Ju jin yuki otoko

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(5/10) Known internationally as Half Human, this abominable snowman film is most famous for its unavailability. After complaints about how primitive villagers were portrayed in the film, Japanese studio Toho pulled it from circulation right after its release in 1955, and has sat on it since. A grainy print of Godzilla director Ishiro Honda’s movie is available internationally. The lead actors of Gojira are still stiff as ever, but Akemi Negishi is stunning as a mountain girl, the snowman is beautifully realised, and the cinematography impressive for a B movie.

Momoko Kochi as the female lead in Ju jun yuki otoko, having just been kidnapped bu the snowman.

Momoko Kochi as the female lead in Ju jun yuki otoko, having just been kidnapped bu the snowman.

Ju jin yuki otoko (1955, Japan). Directed by Ishiro Honda. Written by Shigeru Kayama and Takeo Murata. Starring: Akira Takarada, Momoko Kochi, Akemi Negishi, Nobuo Nakamura, Kokuten Kodo, Yoshio Kosugi, Fuminori Ohashi, Shoichi Hirose, Haruo Nakajima. Produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka for Toho Company.
IMDb rating: 6.2/10. Tomatometer: N/A. Metascore: N/A.

Poster.

Poster.

From 1954 to 1958 there was yeti fever in the movie industry, ignited by the tales of abominable snowmen brought to the western media by mountaineers Eric Shipton in 1951 and Edmund Hillary in 1953. Shipton provided the press with photographs of giant humanoid footprints in the snow, and Hillary also told tales of huge footprints. The craze was further aided by sherpa Tenzing Norgay’s accounts of the old Nepalese folk-tales of the giant bear-man of the Himalayas, and his assurance that people he knew had seen the yeti with their own eyes. Continue reading

Godzilla Raids Again

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(5/10) After the success of Gojira, Toho rushed its next Godzilla film into production, led by quickie director Motoyoshi Oda. Godzilla and Anguirus/Angilas battle it out in Osaka and Hokkaido, while special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya conjures up his own Japanese air force to take the monsters out. Not as thought-provoking or grim as the original film, nor as campy as the later kaiju movies, this money-grabber is still a well-made, though not very well written, transitional film.

Godzilla and Anguirus battling it out in Godzilla Raids Again.

Godzilla and Anguirus battling it out in Godzilla Raids Again.

Godzilla Raids Again (1955, Japan). Directed by Motoyoshi Oda. Written by Takeo Murata, Shigeaki Hidaka, Shigeru Kayama. Starring: Hiroshi Koizumi, Setsuko Wakayama, Minoru Chiaki, Mayuri Mokusho, Masao Shimizu, Yukio Kasama, Takashi Shimura, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Haruo Nakajima, Katsumi Tezuka. Produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka for Toho Company.
IMDb rating: 6.0/10. Tomatometer: N/A. Metacritic: N/A. 

Poster.

Poster.

In 1954 Toho studio released Gojira (review), a film that went over budget and that the studio hoped would make back production costs. Nobody at the studio could anticipate the enormous success of this stark, frightening allegory of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, represented by a giant, radioactive dinosaur. Despite mostly bad reviews from the press and accusations that the filmmakers were profiting on a national trauma, the audience turned up in droves. The film’s box office earnings almost tripled its cost, making it the eighth most viewed film in Japan in 1954. It was supposed to be a one-off, as Godzilla died in the end, but as soon as producer Tomoyuki Tanaka saw the lines to the ticket vendors, he decided there had to be a sequel – and fast. Almost as soon as the opening night of Gojira was over, Toho went into high gear to produce Godzilla Raids Again (ゴジラの逆襲, Gojira no gyakushû, literally: Counterattack of Gojira, released in the US as Gigantis: The Fire Monster). Continue reading

Tômei ningen

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(4/10) Tômei ningen or The Invisible Man, released just prior to New Year’s Eve 1954, was Toho’s second science fiction film and Japan’s second invisible man film. Filmed in a rush to capitalise on Gojira’s success, the movie has its moments, and Eiji Tsuburaya’s special effects are fairly solid. A complete departure from H.G. Wells, Tomei ningen serves up touching some touching drama and a generic film noir mob plot, and mixes in some song and dance numbers. This was a time when clowns were still good people.

Tômei ningen (1954, Japan). Directed by Motoyoshi Oda Written by Shigeaki Hidaka and Kei Beppu. Starring: Seizaburô Kawazu, Miki Sanjô, Minoru Takada, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Kenjirô Uemura, Keiko Kondo, Haruo Nakajima. Produced by Takeo Kita for Toho Company.
IMDb rating: 5.3/10. Tomatometer: N/A. Metascore: N/A.

The invisible man helps Noriko Shigeyama, a damsel in distress.

The invisible man helps Noriko Shigeyama, a damsel in distress.

With some few exceptions, science fiction movies were an all-American affair in the early fifties. However, in 1954 something came along and changed that, and that something was Gojira (review), that with a single stroke made Japan a contender in the genre. However, the big rubber monster didn’t represent the first sci-fi film in Japan. That honour goes to Tômei ningen arawaru (1949, review), or The Invisible Man Appears. Made for movie studio Daiei, the invisibility effects of that film were made by Eiji Tsuburaya, who five years later had moved to Toho, and helped bring Godzilla to life. In 1954 Toho apparently wanted to do their own version of that film, simply titled Tômei ningen (透明人間), or The Invisible Man, and who else would create the special effects than the father of tokusatsu, Tsuburaya?
Continue reading

Gojira

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(7/10) Inspired by King Kong and The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Gojira gave birth to the massive Japanese kaiju movie industry, and more or less single-handedly brought science fiction into the country’s mainstream. Eiji Tsuburaya pushed Japan’s severely under-developed special effects industry forward by a mile, but the quality was still a far cry from Hollywood at its best. Despite its clumsy rubber monster and the under-developed characters, Gojira is a tremendously gripping and stark allegory for Japan’s experiences during WWII, and director Ishirô Honda elevates Gojira above its B movie roots with his beautifully grim visuals and his relentlessly intimate focus on the casualties of war.

Gojira/Godzilla (1954, Japan). Directed by Ishirô Honda. Written by Ishirô Honda, Takeo Murata & Shigeru Kayama. Starring: Akira Takarada, Momoko Kôchi, Akihiko Hirata, Takashi Shimura, Kokuten Kôdô, Haruo Nakajima. Produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka for Toho Film.
IMDb rating: 7.5/10. Tomatometer: 93% Fresh. Metascore: 78/100.

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Gojira destroying Tokyo.

In 1954 a horror was unleashed upon the world that resonates to this very day. Few movie monsters have the distinct honour of impacting our culture so that it actually changes our language, and becomes a concept in and of itself, even for people who have never seen the films they appear in. We talk about ”the King Kong of” some product, Frankenfood, the Governator and of course Bridezilla. The list could perhaps be made slightly longer, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find many more monsters, or indeed film concepts, that resonate so strongly throughout the entire world. Godzilla is one of those rare creatures that everybody in the world can conjure up an image of, regardless of age or geography. And like most great movie concepts, the reason for Godzilla’s timeless appeal is a number of happy (or unhappy) coincidences. Continue reading

Tômei ningen arawaru

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(5/10) Tômei ningen arawaru or The Invisible Man Appears has the distinction of being Japan’s earliest preserved science fiction film. More inspired by Universal’s Invisible Man films than H.G. Wells’ novel, the film concerns a mysterious invisible man out to steal a diamond necklace. This crime mystery drama meets tokusatsu film boasts the special effects of the great Eiji Tsuburaya and a superb performance from one of Japan’s biggest cinema legends, Takiko Mizunoe; a singer, dancer actress, gender bender and union activist who would go on to become Japan’s first female movie producer at a major studio.

Tômei ningen arawaru (1949, Japan). Directed by Nobuo Adachi. Written by Akimitsu Takagi & Nobuo Adachi. Starring: Chizuguru Kitagawa, Takiko Mizunoe, Daijirô Natsukawa, Mitsusaburô Ramon, Ryûnosuke Tsukigata, Shôsaku Sugiyama, Kanji Koshiba. Produced by Hisahi Okuda for Daiei. IMDb rating: 6.2/10. Rotten Tomatoes N/A. Metacritic: N/A.

The invisible man appears!

The invisible man appears!

Here’s one that got away! I finally managed to find an online copy of the Japanese film Tômei ningen arawaru (透明人間現わる or The Invisible Man Appears), made in 1949. And lo and behold! It even had English subtitles – unusually good subtitles, in fact. Now, I won’t be able to give you as detailed information on this film as I normally do, since there is not a lot of information about it online in English. What I know about it I’ve picked up from Japanese sources. I don’t read Japanese, and Google translates the language into almost unintelligible English. Please let me know in the comments below if I’ve misunderstood something or if you have any additional information on the film! Continue reading