The Demon Samurai

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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.”

Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion (Issue #10)

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Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion, Issue #10
DC Comics | March-April 1973

DC horror anthology with a sultry, mysterious host (although not set in a mansion, dark or otherwise), warning readers of terrible fates for those visitors unable to distinguish between love and hate.

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The Monster
Illicit lovers Myra and Carl pay the ultimate price by failing to abide by the basic criminal rule, “Never return to the scene of the crime.” A year after killing Myra’s husband and sinking his body in the swamp surrounding the couple’s summer cabin, they return with Myra’s young daughter, only to become victims of a murky bog man who stalks their every move.

A jittery Myra also seemingly fails to learn the second basic rule, “Don’t endlessly babble about your crimes just because a swamp monster is after you.”

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They Walk by Night
Two hobos break into a department store to escape the winter cold, but discover they are not alone among the merchandise displays. Aside from the question, “Why vampires?”, a familiar entry in the “Mannequins Coming to Life” category, featuring a slight wrinkle regarding the motivation of the narrator.

At least [SPOILER] Spud the dog makes it out alive [END SPOILER].

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Clearance Sale
Didn’t mannequins come to life in the previous story? A throwaway and completely redundant “Mannequins Coming to Life” story—with mannequins coming to life.

Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster

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Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster
Japan | 1971 | 86 minutes
Starring Akira Yamauchi, Toshie Kimura, Hiroyuki Kawase
Directed by Yoshimitsu Banno

Rising up from the sludge of a polluted sea, Hedorah feeds on the toxic pollution of the modern world. Transforming from monstrous tadpole to land-crawling giant octopus-thing to poison-emitting flying skate, the “Smog Monster” interrupts group-exercise classes, groovy nightclub performances, and environmental protests alike, leaving only burned-out skeletons in its wake. Godzilla’s arrival mirrors the Western hero riding off into the sunset; mankind’s rubber-suited savior steps out from the blazing sunrise to confront the evil of our own doing.

Godzilla emotes like a champion in this outing, laying down the challenge to Hedorah like a boxer with a taunting wave of his arm (“Bring it!”), while later holding a pensive claw-to-the-chin while considering the state of his opponent. Our hero even gives a knowing nod to the humans —fumbling with their electric shock apparatus in an attempt to desiccate Hedorah—before charging up their equipment with the fiery blast of his roar. And roar he does; the appealing screech-and-scrape of Godzilla’s classic vocalization almost loses its charm due to repeated looping.

But ultimately a sticky problem remains; does a giant radioactive lizard make the best environmental spokesmonster?

 

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