Synopsis by Brian Whitener
Before government censorship was instituted full force in 1928, the proletarian novel was the ascendant form in Japanese prose. Takiji Kobayashi was the leading writer in this genre, which attempted to expose the oppression of the lower classes, until he was murdered in prison by the government in 1933. So Yamamura's The Crab-Canning Ship is based on one of Kobayashi's better-known novels. A group of sailors is forced to work under unbearable conditions on a Japanese fishing vessel. Worse off than animals, they are roughly abused by the captain and cheated out of their wages by their company's manipulative economic practices. Fed up, the sailors mutiny, but once in control of the ship, they have no idea what to do. This problem is solved for them as the Japanese navy shows up, and in an extended violent sequence, quashes their uprising. This version, filmed in the postwar period, serves as both an indictment of the prewar military government's power and of the postwar government's return to similar practices of artistic censorship.