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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Monster Island Musings from The Theater of Guts: Prophecies of Nostradamus (1974) review


Starring Tetsuro Tamba

Directed By Toshio Masuda

This film was met by undeserved negative publicity from The No Nukes Campaign and has gotten lost in the shuffle; it’s a vital and important film that should have a legit DVD release. It deserves more attention than the Western version of religious hysteria seen in propaganda films like The Day After and The Man Who Saw Tomorrow. 

Hey, get this caterpillar off my lip!
A schoolteacher bares the brunt of Nostradamus' predictions of Japans fate in WW2 and is banished from his school. He hears how everything will be compromised after the arrival of the Black Ships in 19 century Edo period of Japan. 

The ominous score by Isa Tomita is very spooky and utilized to great effect over Hitler stock footage and war atrocities make the looming threat seem frighteningly realistic.

Hey, white people! Get off the road!
I remember being obsessed with The Man Who Saw Tomorrow (1981), strictly a propaganda documentary with Orson Welles in high school. This film is more ahead of its time and though it carries the same prophetic warning, there is less of 700 club fanatic religious connotation attached. The poster art for the 1981 film even copies the Japanese one.

Did you even try to call in General Smokey the Bear?
A biologist named Dr. Nishiyama (Tamba) and his son and new wife, Mariko and Nobuo, discuss how the air is more polluted then ever and animals all across the globe are dying of starvation (in 1974 this is still a relevant threat even today). Giant slugs make an appearance and are battled by waves of flame throwers (don't they know to drop a hail storm of salt and that would do the trick?) AF2, a food chemical agent is discussed over dinner that ties into the prophecy. The young couple and their unborn child, serves as a symbol of hope to battle the tides of war into the future.

I hope you like Guano flavored sushi.
At a U.N. seminar industrialization is blamed for destroying the eco system and overpopulation, which is something I agree with. Charles Lyell’s theory of Catastrophism is inevitable and sadly, we can’t control it. Signs that the natural order is breaking down continue with an old man wading into the sea, trying to commit suicide because the death of thousands of fish zap his will to live.

Even though this film is devastatingly bleak, the young Nishiyama couple remain optimistic. Toward the finale, there’s a spectacular interpretive dance among the sand dunes that nearly brought a tear to my eye! This film makes Fukasaku's Virus (1980) look like a laugh riot!

フリーバード (Free Bird)
Next on the chopping block are deformed babies infected by radiation just in case you weren’t miserable enough. Down at the hospital, parents clawing at him for empathy confront the doctor, but the physician is very stoic, he already knows that all hope is lost.

According to Patrick Macias' book Tokyo Scope, the scenes in New Guinea disturbed one uptight member of The No Nukes Campaign when he saw it at a Kansai theater enough to narc on the film to the censorship board.

Your profile doesn't do you justice.
In New Guinea the language switches to English. Nishiyama and a team of German scientists don HAZMAT suits and discover giant bats and bloodthirsty cannibals! The cannibals are immediately shot down; they carry hideous boils and sores on their faces. The jungle nightmare is a testament that they disease could spread to Tokyo in a Cannibal Apocalypse scenario of man-eating-man turning into a plague. Although not all the effects are negative as they show super speed children hopped up on Zinc tainted water, fly around and perform hard Math calculations.

Nishiyama debates with Christian businessmen, who believe a divine Biblical plan has taken effect. When he mentions they should reign in societies over abuse of resources, he is called a Nazi! Toward the end we see how this government sanctioned notion of share the wealth makes drugged out hippies go completely ape shit!

Retainers for peace against oppression.
This film is very ahead of its time and was unfairly banned by Japanese censors. Global starvation and food shortage between third world countries is an endless problem that is still relevant. It begins to snow in Egypt and erratic weather patterns start bombarding the Earth. They illustrate the global impact with submerged model cars and bridges (this is the goofiest part of the movie, but it's so brief it doesn't diminish anything).

Mime is running out, we're all doomed!
The youth is met with animosity by the onslaught of riot squads. Freeways turn into parking lots as the cars leave to avoid the food ration laws; their road rage causes a massive firestorm. The scenes with clownish hippies on a ship searching for sustenance are so far out of whack that it was hilarious!

Now we'll never make it to Emerald City.
In 1999 global nuclear missiles turn the planet into a garbage dump (all of this was seen in the Orson Welles film as well, only there was a middle eastern dictator at the reigns). People actually started to seek out that other film thinking they had predicted 911!

I auditioned for the role of Aughra and lost.
After the dust has settled, two ape-like creatures emerge from the ruins and wrestle each other over who gets to devour a snake; its totally hilarious, but it’s meant to be scary. They smooth over that bit of silliness with a passionate speech about the resilience of the human spirit, that I found very inspirational. The film makes a strong case against nuclear weapons, so why were the no nukes people upset? if anything they should've used this to frighten the public.

Seek out this film at all costs because it’s totally brilliant. Thanks to Cool Ass Cinema for sending me a copy.


Crankenstein has written for his site The Theater of Guts for a few years now and has turned his obsession with rare gore films into a cathartic venture. My writing is inspired by Chas Balun, Deep Red Magazine, Classic Mad, Gore Gazette and Psychotronic Video.

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