The unsatisfactory script of this disappointing film is credited to Motosada Nishiki, who also worked on Naruse’s subsequent and somewhat more interesting 1950 work, WHITE BEAST and THE BATTLE OF ROSES. (The film is based on a 1949 novel by the prolific Fumio Niwa, who also provided source material for THE BATTLE OF ROSES; Naruse takes a story credit.) While other college students struggle through school selling newspapers and lottery tickets, two cynical young men, Sudo (Yasumi Hara) and Mori (Jukichi Uno), have a profitable racket fleecing naive, rich women whom they meet in dance halls. Naruse is casually effective in his low-key depiction of the unsavory postwar world in which the students operate, and even allows himself a splash of expressionism via Isao Kimura’s ominous supporting performance as a sadistic gangster. And he rises to the film’s two action scenes with sharp, elliptical editing that makes one wonder how he might have fared as a genre director. But the writing throughout is on message and exaggerated, with the youngsters flaunting their depravities like comic-book villains; when one of the two acquires a conscience and switches with slight motivation from the Evil to the Good team, the contrasting characterizations are as schematic as a “Goofus and Gallant” strip. Naruse seems to be working in harmony with the simple concept, using the characters’ one-dimensionality to illustrate a cautionary tale about the effects of the war on Japan’s youth. (The ne’er-do-wells cite as their hero a real-life student usurer.)
The camera work is attractive but restrained, in keeping with the opening credits’ evocation of neorealist pseudo-documentary. Uno, who would play the fan-maker husband in THE LIFE OF OHARU a few years later, brings an easygoing charisma to his unpromising role; Yuriko Hamada is memorable as Tagami, the entrepreneurial woman who turns the tables on Sudo.