How fitting that Criterion should release Akira Kurosawa’s examination of corruption in the Japanese business world at a time when American corporations have inspired films about their own scandals. (Here’s a double bill: this film and “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room.”) “The Bad Sleep Well” brings the number of Kurosawa films in Criterion’s catalog to 14, about half the helmer’s oeuvre. But unlike the lavish double-disc spreads accorded “Ikiru” and most recently “Ran,” this title gets just a single DVD, albeit with a pristine transfer.
Kurosawa supposedly said he made “The Bad Sleep Well” too soon — it was released wide in America in 1962. As much film noir as preachy social commentary, the pic follows the sub rosa machinations of Koichi Nishi (Toshiro Mifune) as he infiltrates the corridors of power within the Public Corp., a municipal-works behemoth graft-ridden from the top down.
For extras, cinephiles must content themselves with a 33-minute Japanese docu on the making of the film, packed with info but clunky, perhaps because it’s excerpted from a larger study of the filmmaker. The new high-definition digital transfer of the movie comes via a print struck from the original negative, with the pic so cleanly rendered the cheapness of its sets is sometimes revealed. The soundtrack has also been restored, to the advantage of Masaru Sato’s atmospheric and menacing score.