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Secret of the Telegian

Entry updated 10 April 2023. Tagged: Film.

Japanese film (1960). Original title Densō Ningen. Toho. Directed by Jun Fukuda. Written by Shinichi Sekizawa. Cast includes Akihiko Hirata, Seizaburo Kawazu, Tadao Nakamaru, Takamaru Sasaki and Koji Tsuruta. 85 minutes. Colour.

Hearing of a murder in an amusement park's Cave of Horror, Kirioka (Tsuruta) – a reporter from the science desk of a Tokyo newspaper – decides to investigate. Finding a piece of wire in the cave he takes it to a Scientist who explains it is an advanced type of transistor which needs to be kept at a low temperature to work.

The victim worked at a nightclub owned by a criminal, Masayoshi Onishi (Kawazu). The pair, along with two other employees, had been in the army together and 14 years previously they had murdered Lance Corporal Tsudo (Nakamaru) – or so they believed. A recording from him arrives, announcing the order in which the remaining three will be killed, with Onishi last. Tsudo then appears – interference passing across his body like a poorly transmitted television image – and stabs his next victim with a bayonet. Detective Kobayashi (Hirata), who is monitoring the nightclub in the company of ex-schoolfriend Kirioka, pursue Tsudo into a warehouse, only to find he has vanished, leaving behind a burnt out device that includes a refrigeration unit.

Fearing for his life, Onishi tell his story to the police: on the night of Japan's surrender (see World War Two) four officers and Tsudo had been escorting an army scientist Dr Nikki (Sasaki) and his research equipment – but the officers had replaced the equipment with stolen gold bars, so they would prosper after the war. When storing the boxes in a cave Tsudo discovers their content and is outraged: the officers attack him and Dr Nikki, then blow up the cave: but on returning to collect the gold they find it – and the two men – gone.

Kobayashi and Kirioka locate an ex-colleague of Dr Nikki, who explains he had been working on Matter Transmission using electrically amplified mental powers, or "teleport-telekinesis" (see Telekinesis). They also learn of four refrigeration units recently purchased from a local business; so Kirioka and a young woman from the company go to the delivery address, an isolated farmhouse by a volcano, to see if there is a connection. They are met by the creepy Tsudo; and as another ex-officer is killed whilst they are there, he has an alibi. However, another refrigeration unit is found destroyed not far from the latest victim, so the police and Kirioka know what has happened, but have no proof. Obtaining a warrant to search the farmhouse they find Dr Nikki working on his teleporter (see Technology), unaware that Tsudo, who is his assistant, has been using the device to commit murder. When the police leave Tsudo comes out of hiding, strangles the doctor and uses the device to reach and kill Onishi, having had the other half of the device delivered close to Onishi's hiding place. However, the volcano now erupts and its tremors destroy the laboratory (Dr Nikki is still alive and fiddles with his equipment, but it is not clear whether his actions help or hinder events). When Tsudo tries to teleport back to the farm there is now no working device to receive him: the film ends with his image distorting as he writhes in agony, then vanishes.

Though there are plot holes (the coincidence of the volcanic eruption; how did Tsudo know where Onishi is hiding?), this is a solid if at times slow moving crime drama (see Crime and Punishment) whose sf visuals – the transported Tsudo and the teleportation technology – are respectable (the special effects are by Eiji Tsuburaya), though the scientific explanations less so. Secret of the Telegian is sometimes unofficially lumped together with two other Toho Tokusatsu films, The H-Man (1958; original title Bijo to Ekitai-ningen) and The Human Vapor (1960; original title Gasu Ningen Daiichigō) as the "Mutant Trilogy" or, more accurately and as a Blu-Ray set containing the three works was titled, the "Transforming Human Series". [SP]


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