When people talk about Toho science-fiction movies, they are usually talking about Godzilla and other giant monsters. Oh, sometimes there is talk of THE MYSTERIANS or MATANGO or something along those lines. But it is Godzilla and company that get the lion's share of attention. It's not really surprising, is it?
As you may recall, I march to the beat of my own drummer. Of all the films on that list, I am sure that THE SECRET OF THE TELEGIAN (電送人間; Denso Nigen - "The Transmitted Man") is the least well-known. I have a soft spot in my heart for this minor leaguer in the Toho pantheon. Still, it's not hard to figure out why it suffers outside of Japan (and maybe inside too, for all I know).
THE SECRET OF THE TELEGIAN is a suspense thriller with SF overtones. As such, it's not nearly as epic as most Toho spfx extravaganzas. It is neither directed by Ishiro Honda nor scored by Akira Ifukube, and though the men who take those jobs do fine work (Jun Fukuda and Sei Ikeno, respectively), I am sure the absence of Honda and Ifukube colors people's opinion at the outset. And then there's the little matter of the way the film came out in the West.
THE SECRET OF THE TELEGIAN was released in the U.S. in a truncated version, which is bad enough. However, it seems that all English language release prints were struck in black and white. While the B&W is moodier, it mutes much of the majesty of the teleportation effects that serve as the movie's centerpiece. As such, it is easy to find the movie disappointing.
(I do, however, reject the notion that the lead hero is responsible for this disappointment. Koji Tsuruta might be unfamiliar in tokusatsu circles, but that doesn't make him some sort of second-rater. The rest of the cast is populated by more familiar faces, so to lay any failings of TELEGIAN at the feet of Tsuruta seems ludicrous to me. Most people do not go into these movies to pick out the performers anyway.)
The good news is that a nice DVD release of this movie would just be a matter of licensing it. The only English track known is the one prepared in Hong Kong, which I do believe makes THE SECRET OF THE TELEGIAN the first Asian film released abroad with such a dub track (early 1960s). The bad news? No one appears interested in making this happen. There was a slew of Toho DVDs for awhile, but TELEGIAN was not one of them. It never seems to come up in the discussion, either. GORATH? Sure. THE HUMAN VAPOR? Absolutely. THE SECRET OF THE TELEGIAN? Nada.
C'mon, I think this would do just as well as some of the other marginal Japanese SF releases. There's a built-in audience, which is more than you can say for a lot of "cult" items that come out on disc. I mean, I, would buy it, and that's a pretty strong statement right there.
Besides, I long for the day when I can watch and listen in crystal clarity for the moment when the dubber messes up and refers to an I.D. tag as an "I.T. dag."