Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Beyond Godzilla: The Secret of the Telegian
David Hedison in The Fly, a Japanese scientist
has developed a teleportation device with tragic results. In this case, the invention
works perfectly, it has just been used for evil purposes by a killer with a few
scores to settle. Human nature combined with Promethean science inevitably produces
mayhem in Jun Fukuda’s The Secret of the
which screens during the Japan Society’s ongoing film series, Beyond Godzilla: Alternative Futures & Fantasies in Japanese Cinema.
is a case of bad karma dating back to WWII. In the chaotic days leading up to the
Emperor’s surrender, Lt. Onishi and his corrupt unit intended to hijack a
shipment of gold to set themselves up with a comfortable future. However,
Corporal Sudo and Dr. Nikki, the scientist they are supposed to be escorting to
safety, object to such villainy (Dr. Nikki’s area of expertise? Matter
transference.). Onishi and his accomplices believed they had left Tsudo and
Nikki for dead, but apparently, they were not dead enough.
years later, Sudo starts picking off Onishi and his men, one by one. No matter
what precautions they take, he always manages to reach his prey and avoid
capture. It baffles the cops, led by the no-nonsense Det. Kobayashi, but his
old college buddy, science journalist Kirioka is much better prepared to pursue
a killer like “The Telegian.” He also develops a romantic interest in Akiko
Chujo, the unfortunate high tech component sales associate handling Sudo’s
account (set-up under an assumed name).
many ways, Telegian is a close cousin
of The H-Man. Both were produced by
the same studio, featured special effects designed by Eiji Tsuburaya, and
combined elements of the hardboiled crime genre with science fiction-monster
movies. However, Telegian is much
less judgmental regarding the inherit nature of scientific discovery. On the
other hand, it unambiguously suggests human nature is basically rotten to the
Telegian also has its eccentricities,
including scenes in a military-themed night club that presents dancers
cavorting in Goldfinger-style body paint.
Yet, what most distinguishes Telegian is
the WWII backstory and its cynical portrayal of the Imperial military. Frankly,
Sudo’s victims mostly have it coming. He just gets a little too cocky in his
execution—and a little too public, particularly during the clever opening
sequence set in a carnival fun house.
Shirakawa (another H-Man alumnus) and
Kôji Tsuruta develop such likably innocent romantic chemistry together, it is almost
a shame Fukuda backburners them in favor of more Telegian terror. Tsuburaya’s
teleportation effects look pretty cool for 1960, while the dodgy victims are
appropriately colorful, in an EC Comics kind of way.
if you can’t find enjoyment in films like Telegian
and H-Man than we just can’t help
you. They are products of their time, but they strove to entertain, playing it
straight down the middle. In fact, films like these are really indispensable
for anyone trying to understand the post-war Japanese collective psyche. Highly
recommended, The Secret of the Telegian screens
this Saturday (4/1) at the Japan Society, as part of Beyond Godzilla.
Labels: Beyond Godzilla, Japanese Cinema