The Bad Movie Report

Yog, Monster from Space

Okay. There were many, many requests for this movie. "I want Dr. Freez to review this movie." I have no idea who this Dr. Freez is, but here's the review. Never let it be said that I am unresponsive to my public. No matter how misguided they may be.

Now, Yog has a pretty good setup: I recall one publicity still for it, one of those fabulously overwrought and busy Japanese creations that had our human cast cowering in one corner, looking up at the various kaiju the movie offered: squid, lobster, turtle and what appeared to be humanoid bats. Now this, one thinks to oneself, (particularly if he is thirteen years old at the time) will be a cool movie.

Well, as they say, appearances can be deceiving.

Hey buddy!  Hey buddy! Wan' me to wash yer windshield? We begin with the launch of space probe Helios 7, bound for the surface of Jupiter (does Jupiter even have a surface?). Helios 7 looks remarkably like the period's pinnacle of space technology, the Apollo series. En route, it encounters a shimmering blue mist which infiltrates the spacecraft and somehow manages to turn it around and send it hurtling towards Earth.

Now, back on said Earth, a dejected photographer named Kudo (Akira Kubo) looks out his airliner window at the exact moment Helios 7 parachutes through the clouds. Unable to get a picture of the probe's unexpected return, no one believes him, and Kudo is forced to take another job, namely taking scenic photos of an island paradise up for development into a luxury resort. In this he will joined by pretty Ayako (Atsuko Takahashi), the developer's protege, and the Doctor (Yoshio Tsuchiya), an old acquaintance of Kudo's, who has been hired by the developer as a sort of island-type home inspector. The Doctor also has a pet theory that giant prehistoric monsters might still exist on such islands. The developer, at least, has the sense to wonder why he hired this particular Doctor.

Meantime, on our island paradise, the two advance men, Sakura (Wataru Omae) and Yokayama (Chotaro Togin), go Damn doll-turning octopus!fishing on a taboo part of the island. They soon discover why it is taboo, as a blue glow in the unnaturally cold water gives way to an enormous monster squid (mistakenly referred to throughout the movie as an octopus). The squid grabs Sakura, turns him into a doll (oh, okay, it only looks that way), and drags him under the waves.

News of this reaches our heroes, but not until after they have made the acquaintance of Mr. Roboto (Kenji Sahara), a "freelance anthropologist". His name is not actually Mr. Roboto, but for the first hour of the movie, it certainly sounds that way, and like a monkey trying to suck the last bit of juice from an orange on a hot day, we will try to draw any entertainment possible from this movie, so Mr. Roboto he remains.

Look! It's the new Muppet baby!Met at the beach by an increasingly reluctant Yokoyama and a downright hostile native, Rico (Noratake Saito), our heroes nonetheless set about to exploring the island, starting with some underwater caverns. After an occurrence of blue lights and the cold water spitting out the missing Sakura's wristwatch, the understandably shaken Yokoyama leaves our party at the cave and drives, the protesting Rico in tow, back to their compound, so he can hurriedly pack. Not fast enough, though, as the squid comes ashore and lays waste to the Gilligan's Island house, turning Yokoyama into a doll and brutalizing Rico. Before it can finish the native off, however, a flock of bats arrive, causing the beastie to freak out and retreat.

Finding Rico frostbitten and in shock, our crew retires to the nearby native Thank you very much, oh Mr. Roboto...village, where they are informed that their nemesis is the island god "Gazora", and the local elder (Tetsu Nakamura) is lighting a huge bonfire to appease it, or something. Kudo confronts Mr. Roboto over his strange behavior and elicits a confession that Roboto is no freelance anthropologist at all, but an industrial spy there to steal the plans for the island resort (well, we knew he was a bad guy when we saw his white suit and weird beard, no?)

The Doctor and Kudo go scuba diving and sure enough, find the Helios 7 (that Kudo is some photographer, as he managed to pinpoint on a map exactly where he saw the probe land). They also manage to find...Gazora! Or at least the squid. Kudo's knife and the Doctor' s speargun have no effect, and they would both surely be doomed if not for a fortuitous school of dolphin that causes the squid to freak out and release the two divers.

Which proves to be unfortunate for the village, as the squid goes rampaging through the jungle and their homes instead. Ayako does notice that the monster reacts unfavorably to sticking its tentacle in the bonfire. This leads Kudo and the Doctor to set a trap using munitions and gasoline from an abandoned WWII Japanese garrison to torch the squid. All very well and good, except the badly burned brachiopod staggers back to the water, where the shimmering blue mist abandons its lifeless shell.

So all appears to be well, except for that schmuck Mr. Roboto trying to get away in a life raft, which capsizes, apparently drowning him.. Rico's girlfriend decides to marry him, comatose or not. Kudo obligingly takes the wedding photos, but the flash of his camera reminds Rico of the blue glow of the monster, prompting a flashback and sudden curing of his state, allowing him to tell Kudo and the Doctor about the bats. Being a S*C*I*E*N*T*I*S*T*, the Doctor puts two and two (or bats and dolphins) together and comes up with... "sound pressure". What? Yes, sound pressure, whatever the hell that is. Let's just call it sonar and get on with our lives, eh?

Quick! Go get a buttload of lemon butter!Not Gamera.  Not a friend of children everywhere.And a good thing they make this discovery too, as the mist has possessed and mutated a lobster (or, as our heroes dub it, with typical scientific accuracy, a crab) and a turtle (I am surprised they don't refer to it as a dog). The shells of both creatures provide excellent protection from fire and bullets, so the discovery of the creatures' weakness is well-timed. Unfortunately, Mr. Roboto turns up, equally possessed, and starts burning the bats in their caves.

Our plucky heroes manage to discover one last caveful of bats, however, and when Roboto shows up, they finally get to have a face-to-face, as I were, with the mist. It introduces itself as a colony of "astro-quasars" which intend to destroy mankind and take over the world, as usual. Ayako begs Roboto to throw off his alien yoke, and, heroically, he does, releasing the last bats before they burn, and then running off into the woods to battle his intensely personal demons. The circling bats cause the turtle and lobster to fight each other, (finally getting our KAIJU BIG BATTEL!) until they fall into an active volcano. Then Mr. Roboto throws himself into the lava, taking the last of the "astro-quasars" with him, and causing us to say, "Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto", finally justifying having that damned song echo inside our heads for the last hour. The end. At last..

The major problem with Yog, besides the fact that nothing is ever named Yog, is the fact that it possesses absolutely nothing you have not seen in a hundred other kaiju, magnified by it's utter lack of charm. The only thing on display here not lifted heavily (heavily enough to cause a hernia) from other movies is the giant squid, the body of which billows and bubbles like a Muppet in full mugging mode, robbing it of any real menace. The giant turtle and lobster we have certainly seen before, and better done; at least the turtle does not breathe fire.

Kudo is actually an interesting hero, but everyone else is from the local character stock pond, from the wise and all-knowing doctor to the white-haired village elder/witch doctor. The one piece of interesting character development, sadly glossed over, is Ayako's realization that her cherished resort development, no matter how well-intentioned, will completely destroy the lifestyles of the natives... that might injected some actual drama into the proceedings.

Yog, Monster from Space skates perilously close to the one unforgivable sin a movie can commit: it's almost boring. As it Any dolls in here?is, it's kaiju in a blender: a little bit of everything thrown in and pureed into a bland mess. It's a case of been there, done that, and in the case of Yog, been that. This is particularly astounding and saddening when one realizes that this flick was made by Ishiro Honda, the man who guided Godzilla through many of its classic outings, and is responsible for many gems of Japanese genre cinema! A certain amount of disappointment can be laid at the feet of bad translation and dubbing, but even these usual suspects cannot be used to scapegoat and excuse this collection of cliches.

And where the hell were those humanoid bats?


Two folks (the inestimable Scott of Stomp Tokyo and Gavin Smith) have written in to say the humanoid bats were visiting from the set of Latitude Zero, shot at the same time. Please hold your calls, we have a winner.



Might be good if you had never seen a Godzilla or Gamera flick.

- June 27 1999