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I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Friday, September 15, 2023

Ju jin yuki otoko (1955)

A Japanese Abominable Snowman movie… Hell yeah I was going to watch this. Before I go any further though I do need to point out that for this review I watched the movie under it’s original title and cut. There is a butchered version for the American market under the title Half Human. Basically, it got the Godzilla treatment with much of the original film cut out and inserts with American actors cut in to make it “relatable” to the market. Don’t watch that version, it is terrible, but check out the original instead if you are interested after my review.

Things kick off with some folks waiting for a train as a storm blows outside. A man walks in and starts to interview them. They are apparently survivors of an expedition and have a story to tell. Then it jumps back in time to some friends skiing and having fun on Mount Fuji. They never say this but that is where the movie was shot. A pair split off to check out a cabin while the others head down the mountain. A huge snowstorm blows in and they are all trapped. Later a search party finds one of the men’s bodies, but the other is missing.

It jumps back to the survivors at the train station before continuing in another flashback. This time it is the next summer as the sister and friend of the missing man have joined an expedition. It is looking for both the missing man as well as a legendary creature who lives in the mountains. This group is followed by another lead by a local carnival owner who wants to capture the creature. Shenanigans ensue as the creature seems to stalk them. Later they all meet up with a local mountain tribe that worships the snowman as their protector/god. The monster does somethings and the humans do some even worse things. It all leads to a finale that had me a bit bummed. See the creature wasn’t so bad. Yeah, this is another of those movies where we have a misunderstood creature that is less a threat and more of a victim of the humans around it.

I wanted to like this one. The creature effects work are good with the suit and the performer under it doing a fantastic job. That shouldn’t be a surprise since this is from the director, Ishiro Honda, and the studio that brought Godzilla out the year before. Instead of a monkey suit being repurposed it is clear some thought went into the making of the snowman. While vaguely apelike it does come off as something different. I also think that the fact we don’t have lots of cardboard buildings getting smashed and that the performer interacts with the cast in many scenes also makes it a bit more fun. Don’t get me wrong I dig Kaiju movies, but this shows the quality of their work much more. I suppose I’m a sucker for a rubber suit in a monster flick.

But there is one huge and glaring issue with Ju jin yuki otoko and that is the pacing. Clocking in at ninety four minutes there is way too much padding. There are long stretches of characters walking, talking, storms blowing, and them admiring the scenery. Don’t get me wrong the movie is beautifully shot. The black and white photography of the natural surroundings borders on art. But as much as I appreciated how it looked it was at times painful to sit thru. There is a cool story here and we do have some fun action as the story ramps up to the finale but it takes far too long to get there. Toss in the fact that the story jumps around in a nonlinear fashion and the added complication of subtitles (again I watched the Japanese version) and this is a movie you must pay attention to and that can be a chore.

I didn’t hate Ju jin yuki otoko and am glad to have checked it out. For me, the creature design was worth a watch by itself, and I consider myself a fan of Honda. But I fear that the casual viewer might find this one too much of a slog to sit thru. That said this is still a far better flick than Half Human.


© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

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