The Demon Samurai
Clay Grant | Belmont Tower Books | 1978 | 158 pages
Michael Kirk is something of a heel. An American B-movie producer who has come to Japan to shoot his latest horror film, Monster Valley, Kirk spurns the true feelings of his production assistant, Mari Yanagawa, while making amorous passes towards other women at Yokoya Studios—“passes” that could better be described as sexual harassment:
“You’re new around here, aren’t you?” he asked…placing a finger on her left breast and tracing a circle around the outline of the nipple on her sweater.”
Unfortunately for Kirk, Mari inadvertently awakens the spirit of an evil samurai trapped in a wood carving that she discovers in an antique shop while searching for movie props. Something in the nature of Mari’s relationship with Kirk triggers the memory of the trapped spirit, whose previous earthly incarnation was responsible for the violation and death of a young girl. The spirit follows Mari back to Kirk, who he views as a foreign devil that must be destroyed.
Kirk, seeing a psychiatrist in Tokyo to combat his nervous exhaustion, undergoes an experimental treatment involving the injection of an LSD-derivative drug. The psychedelic dose transports his mind to a stylized landscape reminiscent of an ancient Japanese scroll, where he glimpses the threatening figure of the samurai. Meanwhile at the studio, a screen test of Monster Valley unleashes the spirit-samurai, who physically erupts into the corporeal world from the spools of film.
Quickly growing to an immense size, the newly created monster (samurai? lizard? hybrid?) destroys much of the movie studio and rampages across the city, leaving the Tokyo police and American military powerless to stop it. Taking Mari captive, the creature’s motivations are unclear, until a second demon bursts forth, leading to a battle of the giant monsters in the streets below the Tokyo Tower.
The entire last half of the book describes the monstrous carnage, running much like one of the low-budget monster rumbles Yokoya Studios could have produced. The demon spirit’s early possession and control of various figures in the movie studio could have provided some sinister chills, but once the action reaches gigantic proportions, all subtlety is lost as the story veers into cartoon territory. The reveal of Kirk’s connection to the monsters comes as absolutely no surprise, due to his complete disappearance from the narrative around the time of their arrival.
Kirk’s literal exorcism of his personal demons creates a city-wide swath of destruction, finally allowing him to pledge his love for Mari. Perhaps, a few more bottles of scotch ordered from hotel room service could have instead helped him reach his inner sensitive male—and save hundreds of casualties. Or better yet, Mari could have just taken Kirk’s own advice to heart:
“Mari, baby…I’m not worth it. Believe me.”