Latitude Zero (1969) – movie review

latitude zero - pic 11

Latitude Zero (1969)

Directed by Iroshi Honda
Special effects by EJ Tutsaburu

stars: Joseph Cotten, Cesar Romero, Akira Takarada, Masumi Okada, Richard Jaeckel, Patricia Medina, and Akihiko Hirata

This is a fantasy science fiction film from Toho that seems like an homage to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I probably would’ve appreciated this more if I had seen it as a kid. There’s a Muppet looking flying lion and funky looking bat/human creatures. A small team of scientists researching an underwater volcano dive to the depths of the ocean in a dumbbell. An explosive eruption rips the dumbbell from its tethers and sends it freefalling through the deep waters. There it’s picked up by a super submarine of unknown origin. After meeting the captain and being inspected by a very pleasant latitude zero posterfemale doctor, they head for the underwater home base.

LZ depicts an underwater world with two technically advanced yet warring tribes looking to control the lands beneath the artificial Sun. There’s some impressive submarine dog-fights with heat seeking torpedoes and an underwater laser Canon. Once in the domed city of Latitude Zero the scientists discover a perfect Utopian world, a perfect society and existence for its inhabitants. Caesar Romero plays Malic, the bad guy trying to break thru the city’s force field defense systems and take over the land. Sneaking into Malic’s lair to free a hostage, (LZ’s top scientist) the men are confronted by giant rats with glowing red eyes, beds of sulfur gas, and an acid moat. The bat-humans fly pretty smoothly but in some spots you can see the wires.

This was a rare Toho film shot in English with American and Japanese actors. The Japanese actors learned the English needed for the script. The script was written by Ted Sherdeman, who also penned the script for Them!. It’s interesting to hear the sound effects and music queues usually associated with Kaiju monsters played in this fantasy adventure. Comparisons to the lost city of Atlantis are evident. The submarine and underwater scenes show some achievement in special effects. It’s the fantasy creatures themselves that are the biggest drawback for me. I would say that if you had seen this as a youngster it would offer some measure of nostalgia. However, to me it seems more aimed at children than adults.

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Mixed results in FX both propel and hinder this underwater fantasy adventure. 
Will probably only be appreciated by Toho completists and nostalgic viewers.

Short story by Michael Thomas-Knight published in Kaiju: Lords of the Earth

Kaiju Lords of the Earth - web

Kaiju: Lords of the Earth

My story, Unleashed in the East, has been chosen for inclusion to the collection of giant monster stories by JEA Press, Kaiju: Lords of the Earth

I’ve been a long time fan of Kaiju movies and specifically Toho films, the father of Asian giant monster cinema. I see these films as more than just giant monsters run amuck. I feel a correct Kaiju film has an overtone of sadness to it, often reflected in the powerful yet melancholy music by Akira Ifukube. There is always a cause and effect reason for the monsters appearance, a great foible of man that has awakened something uncontrollable. The giant monster is an overbearing punishment that mankind must endure for his wrongful treatment of nature and mother earth. There is usually a sense of duty and honor in a proper Kaiju story. A choice will be made by the story’s main character(s); a sad sacrifice to salvage the fate of his fellow man.

These are the aspects I have tried to capture in my story, Unleashed in the East. As it often happens, my story stemmed from a current event news item, a real event that I wrestled, wrangled and mangled onto a fictional tale. I’ve also managed to flavor the story with an H.P. Lovecraft style cosmic creature rather than the usual radioactive giants of early Kaiju films.

Available for Kindle and Paperback:

Kaiju: Lords of the Earth

16 Kaiju Monster stories by authors: John Ledger, Stephen Blake, Michael Noe, Peyton Pratt, Alice J. Black, R.T. Sirk, Essel Pratt, Vyvecca Danae Pratt, Amanda M. Lyons, Brian Barr, Kevin Candela, Dona Fox, E. Doyle-Gillespie, Roy C. Booth, T.S. Woolard, and Michael Thomas-Knight


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