Yog, Monster from Space (1970)
"Spewed from intergalactic space to clutch the planet earth in its ... terror tentacles!"
A photographer, always looking for the photo that will propel him to the big leagues, thinks his lucky has arrived when he sees a the remnants of a secret space mission crashing down through the sky. Desperate to track the probe, he tags along with a group of doctors and anthologists heading off to a remote Pacific island in the hope to grab some pictures. When the group arrive at the island, they sense that something is not right when a giant squid emerges from the ocean to attack the village they are staying in. After repelling the squid, a giant crab and a humungous turtle arise from the depths. It seems that the probe has brought it some form of alien life which can mutate normal Earth creatures into giant monsters and is using them to try and take over the world.
Non-Godzilla Toho films were always a mixed bag because, let's face it, there are no bigger movie monsters than Godzilla (sorry King Kong but Godzilla wins hands down) so no one ever wanted to see some second-rate monsters fighting when we could just watch another Big G film. We have the good ones with Rodan and Mothra but for every one of those come the likes of Frankenstein Conquers the World and Varan the Unbelievable. Unfortunately, Yog, Monster from Space joins the latter group. The last of the kaiju eiga films to be made in Japan under the old studio system, things were about to change for the worst thanks to an economic depression. Daiei, a rival studio which had made the Gamera films, went bankrupt and Toho struggled to stay afloat, cutting talent and reducing budgets to bare bones levels during the 70s. Coupled with an unfortunate drop in cinema audiences thanks to the rise of television, things were looking bleak for the giant monster sub-genre - films which needed a reasonable amount of money to build miniature sets to destroy and creative monster suits which didn't look like fancy dress bargains - and only Godzilla's name power saw the Big G through to the midway point and even he tapped out in 1975, unable to draw the crowds in anymore.
Forgetting the fact that Toho was nearly financially bankrupt, Yog, Monster from Space proves that the studio was creatively bankrupt too, as the story follows almost exactly the same kaiju eiga formula as every one that came before it: aliens are trying to take over the world via the use of giant monsters. Naturally at some point during the film the aliens lose control of the monsters where they then turn upon each other and fight it out. In between all of this you've a bunch of actors running around trying to make everything sound scientifically acceptable and inject a bit of drama into the unnecessary human subplots that are forced upon us. This one doesn't contain anything remotely exciting and we've seen everything done before and done better at that.
After Destroy All Monsters, the quality of Toho's monster movies suffered dramatically and all manner of routes were taken to keep costs down - recycling footage and reuising monster suits could only go so far and so Toho started shifting the action away from big cities (where they'd need to build expensive miniature sets) to more remote locations. The fact that these monsters are confined to a remote island in the Pacific doesn't help sell the idea of an alien invasion. Gone are the days when the monsters would trash Tokyo and have to fight off the Japanese army. Here the monsters simply smash up a few huts from the local tribal village. It's hardly the ‘aliens taking over the world’ scenario we've come to expect - starting on an island in the Pacific populated by natives is not exactly the first place you'd start to conquer Earth.
At least there are a handful of new monsters on display in Yog, Monster from Space. The giant squid, Gezora, is shown pretty early on and gets some action against the villagers. The monster is written out of the film during the first half though so at no point do all three monsters get down into a battle royal as the front cover may suggest. Gezora looks ludicrous with bulging eyes that don't move, rubber tentacles that wave around but little else and a wobbly walk that looks like he's been on the drink all night long. The monster suit is absurd and has become somewhat of a cult favourite amongst fans. However it's the most original monster here as the giant crab and turtle just look like cheaper rehashes of older Toho monsters. The monsters just turn on each other and begin fighting for no reason towards the end of the film when the aliens lose control as giant monsters naturally do in these films. The monster action is weak, almost not worth the price of admission.
The human cast does what it must do to keep the film entertaining and I guess the only thing worthwhile to comment on them is that Toho has managed to pool together a whole host of its regular kaiju actors - Akiro Kubo, Kenji Sahara and Yoshio Tsuchiya - together for one last farewell. Kubo was always one of my favourites, mainly from his goofy performance in Invasion of the Astro-Monsters and his action man role in Destroy All Monsters and his presence is welcome and re-assuring. This may not be a Godzilla film but it's got the actors who add a touch of class, Godzilla's best director in Ishirô Honda to hand the big chair and the legendary composer Akira Ifukube who again contributes a rousing musical score.
Yog, Monster from Space isn't a very good kaiju film at all and coming from Ishirô Honda, the man behind some of the best original Godzilla films, I expect a whole lot more than something as cheap as this. With the budget cuts, I guess having someone of Honda's expertise has at least assured audiences that the film retains some quality overall going on his track record. But really, who wants to see cheap crabs and turtles scrapping on a Pacific island when you can see Godzilla and King Ghidorah smash Tokyo to pieces?
Yog, Monster From Space
Also Known As: Space Amoeba
Director(s): Ishirô Honda
Writer(s): Ei Ogawa
Actor(s): Akira Kubo, Atsuko Takahashi, Yukiko Kobayashi, Kenji Sahara, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Yû Fujiki
Duration: 84 mins