Goke - Bodysnatcher From Hell (1968)
By: CJ on April 30, 2004  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Artsmagic (UK). Region 2, PAL. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). Japanese DD 2.0 English Subtitles. 84 Minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Hajime Sato
Starring:Teruo Yoshida, Tomomi Sato, Hideo Ko, Masaya Takahashi and Nobu Kaneko
Screenplay: Kyuzo Kobayashi and Susumu Takahisa
Music: Shunsuke Kikuchi
Tagline:'A fiendish vampire from a strange world in outer space drains his victims' blood and turns them into weird corpses!'
Country: Japan
AKA:Goke the Vampire;
Kyuketsuki Gokemidoro
Right from the opening, with the sight of an aircraft flying against a blood-red sky, you know you're in for something special with Goke - Bodysnatcher From Hell. Made in Japan in 1968, this a real vintage gem that takes in alien invaders, terrorists and political corruption.

The story is simple; a passenger airline is hijacked in mid-flight and forced into the path of an oncoming alien spacecraft, this causes the crew to lose control and the plane crashes in a barren wasteland, leaving a small handful of survivors. However, the real fun begins when one of their number becomes infected with an alien parasite and the motley crew begin to get picked off one-by-one.

I shan't reveal any more of the plot than that, as that would spoil your enjoyment of seeing the story unravel. Although at its core this is an alien invasion movie, the filmmakers wisely choose to keep things on a small scale and go for a more claustrophobic feel, rather than trying to be over-ambitious and attempt an epic. The film obviously draws much of its inspiration from American sci-fi movies of the period, but manages to create something spellbinding and utterly unique. The film is also daringly peppered with anti-war statements, most notably referencing the Vietnam War, which was raging at the time. There are also some brave references to the nuclear devastation of Hiroshima, which must have been quite controversial at the time (and possibly still would be in a Japanese flick).

Don't be deceived though, this not just some cheesy B-Movie, this is far more than that. The film uses the plot of an alien invasion to make some bold statements on the human condition and relies more on character development than on the extra-terrestrial activities – and it does so to great effect. It's fascinating to watch the survivors as they struggle to remain alive; old wounds and rivalries come to the fore and more than a few skeletons-in-the-closet are revealed. As the alien threat increases, the more the group starts to fragment and turn on each other.

The film has a surprisingly conventional narrative and lacks the surrealism that would define the newer generation of Asian films. This certainly seems to have taken its cue from American cinema, not that this is a bad thing though, far from it, it benefits from this approach.

The director, Hajime Sato, cites Mario Bava as an influence and this shows. To me, this seems to have not only been inspired by American alien invasion movies, but also by Bava's Planet of the Vampires, and can be seen in the use of lighting and set design, not to mention the vampiric tendencies of those infected by the alien entity. However, despite this obvious influence, Sato creates his own vision, which stands alone as a compelling and involving human drama, with otherworldly overtones.

It also has to be said that for its time, the makeup and special effects are excellent – there is nothing shoddy about this production. Sato directs with a sure hand and the actors all give fine performances. This is top-notch stuff and a real gem of a movie, which is well worth your time and attention.
Video
Presented in anamorphic 2.35:1, the transfer is absolutely stunning – it looks gorgeous. The colours are vivid and stable throughout and the blacks remain solid. There is also no evidence of digital smearing or artefacting whatsoever. I should also note that subtitles are clear and very easy to read too. A fantastic presentation and top marks must go to the good folks at Artsmagic for this one.
Audio
A basic Japanese 2.0 audio track is provided, but this is more than acceptable for a film of this vintage. The dialogue and music came across crisp and clear and there were no audible problems with the soundtrack provided.
Extra Features
Not much in the way of extras, I'm afraid. There are text filmographies and biographies as well as a trailer for the main feature. But that's it, I'm afraid. However, I suspect that extras for a film this old would be pretty hard to come by anyway. At least there's something offered; however little that may be.
The Verdict
An excellent film on a superb DVD that is well worth seeking out. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and found it surprisingly engrossing, and I would encourage those that read this to check it out. It's definitely 'old school' filmmaking, but don't let that deter you. If you want fine acting and intelligent storytelling, then this is most definitely for you. I should also add that the film boasts a superbly apocalyptic ending, which is a very satisfying conclusion to an incredible movie. I loved it.
Movie Score
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