The H-Man, 1958. 7/10

Unusual blend of crime drama with sci-fi. A hood is run down after shooting at something–then he literally disappears. A local businessman is brought in for questioning and identifies Misaki, the missing guy. Misaki’s wife, Chikako, works as a nightclub singer. So far this is shaping up as a Japanese film-noir.

But the next guy that the police talk to is a scientist, Professor Maki, He contacts Chikako about Misaki. Maki goes on about recent H-bomb testing, and how it might’ve caused Misaki’s disappearance. The gangsters, frustrated at what they feel must’ve been Misaki’s double-cross in their narcotics deal, threaten Chikako; someone else gets killed. All she can tell police is that she saw “a green shadow” fleeing the scene. Another man is reported missing–dissolved.

Maki’s brought back into the picture, along with a colleague, Dr. Masada. Maki leads the group to a hospital–a traumatized seaman relates his tale of a ghost ship encounter. This guy’s fairly creepy flashback reveals that when his guys board the drifting ship it’s crew has vanished–there’s just their clothes lying about–without bodies in them…sounds suspicious!

There’s some weird slime that engulfs one of the seamen, dissolving him on the spot. That guy’s reincarnated as a ghostly green figure, flickering into the sort of shadowy state that Chikako described. More guys are slimed, the remaining guys retreat back to their ship. The last thing we see is the slime growing and oozing all over the ‘ghost ship.’

By this point, the authorities take the scientists more seriously, as now there’s evidence that nearby H-bomb tests (i.e., radiation) may have caused these strange happenings. In the lab, Maki demonstrates the process on a frog (I guess there’s a sample-packet of H-bomb stuff handy).

The police are impressed, but don’t quite believe the scientists’ assumption that the wayward ship, drifting inexorably toward Japan, will suddenly download a rapidly-expanding green slimy monster to threaten Tokyo. But as soon as more people show up dead (rather, they don’t show up at all), even the skeptics believe in the slime monster/ creature/man.

Meanwhile, another cool nightclub scene, as more gangsters get nabbed by the police. Sure enough, the slime creeps ashore, right into Chikako’s dressing-room. It reveals its ghostly form, dissolving people here and there at the club. The victims bubble away like so many fizzies, horrifically; sort of the opposite of how the pod people grow in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, with similar silky, cocoon-like coatings.

“What can we do our stop the creature?” asks an official at the ensuing big-shot meeting. They’re going to try fire and electricity (why not?). Obviously, shooting a blob doesn’t help any. Not to be forgotten, Uchida kidnaps Chikako. There’s a very slow, lame chase scene, and he gets away with her.

Uchida’s plan is to recover the heroin that’s craftily hidden in the sewer wall. “With a guy like me you’d really be living!” He brags to her (he’s talking about 50,000,000 yen of drug money). The army follows the creature into another part of the sewer system. Uchida makes Chikako take some stuff off, so when her clothes float out the sewer, it looks like she’s been absorbed by the creature. But he’s careless enough not to see it close in on him: he’s done.

As the creature advances on Chikako from one direction, the army sets the sewer water ablaze from the other end. She’s saved in the nick of time. More flame-throwing soldiers light up the remainder of the creature, but not before it manifests itself as two ghostly green figures. The fire looks like it’s out of control, but an official proclaims victory.

The H-Man is one of the better Japanese sci-fi movies, and it’s notable for a couple of reasons. The crime element actually helps the plot; not only is it believable, it naturally gets the attention of the police, which, once the sci-fi stuff gradually enters the picture, leads to a logical escalation to higher authorities, all the way up to the army.

This is obviously meant as a serious venture, not burdened with the oddball characters (either silly adults, friendly monsters, or all-knowing kids) like several Japanese sci-fi films of the era. Also, while creeping blobs have been done (most famously in the previous year’s The Blob), this changes it up from the prehistoric giant beast deal that’s the acknowledged Japanese forte. And it’s not just blobby jello here; the ghastly chartreuse manifestations look spooky, a very welcome extra treat.

The acting is pretty good too. The characters are types, which is fine: the scientists look and act like we’d expect, as do the police, the gangsters, and ‘the girl.’ In fact, Chicako has a lot to do, successfully playing a doubly-threatened victim (of the gangsters and the creature).

This only has a few low-spots (i.e., the car chase), but it’s unique and definitely entertaining. Farmermouse is shaking in his boots from those green ghost guys, but gives y’all seven free passes to the nightclub there. 7/10.

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