The Bad Sleep Well (Japanese, 1960)


The Bad Sleep Well (Japanese, 1960)

Loosely based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, this movie revolves around vengeance and corruption tset in modern-day Japan.

Devoid of swords, Japanese Samurai film legend, Toshiro Mifune, who wears thick eyeglasses, is hardly recognizeable in his role as Nishi. Nonetheless, his acting is top-caliber as always.

While The Bad Sleep Well is not as profound as other Kurosawa movies, this gripping movie hooks you from the very beginning. Don’t expect though...the usual Kurosawa classic style here, such as the Seven Samurai. ‘The Bad Sleep Well’ is a refreshing break from heroism and Samurai themes Kurosawa is known for, yet still has that boldness that fans both of Shakespeare and Kurosawa will appreciate.

Interestingly, it takes about thirty minutes of the movie’s opening before Nishi appears as the main character and master puppeteer—which only proves how confident Kurosawa is in his storyline and directing. And despite having been filmed 51 years ago, The Bad Sleep Well is more relevant today than ever. With extensive corporate corruption so commonplace today, this movie feels way ahead of its time...or perhaps corruption always exists no matter what decade you’re in. You simply have to watch it and see for yourself.


Furuya, a company executive commits suicide by jumping off the 7th floor of corporate headquarters. Five years later, his illegitimate son who is also now the president’s secretary, Koichi Nishi, desperately seeks revenge, and conspires with an old friend to marry Yoshiko, the handicapped daughter of Iwabuchi, the corrupt president who murdered his father.

At the wedding reception, Nishi is rudely interrupted when corporate officer Wada is arrested by the police for fraud.  After the wedding, the policemen interrogate Wada and accountant Miura about bribery. Miura later commits suicide as an outcome of the police inquiry. Wada tries to kill himself, too, but Nishi stops him and confesses that he is Furuya’s illegitimate son. Eager to avenge his father’s death, Nishi uses Wada to coerce Shirai to reveal the truth about Furuya’s murder. Nishi then kidnaps Moriyama and discovers the hiding place of stolen money and other hard evidence that can bring down the company.

While Nishi is determined to destroy Iwabuchi, he becomes hesitant, as he has already grown to love Yoshiko. However, Iwabuchi finds out his real identity and motives, and orchestrates for Wada and Nishi to be killed in a car crash.

‘The Bad Sleep Well’ is full of clever twists, smart writing, dialogue, a never ending thickening plot, that will fully satisfy any Akira Kurosawa...or cinefile fan.