Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Invisible Man vs. The Human Fly (1957)

Or: Let's Get Really Small!

By Hank Parmer

Conflict is, of course, the soul of drama. It's no wonder then that so many films' titles reflect this with a preposition which indicates opposition: Batman vs. Superman ...  Billy the Kid vs. Dracula ...  Lady Chatterly vs. Fanny Hill [one of my favorites] ...   Kramer vs. Kramer -- the list is well-nigh endless. But if there's one country that stands alone when it comes to truly titanic confrontations, it's the Land of the Rising Sun.

And then there's this movie.

At first glance, these title characters might seem an odd pairing. Under most circumstances you wouldn't think there would be much occasion for a rumble between them, operating as they do in somewhat different spheres. But this Human Fly isn't a daredevil who gets his kicks from scaling skyscrapers. Nor is he the hideous result of one of those mix-ups to which experimental matter transmitters seem all too prone, but rather, a man who's able to shrink himself to the size of a fly.

Sort of the Japanese version of the Marvel hero Ant-Man, except he's not using his astounding power of major shrinkage to fight evil. Quite the contrary.

So why is he called the "Human Fly", with all the, shall we say, unpleasant connotations, lifestyle-wise, that suggests? He does make a buzzing noise when he's traveling through the air in his minuscule state (I'll have more to say about that later) but even so, if you're looking for a flying-insect-themed identity to match the sound effect, one would think something like the "Human Hornet" would have been a bit more apropos, as well as nicely alliterative, with a hint of sinister overtones.

Or more hygienic sounding, anyway. But like so many other questions this story raises, it will have to remain unanswered. This SF-themed policier, incidentally, comes from the studios of Daiei, the same outfit who a few years later would bring us the Gamera series. If you're a fan of MST3K, this film's producer, Hidemasa Nagata, is a name you're likely to find familiar.

The story begins on a JAL airliner in flight, as a stewardess opens the door to the rear compartment and discovers the gruesomely pop-eyed corpse of a middle-aged man sprawled on the carpet outside the toilet. You know, the catered sushi did smell a bit suspect ... could it have been the fugu?

But the evidence indicates he was murdered. Everyone on the flight is detained for questioning. Among them is famous physicist Professor Hayakawa, who isn't looking so well after his recent heart attack. The scientist's daughter Akiko soon shows up with his colleague, Dr. Tsukioka, in tow. Fortunately, the officer in charge of the investigation, Chief Inspector Wakabayashi, is an old friend of Tsukioka. Once her father's condition is explained to him, the considerate detective postpones the professor's interview.

After grilling the remaining passengers and the crew, Wakabayashi is no closer to solving the crime. None of the other passengers have any connection with the deceased, let alone a motive to kill the guy. Suicide doesn't seem likely. Yet the stewardess swears she was watching the rear of the plane the whole time, and the victim was the only one who entered the compartment.

A real puzzler, this. Unless ... a ninja assassin was hiding down in the toilet! It's been done before. (Seriously.) But this doesn't occur to anyone.

This is the sixth unsolved murder in the last three months. Wakabayashi's higher-ups are worried: There might be political repercussions.

Wakabayashi drops by the Hayakawa residence to question the professor. The detective's hopes for gleaning some useful information -- Prof. Hayakawa had been seated next to the victim -- are soon dashed: The professor claims the guy kept his lips zipped the whole time. Baffled yet again, Wakabayashi half-seriously suggests the killer must have been invisible.

The conversation comes to a screeching halt: Tsukioka, Akiko and Dad exchange significant looks. By a startling coincidence, it turns out the professor and Tsukioka have stumbled upon the secret of invisibility out in the backyard lab -- a gleaming modernistic structure which looks as though it might have been designed by the same architect who did Gigantor's hangar, with interiors by the Krell.

"Wait 'til you see how many TV channels we get with that dish!"

Tsukioka takes his friend for the tour. Prof. Hayakawa's grad student, Sugimoto, buzzes them in. Tsukioka demonstrates their new invisibility ray (discovered by accident in the course of the Prof.'s cosmic ray research) on an empty glass beaker. It promptly disappears! Forget the dribble glass: This gag will slay 'em at the physicists' next key party.

Tsukioka explains he hasn't tried his new discovery out on a live subject yet. Wakabayashi has an inspiration: Invisibility could come in right handy on a stakeout. Especially if it might involve the showers at the YWBA.

The inspector is confronted with yet another seemingly insoluble crime: Despite locked doors and iron bars on the windows, someone managed to get into a bank after hours without leaving any signs of a forced entry, stabbed the guard and made off with five million yen in cash. The bank manager swears the keys were with him all the time. The thief left no fingerprints: It's as if he licked them off, according to one of the investigators. (Thank you for that image, Sgt. Hentai!)

And yet this clever thief carelessly dropped a clue for Wakabayashi to find, a matchbox from the "Club Asia". According to Det. Hayama the owner, Kuroki, has no criminal record. He operated a nightclub in Kobe before he moved to Tokyo a few years ago and opened up the Club Asia.

Wakabayashi heads down to the nightclub, where we're treated to a song-and-dance number, a wasabi-flavored tango featuring the appropriately credited "Sexy Dancer" Mieko. The inspector tries to pump Kuroki. But once again, the lead comes up dry, as the nightclub owner vehemently denies any involvement with criminals. Kuroki introduces his bartender, Hajima, adding that his employee's got a rep as the toughest guy in Ginza. (Notice the tip jar is prominently displayed.)

The next day, a woman walks along a pathway next to a canal. Willows line the white gravel path, sunlight sparkles off the water. It's a picturesque scene, marred only by the persistent buzzing of a fly. The point-of-view changes to an overhead shot, tracking her shadow as she walks down the path. Suddenly, behind her, another shadow appears from out of nowhere and we hear her gasp. The camera pans up: Her assailant is nowhere to be seen!

A dark patch of blood blossoms on her back. The unfortunate lady tumbles down the kudzu-covered bank and ends up spreadeagled by the edge of the water. A passerby -- a plainclothes cop named Tada, who coincidentally works for the Chief Inspector and for some never-to-be-explained reason just happened to be on the scene -- runs to help her; all she can do before she dies is point toward the sky.

But there's nothing to be seen. Although that fly is still buzzing around the vicinity. It sounds like a pretty big one, too.

Yet again the police are left clueless: The murder took place out in the open, in broad daylight, but no one saw her attacker. Nobody was seen running from the neighborhood, either. How could her killer have struck and then vanished so completely?

Wakabayashi is even more frustrated when Det. Hayama informs him that Kuroki was with a female friend at the time of the murder. Besides, the guy uses a lighter, not matches, so -- if the killer is also the same criminal who pulled the bank job -- Hayama reasons this rules the nightclub owner out.

The victim's boss, Kusunoki, arrives to identify the corpse. He claims to be as puzzled as the police over why anyone should want to murder Miss Maeda: She didn't have a boyfriend, lived by herself, and kept her apartment clean. (?) Miss Maeda was a "proper girl" and nothing like this had ever happened before. He probably would have noticed if she turned up for work one day with a bleeding stab wound.

Back at Kusunoki's office, the police search the deceased's desk. Although he tries to appear helpful and friendly, Kusunoki seems a shade nervous while they paw through her desk and locker. The detectives find nothing suspicious, and conclude she was indeed a "proper girl". (How disappointing: The improper ones are far more fun to investigate.)

Kusunoki's alibi is that he was up on the roof, playing golf, when his employee went out on her lunch break and got murdered. Asked how he makes his living, Kusunoki claims to run a small import-export business out of this office. The victim was his only employee.

And he owns this spanking-new, multi-story office building which bears his name. "If I'd known it was going to be so tough in Japan, I'd never have left South America," he jokes. (But once you get on Dr. M.'s bad side, there's nothing for it but a hasty departure.) Kusunoki offers to put up the money for a reward, if it will help them track down the perpetrator of this dastardly deed.

Eyewitnesses confirm Kusunoki's golfing alibi, and as far as his record goes, there's "no dirt under his fingernails" as one of the investigators puts it. (But does he keep his apartment clean?) Meanwhile, Det. Tada shadows the Club Asia's bartender, Hajima, down a dark, deserted street. Hajima enters a tunnel. A fly must be harassing the bartender: Its buzzing echoes in the tunnel while he swats at it distractedly.

The detective stops to light a cigarette, as Hajima disappears around a corner. The officer hears a choked cry and hot-foots it after his quarry, arriving just in time to see Hajima stagger a few steps and collapse. The bartender's dying from a stab wound in the back. He continues to swat feebly at something the policeman can't see. But somewhere close by there's a fly.

Back to Police Headquarters: From the route Hajima was taking, it seems certain he was on his way to pay a call on Sexy Dancer Mieko. (No wonder he was in a hurry.) Wakabayashi orders his men to concentrate on the bartender and find out everything about him.

Meanwhile, Det. Hayama's uncovered an intriguing connection between three of the victims, including the airliner stiff: Back during WWII, they were all assigned to some mysterious project in the Southern Islands. How Hajima and Miss Maeda are tied into it, though, isn't apparent. Det. Tada suddenly recalls the buzzing he heard when he was at the scene of these latest murders, and the way the bartender kept swatting at something.

While his men debate the possibility this is the work of a homicidal housefly Wakabayashi gazes thoughtfully out the window. Close-up of a fly.

Wakabayashi rings up his buddy Tsukioka at the lab. The Chief Inspector has the idea that if a man were the size of a fly, he could float around in the air. Tsukioka thinks his friend's been sampling the sake a bit too freely, but agrees in theory -- though of course, he hastens to add, it's impossible.

Well, hey, that's good enough for me: We can call the movie off now! Whew, that's a relief! What? Oh, damn.

The C.I. asks Tsukioka if there could be some connection between the buzzing sound and invisibility. The scientist nixes that theory, too. His friend is clearly grasping at straws now.

After the detective hangs up, Sugimoto urges Dr. Tsukioka to drop everything and concentrate on the invisibility ray, arguing, "The completion of that research will allow the most heinous of crimes to be solved." Like, who's responsible for "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo", or for putting pumpkin spice in every damn thing between Labor Day and Christmas.

But Tsukioka won't hear of it. Invisibility is just a parlor trick. Cosmic ray research is where the scientific paydirt lies.

Sugimoto's not so easily dissuaded. He surprises everyone in the Hayakawa household by showing up invisible for dinner. When the chair, plates and cups start moving around on their own, at first the family fears it's another poltergeist, until Sugimoto, or rather, his disembodied head and hands suddenly materialize out of thin air. As he explains it, the invisibility ray has no effect on skin that's been exposed to sunlight. ('Kay ...) So to get the total effect he donned an invisible hood and gloves.

Evidently Sugimoto doesn't go in for sunbathing. It must be hell, though, trying to keep track of those accessories. But, wait a second ... if the cloth is invisible, shouldn't you be able to see what's underneath? And if this invisible cloth makes the wearer invisible, why even bother with raying yourself? Most of all, since he's using cloth only to hide the parts of his body which aren't invisible, doesn't this mean he came to dinner wearing nothing but gloves and a hood? I sure hope he showered first. They ought to at least insist he put a towel down on his seat.

Prof. Hayakawa is worried: He reminds Sugimoto they don't know how to reverse the process yet. Sugimoto sheepishly explains he just couldn't help himself. (He only meant to do a big toe, for demonstration purposes, you understand, and, well, it was kind of like eating squid chips ...)

Tsukioka reluctantly agrees to drop the cosmic rays and concentrate on finding a way to make the rest of Sugimoto re-visible.

At the Club Asia, Kuroki has an uninvited guest. The mysterious visitor stands inside the door to the nightclub owner's office for a moment, looming in a shadowy low-angle shot, saying nothing, simply staring at Kuroki with that menacing, half-crazed sneer Yakuza movie punks have down pat. After a quick exchange of Dutch angles, the nightclub owner lunges for a gun, but the stranger is too fast for him. He pounces on Kuroki and stabs him in the back.

Kuroki kisses the floor, twitches a bit and swiftly expires. The stranger removes a glass ampule from his pocket and breaks it. He's enveloped in fumes. An ecstatic expression spreads over his face, like a junkie who just got his fix. He falls back onto Kuroki's couch -- and rapidly dwindles to the size of a fly!

Pretty amazing, huh? And his clothes and pig sticker shrink along with him, too, which greatly simplifies the logistics if you're hiring out as a fly-sized torpedo. Interesting, though, how that gas selectively shrinks the Human Fly and his accouterments, and nothing else with which it comes in contact.

Detective Hayama watches the entrance to the Kusunoki Building from a cafe across the street. Up in his office, the businessman chain-smokes while he paces restlessly.

Suddenly Kusunoki hears that buzzing noise, then he spies the diminutive form of the assassin wafting in through the Venetian blinds. Okay, now look: I've put up with a lot from this movie so far, but there's no way this guy travels from Point A to Point B relying solely on the wayward breeze. The Human Fly doesn't grow wings when he shrinks, and he doesn't appear to have any sort of mechanical apparatus strapped to his back, either. He'd definitely not riding a fly. So how exactly is he propelling himself from one place to the next, and why does this obscure means of propulsion involve that particular sound?

The only explanation I can come up with harks back to World War II and the V-1 "Buzz Bomb". I suppose it might be possible, if he's lactose-intolerant and chugs a milkshake before getting small. (You've got me dead to rights. This review has been nothing more than an extended set-up for a fart joke.)

Kusunoki pours his glass of whiskey onto the carpet. He sure knows what draws this pest. The Human Fly laps it up, and starts growing: He's the Human Expandable Booze Toy! Once the Human Fly -- whose name, by the way, is Yamada -- regains his normal size, Kusunoki lights into him for being late: "Where have you been dawdling? Hey!"

Yamada doesn't dare admit he's been hanging in the dumpster out back with his new peeps.

Time for the big reveal: Kusunoki's the mastermind behind the fly murders. Three of them, anyway. He worked with the victims on that mysterious project in the Southern Islands, where we now learn the shrinking gas formula was discovered. But he ended up taking the fall for the others -- what war crime they all committed is never specified -- and spent six years at hard labor. He's come back to Japan with a supply of the shrink gas, to wreak his vengeance on those one-time colleagues who left him holding the bag.

But in addition to those revenge killings for his boss, Fly Guy's been indulging in some murdering on the side: He's insanely possessive of Sexy Dancer Mieko, which is why he shivved the bartender and Kuroki. Kusunoki accuses him of wasting Miss Maeda because he was jealous of her, too. The Sexy Dancer really swings.

In an unusual twist, the movie makes a quick detour into The Man with the Golden Arm, as it turns out the shrink gas is also an addictive high. Fly Guy shamelessly begs Kusunoki for another fix. Kusunoki slaps him around a bit and warns him the supply is running low. Yamada objects there was enough of the stuff hidden on that island for a battalion. Kusunoki finally gives in and lets the assassin have just one, but only if he promises to go straight to the Club Asia.

"He's cuckoo for Shrinky Puffs!"

Det. Hayama abandons his stake-out of the Kusunoki building to tail Fly Guy, who saunters down that same empty street, and through that pedestrian tunnel we saw earlier. But wily Fly Guy suddenly breaks into a run, ducks around a corner and gives the detective the slip. He doubles back, sneaks up from behind and stabs the unwary officer -- several times, just to make certain -- while he chuckles maniacally. Still laughing, Fly Guy breaks the ampule and vanishes in a cloud of shrink gas.

C.I. Wakabayashi bugs Tsukioka at the lab again, where they've made some progress with the invisibility-reversing. The process still has a few kinks in it, though, since it kills their test bunnies shortly after they reappear. (And it looks like animals were indeed harmed in this production.) Tsukioka explains that along with making the subject sport a very silly-looking periwig when it reappears, the "Restoration ray" has another unwanted side-effect: instant massive cancer.

Sugimoto's floating head volunteers the information that, on the bright side, the invisibility ray machine is easily portable. (He's obviously thrilled with his breezy new clothes-free lifestyle. Doesn't he have a lab coat or something? But just imagine how much he's saving on his laundry bill!) Tsukioka restates the obvious: The invisibility ray is a one-way ticket.

Back to the Club Asia, where Mieko lounges on a divan in her dressing room. Unnoticed by the Sexy Dancer, Fly Guy takes advantage of his diminutive stature to promenade along the curve of her shapely hip and waist, as he stealthily makes his way toward those towering twin peaks.

"Step by step ... inch by inch ..."

But just as our miniature mountaineer is about to enter Cleavage Pass, Mieko -- under the impression he's just a garden-variety pest -- absent-mindedly flicks him off. He slides down her taut, dancer's tummy. Wheeeee!

Still unaware of her tiny stalker, Mieko prepares for her next number and exits the dressing room. She pays no heed to the fly sound following her down the passage. The orchestra strikes up a tune as what appears to be a changing tent rises from the stage pit. Mieko emerges from the tent, stumbles a few steps and falls flat on her face. But wait: That wasn't sexy -- and it wasn't much of a dance, either!

Looks like the Human Fly took that brush-off a trifle too personally.

Desperate after these two new murders, Wakabayashi pleads with Tsukioka to make him invisible. He's convinced it's the only way he'll be able to stop the Human Fly. (Although issuing everyone on the force a rolled-up magazine or a can of bug spray might be a more effective tactic.) But the scientist refuses to experiment on his friend.

Prof. Hayakawa and Sugimoto are busy killing bunnies back at the lab. The latest one survived almost half an hour, though. Yay! A couple hundred more tries, and they're bound to have this problem licked. The Professor, overcome with shame at his repeated failure, contemplates seppuku while the remaining rabbits eye him nervously, and hardly dare to hope.

"I have dishonored my ancestors."

Snowball and his mates receive an unexpected reprieve, courtesy of the Human Fly. The tiny assassin slips in through the ventilator and stabs the Prof. and Sugimoto to death. After their funeral, a grimly determined Tsukioka returns to the lab and rays himself into invisibility.

Kusonoki's in his office, cleaning a shotgun, when full-sized Fly Guy makes a much more conventional entry, by way of the door. The boss is mighty cheesed at his henchman for dropping in on him during the daytime, when the police might see him. Oh, yeah, and for failing to get the invisibility ray, while yet again murdering everyone in sight. (With bonus nutcase slaying points for the Sexy Dancer.) Fly Guy confesses he got carried away. That sure seems to happen a lot with this character.

Precisely how Kusunoki came to learn about that ray will have to be counted as one of the many mysteries of this plot. Along with why he decided to hire someone with such terrible impulse control as an assassin.

Despite Yamada's pleading, Kusunoki won't turn loose with another hit of the shrink gas. The argument looks about to turn deadly, when it's mysteriously interrupted: The door to the office swings open -- but there's no one there!

Now, Kusunoki clearly knows about the invisibility ray. He sees that door open, apparently by itself. So what does he do next? He continues to scheme with Fly Guy to steal the device. After Yamada agrees to take another stab at pinching the ray, Kusunoki hands him a new supply of shrink gas ampules.

That night, Fly Guy cracks an ampule and pays another visit to the Hayakawa residence. He pauses briefly on a windowsill to peep into Akiko's bedroom and leer at her. He clearly has plans for the Professor's daughter, but first he has to buzz over to the lab.

Once inside, though, the Human Fly unexpectedly ends up dying as he lived -- like an idiot -- when he swoops over a beaker full of some chemical and flies into the cloud of toxic fumes it's giving off. He promptly nose-dives into the caustic stuff.


The Human Fly dies instantly in a flash and puff of smoke. Akiko hears his  agonized scream -- which is pretty remarkable, considering he's only got those tiny lungs and vocal cords, and he's inside a windowless, thick-walled building at least a hundred yards distant from her bedroom -- but she doesn't connect it with the would-be thief's demise.

Next morning, the police examine Yamada the Fly Guy's horribly burned (and full-sized) corpse in the lab. Somehow Wakabayashi quickly deduces Yamada entered through the vent. He decides it's time to make his move against Kusunoki. Of course, nothing in this story so far has indicated how the police connected Kusunoki with the Human Fly, or what probable cause they have to believe the murders were done at his bidding, but whatever.

After his conveniently-timed hunting trip, the businessman returns to his office to find it packed with representatives of the law, come to arrest him. He tries to bluster his way out of it, until invisible Dr. Tsukioka pipes up and informs his friend he was listening when Kusunoki told Yamada to make another attempt on the ray. D'Oh!

So let's get this straight: Tsukioka, when he learned of their plan yesterday, decided his best move was to wait there in the office, gambling that at some point the police would come along to arrest Kusunoki. He knew this maniac who slaughtered his dad-in-law to be and his assistant was planning to pay another visit to the Hayakawa place (while the scientist's fiance was there alone) and it never occurred to Tsukioka to return to the lab and take advantage of his invisibility to get the drop on the Human Fly? Or simply notify the police, and let them try to trap him? It's rare to see a film demonstrate such single-minded devotion to having it's alleged hero do absolutely nothing.  
Surprisingly, Kusunoki gives in gracefully and agrees it's a fair cop. He asks politely if they'll let him change his clothes before they take him in. You know what's coming next, right? Kusunoki stashed a shrink gas ampule in the medicine cabinet. It would seem that when it comes to smarts -- that is, a certain deficit thereof -- this criminal and the police are evenly matched.

While the stunned policemen can only stand there and gape, Human Fly II: Electric Bug-aloo tries to zoom up through the bathroom exhaust. (Fortunately, he'd prepared for just this eventuality by switching to an all-bean-curd diet -- with extra green onions and fish sauce -- for the last few days.) But Tsukioka heroically switches on the fan and Kusunoki is blown back out. However, he still manages to make good his escape through another vent.

Newspaper headlines scream, "A homicidal human fly is on the loose! And you could be next!" The police put up posters everywhere advising the public to contact them if they see a human fly. (Um, isn't being too small for anyone to notice the whole point of this Human Fly shtick? And what, not a word about putting window screens up and closing the vents?) Flyswatters, flypaper and fly strip sales are through the roof.

Leaving no stone unturned in their quest to bring Kusunoki to justice, the police try hyperbole: They send a loudspeaker truck through the streets, blaring out the message: "The Human Fly is the ultimate evil and is trying to kill YOU!" (To save time they adapted a script from Fox News; all they had to do was cross out "Liberal" and write in "Human Fly".)

Kusunoki murders a random pedestrian, leaving him sprawled on the steps at a subway entrance. Cut to the lab, where Akiko gazes thoughtfully at the ray machine for a moment, then switches it on. Meanwhile, our visibility-challenged scientist joins the C.I. down at Police Headquarters. Wakabayashi explains that Kusunoki promised to ring them up at two today and he wanted Tsukioka there, too.

One thing you can say about the guy: He's punctual. He calls in at just a few seconds past the hour. The criminal tells them to put the doctor on the line. Kusunoki immediately demands that Tsukioka turn over the invisibility ray. Tsukioka refuses.

Just to demonstrate he's not kidding around, Kusunoki detonates a bomb underneath a railroad overpass, timing it so it derails a train and kills close to a thousand passengers. If Tsukioka doesn't give him the ray, Kusunoki promises to set off another bomb a week from now.

The time limit's almost up, and the police still haven't apprehended Kusunoki. They're getting thoroughly reamed by all sides now: the press, the public and the politicians. The fugitive sends the newspapers a note on the last day, instructing Wakabayashi to come alone and deliver the ray to him at midnight, on top of the Marunouchi World Building.

The authorities have no choice but to acquiesce to the madman. As midnight approaches and the C.I. waits with the ray machine on the Marunouchi World helipad, they surround the building with plainclothes police and enough JSDF troops to take on a medium-sized kaiju. They're not leaving anything to chance.

Once again, Kusunoki is a step ahead of the fuzz, as he drops in by helicopter shortly after midnight.

Kusunoki notices the row of helmeted soldiers' heads peeping over the edge of the helipad platform before they belatedly (and comically) duck down out of sight. Despite having warned Wakabayashi not to bring any help, he laughs it off: He expected the authorities to pull a stunt like this. Just like he knows Tsukioka is lurking about, somewhere in the vicinity. But it doesn't matter, he says, because he's the only one who knows where the bomb due to go off in eight minutes is planted. They don't dare lay a finger on him.

Even so, the detective tries to put the arm on Kusunoki while he's lugging the invisibility ray apparatus to the helicopter. They tussle briefly. Kusunoki breaks free, and cracks an ampule of shrink gas. But the C.I. tackles him again and the gas blows away before the criminal can use it to escape. Then Kusunoki gets hold of Wakabayashi's pistol. (More exemplary police work from our brilliant Chief Inspector!)

Dr. Tsukioka distracts the criminal by becoming visible again. Evidently there's been a breakthrough, and the scientist can opaque himself now by what appears to be the power of his mind alone. I guess the story forgot about the "restoration ray" or the invisibility "gotchas" which had Sugimoto running around in nothing but gloves and a hood, because Tsukioka's wearing a neatly pressed suit, and there's not another ray machine in sight. But hey, it's not like they expected anyone watching this tripe would notice.

Kusunoki shoots at Tsukioka, but misses, shoots at Wakabayashi and misses (this guy really is a lousy marksman) then proceeds to make his getaway with the invisibility gear. As his helicopter lifts off, gleeful Kusunoki shouts that the bomb's far away -- on Christmas Island.

Santa! Rudolf! Noooooooo! Seriously, though, what could he possibly have against this Australian territory? The guy is a total fruitcake.

But he appears to be a successful one. All seems lost, until ... the helicopter slowly circles back and lands again. Kusunoki exits the aircraft, hands held high. It's the Invisible Woman to the rescue! (Figures. Amirite, ladies?) Akiko prods him in the small of his back with a highly visible pistol, and quickly un-invisibilizes herself.

Good thing the cops are so rock-stupid they didn't try to shoot down Kusunoki's helicopter when he was making his getaway.

But Kusunoki has one last trick up his sleeve: He pulls the old quick-sidestep-and-knock-the-pistol-out-of-your-hand gag on Akiko, and scurries toward the edge of the helipad. He yanks a revolver from his shoulder-holster and blasts away at the coppers. The police shoot back. Badly wounded, the Human Fly Redux topples over the edge and transforms into the Human Bug-splat when he hits the pavement far below.

Afterwards, Tsukioka and the C.I. have a big laugh in Wakabayashi's office over the Human Fly having been "done in by the young damsel". (Yeah, what a wuss.) Akiko is invisible again. She had lots of practice at that, well before the ray was discovered. She assures the boys the experience didn't seem real, and she can't remember it. Anything to preserve that fragile male ego.

Reporters crowd into the office, congratulating Wakabayashi on having put an end to this heinous criminal. Right. While victims were dropping like -- well, you know, the Chief Inspector was getting nowhere until the murderer he was after offed himself by accident. Then he stupidly gave the assassin's boss a chance to escape and subsequently kill hundreds of innocent people. Then, while also losing his gun to this fiendish terrorist, he lets Kusunoki get away from him a second time. Not to mention that without Akiko's timely intervention, he would have allowed that homicidal loony to make off with the invisibility gear, too.

If I were a citizen of Tokyo, I'd certainly sleep that much easier of a night, knowing this guy was on the job.

And kindhearted fellow that he is, Wakabayashi naturally wouldn't want to make these journalists lose face now, by insisting they give Akiko proper credit. A reporter queries Dr. Tsukioka about the outlook for invisibility. He plays cagey, then Wakabayashi distracts the newshounds by informing them Miss Hayakawa's over there changing her clothes. Medium close-up of Akiko's blouse landing on top of her discarded slacks. The camera dollies back and pans up -- Ha ha! He's just messing with you. Naughty boys: She's still invisible!

With a little film trickery, Akiko becomes re-visible, dressed now in a very attractive cocktail frock. My God, Criswell was right: In the world of the future, invisibility will make privacy booths obsolete!

But really, does this mean when Dr. Tsukioka's ray makes you invisible, the clothes you put on disappear, too? And re-appear when you take them off? I've seen slices of Alpine Lace Swiss cheese with fewer holes than this script.

Dr. Tsukioka announces he's decided to turn the secret of invisibility over to the government. He flips a switch on the machine; the scientist and Akiko step into the ray and disappear. After giving the reporters the slip, the lovers reappear, strolling hand-in-hand down a shady lane.

The End.

In the interests of fairness and accuracy, though, the title to this film really should have been The Invisible Woman vs. Human Fly the Second. But I suppose that's a bit unwieldy, and might have sounded too much like a chick flick to its target audience. The Invisible Man Tattles on the Human Flies probably wouldn't have garnered a healthy box office, either.

Still, I have to say that when it comes to this Invisible Man and these Human Flies, covertly listening in on a conversation and then snitching to the police really doesn't amount to much of a "versus". Although I guess Tsukioka becoming visible again so he could be shot at as a distraction was sort of courageous in its own boneheaded fashion, when he might have used his invisibility to get the drop on that gun-wielding criminal.

But enough of today's journey into the inexplicable. It's time to say "Sayonara!" to this land of cock-eyed fantasy, where causality needn't apply and science is only distinguishable from magic because it's way sillier.


zombie rotten mcdonald said...

This seems to be a very stabby movie.

Marvin H said...

I love these literary movie takedown things. There should be a term for it. It's sort of riffing, but with words on the screen instead of an audio track.

Scott said...

Hm. Riffing, but reading...


maryclev said...

Hank, once again you've taken an incredibly ridiculous, yet confusing movie, and and made it incredibly ridiculous, confusing and wonderfully hilarious! Thank You, Hank. For making us laugh at Japanese monster movies...again!