At the end of the Second World War, a small troop of Japanese soldiers are taking one of their top scientists to safety when they discover that he’s carrying a fortune in gold, as well as all his research materials. Not surprisingly, the boffin is never heard from again. Fifteen years later, the soldiers begin dying one by one…
Science-fiction murder-mystery that initially looks intriguing, before descending into a familiar, well-trodden formula. The action starts with a mysterious killing in the ‘cave of horrors’ at a low-rent amusement park. Witnesses seem confused by events, and the police aren’t much better off. Enter the local newspaper’s science correspondent Kôji Tsuruta, who teams up with policemen Yoshio Tsuchiya and Akihiko Hirata to try and crack the case. Tsuruta and Tsuchiya are old college buddies, which seems to give the journalist some kind of unofficial detective status, which turns out to be a good job, because….science!
Yes, our heroes go off to see old Professor Cliché to get the lowdown on the missing scientist and what he was working on. Turns out that it was matter transmission, which is all perfectly plausible ‘as space travel was thought improbable only a few years ago’ etc. etc. Although this old egghead does seem to believe that all the scientists in the world believe in telepathy, so he may not be the most reliable source of information. Anyway, Tsuruta is a bit distracted because he’s balancing his new police ‘duties’ with an awkward romance with pretty salesgirl Yumi Shirakawa. She works for a company that sell ‘cooling units’ and she’s had a visit from a very strange customer. Our intrepid hero suddenly realises that this is connected with the case, because…science!
From here, we’re treated to a mildly engaging mix of thrills and action, but with few surprises. Despite the central hook of murder using matter transmission, we’re firmly back in well-explored territory; specifically that of H G Wells’ Invisible Man. Only without the floating cigarette and the sinking seat cushions. He first arrived in Japanese cinema in ‘The Invisible Man Appears’ (1949), a film which is generally regarded as the nation’s first foray into science fiction. Similar projects played with the concept over the next decade, such as ‘Invisible Avenger’ (1954) and ‘Invisible Man Vs Human Fly’ (1957). However, this project returned to the concept’s roots; the madman using his unusual abilities for criminal purposes. The drama is played completely straight, which is refreshing, but it’s not exactly original.
The director was Jun Fukuda, cutting his teeth in the world of fantastical film before chumming up with our scaly old pal Godzilla in the 1960s and early 1970s. He was in the canvas seat for several of the Big G’s rumbles; including ‘Ebirah Terror of the Deep’ (Godzilla vs The Sea Monster) (1964), ‘Son of Godzilla’ (1967), ‘Godzilla vs Gaigan’ (1972) and ‘Godzilla vs Megalon’ (1973). He also delivered science fiction spies in ‘ESPY’ (1974) and worldwide apocalypse in ‘Virus’ (1979).
Several of the cast also had links to the giant lizard; Tsuchiya appeared in ‘lnvasion of the Astro-Monster/Monster X’ (1965), ‘Son of Godzilla’ (1967), ‘Destroy All Monsters’ (1968) and even ‘Godzilla vs King Ghidorah’ (1991) almost a quarter of a century later. Hirata was also a regular player, with roles in the original ‘Godzilla’ (1954), ‘Ghidorah, the 3-Headed Monster’ (1964) and several others in the series. Shirakawa, on the other hand, does seem to have avoided such shenanigans, instead going up against ‘The Mysterians’ (1967), another slice of everyday Japanese life from Toho Studios.
If this film has a problem, it’s that some things have been lost in translation. One of the main characters seems to have been brought back from the dead somehow (it’s never explained) and it looks like he hasn’t aged a day in 15 years. And what is a Telegian anyway? The English dialogue never even mentions the word, let alone explains it. I guess it’s supposed to be a term that describes the main villain and his special powers.
This isn’t a bad film. The SFX are dated in some aspects, and the story gives up its secrets too early, but it’s a decent way to spend 90 minutes if you’re not too critical.
On the other hand, does the smoking volcano always have to erupt at the end of the movie?