Thursday, February 5, 2009


Wow. The above still is of the title character from a Japanese film called "Big Man Japan" and I can't wait to see it either in a theater or on DVD. There are just certain movies you know you're going to love when you hear the premise alone. There are trailers for this great looking film available all over the internet.

I grew up in New York City in the 70's and early 80's. In the days when there were real independent stations we had WOR-TV channel 9. This station played martial arts movies, horror movies, Dr. Who, Benny Hill and Japanese Giant Monster Movies( called Dai Kaiju in Japan). To a comic book/sci-fi/horror geek like me Channel 9 was THE greatest station ever. And since I'm still a huge geek "Big Man Japan" pushes all of my buttons.

The plot of "Big Man Japan" is pure genius: Since the end of WW2, Japan has counted on a breed of men who can , with the help of a massive jolt of electricity, transform into giants to protect Japan from giant monster attacks. In the present the film, in a mock documentary style, follows the mundane life of one Masaru Dai Saito the remaining monster fighting giant. His giant alter ego is unpopular because of the enormous damage caused by fighting monsters and he's reduced to selling ad space on his huge body so as to eke out a meager living. When he's not fighting monsters, Masaru tries to maintain his waning relationship with his daughter, visit his senile grandfather( a giant monster fighter of the previous generation) and waits around to be called into action by the Japanese government.

Pure genius. I wish I'd thought of this one. The movie is, in part, a satire of the old Godzilla movies as well as the giant monster genre which includes Ultraman and The Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers(which was a Japanese show dubbed into English with American actors in the "civilian" scenes).

Now, I realize that this movie isn't to everyone's taste and that's cool. Japan has produced a lot of terrific but very offbeat movies such as Tetsuo The Iron Man in which an average Japanese "salaryman" (office worker) becomes to transform in a walking pile of iron parts.

There was a Tetsuo2 and I've heard rumors that a 3rd Tetsuo movie may happen. Tetsuo: The Iron Man deserves a post of it's own but suffice it to say that I love this film. And one more before I go: The Calamari Wrestler.

The plot of the Calamari Wrestler is that Japanese pro wrestler Taguchi has just won the world title with his finishing move the inverted full nelson. While enjoying the moment of his victory he's surprised in the ring by a giant squid who has snatched his championship belt. Taguchi tries to fight the squid but is trounced by the squid's Northern Lights Suplex. Watching from ringside Taguchi's girlfriend Miyako recognizes the Northern Lights Suplex as being the same finisher used by her deceased ex boyfriend and former wrestling champion Iwata. Now he's back in a giant squid body and he's out for payback, respect and his championship. Miyako is torn between loyalty to her new boyfriend Taguchi and her unresolved feelings for Iwata. In his giant squid body Iwata begins to train hard for his next deadly opponent: The Squilla Boxer.

Yes, this is a comedy and no it's not for everyone's sense of humor either. But it works for me wonderfully. Come on, it's pro wrestling, a love story, a man returned to reclaim his life in a giant squid's body and to find his place in the world. If there has to be a point to this post perhaps it's that while Hollywood continues to make excellent movies, there are lots of great movies from other sources as well. Don't be put off by foreign actor names or subtitles. Or to put it another way: watch outside the box.