The H-Man (1958) Review

Exploding on to Blu-ray Eureka Entertainment’s brilliant box set of Ishir? Honda films features a double bill of fantastical Sci-Fi from the father of Godzilla, proving that this legendary Japanese director was much more than just a monster master.

Originally titled Bijo to Ekitai-ningen, which translates to the wacky title of Beauty and the Liquid People, the late 50’s flick is part Gangster noir, part Science Fiction drama and part body horror making it a unique and engaging slice of cinema.

Interestingly The H Man was released exactly the same years as the far more famous gelatinous horror The Blob however although the pulsating sentient slime may seem similar Honda’s take is distinctly Japanese focusing on atomic terror and the perils of nuclear testing.

Opening on an atomic explosion in the South Pacific and the disappearance of a ship we move to Tokyo where a drug smuggler mysteriously vanishes oddly leaving behind his illegal cargo and his clothes. The police quickly start up a huge man hunt focusing on the gangsters girlfriend Chikako Arai (Yumi Shirakawa) a nightclub singer who seemingly knows nothing.

Followed by the cops and the thugs who her beau was working for Chikako constantly fears for her life but when an assassin beats her up and then suddenly disappears in the same strange circumstances everyone starts to wonder if there is more than meets the eye to this apparently innocent girl.

Added to all this is the arrival of Dr. Masada (Godzilla series regular Kenji Sahara) a science professor who has a strange and shocking theory on what is really happening that revolves around the harmful and evolutionary effects of radioactive fallout on the cities population.

Insistent the sceptical police take him seriously before the deadly and almost indestructible monster takes more lives, Masada must watch from the sidelines as the cops and robbers make their moves all unaware of the true danger seeping in all around them.

A barmy blend of genre’s Ishirô Honda’s film, penned by Takeshi Kimura and Hideo Unagami, brilliantly jumps around from raunchy club scenes filled with exotic dancers and smoking hoods to high tech labs filled with white coated boffins irradiating frogs to eerie flashbacks aboard ghost ships to police procedural moments all somehow never jarring the audience or loosing the line of the narrative.

As the increasingly surreal story moves forward the elements of horror are elevated and the familiar territory of the monster movie emerges in an epic countdown climax thats sees Tokyo evacuated as the city finally takes the scientists seriously.

Surprisingly there are moments of The H-Man that are still somehow genuinely chilling primarily the spooky search of the abandoned boat that we see as told by the lone survivors midway through the movie when Dr. Masada is desperately trying to convince the cops of his melting man theory.

Dark and filled with dread the oblivious sailors find nothing but clothing in the shape of the crew as they move around the vessel until at last we see the slime itself and witness it not only dissolving some of the men but forming itself into a spectral like glowing green figure.

The minimal special effects are stunningly effective at times and although the whole concept is crazy the films serious tone somehow manages to creep over the viewer, like the gooey monster, unnerving them right until the climactic end.

The H-Man is an entertaining and unusual slice of 50’s Japanese Sci-Fi perfect for Godzilla fans and classic horror buffs alike.
It’s made all the more worth purchasing for the myriad of extras on the Blu-ray and the inclusion of a second Ishir? Honda feature Battle in Outer Space.

Movie Rating: ★

★ ★ ½ ☆ 

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Alex Humphrey

Alex studied film at the University of Kent and went on to work for Universal Pictures in their Post Room gaining an inside look at the movie industry from the very bottom. Constantly writing reviews in everything from local magazines to Hip Hop sites Alex honed his critical skills even spending a brief period as a restaurant critic. Read more

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