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  H-Man, The The Slime People
Year: 1958
Director: Ishirô Honda
Stars: Yumi Shirakawa, Kenji Sahara, Akihiko Hirata, Eitaro Ozawa, Koreya Senda, Makoto Sato, Machiko Kitagawa, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Naomi Shiraishi, Ko Mishima, Yoshifumi Tajima, Tetsu Nakimura, Haruya Kato, Ayumi Sonoda
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: Atomic testing in the Pacific has recently led to a Japanese ship going missing, or so it appears, but aside from some headlines there does not seem to be any follow up. That is until shortly afterwards when a policeman is patrolling on foot in Tokyo and notices a man sitting in a car, and goes over to investigate. Finding nothing too suspicious, he moves on, but the man is a gangster who is there to pick up a stash of drugs, and when his contact arrives he is all set to go - however the contact contorts his body as he reaches the car, and the hoodlum panics and takes off, leaving his cohort to be run over - and completely vanish.

Well, he leaves his clothes behind, which has investigating Inspector Tominaga (Akihiko Hirata) and his team baffled in time-honoured tradition. It took a while for what was happening to become apparent, though we in the audience nevertheless remained one step ahead of the characters, but The H-Man, or Bijo to ekitai ningen (Beauty and the Liquid People) as it was known in Japan, certainly made an impression on the Baby Boomers of the late fifties. Indeed, many would recall being absolutely terrified of this movie as youngsters, even though in its export version it was released in an edited form - the Japanese had the full strength one.

In Japan, of course, this was a film aimed at an adult audience, while in the United States it was relegated to kiddie matinees, for in the West in that decade science fiction was presented as a rather juvenile pursuit, at least in the movies. But that potentially inappropriate material was given to the kids anyway, passing into legend as one of those reminiscences of scary pop culture for a wide range of unsuspecting filmgoers, though whether it would have the same effect these days would be more debatable. There was a distinct similarity between this as the American nightmare fuel of the fifties The Blob, even down to the same sort of special effects used for their monsters.

They look to all intents and purposes to have been produced simultaneously, so it was not a case of one going ahead and copying the other, maybe one of those ideas whose time had come (in 1958), but if you know The Blob has been referenced you will be aware of what to expect here: people being dissolved by a mass of oozing slime. That is down to the Inspector teaming up with a scientist, Dr Masada (Kenji Sahara) to work out that the crew of the boat affected by radiation from the H-bomb tests have been transformed into shapeless entities which may or may not have intelligence, it's never clear, but are definitely hungry. The partner of the first victim we saw is a nightclub singer, Chikako Arai (Yumi Shirakawa), and she is drawn into this as well.

After all, the cops believe this to be connected to a drug bust they were planning, but the gangsters are just as confounded as they are as to what it going on. Our director was Ishirô Honda, Toho Studios' golden boy for helming the international hit Godzilla, and the shadow of the American bombing during World War II similarly influenced The H-Man, as it did many a Japanese movie for decades following. Don't delve into the science too far, it did not make any sense, simply accept that the all-powerful radiation could inflict a dramatic effect on matter so as to make monsters: it was all very representational, but the domestic as well as foreign market would get what was being referred to immediately. As a science fiction movie, this was too bogged down in the police procedurals, and the nightclub acts merely added for sex appeal, but when this got freaky, it was truly memorable, as those children discovered way back then. Music by Masaru Sato.

[Eureka release The H-Man and Battle in Outer Space on a Blu-ray set with these features:

Limited Edition O-Card Slipcase (First Print Run of 2000 copies ONLY) featuring new artwork by Darren Wheeling
Includes both Japanese and English versions of each film, presented across two Blu-ray discs
Original mono audio presentations
English subtitles (for Japanese versions) and English SDH (for English versions)
The H-Man: Brand new audio commentary with authors and Japanese sci-fi historians Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski
The H-Man: Brand new audio commentary with film historian and writer David Kalat
Battle in Outer Space: Audio commentary with authors and Japanese sci-fi historians Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski
Battle in Outer Space: Brand new audio commentary with film historian and writer David Kalat
Stills Galleries
PLUS: A collector's booklet featuring essays by Christopher Stewardson and Japanese cinema expert Jasper Sharp (Midnight Eye).]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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