was released in 1969, but this Japanese-American co-production (more Japanese than
U.S., since Hollywood bailed mid-stream) eerily predicts the fashions of the
disco era. There is gold lamé, plunging necklines, and sporty scarves. Keep in
mind, we’re still just talking about the guys here. That is just how they dress
in this technologically advanced Atlantis. Two scientists and a Yankee
journalist will see it for themselves in Ishirō Honda’s The H-Man (trailer
which screens during the Japan Society’s new film series, Beyond Godzilla: Alternative Futures & Fantasies in Japanese Cinema.
team leader Dr. Ken Tashiro and his French colleague Dr. Jules Masson had invited
Perry Lawton to document their undersea exploration mission in James
Cameron-style submersible, but an unexpected volcano eruption swept them away
from their life lines. Fortunately, the two-hundred-year-old Nemo-esque Captain
Craig McKenzie was there to save them. He commands the submarine Alpha, the
flagship of Latitude Zero, a utopian combination of Shangri-La and Galt’s
Gulch, where principled scientists are free to pursue their work confident it
will not be ill-used by either side of the Cold War.
not every two-century-old genius inhabiting these deep equatorial waters is as
progressive as McKenzie and his colleagues. There is also Dr. Malic, a
traditional super-villain bent on world domination. He hunkers down in his lair
at Blood Rock, sending out the Black Shark sub and its tragically loyal captain
Kroiga to do his bidding. Like Dr. Moreau, he has a thing for grafting humans
and animals together, blowing them up to gigantic size to create kaiju. Inconveniently,
Malic has just kidnapped Dr. Okada, a Japanese with a game-changing formula to
counteract the effects of radiation, who had intended to defect to Latitude
Latitude is certainly
enjoyable as a groovy time-capsule, but it never taps into the Japanese
national subconscious in the way Honda’s The H-Man and Godzilla do. There is a
bit of hand-wringing on behalf of a more neutral Cold War position, which has
not dated well in retrospect.
that is Joseph Cotton, from Citizen Kane,
Niagara, and The Third Man
sporting the V-neck as Capt. McKenzie. He plows through as best he can. That is
also Cesar Romero hamming it up as Dr. Malic. Since this is post-Batman, you know his performance will
come in only one speed: high camp. However, Akira Takarada and Masumi Okada
maintain their dignity while looking relatively alert and willing as Tashiro
and Masson (remember, he’s the French one). Linda Haynes is also far better
than snarky reviews have suggested as Latitude Zero’s bikini-top rocking Dr.
Ann Barton (also looking ready for a night at the discotheque). However, it is
a little awkward watching Richard Jaeckel embrace just about every crass
American stereotype as Lawton.
Zero is so ludicrous, it can’t miss. It too is a film that was released in
multiple cuts. Logically, the Japan Society has opted for the 15-minute shorter
Japanese-language version, which wisely jettisoned Cotton’s unnecessary
voice-over narration. Judging from the American version, the Japanese cut is
probably the one to see. Amusing in a giant flying Griffin way (yep, that’s in
there), Latitude Zero screens this
Saturday (3/25) at the Japan Society, as part of the ongoing Beyond Godzilla series.
Labels: Beyond Godzilla, Japanese Cinema, Joseph Cotten