‘The H-Man’ (1958), or to give it its more impressive alternative title ‘Beauty and the Liquid Men’, initially covers ground similar to director Ishirō Honda and special effects master Eiji Tsuburaya’s ‘Godzilla’ (1954) in taking the true story of the fishing boat Lucky Dragon 5’s exposure to radiation from a U.S. hydrogen bomb test as its starting point, but rather than turning it into a giant monster movie they turn it into a film noir with melting humans. Awesome!
During a drug bust a gangster, Misaki, is run over by a police car leaving no body but, instead, only his pile of clothes. It’s as though he simply vanished! No wonder the gangster vanished as the police conclude the only plausible explanation is that Misaki stole the drugs from the notorious crime boss Mr. Gold then ran off into the night naked. And if you steal from Mr. Gold then you should be worried.
Misaki’s girlfriend, Chikako and a singer at a nightclub, is brought in for questioning. However it’s not just the police that are keeping their eye on Chikako but so is the mob looking for their stash as well as some scientists who have a theory to Misaki’s disappearance. When a gangster attacks Chikako and is then melted before her eyes, again leaving only his clothes and gun behind, then the cops are willing to listen to the scientists.
The scientists take the cops to a hospital where two sailors are suffering from radiation poisoning. The two sailors tell a spooky tale of how, one night, they and their crew were out at sea when they encountered a completely abandoned fishing vessel. Boarding it they discover the ship derelict with only piles of clothes lying around as to any sign of the crew. Yet when the sailors are attacked by a crawling, blue slime which liquidises them on contact they get the hell off the ship and bugger off, leaving a few of their men behind as puddles of goo. As they depart they look back at the receding vessel and witness the slime taking the forms of glowing green humanoids. The scientist labels these beings H-Men, men “created” by the H-Bomb.
And so follows a desperate race to stop the H-Men, and the mob, from causing more mayhem in Tokyo. Will the cops succeed or will a new form of human walk the Earth? Watch ‘The H-Man’ and find out!
Okay, I’m going to go out on a limb here and state that, for me, this might just be Ishiro Honda’s most impressive piece of directing I’ve seen yet. Maybe it’s the fact he’s working with a noir-esque vibe means he’s moving the camera more, pushing in, keeping it roving more that could be the reason. Either way, there are some very nicely shot sequences here, especially Chikako’s song numbers at the nightclub.
Likewise during the sailor’s flashback to the “ghost ship”. It’s an incredibly atmospheric, tense and eerie looking sequence that’s shot almost in pitch blackness and lit only by the sailor’s torches. When the H-Men appear, ghostly green, on board it rivals (if not sometimes surpasses) very similar scenes in John Carpenter’s ‘The Fog’ (1980).
A lot of this is also down to Honda’s bold use of colour which is as good as anything Mario Bava ever did as bright greens and reds light up the screen in carefully placed spots. This exquisite use of lighting is pushed even further during the climax in the sewers, the dark tunnels lit only by torch light or walls of flames. It’s all pretty remarkable, technically impressive and a thrill to look at.
I had a fantastic time with ‘The H-Man’. As I said, it’s very nicely directed by Honda with Tsuburaya providing some extraordinary effects work of melting bodies and dissolving humans. The fidelity is spot on and with it all being in camera and practical it hasn’t dated or aged a day, as well as being supremely evocative as Tsuburaya’s work nearly always was.
So if the idea of atomic sci-fi meets body melt horror with a film noir edge and boasting excellent special effects work in ANY way appeals to you then don’t hesitate in checking this one out. It’ll leave you with a warm, gooey feeling inside.