Directed by Ishirō Honda
Special FX by Eiji Tsuburaya
and Tomoyuki Tanaka
This is the second Kaiju monster film by this famous team following their iconic achievement in Godzilla. This film never reached the success of many of their other films for good reason which I will explain later. An expedition to the Hida Mountains in Japan (which includes Mount Fuji), is hindered by a blizzard. When the group is separated, Gen and Kaji find shelter in a remote cabin. When the group reaches the cabin the next day, Gen is found dead and Kaji is missing. There are very large footprints found near the cabin and a few tufts of hair that the group is not familiar with. They eventually discover a tribe of people living in the mountains that speak of a deity which they praise, a 10 foot tall, Monster Snowman. While searching for their missing comrades they run across a zoologist with a team intent on capturing the beast. When the hunters track it to its cave, they discover a young Snowman. The zoologist captures the juvenile in order to lure the adult into his traps. The adult snowman is caught then escapes, killing all of the men on the team. The zoologist shoots the young snowman and the adult beast goes on a rampage, first killing the zoologist, then heading to the native village and destroying it. He captures a woman, Machiko, and drags her back to his cave. Does the snowman have intentions to replace his lost child by keeping the woman as a mate? It is not said, but it is suggestive in the context of other scenes in the film. The original expedition members are in pursuit. They chase the snowman further into the cave where he meets his inevitable demise.
The 1958 version that I have is the American version, which has John Carradine and Morris Ankrum as scientists. John Carradine completely narrates the entire film while sitting in a lab, which not only gets annoying, but is extremely inane and off message from what the film is really about. I was able to decipher more about the film by not listening to him and just watching the Japanese footage. The Japanese story of Half Human portrays the Snow Beast as an empathetic creature and shows the humans to be the real ’monsters’ in the world. This fact is driven home with the tragic scene of the young creature being killed and the emotional reaction of the adult. The narration washes right over this scene and immediately pounces on the beast for killing humans and its ‘monstrous’ behavior. In fact, I had to look up the names of the film’s characters because the American narration only refers to the actors as ‘the girl’ or ‘the boy.’ This is extremely lame and perhaps the worst translation/American-izing of a Toho film I have ever seen.
Unfortunately, the original 1955 Japanese version has been removed from circulation because of its depictions of the native people as deformed and violent due to inbreeding. Toho decided it was an injustice to portray the people of the mountains like that and to insinuate the real tribes that live there are anything like that.
It is hard enough to find this 1958 American version which is out of print, never mind the original Japanese version. I was lucky to track this down after some searching. It is not a great film because the American footage had cut the original into pieces and tried to tell a different story. However, if you can read between the lines, you can feel a good movie was in there, once. For a Toho fan like myself, it was a must have.
The Legacy of Kong