Entry updated 1 August 2022. Tagged: Film.
Japanese film (1957). Original title Tōmei Ningen to Hae Otoko. Daiei Film. Directed by Mitsuo Murayama. Written by Hajime Takaiwa. Cast includes Ichirō Izawa, Junko Kano, Yoshiro Kitahara, Shozo Nanbu, Ryuji Shinagawa and Chujo Shizuo. 96 minutes. Black and white.
Detective Wakabayashi (Kitahara) is interviewing Professor Hayakawa (Nanbu) (see Scientists) about the stabbing of a fellow passenger on a flight, one of several recent murders where no clues have been found (see Crime and Punishment). The detective semi-seriously wonders if the killer was the Invisible Man (see Invisibility) and is surprised at the glances exchanged between the professor, his daughter Akiko (Kano) and colleagues, including Dr Tsukioka (Shinagawa). They explain their studies of cosmic Rays has revealed there is one that renders objects invisible; another restores visibility, but currently has the side-effect of causing death by cancer in a few minutes.
There are more murders and robberies, in locked rooms or in the open where noone was near the victim – though buzzing noises and the victim waving their hands are mentioned. The latter points are enough for Wakabayashi to suggest a man shrunk to the size of a fly might be responsible: his boss points out the victims were stabbed and suggests the detective might need a break. However, a connection between some of the victims is now found: during World War Two they worked on an island research faculty. Kōkichi Kusunoki (Izawa), a nightclub owner who was also at the facility, is interviewed but has alibis. However, we learn that his colleagues fled the island at the end of the war, leaving him as the fall guy to be imprisoned as a war criminal. The research faculty had developed a temporary shrinking formula (see Miniaturization), so Kusunoki hired a young man, Yamada (Shizuo), to murder those who had deserted him. He approaches them fly-sized, reverts to full-size to stab his victims, then shrinks again. The formula is addictive (see Drugs) and the increasingly unstable Yamada is also killing people he takes a dislike to.
Professor Hayakawa had worked at the island research station too and is murdered next. Kusunoki orders Yamada to return to the professor's laboratory to steal the invisibility ray – but he falls into a beaker of acid, fatally burning himself. When Detective Wakabayashi examines the now full-sized body he wonders how Yamada entered a secured building – and how such a small amount of liquid caused such extensive burns. His questions are quickly answered by Dr Tsukioka, who, after the professor's death, had used the invisibility ray on himself and gone to Kusunoki's office, hearing enough to incriminate him. But Kusunoki escapes arrest by shrinking: his demand for the invisibility ray initially refused, he sets off a bomb in Tokyo, killing 790. So the authorities agree to a rooftop handover. Kusunoki arrives, prepared for a trap involving Dr Tsukioka – but not for Akiko also being invisible (a surprise to Tsukioka and Wakabayashi as well): he ends up shot by Wakabayashi. As Tsukioka has now made the restoration ray safe, all ends happily.
This is an enjoyable eccentric thriller whose story does not bear close examination: Yamada's ability to fly (and buzz) when shrunk is perhaps the most baffling element. The special effects are solid and there are some nicely shot scenes: the best is of a man being followed along a tunnel entrance, which the director presumably liked, as a very similar scene appears later. The film was not released in the west until 2021, on Blu-ray with The Invisible Man Appears (1949). [SP]
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