Drunken Angel (1948) Film Synopsis

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Drunken Angel (1948)In post WWII Tokyo, a yakuza named Matsunaga stumbles into Doctor Sanada’s office to have a bullet removed from his hand. As the Sandana removes it, he tells Matsunaga that he has tuberculosis, and needs treatment before he dies from it. Matsunaga calls him a quack, and leaves to remain as the Yakuza’s leader.

Eventually, he gets an x-ray as ordered, and reluctantly does his best to follow the doctor’s orders. Even though he acts tough on the outside, the Doctor’s blunt diagnosis scares him, and he tries to quit drinking and smoking. However, when Matsunaga’s former boss, Okada, is released from prison, he starts drinking and smoking again. The hole in his lungs grows, and his symptoms intensify.

Doctor Sanada goes to report Okada to the police after he threatens him and his nurse (Okada’s forced bride before prison), but Matsunaga believes the yakuza code of honor will get him to back off from his threats against the doctor.

Matsunaga soon finds out that the code is bunk, and he’s just as helpless and expendable as everyone else in town. Since he’s now continuously coughing up blood, Okada takes advantage of Matsunaga’s weakened state to steal his girl and toss him out of the yakuza.

A young woman who’s had a crush on Matsunaga for some time tries to get him to return with her to her father’s village. That will allow him to get better away from all these distractions. Instead, Matsunaga gathers any strength he has left, and tries to kill Okada. Unfortunately, he’s too weak at this point from all the effects of tuberculosis. Okada stabs him to death.

The film ends with Doctor Sanada and the young woman talking in front of the town’s ever-dominating swamp. As she prepares to return to her father’s village, the two say their goodbyes. The woman with Matsunaga’s ashes in her hand, and the Doctor holds the hand of a recently cured tuberculosis patient in his to end the film.

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    1. Since I have done a written review for it, I do not think there will be a podcast review of it. However, we are going to do a Criterion review of it. It has an interesting history since this film was made during the U.S. occupation of Japan.

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