Monday, March 9, 2015

Gokemidoro Coming: "Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell"

Science fiction follows a warm and cuddly formula: aliens invade, earthlings try and figure out just what in the Sam Hill is going on, while the malicious aliens eat their brains, drink their blood, or artificially inseminate them with galactic goo. Their reason: the damned, dumb earthlings brought it all on themselves with their senseless wars, racial hatreds, hither, thither, yon, and etc. It's all basically Cold War liberalism apologizing for the fact that a Democratic president was the first to drop the bomb. 

The fact that the bomb went ka-blooey on Japan makes the narrative refrain even more potent in Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell. In this odd little morsel from Shochiku Studios, Air Japan Flight JA307 crash lands on a desert lunarscape after coming across a bright and flying saucer. Onboard are an odd assortment of passengers, including a teenage terrorist armed with a bomb and a rifle-bearing assassin who is trying to hoof it after killing the British ambassador to Japan. As most survival stories go, pretty much everyone falls back into humanity's natural state -- selfishness -- and begins trying to feed each other to the hungry monster outside. 

Released in 1968, Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell came too late to bask in the halcyon days of 1950s sci-fi, but it came just time to watch the world almost fall apart. In the film, all the anxieties of the late '60s come into play: political assassinations, the military-industrial complex, disintegrating families, science run amok, terrorism, and war in Southeast Asia. The characters in the film know it too, and when they are not commenting on how the world's gone to hell, they're observing how hell is descending all around them. 

Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell does not ease into action, nor does it gently toy around with different genres. This is a sci-fi-horror-action film that is in the shit from the moment the film opens. As the pilots and the stewardess Kuzumi Asakura (played by Tomomi Sato) begin to notice how red the atmosphere has become, the passengers in the cabin start screaming as birds begin committing suicide by throwing themselves at the plane's windows. Then, the chief pilot (played by Hiroyuki Nishimoto) gets a radio call that someone onboard is carrying a bomb. The Co-pilot Sugisaka (played by Teruo Yoshida), who, along with Asakura, shows humanity at its best, is sent to investigate and begins the process of searching through bags. In no particular order, he clears: Senator Mano (Eizo Kitamura), a corrupt politician of the Constitutional Democratic Party and the film's representation of human evil, Tokiyasu (played by Nobuo Kaneko), Mano's toady and a venal weapons exporter, Noriko (played by Yuko Kusunoki), Tokiyasu's abused wife, the lover of Senator Mano, and the poor weapon used by the Gokemidoro to broadcast their goals, Momotake (played by Kazuo Kato), a slimy psychiatrist who sees the plane's predicament as one great experiment in trauma, Professor Sagai (played by Masaya Takhasi), a space expert who is the first to theorize that UFOs are interested in invading Earth due to our general weakness caused by constant warfare, Matsumiya (played by Norihiko Yamamoto), a wild-eyed terrorist who is the owner of the aforementioned bomb, Mrs. Neal (played by Kathy Horan), the American window of a recently killed GI whose face was blown away by napalm in Vietnam, and an unnamed man (played by Hideo Ko), who turns out to not only be the man who killed the British ambassador, but also the film's extraterrestrial vampire. 

There's no way around it: Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell is a wild and ridiculous film. From the fact that the Gokemidoro,who want to eradicate all of humanity, are in actually slow-moving viscous fluid that possess humans by creating a forehead cavity that somehow transforms the carrier into a bloodsucker, to the cringeworthy lines uttered by Mrs. Neal, the blonde gaijin who has a habit of screaming "I hate war because it makes everyone upset" as if she were reading phonetically from a script written by a non-English speaker, Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell is exploitation sci-fi done right with all the requisite amounts of theremin. No wonder Tarantino references it in Kill Bill

Like most good J-horror, Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell does not end well. And it shouldn't. This film paints a pretty bleak portrait of humanity, and despite the heroics of Asakura and Sugisaka, the world is just too depraved to save. By the time the stewardess and the co-pilot make it to civilization, they realize that everyone is dead. Worse still, a large Gokemidoro fleet is heading towards Earth. Sayonara, bitches and role credits. 

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