Nikkatsu described their brand of action films as “borderless”, which in part meant that, because of the great extent to which they were modeled upon American gangster and noir films, they did not exhibit a distinctly Japanese identity. However, there is, in fact, something very Japanese about Underworld Beauty. And that is how, with that uniquely Japanese eye for detail, it so expertly distills the noir sensibility to its very essence, cutting away any distracting nuances and reducing it to only the most potent elements of its visual iconography. In this sense – though perhaps out of different motivations – it bears some similarities to a far more well known film from the same year, Orson Welles’ Touch Of Evil. In taking the visual aspects of the noir style to their very limits, both Underworld Beauty and Touch of Evil make obvious fetishes of the deep chiaroscuro compositions, expressionistic plays of shadow, and off-balance camera angles that most previous noir filmmakers had simply used as individual elements of a more varied palette.
And the shrimp chips have been fryin’ up as well: