Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thinking Too Much About THE H-MAN

I'm pretty sure I've seen the Japanese monster movie THE H-MAN at least a dozen times, especially if you count both the English-dubbed and Japanese language versions. It's one of my favorites of the non-giant variety. In some ways, I think that's a little unusual. After all, the film is a lot bleaker than is my regular taste for Asian SF. Credit my love of this tale of gangsters and rampaging goo men to my having seen it at a key time in the development of my obsession with Japanese fantasy.

THE H-MAN was recently released with MOTHRA and BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE by Sony in a 3 DVD collection labeled "Icons of Sci-Fi : The Toho Collection". All three films are presented in both their original Japanese and English-dubbed versions. They all look gorgeous, and it's quite instructive to compare the two divergent interpretations of the same story. One aspect of THE H-MAN in particular stood out to me.

The heroine of THE H-MAN is Chitako Arai (Yumi Shirakawa), a nightclub singer. One subtle difference is her relationship to her mostly absent fella Misaki (Hisaya Ito). In the Japanese version, she is characterized as his "girlfriend", while the U.S. dialogue describes her as his "wife". One imagines this was to avoid scandalizing certain segments of 1950s America, given that they lived together. Gotta love it.

Now, there is something that is the SAME in both cuts, but this only leads me to more questions. You see, after hearing Chitako's two songs in THE H-MAN for years and years, I naturally had assumed they were done specifically for the English dub. They were completely in English, and that only made sense.

Except it's wrong. The songs are identical in both versions. Shirakawa is clearly lip-syncing, but I really didn't imagine she sang them in the first place. This does raise a question or two in my mind. Is Chitako also lip-syncing in the context of the film's story, or does she somehow have the ability to sing two different numbers in pitch perfect English in 1950s-era Japan? I'm not insinuating that such a thing is impossible, but it makes you wonder.

Part of the reason I wonder is the apparent fact that Chitako makes at least as much dough, if not more, than Misaki, despite his being involved in shady dealings. She also says that how much she makes "depends". If she is that good a singer, well, I can see why she is so well-paid. But if she's just lip-syncing? How in the world does she make so much money?

Let's see : Exceptionally pretty girl. Lives with a criminal boyfriend. Works at a nightclub. Makes large sums of money, but it "depends". May not have singing talent, despite working as a singer. Following that line of reasoning, it's not hard to determine how Chitako might make so much money. Or why the police are so suspicious of her at every turn.

I don't have any insight into the script or the thought process of the filmmakers, so this is all purely conjecture on my part. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I'll confess it never even occurred to me until a couple of weeks ago. So it's not as if I have a completely filthy mind.

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