Shochiko Horror Criterion DVD Box Set

I think, if I was stranded on a remote island, with food, water, shelter and a means to watch Toho’s Icons of Sci-Fi Collection (The H-Man, Battle in Outer Space, and Mothra), Criterion’s When Horror Came to Shochiku [studio] DVD set (reviewed here), and perhaps a few Bogart films, I would be completely content —at least for a while.  Criterion’s Eclipse Series of films are described as “lost, forgotten, or overshadowed classics… affordable for the adventurous home viewer”.  Eclipse Series 37 is just that, including these lesser known titles:

  • The X from Outer Space / Uchu daikaiju Girara (1967, Eastman Color, 88 min.)
  • Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell / Kyuketsuki Gokemidoro (1968, Fuji-Color, 84 min.)
  • The Living Skeleton / Kyuketsu dokuro sen (1968, BW, 80 min.)
  • Genocide / War of the Insects / Konchu daisenso (1968, Fuji-Color, 84 min.)

I had never seen or heard of The Living Skeleton or Genocide. Both films are listed in the Filmography of Stuart Galbraith’s excellent Japanese Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films (1994, McFarland), but are not reviewed in the main text, so I am thinking these were relatively scarce films in the U.S.  

For year’s I had looked for Goke (my vote for one of the weirdest films ever made), and finally one day I received a copy from fellow b-movie afficionado Rich Chamberlain BLOG.  Galbraith notes that with the possible exception of Toho’s Attack of the Mushroom People (1963), there really isn’t a film quite like Goke. I think, thematically it’s nothing like Matango, but I agree both films are entirely unique.  Goke is a colorful, twisted, sci-fi/horror/crime entry. I’d lump it into the sub-genre of alien possession films like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, It Came from Outer Space, and The Hidden (1987).  It’s not one of your run-of-the-mill vampire films.  I’d give every single Tom Hanks movie in my collection to see Goke on the big screen.

Genocide is indeed strange. It’s not a lost classic, but deserves a peek. How can you go wrong with mutant bees and wasps wrecking havoc on military ilk and mankind? I love these films shot with Fuji-Color film stock. They are bright, contrasty and colorful films.  Genocide probably has an anti-Vietnam War message somewhere (“Don’t send me back there!”), but I was largely entertained by the look of the film.  We also get to see some terrific macro-photography of the scary and real Japanese Giant Hornet (Vespa mandarina japonica) considered by some to be one of the most horrifying insects on the planet BZZZZZzzz.  

The X from Outer Space is one of my favorite Kaiju!  This film is non-stop fun from the opening, pop-jazzy titles to the the final big city assault by the title monster.  It’s a shame Shochiko didn’t make any more giant monster films.  However, this isn’t horror!

The Living Skeleton is the purest (and only) horror film of the set.  Here we have crisp black-and-white photography, gangster (or pirates?), ghosts and ghost ships, tortured lovers, fog (I wonder if John Carpenter saw this flick?) and several gruesome scenes.   The Living Skeleton might be the funnest of the bunch. It’s talky and perhaps a few minutes too long, but why quibble?  Man, I could watch this stuff all day.  Bravo once more to the folks at Criterion.  Happy Holidays.

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