Sunday 5 August 2018

Japanese roundup -31 Tidal Wave, The Seven Golden Men Strike Again, the Last War, Golden Arrow

Timeslip (1980) - I'm not really a samurai movie guy, but this is awesome. Sonny Chiba and a platoon of 1970s Japanese National Guard get sent back in time. And everyone dies. A bit overlong at over two hours. But it makes sense. It looks gorgeous. It also shows the negative consequences of 20th century weapons in this world. And has a nice Japanese pop soundtrack.

onibaba (1964 - B/W) - Atmospheric but not quite exciting. Almost neo-realist.

Frankenstein Conquers The World (1965) - It never quite reaches its possibilities. The faux-German WW2 touches are nice, but both Frankenstein and Baragon are forgettable. The idea of Frankenstein's monster as a toothy caveboy is endearing at first, but it doesn't say anything Frankenstein, bar the Karloffian haircut. Only the first ten minutes which recreate Hiroshima Toho-style are worth it.

Legend Of Dinosaurs and Monster Birds (1977) - Japanese country music concert is attacked by a plesiosaur and a pterodactyl. Incidental music is disco. Some good effects, but the close-up puppets are shocking. From Toei. It descends into a mess.

Goke - Bodysnatcher from Hell (1968) - Interesting effects in this Japanese disaster sci-fi thriller which goes from being quite staid and Twilight Zone-y to psychedelia, never quite settling in. The ending with the Mysterons-type aliens freezing time, turning everyone into rotten corpses and letting off a nuke is excellent.

Wolfguy (1975) - A typical Sonna Chiba actioner changes via hallucinations of a tiger, and he turns into a werewolf.  Some action, but rather nasty.

Nippon Chinbotsu (1973) - Toho disaster epic, released in the US by New World, with added bits of Lorne Greene, as Tidal Wave, this overlong at 2 hours 20 minutes but extraordinary visual tale is one of those Japanese ultra-disaster movies that although overtly long, once getting to the spectacle, does it beautifully. Tetsuro Tanba,  a regular in Japanese-made SF plays the PM. It's incredibly overlong, no wonder Corman cut the film to bits, but the non-dialogue scenes are photographed beauifully, a tragic beauty common in Japanese disaster films (clearly an effect of Hiroshima) that very few US films have (The Hindenburg comes to mind). Pity that so much of the film is exposition. Scenes of evacuation against eruptions. One thing the miniatures do is put little bits of movement amongst the models so you think you see people rushing through.

Adventures of Electric Rod Boy (1986) - Obnoxious semi-amateur nonsense from the bloke behind Tetsuo.

964 Pinocchio (1991) Video original shot-on-video cyberpunk nonsense.

August in the Water (1995) - Soppy teen romance with fantasy elements. Eisei "Doctor Who" Amamoto appears.

War in Space (1977) - Japanese attempt to cross-breed Star Wars and Atragon. Featuring elements of conspiracy thriller, it's colourful fun, and unusually portrays a mostly working class space crew. The alien designs are interesting from a sort of blue centurion (who resembles a Kree from Marvel Comics) to a horned Chewbacca-type. People give out about it, but it feels different, and it moves. Yes, it's formulaic and unoriginal and goes in circles, but it's got a Republic serial vibe. Most tokusatsu/hero stuff I feel are like Charles Band films, too adult for kids, too silly for adults. Not as pleasingly weird as Message From Space.

Ghost of the Hunchback (1965) - Toei horror, with Anglicised names in the credits, despite being Japanese.  Slow, atmospheric but not engrossing. Titular creature looks like Liza Minnelli.

Message From Space (1978) - Possibly one of the best Star Wars imitations, with Battle Beyond the Stars. It's so odd, set in a sort of alternate 20th century  where space battles and space pirates are common. Vic Morrow plays an alcoholic robosexual General. Sonny Chiba has a late-on role little more than a cameo, as Prince Hans, while Hiroyuki Sanada is the main Japanese hero for the main run. The dubbing is a little over-egged, especially as several of the actors are Americans who are clearly speaking with their own voices. It goes between tokusatsu silliness and something more grandiose and epic. But it looks expensive as hell, and it was. And even though it is a mess, it's full of little original bits, from a robot funeral to the design. As for Star Wars cash-ins, I say this is the best-looking. Battle Beyond is a better film as a whole, but this is the one with the best design. The opening scenes have an energy though. Swimming with space fireflies. Druids. A lizard-man design that looks very like the Lazuli in Battle Beyond the Stars.  It's the more Star Wars-y bits that feel a bit off, even though the model work and dog-fights are very un-Lucas. Kinji Fukasaku also adds some very fluid cinematography.  The opening theme is basically Leia's theme, but the rest of the soundtrack, stirring Japanese war anthems is not so Williamsesque. This is the TV series. Though the film was a flop, Sanada starred in a loosely adapted TV series, with Morrow replaced by a talking, cigarette holder smoking ape in a  cape.  And a blonde, sexy space princess as a baddie.  But it lost something. It felt silly. In other words, it lacked Kinji Fukasaku. And a budget. And was more straightforward spacey nonsense.

Curse of the Dog God (1977) - Nonsensical and unmemorable Toei horror, bar a scene where a dog is buried alive, head sticking out of the ground.

Yokai Monsters: 100 Monsters (1968) - Japanese mythological horror. Relatively restrained compared to its sequels. Features a woman with a long neck, a one-legged, one-eyed tongue-tickler umbrella monster. Fun for what it is.

Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare (1968)  - Daiei monster madness, weird cartoonish duck-billed ghost and carrot-headed Babylonian vampire.  Imagine the Island of Dr. Moreau with samurai, if made by the Krofft brothers. Insane and glorious.

Yokai Monsters: Along With Ghosts (1969) - The least of the series - takes 45 minutes until the action starts.  More of a samurai film than a horror-fantasy.

Terror Beneath the Sea (1966) - Garish rubbish, young Sonny Chiba in Irwin Allen-esque action-free undersea nonsense.

Ogon Batto (1966) - A spiral monster with a face zaps people. Ultraman via 40s serials via Fantomas. Very odd. Very silly. More young Chiba.

War of the Insects (1968) - Shochiku proto-Swarm. Stagey, badly-acted, not good. Most of the insects seem to be invisible.

Kwaidan (1964)  - Gorgeous but no horror film needs to be three hours.

Teito Monogatari (1988) - Surrealist bollocks with Tetsuro Tanba. Slow. Overlong.

GODZILLA 1984 (1984) - It's a bit flat. Not enough Godzilla. It's a bit televisual. I don't think I'm a kaiju fan particularly.

Godzilla vs Biollante (1989) - Kind of forgettable and darkly shot.

Godzilla vs King Ghidorah (1991) - The thing is with the 90s Godzilla films is that they are better made.  This is the same old plot. Some shots look a bit ropey.  It feels a bit childish,  with dinosaur models and stuff, but also like a bad syndicated TV show.  Despite Mecha-Ghidorah.

Godzilla vs Mothra (1992) is a bit daft, but it looks like a proper film. The cinematography is breathtaking.

Godzilla vs Destoroyah (1995) - More of the same. Bar a Hong Kong bit. But nothing special.

Godzilla 2000 (2000) - It looks good. But it's the same old, same old - told a bit earnestly.

Godzilla vs Megaguirus (2000) - Expensive looking load of nonsense. Seems to be okay, good effects, but it doesn't work. It's very noisy.

Godzilla Final Wars (2004) - Actually does something different by having CGI big budget effects to enable quite witty jokes in the middle of the carnage. Though it gets a bit weirdly arty.

Gamera - Guardian of the Universe (1995) - It tries to do something different, but it still can't escape the innate silliness of the original Gamera films, the stupidest of the kaiju canon. A snaggletoothed, rocket-arsed turtle fighting a creature with a head like a sex toy.   Some of the model work is a  bit static. Like most later kaiju, most of the fights are hard to decipher, being located at night, in the rain. It's atmospheric, it's muddy.

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