Friday, 15 March 2013
DVD REVIEW: WHEN HORROR CAME TO SHOCHIKU
This is a box set of a well-known and respectable Japanese studio's brief excursion into horror during 1967-68. I bought it primarily because I wanted to see one particular film and it's the one with the best title. Yes, what else could it be but Goke, Bodysnatcher From Hell. (I mistyped that a moment ago, omitting the 'd'. Now that would have been a very different film.)
My memory may play me false here, but I believe it came out over here on a double bill with the equally wonderfully titled Matango, Fungus Of Terror. I caught up with that one a couple of years back (also part of a box set) and it was worth the wait. Anyway, I remember seeing the posters at the time and they greatly impressed me though, for reasons I can't remember (possibly too squeamish back then), I never saw them. So when I came across Goke even on this not very cheap set I just had to have it.
I was also determined to save it till last and I started with The Living Skeleton which is the only one in black and white and the only one without an American actress in a major role. It's also pretty good despite the unrealistic skeletons. Years after a robbery/massacre on a boat, a young woman is seemingly possessed by the spirit of her dead twin sister (raped and killed) and sets out to kill the murderers (we see several flashbacks to the event). I won't go into any more detail about the plot. There's a very eerie tone pervading the film and some brief unexpected outbreaks of explicit, including sexual, violence. It's a strange little film but very effective.
The X From Outer Space is a pile of silly crap, a dumb version of The Mysterians. The first spaceship to Mars is interfered with by a glowing flying saucer (why, we never find out) and is forced to return with spacebits stuck to it and that's pretty much the first half of the film. One of the bits escapes the laboratory and becomes a dozy-looking giant monster, and that's the second half. At least one of the crew is a woman called Lisa and a scientist at that so for 1967 that's quite progressive. One the other hand she's a pretty blonde American who's in love with the handsome Japanese captain and she has a rival.
Genocide is deadly serious as you might gather from the title and in general isn't too bad. You might, however, wonder why the US Airforce would put a crew member suffering from VietNam flashbacks on a plane carrying an H-bomb, unless they actually wanted the plane and bomb to crash on a small isolate Japanese island where there are lots of insects and an amoral pretty blonde Holocaust survivor (Kathy Horan, also in Goke) who has sex with a married man and is creating a breed of killer bugs. It's actually quite grim -that's a recommendation, by the way- and effective.
And, finally, Goke, Bodysnatcher From Hell.
The writer of the excellent sleeve notes (mini-essays really) goes overboard in his appreciation of it using words and phrases like "chaotic emotions, nightmare commotions", "unfettered, unpredictable" and names-drops Quentin Tarantino,Lucio Fulci, and George Romero. He's not exactly wrong but it probably was a lot more startling back in 1968 than it is now. It is, I have to say, pretty lurid and apparently has a nickname 'Vagina-face Apocalypse'.
A plane is brought down by suicidal crows, not helped by a bomb threat and a killer for hire on board who tries to hijack the aircraft. They crash into the middle of nowhere where the killer is possessed by talking slime from a flying saucer and proceeds to attempt to vampirise the rest of the survivors. The talking slime openly admits it's here to kill mankind and the crash survivors are first on the list.
While I did have fun, sadly it's no Matango. And, despite the first poster below, there are no fangs to be seen