Saturday, August 3, 2013
I'm slowly working my way through WHEN HORROR CAME TO SHOCHIKU, the Criterion Eclipse DVD box set I won at this year's Monster Bash. The next film up for discussion is GENOCIDE.
GENOCIDE starts out with a B-52 bomber being brought down near a Southeast Asian island chain. The plane, which was carrying an H-bomb, was attacked by insects. The crew is found in a nearby cave, their bodies covered with ghastly sores. One crew member has survived....but the man is raving mad, and can't remembered what happened. Since he served a combat tour in Vietnam, and suffers from drug addiction, he gets the blame for the other crew members' deaths....but a Japanese scientist who happens to be in the area remains skeptical about his guilt.
GENOCIDE is a wild ride of a film. It has a manic energy to it, and a storyline which veers off in all sorts of directions. The plot involves a ne'er-do-well husband, his neglected pregnant wife, arrogant American military figures, shifty agents working for an unnamed Eastern Bloc power, and lots and lots of bug attacks.
The movie's most memorable character is a sexy European lady who bears a passing resemblance to Ann-Margret. She also happens to be training insects to destroy the human race. The reason why? As a child she survived a Nazi concentration camp, and this is her revenge on humanity.
The bug attacks consist of a fair amount of stock nature footage of insects, but they are integrated into the scenes very well (if you have a phobia of bugs this movie is not for you). It's mentioned in the movie that insects have been going crazy all over the world--it's suggested that the creatures are taking revenge against mankind and his numerous wars of destruction. This takes into account the plot's Cold War-Vietnam backdrop. Of course the Americans are portrayed as war-like jerks, except for the surviving crew member. He happens to be black, and it seems that the film is trying to make him out as a victim of American racism (and a victim of the country's involvement in Vietnam)....but the guy also escapes his confinement and becomes a threat to the other characters, somewhat dimming any sympathy the viewer may have for him.
One highlight of GENOCIDE is when the well-meaning Japanese scientist injects himself with the evil European lady's serum. The serum's effect triggers a psychedelic dream sequence which rivals the ones used in Roger Corman's many Edgar Allan Poe adaptations. Another highlight is the poetically dark ending, where the pregnant wife sails out to sea alone as a giant mushroom cloud looms in the background.
GENOCIDE isn't a movie with a well balanced storyline that makes sense. But it is an interesting sci-fi horror flick that isn't boring. It was made in 1968, and it predates two genre staples of the 1970s--the ecological horror-disaster film and the killer bee movie. If you have a taste for unusual fantastic cinema, GENOCIDE is a picture worth seeking out.