in about 100 words or less
Japan 143m, B&W
Director: Akira Kurosawa; Cast: Toshirō Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai, Kyōko Kagawa, Isao Kimura, Kenjiro Ishiyama, Takeshi Katō, Takashi Shimura, Tsutomu Yamazaki
Both the Japanese name for this film – “Heaven and Hell” and the English title “High and Low” are fitting descriptions of the story and its setting. Living in a mansion atop a hill overlooking the poor townsfolk below is a rich businessman who is faced with the decision to put his family into financial ruin by paying a ransom to save the life of the kidnapped son of his chauffeur who was mistaken for his own son. Much of the first half of the film follows the tense negotiations with the unseen unknown kidnapper, while the second half follows the intricate detective film noir styled investigation which tracks down the kidnapper and establishes his motives. High and Low is a first-rate thriller full of drama and suspense similar to and at least on par with some of Hitchcock better films (Klaus Ming January 2011).