspaper headlines say that Wada of Public Corporation has committed suicide: underlings sacrifice themselves to contain the scandal. The press asks the president of Dairyu wasn't it convenient that the two men committed suicide? After all, that way the bribery investigation goes up in smoke. The company president blames the prosecutor's office for the two suicides.
Now we learn that Wada is still alive. He asks of his Nishi's friend Itakura why Nishi Koichi saved him? Nishi arrives to tell Wada to come with him to the funeral for himself. From the car Wada watches the funeral. He sees his wife crying. This upsets Wada and he demands again to know why Nishi saved him? Nishi just says he will have Wada listen to a taped conversation between Moriyama and Shirai at a bar after the two men appear at the funeral. When the two men arrive, Nishi turns on the recorder. The men on tape discuss how they left Wada without any option but suicide. One of the men says the matter has left a bad taste in his mouth, but the other man just tells him to get a young girl to have sex with and that will let him forget what happened. Nishi now asks Wada if he still would commit suicide for the company? He also asks him, doesn't he wants some revenge on these men? Wada is not sure, but Nishi himself certainly wants revenge.
Tatsuo speaks to his sister Yoshiko, asking if perhaps some of the things the newspapers say about their father are right. Yoshiko, however, is totally devoted to their father.
Nishi goes to see his father-in-law. Iwabuchi tells Nishi to take off his arm band of mourning.
Shirai goes to Mitsui Storage. A worker brings him a big suitcase. Shirai goes to a private room to open the suitcase. He takes out a paper, flat container and places it in his coat pocket. He goes to the Mitsui Bank and examines his safe-deposit box in still another private room. Shirai gets the surprise of his life when he finds the storage box empty except for a photo of the building where Furuya committed suicide. An X marks the window from which he jumped to his death.
Shirai talks with the other two members of the trio. Iwabuchi wants to know who stole the cash worth five million yen? He says that only Shirai and Wada knew how to get to the cash and Wada is dead. Iwabuchi will have Moriyama investigate the matter. Iwabuchi tells Shirai to give Moriyama his key and the seal, but Shirai can't find them on him. So he says the key and seal are in his brief case in the secretary's room. Iwabuchi uses the intercom to tell Nishi to bring in the brief case, but Shirai says he will fetch the case himself. Nishi just has enough time to put the cash from the safety-deposit box into the brief case. Shirai is shocked to find the money in his brief case, but pretends as if nothing is wrong.
Moriyama comes out to get the case. Shirai doesn't want the man to see what's in the case. Moriyama grabs the case forcefully to pull it out of Shirai's grasp. With this action, the money falls out of the brief case and onto the floor. Moriyama tells Shirai to follow him. Shirai is taken home by taxi. He is in a daze and walks to his house. All of a sudden a car driven by Nishi comes down the block and the car's headlights shine on Wada. Shirai is shocked to see Wada standing in front of him. Nishi drives around the corner and Wada can no longer be seen in the dark. Shirai is so frightened that he runs away up the block.
Shirai goes to Moriyama and tells him Wada is still alive and that Wada took the money. Moriyama just laughs at the story. Shirai returns to his neighborhood, where Wada shows himself again. Shirai tries to catch up with Wada, but Nishi picks him up in his car. Nishi is happy at what they have done, but Wada seems a bit concerned about the shocked facial expression he saw on Shirai's face.
Nishi now goes home. He finds Shirai there pleading with Iwabuchi to believe that he did see Wada today. Dad has Shirai kicked out of the house and Yoshiko comes out to greet her husband. Tatsuo is suspicious of Nishi. When Nishi says he was out with the boys all night at the Noir bar, Tatsuo catches him in a lie because Tatsuo was tat that bar all night long. The two men will talk alone. Tatsuo asks him: "What the hell are you up to?" He then tells Nishi not to risk his neck doing anything for his father-in-law.
Tatsuo explains to Nishi why he is so protective of his sister. He says he took a fall on his bike with Yoshiko on the back of the bike. Tatsuo exclaims: "It's my fault she's lame, Nishi." He feels guilty and thinks he must make sure that his sister is happy. Yoshiko hears this part of their conversation, becomes upset emotionally and drops a glass from her tray. Nishi reaches Yoshiko before her brother does. He sweeps her up in his arms and takes her to her bed. The tenderness Nishi shows for Yoshiko lifts Tatsuo's guilt from him. He smiles and says goodnight to the couple. Nishi starts to kiss Yoshiko, feels guilty about it and stops himself. This confuses Yoshiko as to what could be wrong with her husband. She cries as Nishi leaves her on the bed.
The next day Wada's wife and daughter go to see Moriyama. They ask him if Wada could still be alive? Moriyama tells them that Shirai was only hallucinating when he says he saw Wada. The man has suffered a nervous breakdown. The two women cry at this.
Nishi comes into the work place and asks Shirai where is Chief Moriyama, but Shirai is just out of it. Someone else tells Nishi where Moriyama is and Nisihi asks the person to tell Moriyama that Vice President Iwabuchi wishes to see him.
All the major conspirators are at the meeting with Iwabuchi, except for Shirai. Men from the Dairyu company tell Iwabuchi to pay off Shirai to make sure he keeps his mouth shut. They say that Iwabuchi was the one who asked them to bid 12 billion yen on a 9 billion yen job and kick the three billion yen difference back to Iwabuchi and the others. Iwabuchi complains that Dairyu has only kicked back about half the sum agreed upon. The Dairyu men just tell Iwabuchi to take care of this guy Shirai. After they leave, Iwabuchi tells Moriyama to take care of Shirai. He wants Moriyama to take the man out to dinner and apologize to him.
Nishi and the rest of the family are in the backyard cooking and drinking. Moriyama telephones and Nishi speaks to him. Tatsuo asks his father to give up his idea of retiring from business and going into politics. Nishi has to give the phone to Iwabuchi so Moriyama can speak to him directly. Iwabuchi now says he has to leave to meet with Moriyama and others. Nishi says he will be going out too.
When Iwabuchi arrives to see Moriyama, Moriyama takes him into a room where the paranoid Shirai sits on the floor in a corner. Shirai is convinced that the two men are going to talk him into jumping out of a window just like they talked Furuya into jumping. Iwabuchi and Moriyama talk in another room. Iwabuchi seems to be planning a way to get rid of Shirai. At 11 p.m. Moriyama drops off Shirai at his street corner. Shirai starts walking home. He is very jumpy. He comes to the place where he saw Wada and he sees another man. Shirai starts running the other way, but the other man soon catches up with him. The fellow pulls out a pistol to shoot Shirai, but Nishi turns his car headlights on to shine on the two men. The would-be assassin leaves. Nishi now tells Shirai to get into the car. He does so. Shrirai is shocked to see that the driver is Nishi.
Nishi starts driving. Shirai is so nervous that he turns around to check out the back seat and is again shocked, but this time it's because Wada is in the back Shirai sinks down into his seat while still staring at Wada. The two men take Shirai up to the seventh floor of the building from which Furuya committed suicide. Shirai asks Nishi why has he brought him to this place and Nishi answers that he wants to see Shirai die here. Nishi asks Shirai if he recognizes the window out of which Furuya jumped? He does. Nishi now shows Shirai a photo of Furuya on the ground after he jumped with his neck broken and lying in a pool of his own blood. Now Nishi explains that the man who jumped from the window was his father. Actually, he was the illegitimate son of Furuya. He explains to Shirai that he changed identities with the real Koichi Nishi. Nishi says he will now force Shirai to break his own neck.
Shirai starts blabbing it all out. He says Moriyama and he were just following Iwabuchi's orders. Wada scares Shirai some more when he asks Shirai if his intent was to force Furuya to commit suicide? Shirai sinks to the floor while pleading with Wada: "Forgive me!" Nishi grabs Shirai and forces him over to the now open window. He acts as if he is going to drop Shirai out the window, but pulls him back into the room instead. Nishi pours a drink into a small whisky glass, tells Shirai it contains poison and tells him to drink it. He then tells Wada to convince Shirai to drink the poison. But Wada tells Nishi that he forgives Shirai. Nishi yells at Wada, saying he was in on the dirty schemes of the trio. In fact, so was his own father. He becomes so angry that he forces the drink down Shirai's throat. The man dies from the poison quickly.
Now Nishi drinks from the poisoned bottle. Wada is shocked, but Nishi tells him the drink is just whisky. he shows Wada tgat Shirai is still alive. Wada is shocked by the brutality of Nishi and a also bit frightened by the son's great intensity.
The newspapers say nothing about what happened to Shirai. They just hushed up the incident. Nishi says that the papers are in cahoots with Dairyu Construction. Nishi and Wada themselves had to take Shirai to an insane asylum.
Moriyama tells Iwabuchi that the diagnosis for Shirai is acute schizophrenia triggered by a profound shock. Now Shirai just keeps apologizing to Furuya. Moriyama now tells Iwabuchi that all the strange events that have happened have a connection to the death of Furuya. He figures that someone is doing these things in retaliation for the man's death. The problem is that they don't know who could be the person trying to retaliate for the death of Furuya.
Wada tells Nishi that he is going too far, that he is willing to sacrifice innocent bystanders. With the two of them is the real Koichi Nishi, now named Itakura. He says Nishi wanted to use Yoshiko as a pawn in his battle against her father. (But, says Nishi, he actually has fallen in love with Yoshiko.)
Moriyama goes to see the widow of Furuya. He asks her if Furuya has any living relatives. She tells him that her husband had a child who never lived with them. The widow even asks Moriyama if he could find the son of her late husband Furuya. What the widow does have is photographs from the funeral. She finds the photo with the man by himself away from the mourners. When Moriyama sees the photo, he is shocked to see the face of the man he knows as Nishi Koichi.
With the encouragement from the real Nishi, the false Nishi gets a bouquet of flowers for his wife. Tatsuo is mad because Nishi isn't home and his sister is sad. Tatsuo goes to talk with his father. He tells dad to stop making Nishi do all his dirty work for him. And stop making the poor man work until 2 o'clock in the morning. Dad says he doesn't know what the heck Tatsuo is talking about. He is not overworking his son-in-law. Tatsuo doesn't believe his father and leaves the room.
Moriyama arrives to speak with Iwabuchi. Tatsuo decides to listen in. So father and son learn at about the same time that Nishi's real surname is Itakura. Moriyama tells the vice president that Furuya's son has been using his daughter to get revenge on him and the other members of the trio. Tatsuo becomes very angry. Nishi arrives home with his bouquet of flowers. Tatsuo calls down the name Itakura and Nishi answers to it by turning around. Tatsuo goes to his room in disgust.
Yoshiko comes out and greets her husband. Tatsuo returns with a rifle. Yoshiko puts herself in between the rifle and Nishi. Now Iwabuchi and Moriyama come out to confront Nishi. Nishi runs out of the house to avoid the confrontation.
The bad guys try to figure out who this Nishi really is. They found nothing bad in his record. The man had a used-car dealership. Moriyama is checking on this. Nishi telephones his father-in-law and tells him that he has taken Moriyama as a hostage and that Wada is still alive.
Nishi tells Moriyama his plans. He says after Moriyama spills the beans, he will call a press conference and introduce Wada. Itakura says the papers will have a field day with the story of the man whose father was forced to commit suicide uncovering a massive corruption scheme in which his father's killers were involved. Then Moriyama will be introduced and he will corroborate the corruption case. Nishi then will turn himself in, but will cooperate with the authorities on the corruption case. He goes on to tell Moriyama if he does not cooperate, he will force the information out of him.
The men leave Moriyama in an old jail cell in a cordoned off area filled with bomb wreckage. Nishi and Itakura talk about their childhoods together. They both agree that the area sure brings back memories to them. Nishi walks away whistling. Wada tells Itakura that he regrets that Yoshiko had to be hurt in all this. He wants to tell her that Nishi really loves her, that it was not all just for vengeance. Itakura tells Wada to stay away from that woman and her evil father.
Moriyama demands that the three men feed him. He hasn't had food for two days. Nishi tells him that if he does not tell them where the kickback money is stashed, he will get no food from them. Moriyama tries to force his way out, but Nishi pushes him back into the cell. Moriyama keeps banging on the door.
Moriyama breaks down and tells the men the money has been wrapped up in plastic, placed in ceramic pots and the pots put into seaweed canisters. Moriyama gets his food, but when he tries to leave his cell, Itakura and Nishi won't let him out. Nishi reminds him that he needs to hear about what became of the bankbooks. Wada tells the two men that Moriyama will never talk because a good bureaucrat never implicates a superior. Nishi and Itakura are disgusted by the remark.
Wada runs away. But he returns with Yoshiko. He had contacted the married woman by phone and then picked her up in a taxi to bring her here. Now Nishi and Yoshiko talk together. Moriyama speaks through the jail cell door and asks him to please telephone Iwabuchi directly. He says he will give Wada ten million yen and Shirai's old job. This makes Wada so mad that he picks up a rock and throws it at the cell door.
Yoshiko tells Nishi that Wada told her all about what happened. She says: "I'm so happy." But what she really wants to know is if her father really is such a bad person? She takes Nishi's silence as yes. She cries as she thinks how wonderful her father has been to her. Nishi forcefully takes his wife in his arms and kisses her. He tells Yoshiko that he did not even know his father was alive until he applied to high school. At that time he learned that his "uncle" was really his father. He refused to talk with his father after that. But after his mother died, five years ago Furuya showed up at Nishi's place wanting to make peace with his son before he died. He cried and begged Itakura to forgive him, but Itakura just balled him out and left. The next day he read about his father's suicide in the paper. Later an envelope arrived for him. Inside it was a bankbook indicating that Furuya set aside for Nishi 1.5 million yen. Nishi becomes overwhelmed by the realization that his father cared for him very much. He then became obsessed with getting vengeance on those who drove his father to suicide. Now he asks Yoshiko's permission to expose the evil deeds of her father. She consents by slowly bowing her head down.
Iwabuchi speaks on the telephone saying that he is considering the possibility of committing suicide. He has been given some drug that will do the job. Iwabuchi then says that he will take just a small dose of the drug so he can sleep peacefully tonight. He drinks a small glass of liquor and then puts a little bit of the drug in a second glass of liquor. He sees Yoshiko returning home. Iwabuchi asks the maid where did his daughter go, but she says she doesn't know. She got a phone call and just left. The maid is able to tell him that Tatsuo has gone out hunting.
Iwabuchi bursts in on his daughter demanding to know where Nishi is. He lies, telling her that Tatsuo followed her to where Nishi is and intends to kill her husband. Yoshiko remains silent. Dad calms down and then says this is all punishment for the evil that he has done. He mentions that at one time he considered turning himself in and trying to make amends. He leaves the room, fully expecting Yoshiko to feel sorry for him and follow him up to his room on the second floor. And, sure enough, Yoshiko climbs up the stairs. She tells her father that she did see Nishi. Yoshiko says she will go with her father to see Nishi. Dad says no, but Yoshiko insists she is going.
Dad sees the liquor glass with the medicine in it and gives it to Yoshiko to drink. He makes her drink the whole glass, sits her down on a couch and tells her to stay there while he calls for his car. He goes out of the room and calls for the maid to get the car ready. Yoshiko gets up and starts to leave the room, but dad grabs her and sits her down again demanding all the while to know where Nishi is. She tells him.
Moriyama finally tells the men that the bankbooks are stored in a safe at the Muraki Inn is Tsukuji. Itakura and Nishi plan to go to the inn and then straight to the newspapers. They will give a press conference for the press, , but for now Moriyama gets to eat.
Tatsuo comes home from hunting and has a hard time waking Yoshiko up. When Yoshiko does awaken, one of her first questions is: "Did you shoot Nishi?" No, he did not. He shot some pheasants and shows them to Yoshiko. She is very relieved, but now is gripped with a new fear. Yoshiko asks: "Why would father lie to me?" Tatsuo and Yoshiko get in Tatsuo's car and go out to the hiding place. On the way to the place, they see a bad car wreck.
They arrive at the place and hear someone crying. It is Itakura who cries. He rushes over to the two siblings saying that it was they who told Iwabuchi where to find Nishi. Yoshiko nods yes. Itakura now says that her husband has been murdered. He tells them that Nishi was in the car wreck they passed by. The car was flattened by a collision with a train. Iwabuchi's men injected a syringe of grain alcohol into Nishi. They then put him in the car and drove the car toward an oncoming train. Yoshiko faints.
Itakura now explains that his real name is Nishi, not Itakura. Itakura and Nishi traded names. He adds: "But now I can't ever go back to being myself." He says he is Itakura now for sure and he won't ever be able to testify against the business crooks. He adds that the men killed Wada too. Furthermore, they took Moriyama with them. The real Nishi is absolutely devastated over the successful cover-up of the crime.
Iwabuchi gives an informal press conference and plays the innocent one to the hilt. He praises his deceased son-in-law as a model employee. He pretends to be deeply affected by the death of Nishi. Iwabuchi goes back to his office. There waiting for him are his two grown children. Tatsuo tells his father that when he killed Nishi, he killed Yoshiko too. He goes on to say that they reject him as their father and don't ever want to see his face again. They leave.
Iwabuchi gets a call, probably from the president, and says that everything has been take care of. He adds that he should now resign for the good of Public Corp. The boss just tells him to stay abroad for awhile until things cool off. Iwabuchi says he was just thinking about doing that very same thing.
The movie is very cynical, because the bad business men get away with financial fraud, a cover-up and murder. The good guys are vanquished. There is very little "action" in the movie. The film wins the viewer over by gradually unveiling what has happened and how one good man plans to get revenge on the business crooks, who forced his father to commit suicide to hide his superiors' guilt. The revenge scheme is pretty unique and has a lot of twists and turns. Along the journey toward vengeance, there is a love story between the good guy and the good girl. The cynical mode is Kurosawa's way of criticizing the culture of corruption in Japan, including the unwritten rule that inferiors were never supposed to call out their bosses, even if they are crooks. Even the press is in on some of the cover-up. So where's a good man to turn in such a culture? How can a good man expose corporation corruption? Kurosawa wants Japan to be more open and honest and be willing to punish corporate corruption.
The only thing that bothered me was that Kurosawa made the good man himself almost turn into a bad man. The good man was so filled with rage that it began to corrupt his judgment and he became a bit cruel in his treatment of the accused.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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