Reviews | Written by Chris Jackson 27/11/2020

THE H-MAN & BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE

CERT: 12 | PLATFORM: BLU-RAY | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW

Two films from Godzilla creator / director, Ishiro Honda, making their European Blu-ray debuts? Yes please!

The H-Man is a sci-fi noir thriller which finds the Tokyo police department trying to solve a most improbable case involving a radioactive mass of gloop that seeks out humans and instantly turns them to liquid, and also has the ability to take the form of a ghastly see-through glowing green humanoid. The plot doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but that's all part of the charm. Set firmly in the real world, there are none of the models and miniatures that Honda / Toho would become known for. What we do get, though, are some classy cabaret performances, a few bits of goofy comedy, some really disturbing practical effects (the melting humans are super unsettling) and a rather tense showdown in Tokyo's sewer system. The film takes its time – the yakuza / police plot takes up the majority of the running time – but it picks up when the H-Man finally makes an appearance.

Battle In Outer Space is likely to be much more along the lines of what you'd expect if someone said “hey, fancy watching a 1950s sci-fi film?” The action kicks off immediately when the crew of a space station find themselves in a sticky situation, and a UFO lifts a railway bridge into the air back on earth, causing the train to crash in spectacular fashion. Unexplained accidents start to occur across the world, and then it becomes apparent that the aliens have arrived! The actual battle doesn't kick off until the second half of the film, with a wonderfully kitsch depiction of space exploration. The airborne dogfights between human and alien craft seem kind of quaint these days, but it's still difficult not to be excited by all the tiny plastic spaceships whizzing around firing lasers all over the place. There's also some riveting destruction towards the end, including some of the wobbliest cities seen anywhere outside of a Kaiju Big Battel show.

Both films include new commentaries from film historian David Kalat and the duo of Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski, authors of 2017's Ishiro Honda: A Life in Film. Between them, these commentaries put each film into context with what was going on in the world at the time, giving plenty of background details and generally treating the films with very fond reverence. All of the participants come across as likeable chaps, too – there's none of the super-serious and stuffy tones that can be found elsewhere. Throw in a couple of stills galleries and the option to watch either the original Japanese or English dubbed version of each film to round things off, and you end up with a very enjoyable, if maybe not quite essential, package.

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