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Countdown to Halloween: "H" is for Half Human (1958)



There’s an exception to every rule. While I consider myself a purist and almost always prefer my foreign horror in its original, unadulterated condition, there’s one movie that I enjoy more in its edited American version: Half Human. Imagine a movie that’s overlong at 94 minutes: that’s Ju jin yuki otoko (1955.) Then imagine cutting it to 63 minutes to show only the best parts: that’s Half Human (1958.)

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Of course, defining the “best parts” is subjective. Let’s just say that in my notes for Ju jin yuki otoko, I wrote twice, “OK, let’s get on with it.” These were written during long scenes depicting people traversing a mountain in Japan. In the first, endless shots of skiers establish the location. In the second, a search party looks for a man who’s missing following a blizzard and avalanche.

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Perhaps I would feel differently if the movie were available on an official home video release in a restored version. Long disowned by Toho due to treatment of the indigenous people in the film, I watched Ju jin yuki otoko on some kind of bootleg DVD. The quality is not good… dark and “fuzzy.” If the environment appeared crisp and clean, it might be more interesting to marvel at the scenery.

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Half Human avoids the controversy by excising nearly the entire subplot of the aforementioned indigenous people. It also bridges a gap between the primary focus of the story and the subplot, explaining their relationship instead of simply switching to the subplot for a big portion of the movie, causing us to wonder what in the world is going on with the main story.

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On the other hand, Ju jin yuki otoko better defines the relationships among the characters. While none of them are exactly fully developed, we at least know that the missing person, Shinsuke Takeno (Kenji Kasahara) is Machiko Takeno’s (Momoko Kochi) younger brother and that Machiko is in a romantic relationship with Takeshi Iijima (Akira Takarada.)

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To say it’s a matter of fully realized story vs. pure action is an exaggeration; however, these characters are merely generic participants in Half Human. The main character in Half Human, if there is one, is Dr. John Rayburn (John Carradine,) telling his unbelievable story in flashback after returning to the United States, never mind the fact that he never appears in the flashbacks.

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The story of Ju jin yuku otoko is told in flashback, as well, and takes a more downbeat tone. Kodama (Yasuhisa Tsutsumi), a reporter, arrives at a train station to interview the survivors of the alpine club expedition. They somberly refer to their dead friend and refer to his notebook to recount details about what happened. Again, it’s more personal, but that doesn’t make it any more exciting.

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I’d also say the monster is better represented in Half Human. Assuming the edited version is showing only the best parts, it looks really good whenever we see it. Ju jin yuki otoko shows it with a frequency that’s too often, yet not enough in the context of the rest of the film. In either version, a close-up of it coming through the woods toward camp, shoulders moving back and forth, looks really good.

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I watched Ju jin yuku otoko first, not intending to watch Half Human. Afterwards, though, I had to watch Half Human to see if the shorter version were better. I didn’t miss anything that had been cut. It’s much more slight, both in length and story; however, it’s a lot of fun, short and to the point. I think a good job was done making it more accessible and entertaining.

Ju jin yuki otoko (1955)

Written by Takeo Murata

Story by Shigeru Kayama

Directed by Ishiro Honda

Starring Akira Takarada, Akemi Negishi, Momoko Kochi, Nobuo Nakamura

Released August 14, 1955 (Japan) RT 94 min.


Half Human (1958)

Written by Takeo Murata

Story by Shigeru Kayama

Directed by Kenneth G. Crane, Ishiro Honda

Starring John Carradine, Russell Thorson, Robert Karnes, Morris Ankrum, Akira Takarada, Akemi Negishi, Momoko Kochi

Released May 12, 1957 (Portsmouth, New Hampshire)

RT 63 min.


Part of the Countdown to Halloween. Click here for a list of all the blogs participating. Each offers its own distinctive month long celebration of the chilling holiday we all love.



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