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Golden Bat, The

Entry updated 1 May 2023. Tagged: Film.

Japanese film (1966). Original title Ōgon Bat, sometimes rendered as Ōgon Batto. Toei Company. Based on the character created by Suzuki Ichiro and Takeo Nagamatsu. Directed by Hajime Sato. Written by Susumu Takaku. Cast includes Sonny Chiba, Andrew Hughes, Emiri Takami, Hisako Tsukuba and Wataru Yamakawa. 73 minutes. Black and white.

Amateur astronomer Akira Kazahaya (Yamakawa) is abducted by four silent men in black suits and sunglasses after he tries to warn the local observatory that the planet Icarus is on a collision course with Earth (the audience knows Aliens are responsible). He is taken to the Pearl Research Institute, a secret UN laboratory in the Japanese Alps which has much advanced Technology; here a Dr Yamatome (Chiba) explains that their work involves investigating any abnormalities that may affect our planet – and they are aware that Icarus has indeed changed course and will collide with Earth in 10 days. The doctor asks Akira to join the Institute and help them destroy Icarus before it arrives: he agrees. He is shown the Super Destruction Beam Cannon (see Weapons) invented by Dr Yamatome and the head of the Institute, Professor Pearl (Hughes): its heat Ray is equivalent to 1,000 hydrogen bombs and should destroy Icarus ... once they have devised a lens that can endure such an intense beam.

The search for such a lens takes them to an unmapped island in the Pacific covered in ruins: Dr Yamatome reads the hieroglyphs etched below a seated skeleton and announces "it's a message from John the Baptist": the professor suggests the ruins may be part of Atlantis (they are). Chased into a temple by aliens, the Institute's team finds a sarcophagus whose hieroglyphs state that a great calamity will befall the human race, but Golden Bat can be awakened from 10,000 years slumber by pouring water on him, whereupon he will fight alongside humanity. They open the casket, revealing a figure who clutches a jewel that would make an ideal lens. The aliens attack again, so the professor's granddaughter Emily (Takami) awakens Golden Bat as instructed – whereupon he defeats the aliens, then tells Emily that if she is ever in danger she has but to call his name and he will come. A bat lands on Emily and disappears: it reappears whenever she invokes him, followed shortly after by Golden Bat himself.

The aliens are led by Nazo, self-declared ruler of the universe – who looks like a humanoid, four-eyed rat with a mechanical claw for a left hand; he believes the human race has no place in his universe so wants to wipe us out. Despite having the lens, the Institute must wait until Icarus gets within range, which enables Nazo's agents to steal the heat ray by Shapeshifting into the professor and fellow Scientist Naomi Akiyama (Tsukuba); they also kidnap Emily. However, the Golden Bat sabotages Nazo's conic spiral Spaceship before it leaves Earth: he helps Dr Yamatome and Kira free Professor Pearl, Emily and Naomi, then goes on to defeat Nazo and retrieve the heat ray, which duly destroys Icarus in the nick of time. Later, after saying his farewells, he flies off.

Despite the special effects (see Tokusatsu) and fight scenes being unremarkable, the film is reasonably enjoyable. The Golden Bat himself is an odd figure – for those unfamiliar with the character his skull head, large cloak, sceptre and a maniacal laugh would seem to denote a villain rather than a Superhero. His Superpowers are indestructibility, flight and strength, whilst his sceptre fires a beam and also makes a serviceable club.

The Golden Bat, original name Ōgon Bat, was arguably the world's first superhero, created by Suzuki Ichiro and Takeo Nagamatsu and initially appearing in Kamishibai shows during 1931; though originally the main character seems to have been a villain, Kuro Bat, he is eventually defeated by Ōgon Bat, who proved to be the person audiences loved. When artist Takeo Nagamatsu retired from the series writer Suzuki Ichiro teamed up with artist Kōji Kata to continued the Kamishibai shows. Nagamatsu eventually returned to the character, producing a Ōgon Bat Manga during 1947-1956. The character's first film was Ōgon bat: Matenrô no kaijin (1950), which is lost and about which little is known; a third film, Ōgon Batto ga Yattekuru (1972), was a comedy. There was also a popular 52-episode tv Anime series Ōgon Bat (1967-1968, vt Phantaman, vt Fantomas). [SP]


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