Welcome back for part two of our Kurtodrome Vault double bill of men being madly in love with women (oh, and not for the good of mankind). This time we move to Japan for a movie called:
PART 2. THE HUMAN VAPOR (Gasu Ningen Daiichigo)
“At first I could not understand the terror in Dr Sano’s eyes. Then I knew: I had been transformed into something terrifying. Something repellant….”
Maybe not necessarily repellant, but the sight of someone’s body vaporizing till he becomes invisible… well, I’ve seen prettier things.
First the good news
The second feature of this double bill isThe Human Vapor and was directed by Ishirô Honda, the man who also gave you Gojira (a.k.a. Godzilla) and countless sequels with the rubber-suited monster.
Honda worked for Toho Studios who, apart from Godzilla and Samurai films, made four movies about humans who could change the state of their bodies. The Human Vapor, released in 1960, was the last of these four films.
So no monster in Gasu Ningen Daiichigo (to call The Human Vapor by its original title) but a librarian who agrees to be a test subject for a scientific study. Little did librarian Mizuno know the other test subjects had died during the test. He discovers he can vaporize his body and kills the professor (by asphyxiation).
Mizuno might want to turn his back to humanity, but he’s also madly in love with a beautiful dancer who’s been saving for her comeback performance. He decides to help her by robbing the bank. Maybe not such a bad idea, but it’s a crime my friendly neighbourhood officer tells me.
The police pursue his trail (he might be invisible, but his car isn’t) to the place where Vapor-Man abandons his car. Smart move, if it weren’t for the fact that there’s only one house nearby. That’s where She lives and when She suddenly appears to have enough money for her comeback and can’t/won’t reveal any information on her maecenas, she’s arrested.
This makes Mizuno so angry he becomes even madder than he was before (it seems like the test affected both his visibility and his sanity) and he wants revenge for the imprisonment of his beloved dancer. More banks are robbed and more people get killed.
That’s as far as I’ll go because, who knows, you might want to check this movie out and as the saying goes, there’s no crying over spilt spoilers. The movie is very decent and a remarkable ending.
Okay, and now the bad news.
The bad news is The Human Vapor isn’t just the American title of the film, it’s also the American version and sadly a lot went lost in translation.
First and foremost, Gasu Ningen Daiichigo was a mystery wheras in The Human Vapor the anti-hero tells his story in a long flashback. This would’ve been only half so horrible if the narration had been more interesting and if it hadn’t replaced the dialogue in quite a lot of scenes (which leaves us with the “I told him and then he said” effect). The jerking effect of the re-edited version is also not really a plus side. Even the soundtrack was changed. And if you can’t remember why the soundtrack seems so familiar: you must have seen The Fly (1958).
Crappy editing, dialogue and Americanised dubbing (Japanese characters are less credible with sentences like “Ah, go peddle your papers!”) aside, nothing can keep us from knowing this is a terrific movie. Even if it falls from 10/10 to 8/10, an eight is still better than most things you’re subjected to. The Human Vapor still has enormous amounts of tragedy and pathos, an anti-hero who can’t control his limitless powers and an enchanting but painful love story. What it lacks as a crime story, it wins as a character study. It’s fascinating to see how Mizuno evolves from a friendly lab rat into a psychotic megalomaniac.
Mizuno and Fujichiyo
We also wonder about the role of the dancer Fujichiyo.
Does she know where the money came from? Does she also love Mizuno? Her personality is quite different from the other female character in the film, the reporter Kyoko. Traditional versus modern.
Mizuno’s acts are beyond redemption, but still you feel some sort of sympathy for the Human Vapor and most of that comes from his unconditional love for Fujichiyo.
True, the special effects are minimal, but who needs special effects in a sci-fi movie when you’ve got a story?
I leave you with the trailer for the film. And the good news: it’s the Japanese trailer.