Another film in the Icons of Sci-Fi Toho Collection, H-Man is directed by Ishiro Honda (the man behind The Mysterians, Battle in Outer Space, and Mothra, among many others).
There are no giant monsters to be found here, so don't expect a large H-Man to run around stomping on miniature models of Tokyo. Instead, this film is a strange mix of police procedural and atomic monster movie. But mostly a police procedural.
|In other words, there are lots of interrogations.|
The story hinges on a drug dealer who goes missing during an exchange. His body literally vanishes, leaving his clothes behind. The police suspect his girlfriend knows where he might be, and the rival drug dealers believe the same thing. Meanwhile, a scientist gets caught up with the police when he approaches the girlfriend, wanting to speak with her about what she may know about the circumstances of her missing boyfriend. The scientist believes that the drug dealer was attacked and dissolved by an atomic creature.
This is a rather lame cops and robbers story, but the addition of the atomic creatures (the H-Man from the title) add a twist. The police stubbornly don't believe there's some being in Tokyo that can completely liquefy a human, and the lounge-singer girlfriend of the drug dealer must team up with the scientist to unravel the mystery, all while under the gun of the rival gang boss.
There's no big shootout in the film. And only one chase sequence (which has got to be the least intense one in the history of cinema).
So, the action is sub-par for a police film (despite trying to pull a Third Man in the final act). No, the intriguing part of this movie is the green, atomic H-Man.
With some thrilling special effects that are actually quite gross (especially for the time), the H-Man dissolves his prey as they cry out for help and futilely attempt to shoot it.
Interestingly, this DVD collection includes both the Japanese and the American versions of the film. The changes made in translating a Japanese film about nuclear weapons (released so close to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki) have interested me for a long time, and comparing the two versions revealed a couple of key changes.
First, there are a couple scenes that were altered or removed from the American version, probably due to their graphic nature.
|American Version (including the cut away from the dancer's death)|
More significantly, the Japanese film opens with a shot of a ship at sea. That ship, it's revealed, was accidentally contaminated by a nuclear test and its sailors were turned into the H-Men. They return to haunt Tokyo because some latent part of their brain pushed them to go back home. The key word here being "victim."
On the other hand, the American version of the film states that the H-Men were "produced" by the nuclear test, not created from human victims. This change side-steps the idea of people as casualties of atomic tests and bombings.