Entry updated 19 December 2020. Tagged: Film.
Film (1981; vt Virus). Haruki Kadokawa Films. Directed by Kinji Fukasaku. Written by Kōji Takada, Gregory Knapp, Fukasaku, from Fukkatsu no Hi (1964) by Sakyō Komatsu. Cast includes Chuck Connors, Glenn Ford, Olivia Hussey, George Kennedy, Masao Kusakari, Henry Silva and Robert Vaughn. 155 minutes (Japan), cut to 108 minutes (US), cut to 93 minutes (tv). Colour.
A germ-warfare virus is stolen and accidentally released; only those in very cold areas survive the onslaught of what soon becomes Pandemic. Then the crazed US Chief of Staff (Silva) sets off a nuclear strike. In the Antarctic, 864 shivering male survivors share eight women. The story is told as flashback, with a Japanese (Kusakari) looking like a bearded scarecrow about to walk, implausibly, from Washington, District of Columbia, to Tierra del Fuego. (In the Japanese version he makes it; in the US television version everybody seemingly dies in the destruction of Washington).
Virus went into production at the tail end of a tide of globally visible Disaster movies, and seems to have been conceived by Haruki Kadokawa, the eccentric heir of the Kadokawa entertainment empire in Japan, as his passport to international success. Plainly hoping to achieve similar box-office to that of Tōhō with Nippon Chinbotsu (1973), he plumped for source material from the same author, Sakyō Komatsu, in the form of Fukkatsu no Hi ["Resurrection Day"] (1964). The text had long been a matter of contemplation among Japanese movie producers, and had been previously mooted as an international co-production as early as 1965. At the time, it was the most expensive movie ever made in Japan, boldly but misguidedly conceived as a multinational movie heavily populated with the kind of white faces that Japanese were used to seeing in blockbusters (see Race in SF). Its excesses included a 200-day shooting schedule, of which 40 were spent in Antarctica, as well as the use of a real submarine on loan from the Chilean navy.
However, the staff plainly bit off more than they could chew, and the billing of the 155-minute full-length version as a "work-in-progress" at the Cannes Film Festival in 1980, several months after the original postponed Japanese release date, suggests that even the film-makers were not sure what to do with all their footage. Most of the Japanese material was excised for the international release, while the surviving, appallingly stereotyped cast, in a problem common to gaijin directed in Japanese through interpreters, often seem to act like human puppets rather than living, breathing characters, stuck in a simplistic melodrama with nothing serious to say. Notably, the Seiun Awards for the turn of the 1980s were dominated by blockbuster Hollywood movies, and in the late 1980s by Anime; despite some polite acclaim from tame magazines in its homeland, the film was a flop at the box office.
The story was bafflingly retold as a book for children by Ryūji Arai as Fukkatsu no Hi: Jinrui Metsubō no Kikai to Tatakai ["Day of Resurrection: The Fight Against the Crisis of the Collapse of Humanity"] (2009). The movie's bad luck continues, with a scheduled screening on Japanese cable television shoved off-air in 2011 out of consideration for the victims of the Tōhoku Earthquake. [JonC/PN]
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