Monday, January 15, 2018

Atragon (1963)



In this 1963 film from Toho, Agents from an ancient underwater civilization are attempting to kidnap people in Japan. Two photographers catch a glimpse of one of the Agents and become wrapped up in a plot that involves an underwater battleship submarine and a missing Navy Captain.

When the movie opens, Sumusu and Yoshito are conducting a photoshoot by the sea, a steaming man crawls out of the water just before a kidnap victim is driven right by them and into that same ocean.

Camera flash is oddly effective.

The police are confounded by eyewitness reports of men who exude a high heat when touched, but pursuing the case, they find some corroboration. A strange reporter shows up the office of an ex-Navy Admiral asking about the development of an advanced submarine and a missing Captain Jinguji. At the same time, the two photographers are following a woman they believe to be so beautiful that she'll make the perfect model.



She turns out to be the daughter of the missing submarine Captain, now under the care of the ex-Navy Admiral. When a kidnapping attempt is made on the girl and the ex-Admiral, the photographers are able to thwart the plan, but the Agent escapes into the ocean. The advanced, ancient underwater civilization of Mu sends a filmed message threatening  destruction if construction on the submarine Atragon isn't stopped at once. Oh, and they also want to enslave the people of earth.

The Mu Empire spends most of their time bowing, so they need slaves to do the real work.

Luckily, the missing Captain Jinguji has been hard at work on the advanced submarine Atragon. Not so luckily, he's still got his mind on WWII and refuses to use the sub for any purpose that doesn't include WWII-ish stuff. Also, when a group goes to speak with him, they brought along that strange reporter, who just happens to be a spy for the Mu Empire.

That beard really should have tipped them off.

While most Toho films of the era pitted two giant monsters against one another, this one is more about the war between the people of earth, the Mu Empire, and one Japanese captain's inability to let go of the past.

"You call patriotism nonsense?" - Captain
"Take a global point of view!" - Ex-Admiral
Sadly, the dialogue is still relevant.

As with other Toho films of the era, this one includes an interesting take on dress and culture of the underwater (or alien) civilization.



There's also some great special effects, as you'd expect from Eiji Tsuburaya.


There's even some brutal freeze-gunning when the people of earth finally fight back against the Mu Empire.



As long as you don't sit down expecting this film to be a Godzilla clone, you'll enjoy yourself. There's some really cool submarine action on display, but not much in the way of kaiju.



Poor Manda is on display here, but he doesn't get much screen time and doesn't even make it onto land.

Atragon - the kaiju that menaces at you through an underwater window

As long as you know what you're sitting down to watch, there's some great stuff to enjoy in this film. You get the haphazard plot of a 60s Toho kaiju film that's light on the kaiju. Instead, the special effects are poured into underwater submarine battles, and plenty of miniature destruction that will feed the same needs as other Ishiro Honda films. Recommended for Godzilla fans, 60s Japanese sci-fi fans, and anyone in your life who might be Mothra's #1 fan.

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Green Slime (1968)



The Green Slime (1968) is not a terribly good film, but it has a few interesting elements that make it worthy of watching. The most notable of these features is that the film is a joint production between Toei (Japan) and MGM. Shot in Japan with an American cast. This means it's like watching Battle in Outer Space (1959) but with actors you might see in Fantastic Voyage (1966).



The story begins as we discover an asteroid is on a collision course with Earth. Retiring Commander Rankin (Robert Horton) is sent with a team to detonate it before all life on the planet is destroyed upon impact. That team includes the fiance of Rankin's former girlfriend. The mission is successful, but the team inadvertently brings back a hitchhiking specimen onto the space station with them - The Green Slime.

And that's all in the first act, so this is not a movie that's slow to get started.



Once on the space station though, the story focuses on a race to figure out the evolving Green Slime and keep it from reaching Earth.



Most of the drama in the film comes from the love triangle clashes between the two dueling commanders. And by drama, I mean groan-worthy arguments and snark that amounts to little more than a series of pissing contests while the threat to the space station increases, people die, and the possibility of unleashing the Green Slime on Earth grows larger.

Larger....more numerous, same thing.

Even as the story is solid and the threat is straight-forward, the relationship between the two rival Commanders (and former best friends) is incredibly annoying. The best thing to alleviate this distraction is to focus your attention on the fantastic set work, costuming, and of course, The Green Slime creatures (which all look like something that you might see in an episode of Ultraman).



Recommended if you've never seen The Green Slime (1968), if you're wondering about the predecessors of the Alien franchise, or if you need an easy way to explain how annoying a pissing contest can be.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Deadly Friend (1986)



Deadly Friend is a film directed by Wes Craven and was a follow-up to his iconic Nightmare on Elm Street movie. It's a terrible movie about a young robotics genius who brings his murdered neighbor back to life using his cybernetic skills. She then goes on a murderous revenge spree. I'm going to spoil the whole thing, so you don't have to bother watching it.

(If you do plan to watch - against my advice - then you probably want to stop reading here.)

Don't say you weren't warned.

The movie starts with a single mother moving her son, and her son's robot, to suburbia. The son is basically a young version of the guy from Gremlins.



And the robot exhibits that kid's genius ability to create semi-murderous machines that talk like the Buck Rogers robot (Twiki) mashed-up with Donald Duck's voice.



Once settled in suburbia, the robotics expert kid meets the locals. One is a regular-looking version of Clint Howard who delivers papers around the neighborhood. The other, Kristy Swanson, is abused by her father. When her father's abuse kills her, the robotics expert decides to bring her back to life by implanting one of his circuit boards in her head. Of course, she immediately goes for revenge while the robot-genius kid attempts to hide her existence and keep her killing under control.

The title tells you how well that plan works out.

There are exactly three decent moments in this movie. The last one is pretty spectacular, but the first is when Kristy Swanson kills her abusive father. It's a moment that falls flat when it should have soared (I mean, who doesn't love watching that kind of an asshole get his comeuppance). Instead of a sweet death scene though, we get this.

Pffft.

The second worthwhile moment of this movie is the inexplicable (surprise?) ending. After Kristy Swanson has been killed a second time to end her revenge spree, the body is taken to the morgue. Like the idiot-genius he is, the robotics kid decides he can still help her (despite the fact that his previous "help" caused her to go all murdery) and aims to revive her again. That's when this happens.

So, the chip in her head caused her to internally robotify?

And finally, I've saved the best moment for last. This one is a gem, but needs a little set-up. As per usual in suburbia, there's one nasty neighbor who doesn't want the kids anywhere near her house. In this case, it's Mama Fratelli from The Goonies. At one point in the movie, the kids lose their basketball over Mama's fence. She scoops the ball up and keeps it. Later, Kristy Swanson decides this is appropriate retaliation for that slight.

Boom!

And then her headless body tries to walk it off.

As I mentioned from the start, I've spoiled the three best moments of this film because it's not recommendable. Unless you're a huge Wes Craven fan, I guess? Otherwise, avoid this movie.