10 January 2012

YOG THE SPACE AMOEBA/1970/ISHIRO HONDA

YOG THE SPACE AMOEBA

1970/Director: Ishirô Honda/Witer: Ei Ogawa

Cast: Akira Kubo, Atsuko Takahashi, Yukiko Kobayashi, Kenji Sahara, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Yû Fujiki, Noritake Saito

I sometimes notice how I neglect topics I am very interested in here. For one example I have yet to review a single Vincent Price film here though I have dozens here waiting to be praised. Another area of ‘film criticism’ I am remiss in maintaining is the Japanese kaiju (strange monster) films, and in particular the excellent films of Ishiro Honda. I had to search my own site to find that I have in fact a couple Honda film here already and those are King Kong Escapes and Frankenstein Conquers the World  While I have seen plenty if kaiju eiga (monster films) I am a bit lost in the genre outside the films of Ishiro Honda and his TOHO works. There are other memorable kaiju eiga director such as Jun Fukuda but overall I just never get tired of Honda’s vision. Honda worked with special effects master Eiji Tsuburaya create some of the most memorable ‘men in rubber suit’ monster ever to stomp an urban area to rubble. And while I am on that, lest I forget, I actually read a couple reviews online og Yog: The Space Amoeba that said things like “you can tell it is just a guy in a monster costume” and then the review would go on to criticize the acting and other special effects. Even sarcastically mocking the miniatures of cities and villages. Now while I myself may poke a little fun and there I want it to be clear that I love these films and any jabs I give are directed at the film with zero malice on my part. Anyone who brutalizes an Ishiro Honda film because it has guys running around in rubber suits is missing the entire point. I may not know that that point is myself come to think of it but I just like these films and I need to do posts on them here.

Yog is one of Honda’s last keiju films and was made in 1970 when most of TOHO’s great monster epics were behind them. Tragically Eiji Tsuburaya died earlier in 1970 and did not have the opportunity to again work with Honda on the special effects and they were instead handled by Teisho Arikawa. The film was scored by the immortal Akira Ifukube who did the scores for most of the great kaiju films of the 60’s. The story follows investigative reporter and photographer Taro Kudo (Akira Kudo from Monster Zero, Destroy All Monster and Matango) as he seeks to unfathom the mystery of the Jupiter bound space craft Helio 7 after its secret return to Earth (which luckily he just happened to see outside the window of his airplane). His investigation leads him to the island of Selzio which –according to the film- housed a garrison of Japanese troos during the war and therefore explains why the natives there speak perfect Japanese. Sounds good to me.

He is accompanied n his trip by the adorable Ayako Hoshino (played by the adorable Atsuko Takahashi) and later by the questionable and not very adorable Mr. Obabta (Kenji Sahara). Not only did Helio 7 return unexpectedly to Earth but the ship was hijacked by Yog, a malevolent space blob or cloud of energy that can also navigate space ships. Once on Earth Yog is able to inhabit and control the bodies of terrestrial fife forms, such as a cuttle fish that transforms into the daikaiju (giant strange monster) Gezora. Gezora is one of the more obscure kaiju ever created by TOHO but is all the more interesting for this reason. I think some of the scenes of tentacled Gezora tromping up and down the beaches of Selzio looks just fantastic. The cinematography in Honda’s films is consistently glorious and the lush photography here by Taiichi Kankura is typical. After Gezora’s weakness for fire is exploited Yog also inhabits two other animals and creates the kaiju monsters Ganime –some sort of lizard I guess, like a horny toad- and the mutant turtle Kamoebas. Later in the film there is a duel between Ganime and Kamoebas but unfortunately Gezora returns to the sea and is not seen again.

But this is actually an interesting aspect of the film in my opinion. The monster here are smaller in scale than Godzilla and his friends and foes. Godzilla stands as tall as most skyscrapers in Tokyo and military weaponry is useless against him. Here Gezora is huge no doubt but little taller than some of the elevated huts that dot the Pacific island’s beach. And he is wounded by fire not from combat with another monster but from the humans. In fact Yog has an exploitable weakness in that it is sensitive to ultra-sonic noises, and again the humans learn to use this against the creatures Yog has possessed. The final showdown between Ganime and Kamoebas has two dark clouds hordes of shrieking bats over head that the creatures are sensitive to. It seems reasonable to assume then that a few tanks or jet planes would be able to kill the creatures off. This was in fact a problem I had with the Godzilla films where fighter jets annoyed Godzilla less than a mosquito annoys a human.

The cast of stock TOHO actors do a fine job. After Yog TOHO would resort to using less known faces and even TV actors with little or no experience in front of a motion picture camera. Akira Kudo is fine playing against type as the unkempt and undisciplined photograher Kudo. In particular I enjoyed Kenji Sahara as Mr. Obata. Obata is obviously a man not to be trusted from the start. We know this because he has a well trimmed goatee and smokes with a cigarette holder. He is later possessed by Yog but by the film’s end he is resisting the creature’s orders as best he can and commits a final act of heroism that redeems him as a human being. Movies are great in that regard. One gets to redeem himself after a wasted life of sin and also have a captive audience witness the event and sigh. Maybe not one of the more well known or popular TOHO kaiju but in no ways a disappointment as a sawn song of sorts.


2 comments:

Gene Phillips said...

Glad to see a new review of YOG! I saw it back in the early 70s in a nabe theater and haven't seen in re-broadcast on TV nor released in any AV format. Can't imagine why this neat little kaiju got so little attention over all these years.

Bill D. Courtney said...

I agree. This is a fun film and gets some brutal bashings online. Not sure what people want. If you don't mind me asking, what is a "nabe" theater?