Director: Seijun Suzuki
Starring: Hideaki Nitani, Yoko Minamida, Jo Shishido, Nobuo Kaneko
While working as a switchboard operator, Asako Takahashi (Yoko Minamida) connects a phone call and hears the voice of a criminal at the residence where a murder would later be discovered. With strong audial acuity she is confident that she could recall the murderer should she hear the voice again, however the police cannot produce any suspects that she can identify. Three years later and now married, Asako and her husband (Nobuo Kaneko) welcome a few of his work associates for an evening of mahjong. One of her husband’s associates, Hamazaki (Jo Shishido) puts her off with his creepy demeanor and meandering eyes, but she bears it for her husband until, while on a phone call, she realizes that his is the same voice she heard three years ago! When Hamazaki turns up dead and her husband is arrested as the main suspect with some damning evidence, it falls to dogged reporter and former colleague Ishikawa (Hideaki Nitani) to run down every lead to exonerate Asako’s husband before he falls to intense police interrogation.
Nitani is absolutely terrific as the reporter Ishikawa, through whom we are able to distill the evidence and craft our own scenarios and sequences of the event of the murder. He makes a terrific detective, perhaps even more so than a reporter, even if his motivation isn’t simply a scoop of a major story. Jo Shishido is appropriately creepy as the darkly devious Hamazaki; his exertion of control and fear he exudes towards Asako could have easily turned this film into a different kind of thriller, but he delivers a performance that remains memorable despite his generally early departure from the picture. Kaneko as Asako’s husband is perhaps the film’s weakest link despite giving one of the best performances in the prolific actor’s career. He is subservient to Hamazaki throughout most of the film and when he is arrested, his lack of strength and fortitude can be frustrating to the audience; especially when you consider the absolutely excellent performance by Minamida as the soft-spoken but quietly strong and loyal Asako. The stunningly beautiful Minamida is utterly captivating as the put-upon Asako; she delivers a whole range of natural and realistic reactions to a variety of scenarios, but most of all she makes Asako sympathetic and steals the show from even the great performance by Nitani. She utterly makes the film and endears you naturally to the character.
Master director Seijun Suzuki delivers one of his most accessible and perhaps one of his most purely gripping and entertaining films with the terrifically engaging Voice Without a Shadow. Utilizing a tightly written script, adapted from the successful novel by Seicho Matsumoto, Suzuki makes terrific use lighting, visual cues, and an extremely talented group of actors to craft this low concept but incredibly thrilling murder mystery/noir that stands among the best I’ve ever seen. The first film from Arrow Video’s Nikkatsu Diamond Guys Volume 1 Set; if the remaining two films are anywhere near as great as Voice…, I’ll be one happy film lover!
Special Thanks to Arrow Video for providing a review copy!