Goke - Body Snatcher From Hell (Hajime Sato, 1968) ***
This was another film I had long been intrigued by via a solitary still from it in a horror-film tome of my father's; it's also proof that the Japanese could make adult-oriented horror just as well back in the day (and not merely kiddie stuff like the "Godzilla" films one of which, incidentally, followed this viewing). Intriguingly, the Janus logo which preceded the opening titles suggests this may be forthcoming on DVD from Criterion (I haven't yet purchased the other cult Japanese horror they've released, JIGOKU , due to the defective first pressing of that film's disc; having watched GOKE, I wonder whether I should take the plunge now hoping that I end up with a corrected copy).
Admittedly, the plot of the film isn't all that original: the English title, obviously, implies a certain kinship with Don Siegel's 1956 classic while the gelatinous alien which possesses the human body through the face(!) is also redolent of THE BLOB (1958); but maybe its influences actually came from European genre efforts as a matter of fact, two Italian films I've just watched have a good deal in common with it, namely CALTIKI, THE IMMORTAL MONSTER (1959; the oozing creature, again) and PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES (1965; the remote setting, the 'body snatcher' element, the vivid color scheme and even the final apocalyptic revelation)! Besides, the fact that the narrative revolves around a handful of passengers from a crashed plane also brings to mind the oft-used 'hazardous situation' plot line of classic Hollywood films such as FIVE CAME BACK (1939), STAGECOACH (1939) and the like; under pressure of hunger, thirst, isolation and the imminent threat of alien takeover, all the basic natures of the various characters come to the boil leading most of them inexorably towards their doom!
This mish-mash of elements ensures a stylish and entertaining ride but it's all filtered through the innately weird sensibilities of Japanese cinema (not to mention the country's first-hand experience of nuclear fall-out, which unmistakably pre-occupied most of their sci-fi entries), giving it a distinctive creepiness; the final reel peppered with red-tinted newsreel footage of devastation and violence has the two lone survivors finally reaching civilization, only to be met with a less than comforting sight.
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