Tuesday, November 24, 2009

THE H-MAN (1957)

On a rainy night in Tokyo, a drug dealer is trying to stash his haul in the trunk of a getaway car, but when he suddenly looks down at the ground, screams, and falls, the driver guns it. Another car hits the man, but when onlookers gather, all that's left are his clothes and shoes. The police think he's alive and stake out the nightclub where his girlfriend Chikako sings. Masada, a biochemist, also comes to call at the club; he has a theory that radioactive rain from nuclear testing is causing some people to dissolve and he wants to know why. When a fisherman reports seeing someone on a ship dissolve after a luminous blob crawled up his leg, the police start taking Masada seriously. Sure enough, this glowing aquamarine slime (a good effect, by the way) starts showing up all over the place. Everyone persists in shooting at it, even though the bullets never have an effect. The climax, set in the sewers of Tokyo and involving flamethrowers (and reminiscent of THEM!), works well.

What with its thugs, molls, and dark rainy streets, much of this has the feel of a noirish gangster movie rather than a horror/SF flick. The two strands don’t fit together as snugly as one might hope, but aside from a long, slow car chase near the end involving one of the drug dealers whom the cops mistakenly think was a victim of the slime, it's generally fun. The effects are good and the segment set at sea is truly creepy (though the very first shot of the movie, with a nuclear fog enveloping what are clearly little toy boats, gave me a chuckle). I enjoyed the crazy song, "So Deep Is My Love" that Chikako sings, in English: “Like the stars above/Countless is my love [sic]/…Here in the bomb center/Heaven of you/I rest forevermore.” And that's not the English dubbed version, that's as sung in English in the original Japanese film (though both versions are on the disc, available, as is MOTHRA, as part of the Icons of Sc-Fi: Toho Collection). [DVD]

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