Tuesday, October 13, 2015


"A Oozing Creeping Mass Of Stark Terror, Inching 
it's Way Across Your Body Seeking Your Blood..."


    During the 1960's following the success of Toho's GODZILLA movies other Japanese studios tried their hand at the science fiction/horror genre among them Shochiku. At the time they were best known for their dramas, but during the years 1967/68 they produced four alternately bizarre and disturbingly creepy films including 1967's THE X FROM OUTER SPACE (giant lizard/bird thing stomping Tokyo) along with THE LIVING SKELETON (eerie B&W ghost story) and GOKE along with GENOCIDE (insect apocalypse) in 1968. GOKE's director Hajime Sato was a lover of the Italian horror cinema of the 1960's (there's some definite influences of Mario Bava's PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES in GOKE) and his B&W 1965 feature HOUSE Of TERRORS (aka GHOST OF THE HUNCHBACK) is a beautiful  invocation of the then contemporary Italian Gothic horrors.
    GOKE begins as a Japanese airliner with an "eclectic" (to say the least) group of passengers quickly turns in the proverbial "flight from hell" (here literally) as within in the first few minutes of the movie the sky turns a bloody red (a sequence Tarantino homaged in KILL BILL), birds begin throwing themselves bloodily into the plane's windows and the crew receives a bomb threat along with reported sightings of UFO's in the area ! The news reports are also reporting of an assassination of a British diplomat in Tokyo whereupon the assassin also (!) turns out to be on the plane and pulling a gun orders the plane to Okinawa.

     The plane's radio is destroyed while at the same time a mysterious saucer like craft buzzes by the plane causing it to crash in a desolate valley. The survivors include the co-pilot Teruo Yoshida (HORRORS OF THE MALFORMED MEN) and a stewardess (Tomomi Sato from BABY CART IN THE LAND OF DEMONS) - who refer to each other rather charmingly throughout the film as "Mr. Sugisaka" and "Mrs. Asakura". Also there is a bombastic/cowardly Senator Mano (Ezo Kitmura from HITOKIRI), an arms manufacturing toadie (Yuko Kusunoki HOUSE OF TERROR) who will stoop to anything to land a government contract with Mano (including letting the Senator ravish his accompanying wife), a psychiatrist along with a scientist whose described as a "space biologist" (!) and an almost humorously obnoxious American "Mrs. Neal" played by Kathy Horan (THE GREEN SLIME and the above mentioned GENOCIDE). She plays a war widow whose coming to pick up her husband's remains after being killed in Vietnam. Far from being a sympathetic figure she portrayed as the token "Ugly American" using all the remaining water to wash her face and acting hysterically.
    Also surviving is an agitated young man (whose name we never learn) that turns out is the bomber and the assassin/hitchhiker, who while initially appearing dead suddenly comes to life and grabbing Mrs. Mrs. Asakura runs out into the night. Immediately he goes into trance and is drawn to a large glowing saucer emitting multi-colored pulsating lights. Upon entering the saucer his forward splits open down the middle and a metallic silver slug-like critter enters his head turning him into vampire-like zombie (!!).

     Meanwhile back at the airliner things begin to unravel as the psychiatrist begins pitting the survivors against one another for his own amusement while the senator becomes more and more unhinged as he guzzles whiskey and screams for water, acting so insane you keep expecting to see him start foaming at the mouth and rolling around on the ground. Although the characters are all broadly drawn often bordering on parody (as with many Japanese genre movies this can partially be attributed to the dubbing) its still a fun exercise to watch the little band of survivors fall apart and begin turning on one another, with several unfortunate comrades gleefully tossed aside as monster fodder.
     Unlike many Japanese horror movies that had their basis in folklore and legends GOKE is a creation wholly unto itself and although taking place in a contemporary time frame seems devoid of any sense reality, playing out as a long nightmarish descent into madness (or a bad acid trip...). Even the valley where the majority of the outside action takes place in seems like a barren alien world. Somewhat unusual for the genre and production time there's some Vietnam references with the unfortunate American war widow along with randomly inserted freeze frames of brightly polarized Vietnam War photographs that only add to the overall mind tripping & lava lamp atmosphere of the film. Easy to dismiss because of its sometimes unintentionally hilarious dubbing and low budget driven effects (after all, IT IS a low budget 1960's Japanese monster movie) GOKE is a hypnotically compelling experience that has to be seen to be believed.

     The special effects & set design range from the effective (the opening plane crash has some wonderful model work) to woefully humorous (The Ed Wood inspired cockpit), but the pulsating lights and prosthetic heads being split open so the alien mind control slug can glide in are images not soon forgotten. I remember seeing stills from this as a kid in Famous Monsters but the film was always frustratingly hard to see, as perhaps fittingly GOKE had a rather bizarre release history. Although it might have had a small U.S. run in the late 60's, it wasn't widely released until 1977 when its was picked up by Pacemaker (a small distributor who specialized in porn) where it played on a mind blowing double bill with Masimo Pupillo's ludicrously entertaining S&M fest BLOODY PIT OF HORROR from 1965 (!) staring a possessed Mickey Hargitay as crimson hooded torturer. Damnably hard to see until a DVD release a few years back, GOKE would show up periodically on late night television (which is where I first caught it) no doubt confounding unaware viewers in the wee small hours.
     All four of the Shochiku films are available in a nifty box box set courtesy of Criterion through their more budget minded Eclipse line.



  1. Oh man, I do enjoy the Japanese films from around this period. Ill have to check this one out.
    I quite enjoyed Message from Space, House, of course the Godzillas, and that strange Japanese Planet of the Apes knockoff I can never remember the name of.

    1. Hi Rob,
      The Criterion set is well worth a purchase (just wait for the twice yearly B&N 50% off sale -that's what I do). What this about a Japanese Planet of the Apes knock-off ??? Tell me more !

    2. Took me awhile to find any info on it. I had seen it as a kid on USA and it stuck with me. But I have never seen a thing about it since.


    3. Man, that sound pretty bizarre. I'm going to keep an eye open for it !

    4. GOKE rocks. I love that ending. One of the most bleak I've ever seen aside from the whole of the massive downer of Toho's PROPHECIES OF NOSTRADAMUS (1974). The Japanese Apes TV series is on DVD over there (I think it's been released twice), but lacking English subs.

    5. Hi Brain,
      Goke is really cool as heck. In fact this whole box is one my favorite DVD collections. THE LIVING SKELETON is a great creepy little film. I love PROPHECIES OF NOSTRADAMUS - its too bad its so hard to fund a decent copy.

  2. I have not had the chance to see this one - but it is thoroughly on the list now! Great post, Dick!