Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa transferred the setting of Maxim Gorky's play The Lower Depths from Imperial Russia to his own country's Edo Period--which, like Gorky's 19th-century setting, was an era of great cultural advances, offset by the miseries of those who weren't in the aristocracy. Kurosawa's film concentrates on Toshiro Mifune, playing a crooked gambler who falls in love with the sister (Kyoko Kagawa) of his cruel landlady (Isuzu Yamada). Herself carrying a torch for Mifune, the landlady exacts a roundabout revenge by killing her own husband and pinning the blame on the gambler. As the landlady descends into madness, those whom she has treated wretchedly laugh at her plight. Originally titled Donzoko, The Lower Depths was renamed Les Bas-Fonds for its French release--the same title bestowed upon Jean Renoir's 1937 adaptation of the Gorky play.
by Hal Erickson synopsis