Goke: Body Snatcher From Hell

Year 1968

Teruo Yoshida as   Co-pilot Sugisaka
Tomomi Sato as Kazumi Asakura
Eizo Kitamura as Minister Gozo Mano  
Hideo Ko as Hirofumi Teraoka
Kathy Horan as Mrs. Neal
Yuko Kusunoki   as Noriko Tokuyasu
Director - Hajime Sato
Screenwriters - Kyuzo Kobayashi
  - Susumu Takaku

If you can't tell by the title, Goke: Body Snatcher From Hell, this is a foreign movie. In fact, it's Japanese. I'm not sure what "Goke" is but it makes me think of Harpo Marx. The face that he "threw" (to use Grocho's expression) was a "Gookie". And somebody's throwing something here.

This is an anti-war movie which was a popular theme for the time. Even comic books dealt with the issue. In fact, the plot reminds me of something that Jack "King" Kirby might've written for Tales to Astonish. But, unlike Kirby's hope at the end of his stories, this is Japanese and everybody suffers...including the audience.

How do I know that this is an anti-war movie? Mrs. Neal (Horan) says, "War is bad." Why? She tells you that, "It makes people unhappy." Nobel Peace Prize winning material right there. Oh, wait, recently in order to win that you need to foment hatred. Nevermind.

So, after a jetliner crashes the survivors must deal with each other and a UFO. Why? Japanese, that's why.

The survivors are chosen to sell this anti-war theme and they are:

You need to know this cast of characters and what they represent. There's no symbolism here; it's all as it appears. You can categorize each of the characters by good, bad, and neutral, hence the (G), (B), and (N) in front of their names.

Before you start thinking that there's some potential here, remember, it's Japanese. Nuanced? Coherent? Sane? It's Japanese.

Let's start with the title, Goke: Body Snatcher From Hell. It makes it sound as if there's this single entity named Goke that's from hell and it's snatching bodies. If you thought this, then you'd be wrong.

There's this race of outer space invaders and at least one of them, probably Goke, forced the plane down and turned one of the survivors into a vampire. Why? Because the United States is evil, that's why.

You see, after the United States ended the war with Japan by dropping a couple of atomic bombs, UFOs started being seen more often. And it's the UFOs that are now going to invade the Earth.

So if the United States had not dropped atomic bombs on Japan, then the UFOs would not be invading the Earth. Why? Japan, that's why!

So, what started off as a potentially interesting character study of survivors fighting among themselves now becomes survivors fighting among themselves and being sadistically toyed with by invading aliens and cheesy special effects.

And that whole "vampire" thing has a Japanese take on it, too. An alien, really a hand in a silver mitten, splits open Teraoka's forehead and takes him over. Teraoka now neatly begins draining the rest of the survivors of their blood after the writers have no further use for them. How do you know that Teraoka's a vampire? They tell you, "He's a vampire." Oh, he also has this big gash in the center of his forehead. You know, like real vampires do (not).

There's a lot of poetic license taken in this movie. Like a jet crash landing in a narrow valley and, except for the pilot, no gets so much as a scratch. Hey, they had to set-up the character interactions somehow! Or the "vampire" being ignored until he's gnawing someone's neck. Or people complaining about not having water and yet dehydration having no effect on them a day later. Or why no search parties could find the crash site even though it is about a two miles from a toll booth.

These things alone would have taken the movie off of the must see list. But the writers didn't stop there. To show how much this is an anti-war movie, every time someone mentions war, there's a cut scene in vivid red to some sort of war footage where people die. I got the point without the need for screeching noises to drive the point home.

Then there's Mrs. Neal. Kathy Horan does have screen presence the way a twelve car pile-up has presence. She can't be ignored and she's the result of someone's calamatous mistake.

Her dialog is drivel and it's delivered petulantly. Her husband died in WAR! as a result of taking napalm to the face. Or as Sugisaka translates, "Her husband's face blew up like a pomegranite...friendly fire." Now I know why pomegranites never appealed to me. They blow up! Sugisaka seems to know more about Mr. Neal's death than Mrs. Neal does. Conspiracy, anyone?

So you've got bad acting all around (although I only said, "Finally!" when Mrs. Neal got hers), bargain basement special effects, a single anti-war plot thread that's repeated endlessly, an inane invader justification, and unbelievale chains of events (even if you buy into the whole UFOs conquering the world thing). For example, why is Teraoka turned into a vampire? And why a vampire? Why not a werewolf or a doormouse or a light fixture?

And the ending. I won't spoil it for you, but... Yes, I'll spoil it for you. The Earth is turned into a cinder. Because Japan? No. Because the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Japan to end WWII.

There's no nudity or blasphemy but there are a few swear words in the subtitles. Chick flick potential is nearly non-existent. There's not even any unintended humor. If it wasn't for some of the craziness of mixing so many seemingly unrelated elements together, this one would be under a rock.

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