Dir: Kenjiro Ohmori
Star: Hiroshi Katsuno, Toshiyuki Nagashima, Yumi Takigawa, Kayo Matsuo
Watching this now, in the wake of the 2011 Japanese earthquake probably gives this a bit more impact than it had at the time of its release in 1980. Then, it would have been simple disaster porn, with seismologist Yoichi Kawazu (Katsuno) spending the first half running round warning everyone who’ll listen – basically, nobody – about an imminent earthquake. He then spends the second half laughing and saying “Told you so” trying to escape from all the destruction caused, when his prediction comes true. That’s basically it: the first half is excruciatingly dull, even in this edited-down (and dubbed) version, which runs almost half-an-hour shorter than the Japanese original.
There’s some kind of subplot about how Kawazu is disgracing the family name with his Chicken Little-ness, even though a relative had correctly predicted the previous earthquake in 1923: who knew this talent was genetic. It’s bad soap-opera, generating little in the way of tension or interest in the characters. Then the proverbial hits the fan, and for a while we remember why we watch these things, as carnage and large-scale devastation sweep across the screen, to such a degree that I started humming the Godzilla theme, expecting to see his head break through the rubble.
I have to say, they’ve got the destruction down, in a way Hollywood wouldn’t be able to match for more than a decade. Unfortunately, all too soon, it’s over, and we’re back to watching the survivors struggle to make their way out of a flooding subway tunnel or wherever they were unfortunate enough to be. If somewhat better than the soap-opera stuff, the lack of anything to make you care about the characters or their fate leaves this as sporadically interesting at best. As in the Godzilla films, the little people are much less fun than the monsters, be they animal or geological.