Thursday, June 2, 2016

Reboot: Evil Brain from Outer Space (1965)

Intro to film
It may start with a simple idea, but the development of a serial can be more exacting than a single film project. Starting in the 1960s, Japan's film industry took off like the proverbial rocket, supported in part with highly creative pre-show serials to captivate a growing audience. Young theater goers were becoming painfully aware of western culture, and the rebuilding economy of the Land of the Rising Sun was producing respectable sci-fi flicks to bring in the crowds. Most popular were the monster movies, ala Godzilla and Mothra, but sub-genre's of alien invaders and super-heroes had their place as well, hence the Starman serials, which were later edited into a series of 9 films for US release. Our selection today is one such edit job, Evil Brain From Outer Space.

I was sent here to save you from the Zumerians - you will die if I do not kill them!

Film still
The Inside Scoop

It's 1965, and Japan is still working things out to find a national identity in the post-US occupation world. Semblances of Japanese culture have given way to westernized pop-culture, as evident in the visual shifts witnessed on screen. Sets have a decidedly European flair, and in Evil Brain, this is evident. For example, in order to access the secret lairs beneath the city streets, the agents of the evil brain must activate hidden levers attached to fountains that open secret doors. These fountains all seem to have been cast from the concrete molds of Parisian courtyards, with cavorting nymphs and floral sculptures abound. Stock footage is painfully bleak of traditional Japanese architecture, instead showcasing scenes that very well might have been shot in downtown Burbank. 

Kids screen capture
Even the plot lines, which would evolve into the classic Japanese filmography we know and love, have a serious western flair- comparably, Starman has many of the same traits and motivations as the early George Reeves Superman serials. Curious child sidekicks, brilliant doctors in peril who race diligently to find cures/weapons/communication devices, a paralyzed military that relies on the local police detective to solve the mystery - all are present in stereotypical form. This may very well have been intentional, or it simply may have been that the age-targeting genre was so pervasive it wasn't reliant on culture.

Worth Watching For...

Lobby CardThe choreography of the fight scenes could easily be noted as precursors to the well-defined-yet-choppy, short and distinct film sequences of the growing Hong Kong Kung-Fu films soon to make their way across the planet. Shots are decidedly well framed, and post-production editing contributes positively to the film's pacing. Rather than illustrate a fight scene moving awkwardly between water-tower scaffold and roof-top, the editing utilizes quick cuts, where the actors would simulate a jump in the direction of the next scene, then appear on their marks in continued struggle without missing a beat. 

Film PosterThis film was re-edited from the original serial, Super Giant #s 7, 8, and 9, and as such, some edits appear to have been left on the cutting room floor, giving the film a periodic impression of a chop-job. However, the sound mixing and audio dubs are spot on, with an original music score than contemporaries would have found admirable. The original serial was, as similar films of the period often were, marketed to the preteen after-school crowd, and as such, plot lines leave much to literary fill-in-the-blank imagination. Character development is mostly reliant on a solid knowledge of the genre, and archetype rather than individual characterizations are used to progress the story.

Evil Brain from Outer SpaceNotable Quotable

Starman: You'll be punished for all your crimes against the earth. (Pause) Doctor, don't attempt to escape!
Dr. Hishiama: If you try to stop me, I'll throw this nuclear grenade...(Throws grenade)

Critical Stats

Starman wavingEvil Brain From Outer Space (1965) was produced by the Fuji Eiga Co. and distributed by the Shintoho Film Distribution Committee. Filming locations unknown. Directed by Koreyoshi Akasaka and Teruo Ishii, starring Ken Utsui, Junko Ikeuchi, and Minoru Takada. Released in the US 1965. B/W. Run Time 78 Minutes.

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