吸血鬼ゴケミドロ 「Kyuketsuki Gokemidoro」
Release Date: August 14th, 1968
Duration: 84 mins.
Director: Hajime Sato
Writer: Kyuzo Kobayashi, Susumu Takaku (Script),
Starring: Tereuo Yoshida (Sugisaka, the co-pilot), Tomomi Sato (Kazumi Asakura, the stewardess), Eizo Kitamura (Gozo Mano, the senator), Hideo Ko (Hirofumi Teraoka, the hijacker), Kathy Horan (Mrs. Neal), Yuko Kusunoki (Noriko Tokuyasu), Nobuo Kaneko (Tokuyasu). Kazuo Kato (Dr. Momotake, the psychiatrist), Masaya Takahashi (Toshiyuki Saga, the scientist)
Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell is a pessimistic sci-fi horror where a group of survivors from an airplane crash encounter an extra-terrestrial blob that can turn humans into bloodsucking vampires.
Released in 1968, the same year as classic Edo-gothic horror Kuroneko (Kaneto Shindo), the disturbing drama The Profound Desire of the Gods (Nagisa Oshima), and social commetary Death By Hanging (Nagisa Oshima), while it won’t be remembered as anything ground-breaking like those titles, it has its B-movie charms that justify giving it a watch.
It all begins with Air Japan flight 8012. Flying through a strange blood-red sky from Tokyo to Osaka, we board the jet just before authorities demand that it turn back due to a bomb threat. Sugisaka, the co-pilot (Teruo Yoshida) and Kazumi Asakura, the stewardess (Tomomi Sato), in their search for the device, end up uncovering a deadly assassin who hijacks the plane but he is the least of everyone’s worries as the vehicle gets buzzed by a UFO and crashes. The survivors crawl out of the wreckage and into a world of terror as they discover that the Gokemidori, a race of aliens who suck blood, are plotting an invasion of Earth and that UFO is hanging around waiting to kidnap and transform the humans into blood-sucking freaks one by one, forcing the others to barricade themselves in the plane wreckage.
This film is a low budget high tension affair. One location, a ravine, one set, the crashed plane, and a group of 11 characters that are gradually whittled down by their in-fighting and the alien siege until the film reaches a twist ending almost as good as Invasion of the Body Snatchers but much darker.
An assassin, an American war widow, a a corrupt careerist conservative politician in bed with a greedy weapons manufacturer (figuratively) and his wife (literally), an aloof and amused psychologist and an even more aloof and amused space biologist find themselves trapped in the area and all deal with their situation badly and turn on each other, that Japanese collectivism fragmenting as self-interest, jealousy, fear, and alien attacks get the better of them. All the while, the stout and decent Sugisaka and the humane and loyal Asakura try to keep everyone together and safe. Even if they can escape the aliens safety is not guaranteed and so it is for them to get the final lines of the film as they lament that humanity is too far gone to save.
The general theme of the film is man’s inability to work together and its willingness to descend into murderous barbarism. This is keenly felt throughout Asia (now and back in 1968) in both the past (video footage of atomic bombings) and present (still photographs depicting carnage in the Vietnam War). The aliens verbalise these themes as they gloat about their nefarious plot to utilise humanity’s penchant for conflict and these themes are found in the action as the survivors play out increasingly desperate games of survival as the situation brings out their treacherous and violent natures which is far scarier than the actual aliens.
The Gokemidori are the sort of aliens who are scary as a concept but not when sighted. They come to Earth and pass judgement and find humanity lacking as capitalism, warfare, environmental destruction and man’s warlike nature have ruined everything and made Earth easy pickings for a take over. Their first appearance via flying saucers is menacing as a Close Encounters of the Third Kind golden light swallows everything while a menacing musical tone pulses but they, as actual physical beings, are little more than just ectoplasm that gloops around the set, slipping and sliding in the shadows before slurpling into people. That’s their only attack until they can possess a human in which case they do the vanilla thing of strangling people or sucking blood. It’s kind of a let-down that their body-snatching abilities are underdone and that the only visibly affect on victims is a gash that runs down the face and that isn’t something that applies to everyone. There is a nice line in desiccated corpses that turn into dust blown away by a desolate wind after the vampires are through with their meal. Also, the model work with the plane crash really is something to behold as the good old fashioned special effects hold up and convey a sense of disaster and Hajime Sato’s direction proves dynamic enough to keep everything interesting as the camera roves around sets with some grace making rather bland sets more palatable and easy to imagine.
Overall, this is one worth watching and its message about humanity, unfortunately, remains relevant today. Some of the grand speeches about mankind falling apart may be the sort of content that people need to see to understand that we had better work together to prevent more conflict, climate change etc.