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Film / Pitfall 1962

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Pitfall is a 1962 film from Japan directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara.

An unnamed man labors in the Japanese mining industry as a quasi-slave. He escapes the mine in Kyushu where he's employed, along with his pre-teen son. He manages to avoid arrest as a "deserter" and eventually finds work in a different mine. One day the supervisor there tells him that he's being sent to a different mine, and gives him a map. All the while, the laborer is being stalked by a mysterious man in a crisp white suit.

The man follows his directions and, his son with him, finds the Hirakawa Mine where he's been assigned. He discovers to his surprise that it's been closed down, and in fact the entire mining town has been abandoned except for one woman who runs a shabby candy shop. The woman tells him that the mine was closed when it was deemed in danger of collapse, and points him towards the new mine a short distance away. The miner sets off, but finally notices the creepy man in the white suit who has been stalking him. He starts to run, only for the man in the white suit to catch him, and stab him to death.

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The man's ghost rises from his body, and finds that the abandoned mining town is full of ghosts. As he watches, helpless, an intricate plot unfolds that connects his murder to a labor dispute between two rival unions at the nearby mine.


Tropes:

  • Author Tract: This film was made by Hiroshi Teshigahara as an indictment of the Japanese mining industry, which really was quite brutal in that era.
  • Barefoot Poverty: Taken to the extreme as the miner, now a ghost after he was stabbed to death and startled to see the camp full of people, asks for help from a naked child.
  • Chalk Outline: Somehow, the police manage to do this with a body lying in mud.
  • Crapsack World: A grim portrait of poverty and despair and mine workers who are essentially slaves, paid, but unable to leave wherever they're employed. Miners die horrible deaths, their children starve, murders and rapes go unpunished, and things are generally terrible.
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  • Downer Ending: The evil plot succeeds, as the two union leaders wind up killing each other. The miner's murder goes unpunished. The man in the white suit gets on his motorcycle and zooms away.
  • Ghost Town: The miner calls the abandoned camp a "ghost town". He's more right than he knows as it turns out the camp is actually filled with the ghosts of people who have died there and in the nearby mine.
  • Identical Stranger: It turns out that the murdered miner is a dead ringer for Otsuka, the chief of the #2 union at the mine. It's all a plot to turn Otsuka and the chief of the #1 union, Toyama, against each other, and to eventually crush both unions.
  • Indentured Servitude: Technically the miners probably can't be called slaves because they are being paid poverty-level wages. But they are basically indentured servants as they are not allowed to leave wherever they are laboring, and are subject to arrest as "deserters" if they do.
  • In Medias Res: Opens with the man and his son escaping a mining camp.
  • Karma Houdini: All the bad guys, from the policeman who rapes the woman in the candy shop, to the murderous man in the white suit, to the unseen mine bosses who have engineered the whole plot to destroy the unions.
  • Killed Offscreen: The candy shop woman. The man in the white suit makes his return, apologizing for bother her. The movie cuts away to a different scene, then cuts back to show the candy shop woman trying to pick up a letter she received in the mail. "Trying" because she realizes she can't do it—she is now a ghost. She suddenly looks up and sees her own corpse on the floor, complete with an ugly wound around the neck from where the man in white strangled her to death.
  • Man in White: The ominous fellow in the white suit who stalks the unfortunate miner. His crisp, neat suit stands in dramatic contrast to the filth and dirt and sweaty, desperate people that surround him. He gets away with murder.
  • Match Cut: From the man in the white suit swatting away tall grass with his knife as he stalks the miner, to the woman in the candy shop swatting flies.
  • Mutual Kill: The fight between Otsuka and Toyama goes like this: Toyama stabs Otsuka in the gut. Otsuka then drowns Toyama in the river that they were splashing around in. Having accomplished that, Otsuka staggers out of the river, only to fall down and die from the stab wound to the gut.
  • No Name Given: The only named characters are Otsuka, boss of Union #2 and Identical Stranger to the murdered miner, and Toyama, boss of Union #1. No names are given for any of the other characters.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: The ghosts at the mine are doomed to live the afterlife just as they were when they died. The miner is told this by a ghost whose head is tilted sharply to one side—apparently he broke his neck in a mining accident. The miner isn't too happy to hear this, as he died hungry and is now stuck being hungry through eternity.
  • Rewind Gag: It isn't a gag (the film is grimly serious from beginning to end), but the man's ghost leaving his body is shown as a reversed shot in which his crumpled corpse arises from the ground.
  • Stock Footage: Early in the film we see stock footage of mangled, dead miners, and starving children walking around with distended bellies.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: The man in white, having gotten the candy shop owner to give a false story to the cops, strangles her to death.
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