Burû Kurisumasu [Blue Christmas] (1978)

(aka Blood Type: Blue, UFO Blue Christmas, The Blue Stigma)

This one really isn’t what it appears to be.

After all, when one hears about a Toho film about Flying Saucers, one more or less assumes that it’s going to be one of their many special effects laden Tokusatsu films.  Even the knowledge that it’s dealing with some fairly mature socially relevant themes doesn’t change this.  That was more or less true of many of the Seventies Godzilla films.

Nor are those who dismiss this as a heavy-handed metaphor about racism quite right.

Which, of course, leaves us with the question of exactly what Blue Christmas is.

It starts out as a slow burn mystery story:  a major scientist vanishes after claiming that flying saucers are real.  One of the friends of the reporter trying to find the scientist tells him a story about a girl who cut herself and bled blue blood.

Now, we’re given a justification for this one, as their hemoglobin has transformed into the copper based analog found in squid and certain other invertebrates.   And apparently, most those who’ve developed this condition had encounters with UFOs.  The number of those with this strange condition is increasing rapidly, but there is something else going on, a disturbing undercurrent of suspicion, distrust and fear that someone must be spreading deliberately.

There are two intersecting stories here — a special forces soldier’s awkward love affair, and the reporter and his quest for the truth of what is happening — and a lot of characters, so many that it is hard to keep track of them all.

This is, frankly a very dark and depressing sort of film.  The only flying saucers on display here are either in photographs or a few spots of light glimpsed momentarily towards the end.  And the ultimate theme is not so much racism but something rather more frightening, the Holocaust, and how easily people could be manipulated into letting the same thing happen yet again (and yes, “manipulated” is the key word here, as we eventually learn about the complex and far reaching conspiracies that are responsible, and hints that ultimately it is all about power).  There’s even a scene that deliberately ties Imperial Japan to Nazi Germany before going on to discuss the Holocaust.

But it is remarkably well made (which should be no surprise considering that its director, Kihachi Okamoto directed such classic film as Sword of Doom and Samurai Assassin), with a complex and often subtle plot.  It is also a very dark film, full of murders, suicides and atrocities, most of them off camera — at least until the end.  One could fault it dramatically for abandoning one story line at the beginning to follow the second, then returning to the first with only a few scenes to recap the second one.  But it manages to juggle a lot of plot threads, subplots and minor characters before ending up with an ironic and very dark ending.

I do have a few quibbles, though:  I am not sure, for example, whether the Hemocyanin in squid blood would be an effective replacement for human Hemoglobin as it can only carry a quarter as much oxygen.  Nor does the suggestion that the iron in Hemoglobin was transmuted by the alien rays into copper make a lot of sense as the energy involved in such an atomic reaction would be more than enough to leave the human body a pile of ash.

Or one might ask why those in power didn’t start asking themselves what the Saucer People would do when their chosen ones were slaughtered?

And why didn’t they stop and ask whether this was all a test — or what might happen if we failed it?

 

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