The Magician (1926)

The Magician (1926)‘If you wish to see strange things, I have the power to show them to you.’

A beautiful sculptress living in Paris is saved from paralysis by a handsome American doctor. The two fall in love, but she has become the obsession of a charismatic mystic with plans to create life using sorcery.

Writer-director and actor Rex Ingram was one of the first auteurs in the history of cinema. His films were released through MGM, but he had full creative control and usually filmed at his own studios in France, despite legendary arguments with the studio head Louis B. Mayer. Why was he allowed such unprecedented artistic freedom? Because he had delivered the most successful silent movie of all time (adjusted for inflation!) It was called ‘The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’ (1921) and gave the world Rudolph Valentino. Another film with the legendary screen idol followed before Ingram pulled the trick again (admittedly to a slightly lesser extent) by making a star out of Ramon Novarro. In 1922, Ingram married his perennial leading lady, and big star, Alice Terry. They were as much Hollywood royalty as Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. Unfortunately, everything started to unravel for Ingram with the big budget ‘Mare Nostrum’ (1926), and the deterioration continued with this project, loosely based on the novel W Somerset Maugham.

Having said that, the film’s opening is undeniably impressive. We join Terry in her Left Bank studio working on a giant bust of a faun’s head. It’s a striking creation, and actually the work of famous artist Paul Dardé commissioned especially for the film. Unfortunately, the statue falls apart as soon as it’s finished and one of the larger fragments crushes her spine. Enter stage right Ivàn Petrovich as super young, super handsome super surgeon Arthur Burdon who fixes her up with an operation under the watchful eyes of a roomful of medical students. One of these is a rather mature Paul Wegener: hypnotist, mystic and all round crazy man. He takes quite a fancy to Terry, as does Petrovich, but while the medicos intentions are romantic, his are far more sinister.

Terry recovers from the op without a scratch and starts making the old goo-goo eyes with Petrovich, but Wegener soon has her under his dastardly spell. This involves showing her a vision of hell, which is rather near the knuckle, given the vintage of the production. Actually, it’s the film’s most impressive sequence, and an obvious influence on the later Spencer Tracy vehicle ‘Dante’s Inferno’ (1935), mainly because both were shot by producer Harry Lachman after Ingram became bored with the sequence and left the set (as he often did apparently!) From there, it’s rather a roundabout trip to the watchtower filled with strange equipment and a dwarf assistant (UniversaI’s ‘Frankenstein’ series, anyone?) via an entirely pointless diversion to the gaming houses of Monte Carlo.

Ingram was obviously minded to make a surrealistic horror in the mould of German expressionist classics such as ‘The Cabinet of Dr CaIigari’ (1919), and F W Murnau’s monumental ‘Nosferatu’ (1922) and ‘Faust’ (1926). He also may have intended some subtext regarding the theme of ‘alchemy versus science’ (the villain in the original novel was allegedly based on notorious occultist Aleister Crowley) but, the hell sequence apart, his film is far too conventional to achieve such levels of meaning or intensity.

Even having Wegener in the title role is a mistake, although it must have seemed like a tremendous coup at first. The German writer-director-star had delivered what was arguably the world’s first feature length horror film with ‘The Student of Prague’ (1913), and had followed that with a trilogy about ‘The Golem’, a giant clay statue brought to life by means of magic. Wegener’s acting style suited those projects perfectly, but it’s simply too theatrical here, and at odds with the more naturalistic approach of the remainder of the cast. This leads one character to remark that the hypnotist is like ‘something out of an old melodrama’, a title card possibly introduced at a later date to explain Wegener’s histrionic performance.

Also appearing here in a bit part is a young Michael Powell. Serving initially as Lachman’s gopher, the world famous film director got his start in the business as a member of Ingram’s company. Recalling his experiences on this film in his essential memoir ‘A Life In Movies’, Powell reveals he worked in many minor capacities behind the scenes, learning the business from the bottom up. He also paints an unflattering portrait of Wegener as inflexible, arrogant and condescending, constantly disappearing in a cloud of foul cigar smoke.

The Magician (1926)

‘Hell’s Kitchen’ had a new contestant…

Ultimately, Powell did not rate the finished product and audiences were also less than enthusiastic. lngram made only two more silent pictures and one talkie (‘Baroud’ (1932)), but never came close to emulating his earlier success. Difficult relationships with producers and studios, combined with these latter poor box office returns meant that his career was effectively over only a decade after he was one of the most successful filmmakers in the world.

Of undoubted historical interest, this is unfortunately a fairly dull experience, particularly in the middle third. However, it is worth watching for the stand out sequences, which proved highly influential on the development of the supernatural film in the 1930s and beyond.

Jungle Goddess (1948)

Jungle Goddess (1948)‘They’re hats…women’s hats. I can’t tell you any more than that.’

Two hard up pilots try to make their fortune by finding an heiress whose plane went down in the African jungle at the start of World War 2. However, locating her proves to be the easy part…

Jungle pictures were a staple of the Hollywood machine throughout the life of the studio system. Like Westerns they were cheap to make; a quick trip to the Los Angeles Botanical Gardens or filling a rented soundstage with a selection of pot plants were all that was required in terms of a location, and pith helmets and leopard skin bikinis were readily available from the local costume shop. Fill your jungle with a few black extras from central casting, some animal stock footage, a pretty girl and a couple of slices of handsome beefcake and you were all set to go. The picture practically made itself.

Our testosterone jockeys in this particular example are actually pretty big ‘names’ for this kind of low budget enterprise. The principal square jaw and bulging muscles belong to none other than George Reeves, an actor who had been featured in ‘Gone With The Wind’ (1939), but found lasting fame as TV’s first ‘Superman’. His shooting-related death in 1959 remains one of Hollywood’s most enduring mysteries. Playing opposite him is Ralph Byrd, the entertainment world’s most successful ‘Dick Tracy’ who played the detective in a series of films and on the small screen in the early days of popular television. Sadly, the two have little chemistry here, but their identikit characters (the white bread hero and the smug chancer) aren’t much of a help. Conflict between them arises from the (completely inevitable) discovery of precious minerals in the vicinity of the native village.

The other point in our dramatic triangle is blonde Wanda McKay. It’s not a love triangle, though, as Byrd’s only interest is in the precious minerals! McKay was an ex-model who got her ‘big’ break opposite a declining Bela Lugosi in surprisingly half decent horror cheapie ‘Bowery At Midnight’ (1942), but never rose above turns for ‘poverty row’ studios like PRC in films such as ‘The Black Raven’ (1943) and ‘The Monster Maker’ (1944). Her career was all but over by the end of the decade, although she did do a few small roles on TV before retirement.

Like Reeves and Byrd, McKay is pretty stilted here, but it’s perhaps inevitable given the lifeless dialogue and non-existent character development. Such as it is, the ‘action’ is confined to a couple of rounds of lacklustre fisticuffs between the two men, and some brief, mismatched aeroplane models standing in for SFX. The occasional lion or monkey makes a background appearance, but obviously the budget didn’t even stretch to frequent trips to the local film library to buy a decent amount of stock footage.

‘I’m not sure. It’s could be a bird, or it might be a plane…?’

Director Lewis D Collins can most kindly be described as ‘prolific’. He’s a filmmaker with 123 credits, but very few titles will be familiar to even the most hardened lover of ‘classic period’ Hollywood. He started in crime pictures, graduating to dozens of Westerns via a couple of movie serials: ‘The Mysterious Mr M’ (1946) and ‘Lost City of the Jungle’ (1946), which featured the final appearance of a dying Lionel Atwill.

Writer Jo Pagano was also responsible for a very similar film; the Johnny Weismuller vehicle ‘Jungle Moon Men’ (1955) in which an immortal Egyptian priestess ruled a mysterious African tribe played by white dwarves wearing beach towels. That wasn’t good, but it was a lot better than this.

The story develops exactly as predicted: Reeves and McKay make goo-goo eyes at each other, the local witchdoctor jumps about shouting claptrap and Byrd waves his revolver about a bit. Production values touch zero, but hopefully everyone got to punch their time cards at the end of the shoot and collect their (no doubt rather insubstantial) paycheques.

Dreary, mechanical B-picture, delivered with no discernible effort on the part of anyone involved, and destined for the bottom of the bill at a thousand small town fleapits across America.

Space Amoeba/Yog: Monster From Space (1970)

Space Amoeba (1970)‘The bats rescued him. We were rescued when the porpoises suddenly appeared.’

A strange alien entity hitchhikes a ride to Earth on a probe being sent to Jupiter. The capsule crash lands in the Pacific Ocean near a remote tropical island where the natives still worship mythical monsters. Fusing with the local wildlife, the alien attacks their village as a giant, walking octopus, and that’s only the start…

Produced over a decade and a half after the triumphant entry onto the world stage of ‘Godzilla, King of the Monsters’ (1954), the close of the 1960s effectively marked the end of the golden age of Japan’s Toho Studios. The Big G was now a kid-friendly defender of the Earth, SFX maestro Eiji Tsuburaya had gone to the big watertank in the sky, and actors would no longer be placed under contract with the organisation. It’s a strange, muted echo of the disintegration of the studio system in Hollywood in the early 1950s. There were also major budgetary problems with this project, with location filming downgraded — twice! – from the studio’s original intention of shooting the film on the island of Guam.

There’s also a second hand feel to much of the story here. Photojournalist Akira Kubo witnesses the space probe hit the silk from the window of a commercial airliner but the authorities don’t believe him. After all, the craft was lost six months earlier. He finds unlikely allies in pretty reporter Atsuko Takahashi and brilliant scientist Dr. Mida (Yoshiro Tsuchiya) who consistently works out exactly what’s happening throughout the film, without the benefit of any evidence whatsoever. The trio make for the island crash site, joined by dubious businessman Kenji Sahara, who is involved somehow in a murky deal to turn the island paradise into a hotel resort. Luckily, this entirely pointless subplot vanishes as soon as the giant space octopus takes a stroll on the beach.

So what about the monster action then? Well, Octo is a superb creation. He walks on his tentacles, screeches like some kind of a bird, and waves his suckers around like a drunk at closing time on a Saturday night. His eyes are mostly glazed too, but, apparently that was down to expiring light bulbs and no money to replace them. But it’s tiring being Octo, so our not-so cuddly ET transforms itself into a huge crab instead, perhaps referencing one of Godzilla’s lesser known opponents, Ebirah, The Sea Monster. After that, it does a somewhat bizarre turn as a prehistoric dinosaur (identified somewhat inaccurately as a Stegosaur) and then finishes proceedings in human form. Bringing the last two monsters back from the dead to fight each other doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense, but then I guess the world domination strategy of a mysterious alien entity is far too complex for mere hoomans to understand. It probably looked good in the trailer anyway. Oh, and then the island’s obligatory volcano erupts a bit at a rather convenient moment.

Space Amoeba (1970)

‘…and the winners of the World Cup semi-final will be…’

Director lshirõ Honda was the man who brought us the first Godzilla, and many of the iconic lizard’s encounters with Mothra, King Ghidorah and Rodan. He also delivered serveral other ’Kaiju’ and science fiction films for the good folks at Toho, such as ‘Varan,’The Unbelievable’ (1962) and the very interesting ‘Matango, Fungus of Terror’ (1963). But this was his penultimate film, and the ‘giant monster’ formula was wearing a little thin after so many years in play. Still, the action moves at a good pace for the most part, although we do stop for two of the islanders to get married right in the middle of the film!

Honda returned for one last hurrah with ‘Terror of Mechagodzilla’ (1975), but that ended up with the worst box office returns of any of The Big G’s outings in his entire 60 year history, so Honda and Toho gave it up and brought the first cycle of ’Kaiju’ films to an end.

One of the most entertaining aspects for a modern audience of this entry centres on the role of heroine Takahashi. She has only two functions in the film; to act scared and cry out, and to repeat the scientist’s previous comments as a question, so he can then repeat himself again with extra emphasis. ln an inspired creative decision, the producers of the US release decided to have her dubbed by a woman with an Australian accent! This is, of course, absolutely hilarious, but her inflections noticeably diminish after the first half hour or so of the film. Obviously, someone had a word in the recording studio, but didn’t bother getting her to re-dub the earlier scenes! Pure genius.

A minor monster mash this may be, but it’s still essential for aficionados of the genre.

The Shadow (1933)

The Shadow (1933)‘I’m really terribly fond of you and all that sort of rot.’

A number of prominent men have fallen victim to a mysterious blackmailer known only as ‘The Shadow’, their lives ending in murder or suicide. After a police inspector is killed, the Head of Scotland Yard finds himself and his family menaced by the hooded killer at his country estate.

A modern audience would be forgiven for assuming the worst about an ‘Old Dark House’ mystery of the 1930s, especially one originating in the United Kingdom. Sinister butlers, clutching hands, thunder and lightning, painful comic relief and terribly stilted acting are all to be expected in such a familiar enterprise. And, yes, a lot of those tropes are present and correct, complete with some hilarious English accents, mostly awfully posh and some dreadfully common.

However, before we get to all that, the first twenty minutes or so give us a surprisingly interesting setup. First we see one of the blackmailing victims desperately pleading with the mysterious villain for his life and reputation. Then we get a look at the sterling efforts of Scotland Yard Chief Commissioner Felix Aylmer and his men to thwart this evil crime wave. The lead investigator on the case is John Turnbull, and he has a promising line on the masked man’s activities. Unfortunately, he prefers to work alone (as detectives only do in the movies!) and to keep all the details to himself, so it’s pretty certain he’s not going to be around when the final credits roll.

All in all, it’s not a bad opening, given the vintage of the film. The action flows, performances are not too laboured and events move at a decent pace. But then the action switches to Aylmer’s weekend home in the country and all the clichés mentioned above slot wearily into place. Of course, he has a beautiful daughter (Elizabeth Allan) and, of course, she’s in love with an ‘unsuitable’ but dashing young pilot (James Raglan), and, of course, there’s an idiotic young writer called Reggie who fancies himself a detective (Henry Kendall) and, of course, there’s a couple of crooks masquerading as stranded motorists (Cyril Raymond & Jeanne Stuart). Worse still is that there’s little plot development after all these pieces are in play and the film descends into a climax that even the kindest viewer would describe as inadequate.

The Shadow (1933)

I say! Anyone for tennis?

Director George A. Cooper began his career in the British film industry in the early 1920s and did the bulk of his work in the silent days, mostly with short subjects. He graduated to features with the coming of sound, but did little after the mid-1930s. His only other film of real note was ‘Sexton Blake and the Bearded Doctor’ (1935), although it seems that this entry in the career of that cut-price Sherlock Holmes is probably lost.

Kendall had a decent career in the UK in the early days of sound, his most notable turn being for Alfred Hitchcock in the famous director’s rather odd ‘Rich and Strange’ (1932). Aylmer enjoyed another 40 years as a beloved character actor, appearing in everything from Laurence Olivier’s ‘Hamlet’ (1948) to Hammer Horror ‘The Mummy’ (1959), to big budget Hollywood epics such as ‘Quo Vadis’ (1952) and ‘Exodus’ (1960). He rounded out his long career in the 1960s and early 1970s with a string of guest slots on UK TV shows such as ‘The Champions’, ‘Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and ‘Jason King.’

But by far the most successful of those involved in this production was heroine Allan. Little more than a year later she was in Hollywood taking a prominent supporting role in George Cukor’s ‘David Copperfield’ (1935) and starring opposite Ronald Colman in another Dickens’ classic ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ (1935). Unfortunately, the latter did prove to be the highlight of her career, but there was still a long string of pictures to come; including appearances with horror icons Bela Lugosi (MGM’s ‘Mark of the Vampire’ (1935)) and Boris Karloff (‘Grip of the Strangler’ (1958)).

A thriller that starts promisingly but soon succumbs to the conventions of its genre and finishes with a distinctly damp squib.

The Fastest Guitar Alive (1967)

The Fastest Guitar Alive (1967)‘In case you’re interested, I can kill you with this and play your funeral march at the same time.’

Confederate spies steal a gold shipment from the San Francisco Mint in the closing days of the American Civil War. They use a travelling medicine show as cover and operate out of notorious local saloon the ‘Barbary Coast’ where one of their number entertains the customers with his guitar and unique vocal style.

Producer Sam Katzman was not famous in Hollywood for his films so much as his ‘cash conscious’ approach to the medium. Beginning his career in the 1930s with ‘poverty row’ studios like Monogram, his prodigious output included movie serials, Westerns, Jungle pictures and several 1940s horrors with a declining Bela Lugosi. This lightweight tale of music, stolen gold and the Old West was originally intended as a vehicle for Elvis Presley, but the King passed so Katzman went to a somewhat unlikely Plan ‘B’: Roy Orbison.

A decade into his singing career, the Big O’s popularity was in a state of decline, his material out of step with the latest musical trends. Hoping for a change in fortune, he signed a 5 picture deal with MGM studios, and this underwhelming release was the first result. It was both and critical and commercial failure and Orbison never acted again.

So what went wrong? Well, for once, the blame can’t be laid at Katzman’s door. Sure, the film’s certainly no epic, but the budgetary constraints aren’t too obvious, even though the woeful lack of action at the climax robs the story of any final dramatic punch. The problem is that the film fails to find a consistent tone under the direction of Michael D Moore, probably because the final script was an attempt to rewrite what was originally a serious drama as a candy floss concoction of soppy romance, pop songs and comedy.

Given Orbison’s total lack of experience as an actor, he’s double teamed here with TV veteran, the young and handsome Sammy Jackson. It’s a wise move. Orbison isn’t terrible in front of the camera but he’s no natural either, and it’s frightening to think how things might have turned out if he’d had to carry the picture on his own. What really doesn’t help, however, is that events play out in a thoroughly predictable manner, with our heroes doing their duty for the South whilst getting plenty of another kind of action with the Chestnut Sisters (Maggie Pierce and Joan Freeman), dancers who are part of their robbery scheme. Orbison sings half a dozen songs (the best parts of the film), appears without his trademark shades and has a guitar that (unconvincingly) doubles as a gun!

Director Moore started out as an actor in silent cinema, graduating via the Art Department, to become one of Hollywood’s most respected Second Unit and Assistant Directors. He fulfilled those roles on many big hits, including ‘War of the Worlds’ (1953), Cecil B DeMille’s ‘The Ten Commandments’ (1956), the Oscar-winning ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ (1969), John Huston’s ‘The Man WhoWould Be King’ (1975), ‘unofficial’ James Bond flick ‘Never Say Never Again’ (1983) and the first three Indiana Jones films! It’s a very long, and seriously impressive, list. Unfortunately, his efforts at calling the shots himself were less-than stellar, being limited to some TV work and just half a dozen films, the most famous being one of Elvis Presley’s dreariest vehicles ‘Paradise: Hawaiian Style’ (1966).

Heroine Freeman also had royal connections, acting opposite the King in ‘Roustabout’ (1964), before turning up 20 years later in ‘Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter’ (1984)! Her dancing partner Pierce may be familiar to Vincent Price fans from Roger Corman’s ‘Tales of Terror’ (1962) and she also starred in notoriously awful 1960’s sitcom ‘My Mother The Car.’ Further down the cast, we find Lyle Betteger and John Doucette, both familiar faces from countless TV Westerns in the 1960s, with Betteger then reporting for duty on many network cop shows in the following decade.

Writer Robert E Kent scripted musicals, crime programmers, Westerns, ‘Zombies On Broadway’ (1945) with Bela Lugosi, a couple of early 1960s Vincent Price vehicles and episodes of TV’s ‘Wild Wild West.’ But his biggest successes came with Katzman in the 1950s when the duo hit pay dirt with ‘Rock Around The Clock’ (1956), ‘Don’t Knock The Rock’ (1956), ‘Twist Around The Clock’ (1961) and ‘Don’t Knock The Twist’ (1961)!

If all the assembled talent here seem a little second-rate, then sadly that is reflected in the final product. lts not a disaster by any means but, without the presence of The Big O, it would likely be long forgotten now. As it is, it’s a curiosity for his fans, rather than anything else.

The Drums of Jeopardy (1931)

The Drums of Jeopardy (1931)‘There’s no use trying to hurry me, I won’t go out without my teeth and my corset.’

A young ballerina commits suicide and her scientist father vows revenge on the Royal Family of the man responsible. After the Russian Revolution, the aristocrats flee to American soil, but, after escaping from Siberia, their nemesis has become a leading Bolshevik and commands many agents in the West…

Warner Oland’s at it again! Only a couple of years after his outing as ‘The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu’ (1929), here he is as another criminal mastermind persecuting a family he believes are to blame for the death of his child. Here he’s Dr Boris Karlov (seriously!) whose mission statement includes messing about in his dungeon laboratory (with his name on the door!) and sending pieces of a jewelled necklace, the ‘drums’ of the title, to members of the Petrov clan, prior to knocking them off one by one.

The Drums of Jeopardy (1931)

Mention that ‘Frankenstein’ bloke again and I swear…’

In terms of plot, it’s almost identical to Oland’s hit turn in that first ‘Fu Manchu’ film, especially after some early action gives way to the familiar ‘Old Dark House’ scenario, where danger stalks the darkened halls and a midnight storm howls around outside. There’s little of Oland as the ‘mad scientist’ either, despite publicity materials which were presumably designed to cash in on Universal’s ‘Frankenstein’ (1931) in the same way as the name of Oland’s character.

Almost everything is entirely predictable, from the fates of individual characters to the underwhelming climax, although this does feature some opportune umbrella work from comedy relief Clara Blandick, who gained screen immortality in her sixties as Auntie Em in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ (1939). Unfortunately, with the exception of Oland, the  rest of the cast are colourless and the entire project comes across as flat and a little stilted.

Director George B Seitz enjoyed a successful time in Hollywood, making his name with silent serial ‘The Perils of Pauline’ (1914), which was a massive hit, and going on to deliver most of the popular ‘Andy Hardy’ series featuring a young Mickey Rooney. Leading man Lloyd Hughes did not fair so well in the ‘talkie’ era, but is still remembered as reporter Ed Malone in Willis O’Brien’s groundbreaking stop-motion monster fest ‘The Lost World’ (1925). Of course, the Swedish-born Oland became the screen’s definitive ‘Charlie Chan’, playing the role in more than a dozen films before his untimely death in 1938.

A minor programmer with little to recommend it beyond some curiosity value.

Konchû Daisensô/Genocide/War of the Insects (1968)

Genocide/War of the Insects (1968)‘Insect eggs! Charlie’s body is full of insect eggs!’

A US military plane carrying an H-Bomb crashes near a remote Japanese Island. The crew bailout but are later found dead with the exception of one man who has lost his memory. A philandering bug hunter is accused of their murders and goes on the run with his mysterious American girlfriend. A professor from Tokyo tries to clear his name, convinced that the killings were committed by insects…

Curious Japanese science fiction/international spy mashup with forces both East and West desperate to locate the missing warhead while the Japanese attempt to focus their attention on the murderous creepy crawlies. Despite the presence of ruthless commie agents, it’s the US who are undoubtedly the villains of the piece with traumatised crash survivor Chico Roland already suffering from PTSD even before his plane goes down. He freaks out at a crucial moment, distracting the air crew just before they are attacked by a swarm of angry insects. Later on, he’s roughed up by military commander Ralph Jesser when lying helpless in his hospital bed. Jesser simply won’t accept that bugs are responsible for losing his precious H-Bomb, despite the insistence of visiting entomologist Professor Nagumo (Keisuke Sonoi), ‘Just because you won a war doesn’t make you right’ the scientist tells Jesser in the dubbed US release.

It’s interesting to contrast this with the stateside release of ‘Mothra’ (1963) only five years earlier, where the nationality of the bad guy Americans is hidden behind a pseudonym throughout. By the late 1960s, however, rising tensions regarding involvement in Vietnam and other domestic issues obviously made it far more acceptable to portray the US government in a less than flattering light. The stoic Sonoi is actually our noble but humourless hero, applying logic to a situation which provokes knee-jerk reactions in both Jesser and bug hunter Yûsuke Kawazu. The latter’s extra-curricular liaison with the glamorous Annabelle (Kathy Horan) is also portrayed as destructive, especially given the presence of his pregnant young wife, played by Emi Shindo. When he escapes police custody, he flies back to the waiting arms of Horan at the first opportunity, despite telling Shindo his motives are to secure the future of his new family.

Genocide/War of the Insects (1968)

‘Call my boyfriend a Brundle Fly again and you’ll regret it!’

What we’ve come for is some insect carnage, of course, but there’s little excitement to be had from some stock footage and black smears attacking model aircraft. It’s difficult to convey a real serious sense of threat from bugs on the big screen without blowing them up to giant size, a recurring problem with this type of story, as abysmal efforts such as ‘The Swarm’ (1978) discovered to their cost.

To compensate we have a surprisingly well-stocked plot with a lot of story elements, far more than usual in a project of this type. This helps keep things moving along, but none of the threads are very complex, and provide no surprises for the audience with one notable exception. Unfortunately, performances are rather weak, especially Roland, who overacts dreadfully, and the English dub does the film few favours.

Of the principal actors, Kawazu is still active in Japanese cinema, appearing in ‘Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II’ (1993) and two of the rebooted 1990s ’Heisei‘ series starring everyone’s favourite flying giant space turtle Gamera. Horan was an American actress working in Japan who’d appeared in small roles in Toho’s ‘King Kong Escapes’ (1967), ‘Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell’ (1968) and notorious cult classic ‘The Green Slime’ (1969). Director Kazui Nihonmatsu is only credited with two films, the other being ‘The X From Outer Space’ (1967), in which Horan also appeared in a small role.

A reasonable enough effort, even though it brings nothing new to the table.