[Podcast] Half Human (Jû jin yuki otoko, 1955) – Episode 16 – Decades of Horror: The Classic Era

“In the midst of a mountain blizzard, I have experienced a terrifying incident unparalleled in human history. At the very moment, we were about to die, I clearly saw the monster with my own eyes . . .” These words are read from the journal of a dead man who had come face-to-face with a half-man, half-beast monster living in the mountains of Japan. Join the Decades of Horror: The Classic Era crew – Erin Miskell, Chad Hunt, Joseph Perry, and Jeff Mohr – as we discuss the hard-to-find third film of the Toho Company, Half Human, aka Jû jin yuki otoko.

Decades of Horror: The Classic Era
Episode 16 – Half Human (Jû jin yuki otoko,1955)

Directed by tokusatsu legend Ishirô Honda, Half Human tells the story of a group of student Mountaineers (Akira Takarada, Momoko Kôchi) and their professor (Nobuo Nakamura) searching for two friends lost in a blizzard during the previous winter. Watching the students’ every move is a ruthless animal broker (Yoshio Kosugi) and his band on the hunt for the creature rumored to live in the mountains. The monster’s den is in a mountain cave and where he is worshipped by the local indigenous people, led by a Grand Elder (Kokuten Kôdô). As the students and the animal broker’s gang get closer to their quarries, they begin to clash, having a devastating effect on the monster and the tribal people.

Half Human has been banned by Toho for years and none of your faithful Grue Crew could find a high-quality copy. Possibly aligned with the forced unavailability of the film, we all had mixed feelings about Half Human. We all condemned the way the indigenous tribe is portrayed and the treatment doled out to Chika (Akemi Negishi) as she receives beatings from the Grand Elder and the other men of the tribe. For the most part, they all appreciated the special effects by Eiji Tsubaraya, another tokusatsu legend, especially the adult monster design. While we can’t unreservedly recommend Half Human, it is the third monster film from Toho and many listeners will recognize the actors from other Toho productions. It also has its place as an example of the discrimination of a people and abuse of women in the world over sixty years ago.

On the other hand, there is no reason to seek out the U.S. version unless you love the sound of John Carradine’s legendary voice. The American version, released in 1958, has had roughly half the original footage removed and replaced by a much smaller combination of scenes of Carradine sitting in his stateside office narrating the story to two colleagues. If you’re going to watch it, watch Jû jin yuki otoko instead.

We also have some great listener feedback this episode from Rafael Fernandez and our old friend salty-essentials Listen and you might just find out which of us does the funny voices.

We plan to release a new episode every other week. The next episode in our very flexible schedule is House on Haunted Hill (1959), hosted by our resident Vincent Price fangirl Erin.

Please let us know what you think of Decades of Horror: The Classic Era and what films you’d like to hear us cover! We want to hear from you! After all, without you, we’re just four nutjobs talking about the films we love. Send us an email  (chadhunt@gruesomemagazine.com, erinmiskell@gruesomemagazine.com, jeffmohr@gruesomemagazine.com, or josephperry@gruesomemagazine.com) or leave us a message, a review, or a comment at GruesomeMagazine.com, iTunes, Stitcher, the Horror News Radio App, or the Horror News Radio Facebook group.

To each of you from each of us, “Thank you for listening!

Jeff Mohr
Jeff lives smack dab in the middle of the cornfields of Iowa and is a long time horror fan. His first remembered encounters with the genre were The Wizard of Oz, Tarzan gorilla chases, and watching the first broadcast of The Twilight Zone episode, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.” While he now qualifies as an old fart, he strives to be an “Old Boy.” Paraphrasing Robert Bloch, he has the heart of a small boy. He keeps it in a jar on his desk. Jeff has written for Horrornews.net and SQ Horror Magazine and co-hosted the SQ Bloodlines podcast. He currently writes for Gruesome Magazine and is co-host of the Decades of Horror The Classic Era and 1970s podcasts.
  • Another great podcast from the group! I enjoyed the discussion and all the opinions. I noticed more than one of the group (as they struggled to come up with a description) ended up calling the film “interesting” and I can agree with both the struggle to find a descriptor and that particular choice of description. Not a super enjoyable movie to watch, per se, but full of interesting little peeks-in at a particular culture of a particular time. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy older and foreign films so much.

    I get the strong reactions to the animal cruelty depicted in the film. My wife and I stopped attending zoos, animal parks and circuses years ago. I remember it being a difficult decision to reach, because of my love for animals and those venues being the only opportunities I really had to experience them. But since the experience also always included feeling the animals’ pain, it ended up being a no brainer. Circuses went first, then zoos, then animal parks. I’d love to have the means at some point to travel and experience some of this world’s amazing animal life naturally, but don’t know if it will happen. Cages and especially performances in front of crowds aren’t a viable alternative, though. (for me)

    At any rate, I agreed with pretty much everyone’s takes on this film. The costume was clunky but you could see the promise of what was to come later from Toho’s suit-mation department, characters we mostly flat and uninteresting, and there was DEFINITELY too much skiing. 🙂 I noticed the stop motion sequences, too, and enjoyed them just for being present in the film. Thought the model work was nicely done as well.

    The brutality and double standards exhibited toward the female character Chika was hard to watch, and reminded me of Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards! (1963), a slightly later Japanese film which also kept throwing unexpected female-centered brutality at me, that took me out of the film and kept me from enjoying it as much as I might have otherwise. Not that there weren’t other things to keep me from thoroughly enjoying Half Human–that pacing was abysmal, for one. A real watch-checker.

    You had discussed possible reasons as to why Chika sold out to the poachers. I remember assuming it was in an effort to get herself hooked up with a new group of people (the students) who would treat her better than what she’d experienced in village life thus far. It’s been awhile since I watched the movie and I don’t remember if that was supported by the plot at all–it may just have been me projecting onto the character after seeing her treatment in the film.

    I’ve never seen the American version and have heard it’s every bit as awful as mentioned in the podcast, but I’d still enjoy watching the two versions side by side–my mind just loves comparing those kinds of things.

    I also really enjoyed Raphael’s feedback on Erin’s involvement with the podcast and I wholeheartedly agree. I’d have given this podcast a listen regardless, due to the subject matter (classic monsters, woo!), but knowing a female co-host was planned cemented the deal for me.

    I don’t know how many genre podcast I’ve listened to and heard a couple of fanboys say something like this: “Man, Male Actor A was so amazing in this film! His performance was so nuanced (blah blah). And it really shows you how he’s grown as an actor when you compare his performance in XYZ. And his ability (blah blah). Now, moving on to Female Actress B. Wow, she was hot! Some seriously sexy outfits. Yeah, she did her job well, here–looked great! Now on to Male Actor C….”

    So I’m grateful that 1) none of the male pod-casters in this group seem to be ones to have that kind of lopsided conversation in the first place, and 2) that Erin is on board and willing to provide the honest and well thought out perspectives that she does. Sooo, so refreshing!

    And Chad, you seriously NAILED IT by unintentionally imitating my ACTUAL SPEAKING VOICE when you read those previous comments of mine. In fact, my wife yelled up from downstairs “Dan, who are you talking to up there?! I thought we had the house to ourselves tonight! You haven’t invited your monster buddies over for another impromptu discussion AGAIN, have you?”

    It was all I could do to convince her it wasn’t actually me waxing on so eloquently. Alas, the fact that your comments were prefaced by it being your intent to speak in a FUNNY VOICE has left my self esteem in tatters and I have been unable to speak aloud ever since. The cost of having writing paper constantly on hand has escalated dramatically and we may soon have to sell my Six Million Dollar Man doll collection to compensate. Sleep well, my friend, sleep well.

    The previous statement may be patently untrue in every regard. But Chad, you were valiant in your attempt to carry that voice through to the very end. Almost made it, too.

    Cheers!