Also known as Konchu Daisenso (which translates to Insect War), this Japanese apocalyptic film was directed by Kazui Nihonmatsu, who often found himself as an assistant director to Akira Kurosawa (on 1952’s The Idiot), Keisuke Kinoshita (Carmen Come Home) and Masaki Kobayashi (1956’s The Thick-Walled Room). He would use the name Norman Cooper here.
It’s written by Susumu Takaku, who would later write 92 episodes of the anime Mazinger Z, the Fist of the North Star anime movie and numerous Sentai shows.
The Shochiku Company was considered a prestige studio, not one that was part of the kaiju and science fiction crazes of the 50’s and 60’s in Japan. But here we are, with one of the few films that the studio made within these genres.
Somewhere in the Anan Archipelago, Akiyama Joji is making time with Annabelle, who is not his full-time woman, when an American jet carrying a nuke goes horribly off-course above. Charly, one of the crew, has a flashback to World War II thanks to an insect. He begs for drugs as a release from his pain, begging not to go back into the war. This is 1968, not today when PTSD is common knowledge. Suddenly, the plane flies into a swarm of insects and explodes, with several parachutes escaping the wreckage.
Charly is played by Arthur “Chico” Lourant, who made his way to Japan via the Korean War before staying there as an actor, with roles in Gamera vs. Jiger and Prophecies of Nostradamus, which was released in the U.S. as The Last Days of Planet Earth.
The hydrogen bomb on board is missing and now Lieutenant-Colonel Gordon must find it. At the same time, Joji’s wife Akiyama must deal with her adulterous husband and the unwanted attentions of her boss Kudo. And hey — there’s Charly, who seems to be the only survivor. The rest? Dead in a cave and covered with insect bites.
Joji has found a watch whole looking for insects for Dr. Nagumo. This is the only fact that the military needs to put the blame for the two deaths on him, as the watch is government issue. Yukari begs the doctor to speak for her husband, just as we learn that insects are destroying India.
Meanwhile, Dr. Nagumo meets the only other witness to the accident, Joji’s lover Annabelle, who knows way more about the insects on the island than maybe even this scientist. That’s because she’s at once a scarlet woman, a lover of nature, an enemy to capitalism and, yes, a mad scientist.
This is a film with no real heroes and constant inhumanity to man, so you take the good where you can get it, you know?
“I don’t care whether I live in a free society of a Communist one. I just want to breed vast numbers of insects that drive people mad and scatter them all over the world.” Oh Annabelle!
Kathy Horan, who plays this role, shows up as a stock American in plenty of Japanese films of this era, including The Green Slime and the astoundingly great King Kong Escapes.
Meanwhile, Charly dies and it’s revealed that the insects have laid their eggs inside him. As he expires, they all chant “Genocide! Genocide!” This movie has become pure drug-filled post-nuke madness. What follows is even more buggy, as they say: the good doctor allows himself to be injected with insect venom so he can connect with their hive mind and learn their plan for dominating the world. Seriously, do not dose yourself before this scene.
Nobody really gets out of this alive and if you think Japanese directors are going to allow the Americans to not look like amoral scientists who will quickly nuke their small island from orbit, perhaps you don’t understand that, well, we already did that twice to them.
Seriously, this is one demented film.:
You can watch the Cinematic Titanic version of this movie on Tubi. The Criterion Collection released this film on a compilation set titled When Horror Came to Shochiku along with Goku Bodysnatcher from Hell, The Living Skeleton (which it played double features with in the U.S.) and The X From Outerspace. You can buy it on their site.