The Golden Bat [Ôgon batto] (1966)

If I had to sum this one up in just a few words, I probably would be tempted to describe it as a Japanese attempt to make one of those Mexican luchador masked wrestler movies.

Which would be almost as weird as the film they actually did make.

A young man notices that a planet is rushing towards the Earth, but he can’t get the professional astronomers to listen to him.  A group of men in dark sunglasses, fedoras and a big American car (a sure sign of villainy in any Japanese film!) kidnap him.  But it’s okay, it was really just an invite to join a secret UN Science Patrol…ooops, I mean research team.

They’ve got a gun that’ll blow up that planet, but they need a certain mineral to power it.  But fortunately they find it in Atlantis (well, at least the little bit of Atlantis that comes to the surface…).

However, the evil aliens who are trying to destroy the Earth try to stop them.  That’s when our heroes awaken the ancient Atlantean mummy known as The Golden Bat!

And it just gets goofier from there.

There actually were quite a few of these sorts of films at the time — like the series of Starman films and Attack of the Neptune Men.  Somehow one does find oneself thinking just a bit of Ultraman, which came out the same year (although its Ultra Q predecessor predates this film!).  However, I think this one qualifies as one of the battier examples.

Pun intended

This one came from Toei, who don’t get the kind of attention Toho does, but who made a lot of tokusatsu children’s shows and movies, including those Super Sentai series we know as the Power Rangers in the US.  Now for those who missed this when we covered it before, “tokusatsu” is a unique Japanese genre of films with lots of effects and wild visuals.  Western critics often mistake it for SF and then grumble because they dragged in so many fantasy elements (mind you, what seems particularly bizarre to me is that, while here in the US it would be a children’s genre, Keita Amemiya actually made a Tokusatsu TV series complete with naked breasts.  Go figure). 

Sony Chiba stars, which seems odd until you remember that he was also in Attack of the Neptune Men.  And quite a few other strange films, both before and after Street Fighter.

The effects work on this one impressed me:  it isn’t quite up to the Toho standard, but it is better than what we’d expect from Tsubaraya Productions, who made all those Ultraman series.  Not only do we get a flying car and a flying submarine, but the villain, Nazo, has a giant earth boring machine/fortress.  I particularly liked the sequence when the island sinks into the sea, breaking up neatly into segments that look like they came from a classic Japanese print and disappearing beneath the waves  in a carefully choreographed movement.  While Nazo’s drill fortress is rather soft on detail (and we never do see its back end!), the scene of it bursting out of a Tokyo street is also quite impressive.

However, Nazo himself is not impressive in any way, shape or form.  His head looks like a big sock puppet, with no mouth and four…well, they must be eyes, but they really don’t look like it.  Or like much of anything else.  The alien foot soldiers aren’t much better, but at least they aren’t stupid.

And let’s face it, the skull-faced Golden Bat is marvelously bizarre.  It’s as if Skeletor suddenly became the hero of the show.

This is an exceptionally silly film.  It is also quite serious about its silly goings on (which is often true of these sorts of  Japanese films).   

And, if you haven’t figured it out yet, it is also exceptionally weird.

This is one of the strangest of all those Japanese weird bad silly superhero alien invasion battling monsters with your bare hands and rayguns movies.  Those of you out there who love this sort of thing have to see it.

And the rest of you…well, it’s a culty midnight movie.  It isn’t at all like the bland, CGI-ridden films Hollywood makes these days.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

(Subtitles available here.)

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