Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell (reviewed by Lisa Marie Bowman)
The world’s ending and does it really matter?
The 1968 Japanese film, Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell (love that title!), opens with an airplane flying across a blood red sky. Why has the sky changed colors? The pilots aren’t sure and the passengers barely notice. Indeed, the passengers are more concerned with their own problems. There’s the arms manufacturer who is desperate to land his next big contract. There’s the professor who views the world with professional detachment. There’s the corrupt politician who only cares about increasing his own power. There’s the terrorist who is traveling with a rifle hidden in the plane. There’s the other terrorist who has a bomb and who may or may not be working with the first terrorist. (It’s a dangerous world out there.) And then there’s the American war widow, Mrs. Neal (Cathy Horan), whose husband has just been killed in Vietnam.
When a report comes over the radio that one of the passengers has bomb, the crew searches everyone’s bags. “Why are you searching our bags!?” the arm manufacturer demands. “There was a mix-up at the airport and we may have the wrong bag on this flight,” the co-pilot lies. Finally, when the co-pilot and a stewardess come across a metal box in the back of the plane, they think that they’ve found their bomb.
Instead,they’ve found the first terrorist’s rifle. He uses that rifle to hijack the plane and then he shoots out the plane’s radio. Unfortunately, this couldn’t have happened at a worse time because it turns out that the Earth has just been invaded by aliens!
A UFO causes the airplane to crash on a uncharted island. The rifle-toting terrorist is possessed, Thing-style, by one of the aliens. The passengers start to bicker among themselves. Who is to blame for the plane crash? The terrorist or the pilots? Who is to blame for the aliens invading, the aliens or the humans? The professor theorizes that the aliens saw that Earthlings are constantly at war and they decided that this would be a great time to invade the planet. In fact, as the professor goes on to speculate, perhaps we have brought this on ourselves. Maybe we deserve to be invaded. The humans on the island proceed to go out of their way to prove the professor correct.
Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell plays out like a pop art alien invasion film. The colors are bright and vibrant. The imagery is often surreal, with the alien literally oozing out of the forehead of the people that it has possessed. By the end of the film, entire cities are full of shriveled up dead bodies while spaceships glow in the distance, their pulsating lights making them resemble the atomic mushroom clouds that have haunted Japanese horror and science fiction cinemas ever since World War II. While the surviving passengers debate whether or not the Earth deserves to be saved, we get red-tinted inserts of assassination and war. The passengers may not be sure whether or not Earth deserves to survive but it’s obvious the filmmakers have made up their minds and they, for one, welcome our new alien overlords.
How about you?