Wednesday, October 19, 2011

High Seas Hijack

It's tempting to say that no one has ever seen HIGH SEAS HIJACK. That's untrue, of course, but I have never talked to anyone who has seen it. What makes this odd is HIGH SEAS HIJACK is a Toho special effects film - though I don't know how long it took for the Japanese sci-fi fandom to recognize this fact. I'm still not sure that it does.

It begins with 東京湾炎上 ("Tokyo-wan Enjo"), a 1975 film directed by Katsumune Ishida, and already the confusion starts. See, this title has caused no end of problems for people over the years. I don't think I've come across Toho's actual international title, but "Conflagration" seems a likely candidate. I just can't see that word coming up otherwise without some Toho involvement. As for a translation, it seems pretty obvious to me that the best choice is "Tokyo Bay Inferno". Remember a little movie called THE TOWERING INFERNO? I highly suspect Toho was gunning for something reminiscent of that American blockbuster.

As you might have guessed, TOKYO BAY INFERNO was another Toho disaster movie. After SUBMERSION OF JAPAN in 1973 and PROPHECIES OF NOSTRADAMUS in 1974, it makes sense that they would make a play for another big, splashy disaster flick. All I know about it is what I've gleaned from written sources (book and online) and the following videos which I recently discovered. I can tell you that it stars Tetsuro Tanba and Hiroshi Fujikoa and features the likes of Kenji Sahara, Kazuya ("Zone Fighter") Aoyama and gaijin favorites Willie Dorsey and Osman Yusuf. In fact, as you will see below, Fujioka and Dorsey get a chance to face off with one another again after crossing paths in 1974's ESPY.

A word about the first video, and an explanation of the title HIGH SEAS HIJACK. It is claimed that this is a trailer, but sure looks more like edited highlights to me. It has the familiar Hong Kong English dubbing, but accompanied by subtitles. The title given is HIGH SEAS HIJACK. This was the name given the film for its obscure U.S. release by "Cinema Producers Alliance, Inc.", though again, I wonder if perhaps Toho had a hand in this moniker. What is not obvious at all from the clips is the inclusion of newly-shot footage starring Peter Graves. Given the very nature of this project, I am certain it is not a highlight of his filmography - if he even remember it at all.

(None of this was a new idea, going as far back as Raymond Burr's insertion into the first Godzilla movie. However, the likely influence at play here was Lorne Greene's appearance in TIDAL WAVE, New World Pictures' re-edited version of SUBMERSION OF JAPAN.)

Here then is a taste of HIGH SEAS HIJACK:

The Arabian Light is being hijacked!

This next video shows up from the same user and gives the title TERREUR SUR LE MONDE and year 1978. This appears to be highlights from a FRENCH-DUBBED version of the same film. Would 1978 be the release year in the U.S. as well? (The IMDB thinks so.) Anyway, this looks like one of those "what if?" scenarios that crops up occasionally, in the obligatory Japanese conference. I don't think the disasters depicted herein "happen" in the movie, but are speculated as what MIGHT happen. It is an easy way to have a disaster movie while downplaying the actual disaster.

It will be bad, mmmmkay?

HIGH SEAS HIJACK is the kind of movie I'd kind of like to see if I had the chance, but have no real burning desire to seek out. I've seen Toho disaster movies, and they are...interesting, but usually not quite my thing. It's nice to see Teruyoshi Nakano and his staff given the chance to do exciting things, but it's not a genre that would appeal to me at all without some added incentives. Still, it's part of the Japanese SPFX film history, even if only a footnote.

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