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Monday, December 5, 2011


Closing out the sci-fi films of 1969, is an obscure Japanese-western production in vogue in the late 60s. Originally released in Japan in late 1968 as "Konchu Daisenso" (Insect War), the film was dubbed into english and released in America in late 1969, as either War of the Insects (hence the poster) or as Genocide. It's dark and complicated plot hinges on a mad scientist breeding killer insects, or being used by the insects.

Quick Plot Synopsis
The film opens with stock footage of a Nevada nuclear test. From this cataclysmic ending, the story is told as flashback. On a small Japanese island, Geroge (Jozi, in the original), is sunbathing with his mistress, Annabelle. Overhead, a B-52 files through a swarm of insects that clog the engines. The plane catches fire and explodes. All three crewmen bail out. The forth parachute is the H-bomb they carried. The three crewmen shelter in a cave, but they're attacked by swarms of bugs. The black cewman named Charlie escapes, but falls, and gets amnesia. The American military find the two dead crewman and comatose Charlie. George is arrested for murder because he has an Air Force watch. He telegraphs Dr. Nagumo in Tokyo -- whom he has been collecting rare insects for. Nagumo travels to the island to try and prove George is innocent. Several threads slowly reveal themselves. George's wife Yukari finds out he's unfaithful. She is pregnant with George's baby. The hotel manager, Tsuneo, is a sexual predator and employed by the communists. He and his thugs want the H-bomb for their Russian sponsors, so kidnap Charlie and torture him with stings from Annabelle's bugs to tell where the bomb is. Annabelle is also sponsored by the soviets to produce the deadly poisonous bugs as germ warfare. She, however, is mentally unhinged at past persecution in a Nazi prison camp, so really wants the whole world to die. The thugs release deranged Charlie who then tries to rape Junko. Gordon shoots him. Before he dies, Charlie repeats. "Genocide…genocide…" Nagumo, thinking this significant, lets one of Annabelle's bees bite him, since his assistant Junko has an antidote handy. In the toxin-induced delirium, he "understands" that the insects of the world have decided that humans must be destroyed (hence the title Genocide) since human nuclear meddling threatens to destroy insects too. Annabelle wants to kill Nagumo, but he pushes her down her basement where her own bugs kill her. Tsuneo's thugs force George and Yukari to a smaller island where George saw the H-bomb. It gets found, but George and Yukari escape the thugs and hide in an abandoned hut. The bugs surround the hut, eventually breaking in. George digs a hole in the floor, puts Yukari in the hole and covers it with his body. His last words are for her to live, for the baby's sake and flee the islands. Nagumo and Junko find Yukari in her hole and go back to the bigger island. Yukari flees in a small boat. Colonel Gordon forces Nagumo to come with him. They fly over the islands. Gordon wants to detonate the H-bomb remotely to, (a) cover up this loss, (b) keep the H-technology out of communist hands and (c ) kill all the nasty insects. There is a struggle on the plane as Nagumo and a crewman think Gordon is daft. The bomb blows up anyhow. A swarm of bugs attack the plane and it goes down in flames too. The final scene is teary-eyed Yukari alone in a small boat, watching a mushroom cloud rise over the island. Everyone is dead but her. The End.

Why is this movie fun?
"Fun" isn't quite applicable. Genocide is a grim film with few likable characters, all but one of whom die in the end. Yet, it is also an intriguing film. It is as if the writer had many different movie stories in his head, and didn't want to leave any of them out. The dubbing is a source of mild amusement, for those with a soft spot for dubbed Japanese movies. And, in the Japanese sci-fi tradition, there are models (planes, buildings and landscapes).

Cold War Angle
Even though, by the late 60s, the Cold War was becoming less popular as a topic, there were still a few being produced. Genocide is a preachy (if not a bit self-righteous in its anti-nuke and anti-war sentiments. At one point, when Colonel Gordon lightly accuses Nagumo of being an agent for the East (since Nagumo was not obsessed with locating the missing H-bomb), Nagumo snips, "Both the east and west are wrong. Always trying to outdo each other in a show of force. Both sides are crazy."

Crowded Plots -- Writer Susumu Takaku would be later famous for many anime stories. In the early 60s, he was writing lighter fare, but in the late 60s, he seemed to have been in a gloomy mood. His script for Genocide is a noir-ish collection of many nihilistic sub-stories -- each of which could have been developed into their own movie.
-- Insects who develop a collective intelligence and decide that they must wipe out mankind in order to save themselves.
-- An insect conquest of the earth, by killing foreigners and laying eggs in their bodies -- knowing that the bodies would be shipped home, thereby spreading the invasion. -- A mad scientist working on a weapon of mass destruction, ostensibly for evil sponsors so they can rule the world, but the mad scientist is really planning to destroy the world for personal revenge.
-- An H-bomb lost by accident, the object of good-guy and bad-guy searches and conflict and double-crossings.
-- A poor foreigner wrongly accused of murdering American pilots as a cover-up for a military mistake, and the loyal friend's investigation to prove his innocence.
Any of these would have made a whole movie in themselves. But, Takaku jammed them all together (and a few more sub-plots) to make an overly complex story which could not do justice to any of the above. He wrote similarly dark tale, Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell, also in 1968, but it would not come to American markets (dubbed) until 1979.

Shadow of Frankenstein -- Apropos of the upcoming study of Frankenstein films, viewers will note the trope alive and well, even in obscure Japanese films. Annabelle is the mad scientist, intent on messing around with nature. She creates a "monster" (the super-poison insects). She is killed by her own creation. But, casting Kathy Horan as the mad scientist was strange. Horan was a young, shapely, budget-version of Ann Margaret. Her babe-ness made it much harder to fit her into the Frankenstein role.

Grim Reality -- Takaku seemed to have been in a misanthropic mood when he wrote Genocide. He punctuated his larger story with abundant violence. Tsuedo tries to rape Yukari early on. Deranged Charlie tries to rape Yukari too, then goes after Junko, ripping off her blouse and jumping on her. Then there is Annabelle's odd pleasure in seeing Charlie tortured with the insects' poison. Thug 1 and Thug 2 are quick to slap people to encourage cooperation. Finally, everyone is killed by the nuclear blast. It's almost as if, when Annabelle talks about the world being full of only hate (herself no exception), her lines are voicing the writer's sentiment.

Bottom line? Genocide is not an easy film to watch. It's complex plot makes it easy to get lost. Takaku filled his story with odd factoids that weren't really needed (so tended to be distracting), as well as typically led nowhere. The dubbing is towards the atrocious end of the scale. It is not a film one would ever say they enjoyed. Still, some of the ideas in the movie are intriguing.

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