VOICE WITHOUT A SHADOW (1958)
aka Kagenaki Koe
Part of Nikkatsu Diamond Guys Vol 1 from Arrow Video
Directed by Seijun Suzuki
Japanese Language with English Subtitles
Newspaper office phone operator Asako accidentally hears the voice of a man responsible for the murder of the owners of a local pawn shop. Using her incredible hearing, she helps the police with their investigation in order to catch the culprit but is unable to find him. Three years later, she hears that voice one more but before she can inform the police, he’s murdered. With all the evidence of his death pointing towards her husband, Asako must join forces with journalist Ishikawa to clear her husband’s name and to find the real murderer who may also have collaborated with the deceased during the pawn shop killings.
One of the three movies included on Arrow Video’s Nikkatsu Diamond Guys Vol. 1 release, black and white VOICE WITHOUT A SHADOW is a tense whodunnit thriller putting Hideaki Nitani’s journalist Ishikawa (or Kawa for short) at the forefront of the investigation. As per usual, the police only want hard evidence and after three years since the pawn shop homicide, it’s no wonder that Asako (Yôko Minamida) doubts the police will believe her when she hears that chilling laugh once again which means she appreciates all the help she can get from Kawa.
The pivotal scenes which re-ignite the investigation into the pawn shop killings, at least on Kawa’s part, are a month long game of mahjong at Asako’s place. Sounds weird, right? After inviting three guests, whom he works for and has business with, into his home, Asako’s husband plays mahjong until the early hours of the morning on consecutive nights with many of the players losing substantial amounts of money during the game. The shuffling of the tiles keeps Asako awake at night but that’s the least of her worries when she discovers that the man on the other end of the phone all those years ago is actually in the next room. She doesn’t have to worry for long when her husband pays him a visit to sort him out and sever ties but when the sinister killer’s body appears in a field, that’s when the finger is firmly pointed at her husband.
The subsequent scenes follow both Asako and Kawa as they try to piece together what has happened. Asako is adament that her husband is innocent despite confessing and Kawa too believes that someone else is to blame and has stitched Asako’s husband up. With alibis given for those they suspect, Kawa’s persistent digging is the only thing that will get Asako through and bring the criminals to justice.
VOICE WITHOUT A SHADOW does well to keep the suspense flowing and the “is it him?” question firmly in the forefront of our minds. There’s a slight staleness to the movie about midway through the film but it eventually picks up to keep the momentum flowing. The early scenes, however, are tremendous and have the viewer truly concerned for Asako’s life as she discovers the identity of the pawn shop murderer, leaving a tense situation as we watch through gritted teeth, dreading the man himself finding out that he’s been rumbled. The imagery used in the opening third is quite simple but memorable, and enough to strike fear into the hearts of both Asako and the viewer. This is no game and people’s lives could be at risk from what Asako knows.
The Arrow Video release is quite crisp though does have lines every so often which can only be due to the age of the movie’s original transfer – nothing to worry about. The sound is excellent and comes with English subtitles. The disc itself features two other movies, Red Pier and The Rambling Guitarist, and also has trailers for these along with a couple of discussions on the work of Hideaki Nitani and Yujiro Ishihara. As with most of Arrow Video releases, Nikkatsu Diamond Guys has a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys and also contrains a booklet featuring new essays on all three films and director profiles by Stuart Galbraith, Tom Mes and Mark Schilling.
Like most detective or police thrillers, VOICE WITHOUT A SHADOW plays to its strengths with engaing characters and gives as good as most modern thrillers despite its lack of action.