The Bad Sleep Well

The Bad Sleep Well (悪い奴ほどよく眠る, Warui yatsu hodo yoku nemuru) is a 1960 film directed by the Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. It was the first film to be produced under Kurosawa's own independent production company.[1] It was entered into the 11th Berlin International Film Festival.

The Bad Sleep Well
Original Japanese poster
Directed byAkira Kurosawa
Produced byAkira Kurosawa
Tomoyuki Tanaka
Written byHideo Oguni
Eijirō Hisaita
Akira Kurosawa
Ryūzō Kikushima
Shinobu Hashimoto
StarringToshiro Mifune
Music byMasaru Sato
CinematographyYuzuru Aizawa
Edited byAkira Kurosawa
Toho Studios
Kurosawa Production Co.
Distributed byToho
Release date
  • September 19, 1960 (1960-09-19)
Running time
151 minutes

The film stars Toshiro Mifune as a young man who gets a prominent position in a corrupt postwar Japanese company in order to expose the men responsible for his father's death. It has its roots in Shakespeare's Hamlet,[2] while also doubling as a critique of corporate corruption.[3] Along with Stray Dog (1949) and High and Low (1963), it is one of three films in which Kurosawa explores the film noir genre.[1]


A group of news reporters watch and gossip, at an elaborate wedding reception held by the Dairyu Construction Company's Vice President Iwabuchi who married his daughter Yoshiko to his secretary Koichi Nishi. The police interrupt the wedding to arrest corporate assistant officer Wada, who is the reception's master of ceremony, on charges of bribery in a kickback scheme. The reporters comment this incident is similar to an earlier scandal involving Iwabuchi, administrative officer Moriyama, and contract officer Shirai that was hushed up after the suicide of Assistant Chief Furuya, who jumped off the corporate office building, created a dead end in the investigation before any of the company's higher-ups could be implicated. Following the wedding, the police question Wada and accountant Miura about bribery between Dairyu and the government-funded Public Corporation.

Following the inquiry, Miura commits suicide by running in front of a truck when about to be arrested. Wada attempted to take his own life by jumping into an active volcano, he is stopped by Nishi who convinced him to help him and his best friend Itakura in his agenda after taking him to his funeral to reveal what his employers thought of him. Nishi then focuses his efforts on contract officer Shirai by setting him up so that Iwabuchi and Moriyama believe him to be stealing from them while driving him insane with Wada. Nishi then saved Shirai from an assassin Iwabuchi hired before taking him to the office where Furuya died, revealing himself as Furuya's illegitimate son who exchanged identities with Itakura to avenge his father's death. Nishi's interrogation method shatter what little sanity Shirai had left, with Moriyama deducing that someone connected to Furuya is orchestrating these events as he soon learns the truth about Nishi and informs Iwabuchi. Iwabuchi's son Tatsuo overhears and angrily drives Nishi off when he returns to the house.

Retreating to the ruins of a factory he worked at during World War II, Nishi managed to abduct Moriyama and starves him into revealing the location of evidence he can use to expose the corruption and all involved to the press. In the meantime, Wada slipped away and brought back Yoshiko in the hopes that the newlyweds will reconcile. Nishi tells his wife that he has grown to truly love her. Yoshiko accepts the truth about her father's evil deeds and reluctantly agrees to allow Nishi to complete his plans to expose him. But as calls for a press conference to be held the next day and prepares to retrieve the final evidence, Iwabuchi deduces Yoshiko saw Nishi and tricks her by claiming Tatsuo intends to kill Nishi while promising to turn himself in. She offers to go with Iwabuchi, but he drugs his daughter with wine laced with sleeping pills.

Yoshiko comes to by the time Tatsuo returns home from duck hunting, realizing her father tricked her as they rush to Nishi's location. But they are too late, Itakura revealing that Nishi had been killed under the cover of drunk driving accident with Wada, Moriyama, and the evidence all disposed of. All three are devastated by this development, knowing the truth but having nothing to back up their story. Following him canceling Nishi's conference, his children disowning him before leaving him. Iwabuchi receives a call from his superior and apologizes for the recent trouble while assuring them that he handled it. He then requests retirement, but his superior advises him to take a vacation. Iwabuchi proceeds to hang up after apologizing as he lost his sense of time from having not slept at all the previous night.



Contemporary reviews were positive, with a Bosley Crowther piece in The New York Times from January 1963 calling it ”an aggressive and chilling drama of modern-day Japan” which ”gives to an ordinary tale of greedy and murderous contention a certain basic philosophical tone”. It praises Kurosawa for staging ”what amounts to cliches in this type of strongarm fiction in a way that makes them seem fresh and as fully of sardonic humor as though we had never seen their likes before”.[4] Dan Schneider considers it one of Kurosawa’s finest movies.[5]

The most common criticism of the film among professional reviewers refers to the ending. In a 2006 review of the Criterion Collection DVD release, The A.V. Club's Keith Phipps calls it "an assured, muscular Kurosawa film [...] that it's all the more disappointing when a shapeless, anticlimactic, but probably inevitable ending does it in".[6]


  1. Smoliak, Kevan. "Kurosawa in Review: The Bad Sleep Well (1960)". Kurosawa in Review. Retrieved 2018-11-19.
  2. "The Bad Sleep Well". Letterboxd. Retrieved 19 November 2018.
  3. "The Bad Sleep Well". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 2018-11-19.
  4. Crowther, Bosley (21 January 1963). "Screen: Film From Japan:New Teahouse Cinema Is Opened by Toho". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-11-19.
  5. "The Bad Sleep Well: Great Akira Kurosawa Corporate Corruption Drama". Alt Film Guide. Retrieved 2018-11-19.
  6. Phipps, Keith. "The Bad Sleep Well". Film. Retrieved 2018-11-19.
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