Latitude Zero (film)
Theatrical poster for Latitude Zero'
|Directed by||Ishirō Honda|
|Produced by||Don Sharp|
|Screenplay by||Ted Sherdeman|
|Music by||Akira Ifukube|
|Edited by||Ume Takeda|
Latitude Zero (緯度0大作戦 Ido zero daisakusen), is a 1969 science fiction film. It was directed by Ishirō Honda and written by Ted Sherdeman, based on his radio serial of the same name. The film stars both American and Japanese actors including Joseph Cotten, Cesar Romero, Akira Takarada, Masumi Okada, Richard Jaeckel, Patricia Medina, and Akihiko Hirata.
Three men - Dr. Ken Tashiro, Dr. Jules Masson, and journalist Perry Lawton - are trapped in a bathysphere due to seismic activity. They are rescued by the crew of the supersubmarine Alpha, captained by Craig McKenzie (Cotten), who they learn is over 200 years old (and that the Alpha was launched in the early 19th century). McKenzie takes them to Latitude Zero to deal with the serious injuries of Dr Masson. While returning to Latitude Zero, they are attacked by a rival supersubmarine, the Black Shark, captained by Kuroi (Hikaru Kuroki), who works for a rival of McKenzie's, Dr. Malic (Romero); but using supertechnology, McKenzie gives the Black Shark the slip.
Latitude Zero is a super-advanced utopia hidden fifteen miles below sea level at the intersection of the Equator and the International Date Line, populated by people from all over the world reported missing in accidents at sea. It has existed since at least the 19th century, as none of its inhabitants age or die, and greed and political divisions plaguing the surface world are unknown here. It also surreptitiously assists mankind's technological and cultural advancement. Malic, however, wishes to destroy Latitude Zero, using superweapons and artificially grafted monstrosities like giant rats and anthropomorphic bats. He kidnaps a Japanese physicist allied with McKenzie, Dr. Okada, and his daughter Tsuruko, and forces Okada to assist him in his schemes. Worst of all, after a cruel experiment grafting the wings of an eagle to a lion, he removes Kuroi's brain and places it in the creature as a punishment for her failures.
Upon receiving an emergency signal from Okada, McKenzie organizes a rescue expedition, and Tashiro, Masson and Lawton, as well as Latitude Zero physician Dr. Anne Barton (Haynes) and Kōbo (Ōmae), volunteer their aid. Equipped with James Bond-style devices and rendered resistant to physical harm by a special bath, they infiltrate Malic's island base of Blood Rock, fight their way to the enemy control center and rescue the Okadas. As the team escapes, Malic enters the Black Shark and fires an onboard laser at them. However, at that critical moment, Kuroi turns against Malic and attacks the laser, causing the weapon to fire at the island's cliffs, which collapse on the submarine and destroy it and everyone aboard.
Of all the visitors to Latitude Zero, only Lawton (Jaeckel) wishes to return home. He is picked up by a US Navy vessel, where he meets Commander Glenn McKenzie (Cotten again) and Lt. Hastings (Romero again). Startled by these similarities, Lawton additionally discovers that all his evidence of the existence of Latitude Zero is either ruined or missing. Just as he is about to resign himself to the fact that his adventure never occurred, the ship is wired a message stating that a cache of diamonds has been deposited in his name in a safe deposit box in New York City, and the ship is ordered to change course to Latitude Zero.
- Joseph Cotten as Captain Craig McKenzie; Captain of "Alpha-Gō"/Commander Glenn McKenzie
- Cesar Romero as Dr. Malic; Scientist of Blood Rock/Lt Hastings
- Akira Takarada as Dr. Ken Tashiro; Oceanographer
- Masumi Okada as Dr. Jules Masson; Geologist
- Richard Jaeckel as Perry Lawton; Journalist
- Patricia Medina as Lucretia; Lover of Malic
- Kin Ōmae as Kōbo; Crew of "Alpha-Gō"
- Linda Haynes as Dr. Anne Barton; Doctor of Latitude Zero
- Tetsu Nakamura as Dr. Okada; Japanese atomic physicist
- Mari Nakayama as Tsuruko Okada; Daughter of Dr. Okada
- Akihiko Hirata as Dr. Sugata; Doctor of Latitude Zero
- Hikaru Kuroki as Captain Kuroiga ("Black Moth"; Captain of "Kurosame-Gō" ("Black Shark"))
- Susumu Kurobe as Chen; Crewman of "Kurosame-Gō"
- Andrew Hughes as Sir Maurice Poeley
- Haruo Nakajima - Griffin, Rat, Bat
In his autobiography Vanity Will Get You Somewhere, actor Joseph Cotten stated that the American producer Don Sharp sent the American cast to Japan just as his company was about to go bankrupt. Cotten noted that Toho picked up most, if not all the film's production budget.
Latitude Zero's screenplay is credited to Ted Sherdeman and is based on his Latitude Zero stories, which were a popular American radio serial. The Japanese version credits Shinichi Sekizawa as the screenplay adviser, a role described by Stuart Galbraith IV as writing the Japanese version.
Latitude Zero was released in Japan on July 29, 1969 with a print that was dubbed into Japanese. It received a release in the United States by National General Pictures. Akira Takarada and Akihiko Hirata speak English in the English-language version and are not dubbed. The film received a test screening in Dallas in July of 1969 and received a general theatrical release on December 1970. The film was re-issued theatrically in Japan in 1974 on a double bill with Mothra.
In contemporary reviews, Variety reviewed the film at the Venice Film Festival's buyer's market, referring to it as a "campy fun helped by sober playing and some deft underwater work, gadgets and movement." The story, however, is the weakest element in "Latitude Zero." Roger Greenspun (New York Times) found Latitude Zero's plot to be "the weakest element", while noting that "The real virtue of the film lies in its charming and careful models, its ingenious special effects, its fruity interior décor, its elaborate network of television screens" The Monthly Film Bulletin stated that "it is a sad fact that the special effects are notably variable, and the model work in particular looks extremely shoddy" and the review concluded that "Toho studios seem to have employed their specialized talents and resources to produce an outlandish and expensive leg-pull."
- Galbraith IV 1996, p. 261.
- Galbraith IV 1994, p. 188.
- Galbraith IV 1994, p. 186.
- Galbraith IV 1994, p. 363.
- Willis 1985, p. 248–249: "Review is of 84 minute version viewed in Venice on August 31, 1969"
- Greenspun, Roger (December 5, 1970). "Screen::City Under Sea". New York Times. Retrieved September 18, 2016.
- McGillivray, David (1974). "Latitude Zero ("Ido Zero Daisakusen)"". Monthly Film Bulletin. Vol. 41 no. 480. British Film Institute. pp. 178–179.
- Galbraith IV, Stuart (1994). Japanese Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films. McFarland. ISBN 0-89950-853-7.
- Hardy, Phil, ed. (1984). Science Fiction. New York : Morrow. ISBN 0-688-00842-9.
- Galbraith IV, Stuart (1996). The Japanese Filmography: 1900 through 1994. McFarland. ISBN 0-7864-0032-3.
- Willis, Donald, ed. (1985). Variety's Complete Science Fiction Reviews. Garland Publishing Inc. ISBN 978-0-8240-6263-7.
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