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

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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

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