Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The H-Man (1958)



Ishiro Honda was, according me, one of the finest director to ever have lived and work in Japan. He began like everyone else, but after Gojira he became the leading special effects/monster/sci-fi guy - and he did it with the same flair, style and quality as his non-genre movies. In 1958 he directed one of the most interesting films in his career, The H-Man, who completely lacks a big rubber monsters who stomps Tokyo, but still contains one of the coolest creatures in his career: slime.

I'm not gonna go into the story that much, except it's a beautiful and original mix of gangsters, night clubs, cops and slime - yeah, more or less a monster-noir packed with jazz and tough guys wearing hats. Of course everything is triggered by nuclear bombs and it lead to two scenes - directly after each other - that's very similar to what Luigi Cozzi did in his wonderful Contamination. The same dark and gritty atmospheric search of the abandoned vessel, resulting in the spectacular death for some of the people aboard - and then back to the lab where they try out the liquid on an animal, with terrifying result. In this one it's a frog, in the Italian film it's a rat. Cozzi is a big fan of Japanese genre cinema and I'm pretty sure he included it into Contamination as one of many tributes.

Like with Honda's later family production Godzilla's Revenge, The H-Man also shows us what a fantastic storyteller he is with a film that puts the special effects and terror in second place. The H-Man is first of all a gangster/crime movie, but with an awesome slimy twist. Godzilla's Revenge is, as you might remember, a very cute and well-made kids movie with a few pointless inserts of the Kaiju monsters fighting on an island. 

Usually when fancy schmancy nobody's with a PHD in fine arts laugh at Godzilla I always reminds them of how Honda and Kurusawa was dear friends, they often worked together and how much they respected each others work - even if they worked on the total opposite of the movie scale in Japan.

But I'm sure you won't get disappointed at the slime-sequences in The H-Man. This is class, and of course superior to the same years (in my opinion very weak) The Blob. The special effects here is fantastic and produced with a lot of imaginative ideas. This piece of slime moves around and behaves like no slime up till then - sure, some effects is a bit cheesy, the dancer who gets covered by slime comes to mind, but it's very realistic compared to the American counterparts. The melting people looks awesome also, often covered in shadows and the result is like from a horror movie.

The H-Man is a masterpiece of fifties sci-fi and manages to be adult and intelligent all the way through. 

5 comments:

Magnus Wersen said...

I'm not sure how true this is but I read somewhere that Kurosawa actually wanted to do a kaiju himself at one point. I wonder how that would've turned out?

Anonymous said...

"Ishiro Honda was, according me, one of the finest director to ever have lived and work in Japan. "

The original Gojira (1954) is very dark, serious movie....I was very surprised by that when I saw for the first time.

Rarely do you see that kind of darkness in creature features.


"I'm not gonna go into the story that much, except it's a beautiful and original mix of gangsters, night clubs, cops and slime - yeah, more or less a monster-noir packed with jazz and tough guys wearing hats."

Odd mix I must say.


"Usually when fancy schmancy nobody's with a PHD in fine arts laugh at Godzilla I always reminds them of how Honda and Kurusawa was dear friends, they often worked together and how much they respected each others work - even if they worked on the total opposite of the movie scale in Japan."

Well, when they laugh at Godzilla (1998) by Roland Emmerich I´m fairly ok with it, it´s not very good but the original has always been interpreted by some fancy critics as an metaphor by the japanese to deal with atomicbombs over Hiroshima, Nagasaki.

You should throw argument at them as well......or force them to watch Bergmans video by SVT.

Bergman had all kinds of films in his library.


"The special effects here is fantastic and produced with a lot of imaginative ideas. This piece of slime moves around and behaves like no slime up till then - sure, some effects is a bit cheesy, the dancer who gets covered by slime comes to mind, but it's very realistic compared to the American counterparts."

It can never be as good as.....drumroll.....The Stuff (1985)!

hahahahhah....always like the way that dessert kills people.


"The H-Man is a masterpiece of fifties sci-fi and manages to be adult and intelligent all the way through."

Sounds very cool, thanks ninja, great review.

Megatron

Ninja Dixon said...

Magnus, that would have been very interesting. Do you remember where you read it?

And as usual, thanks Megatron! :)

CiNEZiLLA said...

Honda was a genius, but a lot of it was also thanks to Eiji Tsuburaya's fantastic effects - which you allready knew.

The first day of film studies, I flipped though the pile of books I was supposed to use, and one of them "The History of Film" - the backbone of the course - had a pretty lot of stuff on Honda and Godzilla. It made me a happy camper and I always used to shove that in the face of course colleagues who frowned at genre films. There are also a couple of really good books written on Honda and Kaiju, so I wouldn't pull all academics over one edge

Love that Honda and Kurosawa used to work together on films. Honda was second unit on RAN, which just goes to prove the trust and respect Kurosawa held for his mate.

I also believe that the "Kurosawa Kaiju" was more a joke between the two than an actual plan.

Great stuff, and I wish more would be like you and dare venture outside of a couple of key Honda works.

:)

J.

Gekko P. said...

One of my favorite directors in one of his best efforts. Great review.