Two gangsters are shot in a prison van and it's only the beginning of a relentless series of well conceived, slightly surreal, fast paced action in Seijun Suzuki's 1960 yakuza noir Take Aim at the Police Van (１３号待避線より その護送車を狙え). Less experimental than Suzuki's later, better known films, this one still bears plenty of his characteristic ingenuity. Its sense of motion conveyed by meticulous blocking and creative compositions are really exhilarating along with the movie's free range plot.
The protagonist is a pretty non-descript prison officer named Tamon (Michitaro Mizushima). He takes it on himself to investigate the killings, a process that brings him to sleazy underworld streets and bars until he witnesses the murder of a stripper by an arrow, shot through the paper wall from an unknown assailant outside.
This brings him to an escort agency temporarily being run by the surprisingly straight laced Yuko Hamajima (Misako Watanabe), who's running the business for her father. She's into archery, as Tamon witnesses shortly after meeting her, but could she possibly be the killer? She also likes the toy guns Tamon keeps in his apartment for some reason.
The set ups Suzuki puts together for shots probably strain credibility a bit--the idea that Tamon just happens to stumble across so much murder and mayhem is a bit hard to believe. But I never questioned it while I was watching because Suzuki puts this stuff together like a ballet. Whether it's a man Tamon just happens to see get thrown off a cliff when he drives by or an expertly chaotic gaggle of teenagers who pile into a car before one leans out the window to tease him.
The plot's a little confusing and I'm still not exactly sure how Tamon and Yuko ended up in a fuel truck about to explode at the climax--one of the thugs who brought them there does helpfully acknowledge that he could have just shot them but then he wouldn't have had a chance to see this. And, you know, he's right.
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A buried bottle prods a head of curls.
Beneath the sand some fingers fall to crab.
The choicest clouds reflect the canvas furls.
A pint of ale awoke the Queenly Mab.
A scoffing parrot plucked a plastic quill.
Arrayed along the topsail yard they watch.
To life frayed halyard hairs invoke a will.
Where once was coin there's now only a notch.
Abnormal flags appear on ev'ry mast.
A message drifts from merchantman to war.
The ivory die is splintered 'fore it's cast.
Inside the crate her wooden feathers bore.
Entangling weed evicts the gunner's foot.
Ashore next day there washed a handy soot.