Monster Bites - He Slimed Me

THE H-MAN (1958)

Also know as Beauty and the Liquid People... this is yet another example of atomic fears being turned into entertainment as you might expect from the period. But it's also a crime thriller about cops trying to take down a drug smuggling syndicate. Like Dogora and Ghidora it blends science fiction elements with gangster storylines to create a kind of hybrid plot in which the mundane elements contrast with the ridiculous. But this isn't a giant creature feature, but of a more straightforward B-horror picture. How much these two sides of the film succeed is often debatable but it's certainly an interesting and sometimes rather eerie experience that is worth looking at as a change of pace from all the usual giant monster chaos.


Much of the film concerns itself with a police inspector (Akihiko Hirata) on the trail of a narcotics ring after one of the crooks mysteriously vanished in a car accident. It's a weird opening scene as the man sneaks over to a get away car but before he can climb aboard something strange happens off camera and he starts shooting the ground below him. The car speeds away because of this and the trafficker is hit by a taxi. However there's no trace of his body after the incident and only his clothes and the case of drugs are left behind on the tarmac. Did he lose his marbles and decide to strip off before running away, or is something weirder going on? Well, it's a long story.

The gang members's lover, nightclub singer Chikako (Yumi Shirakawa) is hassled by both the police and other members of the syndicate who all think she knows something about the disappearance. However it's not long before more people vanish leaving only their clothes lying on the ground. Atomic scientist Dr. Masada (Kenji Sahara) thinks there's a connection between these occurrences happening in the rain and nuclear fallout in the water, but it's a pretty shaky theory to say the least. So of course he's right about the whole thing, at least in some ways. How the police plan to stop the gang is kind of vague, but it's kind of irrelevant since there's one through line in the whole story - radiation turning people into glowing green slime that eats other people.

Released the same year as The Blob, it's unclear who influenced who or whether this is just a coincidence. Maybe the effects were just the exact kind of thing a genre movie like this kind could afford to pull off with a little ingenuity. However this is no goofy monster comedy, it's a fairly straight faced and often chilling tale. The whole warning about mutations one day making the human race and other species into a new breed of oozing puddles of gunge may seem ridiculous, but it's never done for laughs. It's just that the whole narrative about a fresh faced scientist and a naive singer getting mixed up in a race to stop these creatures is often sidelined for a lot of dry procedural scenes that feel completely detached from the science fiction.

 
As a horror movie it's very effective. The compositing effects that show characters being absorbed by the 'H-Man' monsters is often pretty ropey, and the glowing auras that show up when they attack isn't particularly convincing. But the creeping slime that arrives through windows and under doors is very sinister and works as a practical effect. The mood is completed by scenes in which people collapse inwards and turn into pools of yet more green sludge. A lot of the time it's done off camera with clever editing but there are also some on screen effects done with what is essentially an inflatable dummy. It's surprisingly unnerving in a Body Snatchers kind of way that often rides the line between stomach churning and silly.

These sequences are the stand out moments in the story, particularly in the flashback in which a hospitalised sailor recalls how this all started aboard a creepy abandoned ship. However the rest of the plot often takes precedence which brings things back down. There are too many club songs and police interviews, and it's not really compelling stuff. It would have been better if the inspector and the doctor were shown as being real friends in a way that allowed them to play off one another, but most of the time the crazy theories about melting flesh are brushed aside. Scepticism versus science is a great angle to have in a story like this, but you have to actually get some of it into the script first.

Overall this is often enjoyable but frequently frustrating as it jumps between these two disparate storylines. Eventually of course the theories and the facts converge and there's a good finale as things go awry in a sewer, but it takes a while to get there. Monster fans and those looking for a period crime thriller will have enough to keep them watching, but it could have been far stronger by using both elements more effectively. As an alternative to the usual aliens and kaijus it's an interesting feature from Ishirō Honda with a lot of striking horror scenes, which in itself is something worth seeing. However like Matango there are pacing and structural issues that prevent it from becoming a true classic.

3/5

BONUS REVIEW
RODAN (1956)


Onto something far more recognisable but just as uneven, Rodan is staple of the Godzilla series where he often appears alongside the big G as a foe or an ally, usually to give Monster Zero a good trashing after a few moments of distrust. But this debut feature is a mixed bag in terms of the monster sequences and the overall storyline, which is aggravating when the first half of the film is so strong. Initially this appears to be a film about workers in a coal mine who discover giant insects living underground, and there's a great setup involving the death of a man and the guy accused of his murder. How did these prehistoric creatures come to be alive suddenly under the surface after millions of years?

Of course they can't be certain, but Professor Kashiwagi (Akihiko Hirata again) suspects radiation may be to blame. He can't be sure you understand... but it's definitely radiation. At first it's a pretty atmospheric story and a flood down the mine causes a lot of tension. This is soon undone by the appearance of the laughable giant dragonfly nymph Meganulon which runs about killing the locals. Is this really an ancient species? I have a hard time seeing it myself. Mine worker Shigeru (Kenji Sahara again) is later trapped during a cave-in as the military shoots the bugs. With a head injury he slowly comes to remember what else he saw living in the depths. Rodan (a pair of creatures here) is soon unleashed after an earthquake, and proceeds to smash cities in Japan, China and Taiwan with supersonic wing blasts.

However the pterosaur design just isn't suited for action scenes, and a lot of this is reported second hand on local news stations. While the set pieces involving the classic Saber jets are interesting the use of stock footage showing the vapour trails of a plane never looks like Rodan in flight, and the mixture of hand puppets and dinosaurs on strings isn't particularly good. It's an entertaining movie and all the usual monster moments are great as high rise blocks are demolished and military vehicles are rolled out. But the conclusion fails to explain what the creatures were doing before they basically kill themselves in a volcanic blast. Were they a mating pair? Did they wreck these international locations for a reason? Is this a sad or happy ending? I guess we'll never know.

3/5