The H-Man (Japan)

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The H-Man (Japan)

Post  BoG on Thu Jun 30, 2011 10:18 am

Aaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiii Exclamation Surprised Exclamation - BEWARE! BEWARE! Arrow ...THE H-MAN!

I'm sure that many remember this film from their childhoods - it's well-known now for being one those films that caused nightmares for kids back then (in my case, a TV showing around the early seventies). Melting people can be a horrific image, yes. The film was originally called Beauty and the Liquid Men (ref: "Eiji Tsuburaya:Master of Monsters" by August Ragone). The film seems to emulate the Japanese template of eerie ghost stories (Ugetsu '53 & Kwaidan '63 as examples), later popularized in stuff like The Ring and The Grudge. But, the ghosts here are a by-product of atomic mutation. Plotwise, it's another sample of atomic era monsters, exemplified by the American 'big bug' sci-fi pictures of the fifties and human mutates like The Amazing Colossal Man (1957) - all results of the atomic bomb or hydrogen bomb, or something like it. By rights, this should be called 'The H-Men' - plural, not singular; there are at least 3 or 4 of the creatures, not sure exactly how many.
Of course, the creatures in this one are also similar to other protoplasmic monsters of that time - monsters such as The Blob (1958), X the Unknown (1956), The Creeping Unknown (1955), Caltiki (1959) and Japan's own The Human Vapor (1960). The visualization here is intriguing and a bit different: the creatures are first presented as moving thick liquid but sometimes also manifest themselves as human-shaped vaporous phantoms. Once they touch a human being - that's it; the human dissolves in agonizing pain. The only consolation is that it's quick - the victim melts away within 10 seconds or so (a strange exception - the first depiction of this in the first few minutes of the film; the gangster who gets snagged takes longer to vaporize, maybe for suspense/dramatic reasons). Most of the film takes place in a rainy city, with much of the action coalescing around a night club, the police station and a female character's apartment.
The film does have a couple of slow moments (a scene of the 3 main characters, for example, discussing matters drags out for a minute longer than seemed necessary) but all the spooky scenes involving the monsters are hard to beat for genuine scares and thrills. The whole sequence aboard the 'ghost ship' - a flashback, emblematic of Japanese sci-fi - is tremendous chilling scary cinema. The scene that stands out for me, however, is the one with the police detective who inadvisedly tries to bash one of the phantom monsters with the butt of his pistol (no, no! don't do that!). It happens just as the last half-hour begins. The audience had gotten to know this character in the past hour and his demise is still shocking, even after the first viewing - shocking and gruesome. Aaaaaaiiiiii - Gnarly! The climax takes place in the sewers - creepy!
As expected, I'm only familiar with the American version of this film. But, a DVD release was released from Sony and the DVD is supposed to contain both versions, the Japanese and the American one. BoG's Score: 7 out of 10
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