Originally titled Yoidore tenshi, Drunken Angel was director Akira Kurosawa's first auteur project. I finally discovered myself, he explained later. It was my picture: I was doing it and no one else. Takashi Shimura plays an alcoholic doctor, running a fleabitten clinic in the slums of Tokyo.
Shimura tries to pull himself together long enough to save the life of young hoodlum Toshiro Mifune. The doctor feels that, by saving Mifune, he is retrieving a portion of his own lost youth and idealism. Kurosawa later observed that he had trouble corraling Tohsiro Mifune's improvisational instincts, but that I did not want to smother that vitality.
The end result in Drunken Angel is a supremely satisfying blend of Mifune's rapid-fire excesses and Kurosawa's even-handed control.