100MonstersThis Japanese flick is definitely one of the strangest monster mashes I’ve ever seen.  A floating umbrella monster with a giant roving tongue, a hairy three eyed critter with no arms, a guy with no face, a woman with a looooooong neck, another with an arm for a nose and a walking fish creature are just a few of the 100 monsters on display here, although that number appears to be short by about 75.

It’s made with a fair amount of flair and has some mind-bending special effects, but this film is a conventional monster movie in most respects: the greedy land developer villains are a clichéd lot and the filmmakers make us wait until the final half hour to see most of the amazing monstrosities that make YOKAI MONSTERS worth seeing.

YOKAI MONSTERS: 100 MONSTERS was, at the time of its original 1968 release, widely seen as an attempt by Daiei Studios to take on the monolithic Toho (the folks behind Godzilla and its offspring) with its own stable of monsters created by FX wizard Yoshiyuki Kuroda, who had previously designed the FX for Deiei’s popular MAJIN series.  100 MONSTERS was a huge success and, unsurprisingly, inspired two sequels of decreasing quality: 1968’s BIG MONSTER WAR (a.k.a. SPOOK WARFARE, directed by Kuroda) and the next year’s TOKAIDO ROAD MONSTERS.

In 100 MONSTERS, set in some past century, greedy developers are looking to demolish an apartment building in the town of Edo so they can erect a brothel.  The apartment owner tries to stop them but is murdered and the rest of the townspeople are forced into submission.

Needless to say, there’s far more going on in Edo : several monstrous spirits—Yokai—are afoot in the area, held back only by a series of rituals performed by mystically inclined townspeople.  Flashbacks show us what happened to some of the town’s past residents, in particular two fishermen who failed to heed the supernatural warnings left by the Yokai and ended up scared to death by a woman with an extremely long neck.  Unfortunately for the developers, the Yokai are loosed once again, and commence killing them off one by one, often in the guise of humans.  Eventually the creatures murder nearly everyone in the town before vanishing into the night.

This film is widely viewed as director Kimiyoshi Yasuda’s masterpiece, and it’s clear he put a lot of care into its making.  The widescreen photography is impressive and the special effects are imaginatively utilized, often effectively veiled in fog or shadow, which more often than not helpfully obscure their rather tacky construction (which, as anyone who’s ever experienced any old school Japanese monster movies well knows, is par the course for such fare).  Some of it, particularly the eerie final scenes (in which the critters all convene on the town), is actually scary, though I could have certainly done without the ridiculous “creepy” theremin intonations on the soundtrack.

Vital Statistics

Daiei Co. Ltd.

Direction: Kimiyoshi Yasuda
Producer: Eiji Nishizawa
Screenplay: Tetsuro Yoshida
Cinematography: Yasukazu Takemura, Shozo Tanaka
Editing: Kanji Suganuma
Cast: Jun Fujimaki, Miwa Takada