Tuesday, November 13, 2018

For the Love of Toho IV... PLUS

aka GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER (Kraken Releasing BD)
After the 1966 theatrical release of GHIDRAH THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER (1965), the correct chronology of Godzilla films started getting confused in the American consciousness. Here, the release of Ishirô Honda's wonderful MONSTER ZERO (aka INVASION OF THE ASTRO-MONSTER, 1966) got skipped over and delayed until 1970, while this subsequent 1967 adventure seemed to pop up out of nowhere on television in the late 1960s. I had seen the dubbed version televised two or three times over the years, but this was my first viewing of the Japanese version with English subtitles. A young man in search of his missing brother talks a group of peers into lending their boat to his purpose, which takes them to an irradiated island guarded by a giant lobster, and inhabited by a dormant Godzilla. Not frightening in the least, which the series hadn't been since the first film, but somehow appreciably less of a monster-fest than the most recent films, even though Mothra and a somewhat flea-bitten-looking giant condor make cameo appearances. In addition to monster tennis, this one includes some absolutely superb optical and matte shots (not the work of the credited Eiji Tsubaraya but his successor Sadamasa Arikawa, who was supervised by Tsubaraya), and I like the Godzilla suit in this one; it has a certain scrappy character. I miss the Peanuts as the Infant Island Twins, though; they are played here by a less endearing sister act, Pair Bambi. There's absolutely no doubt in my mind that Masaru Satô occasionally surf-poppy score is where the B-52s' Ricky Wilson got the inspiration for his “Rock Lobster” riffs. Fun movie, gorgeous looking and sweet-sounding Blu-ray presentation - the packaging says DTS HD Master Audio mono, but I could have sworn there was some stereo separation going on. Order here.

LATITUDE ZERO (Tokyo Shock Media Blasters DVD)
From a distance this looks like a homogenized ATRAGON warm-over, so it's not surprising it hasn't garnered the cult audience it deserves... but track this thing down and buy it. Till then, just imagine this: Cesar Romero is cast as a cackling mad scientist, who - miles below the ocean surface - single-handedly removes the brain of a sedated lion and replaces it with the brain of his coldly discarded mistress, then grafts two wings of a woebegone condor (yes, the same one from EBIRAH!) onto its back, while two screaming observers are forcibly restrained by a pair of leering half-human bat creatures that look flown in from TWILIGHT PEOPLE. Romero is so carried away by his own genius that it never occurs to him that his ex’s brain might carry a grudge. Incredibly, this mayhem was rated G (!!!) at the time of the film's release. Joseph Cotten and his wife Patricia Medina are also aboard. The special effects are once again credited to Eiji Tsubaraya (who died not long after the film's release) though actually executed by Sadamasa Arikawa and others; they are among some of the best to be found in Toho's output. Also, this film being a co-production with America, you get to hear suave Toho regular Akira Takarada speaking his English lines in his own voice. Alternately impressive and uproarious - time well spent! Originally produced in stereo, the DVD upgrades the mix to 5.1 and includes other special features, like deleted scenes and the Japanese cut. Order here.

Teruo Ishii’s Kyôfu kikei ningen: Edogawa Rampo zenshû is ostensibly a surreal, over the top, tongue-in-cheek adaptation of the complete works of Edogawa Rampo; it started out as an adaptation of a single story but, realizing during production that it might be his only such adaptation, he proceeded to a rewrite that threw in everything but the proverbial kitchen sink. I realized about halfway through this often fascinating, occasionally repugnant, and operatically overdone feature that is it, is in some ways, the movie APOCALYPSE NOW should have been - it depicts the madness that Kurtz should have been up to - so it owes something to Joseph Conrad as well as Rampo. Now available on BD from Arrow Video with two expert commentaries and various extras ported over from a previous Synapse Films DVD release, this is for the adventurous, worthy of sharing a shelf with Moctezuma’s DR. TARR’S TORTURE DUNGEON (MANSION OF MADNESS), the complete works of Alejandro Jodorowsky, and MALATESTA’S CARNIVAL OF BLOOD. Order here.

(c) 2018 by Tim Lucas. All rights reserved.

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