Toho In America: The H-Man

Toho in America
A Critical Comparison between the Japanese and
American Versions of the Toho Fantasy Films

Bijo to Ekitai Ningen (Beauty and the Liquid People)
Released June 24, 1958
Offical Runninf Time: 87 minutes

The H-Man
Released May 28, 1959 by Columbia Pictures
Running Time: 79 minutes

Available on Columbia/TriStar Home Video

Analysis by Keith Sewell and Brian R. Culver
(Originally published in KAIJU-FAN Issue #7 Winter 1997)

In addition to producing effects-laden spectacles like The Mysterians, Toho was also producing smaller budget films that featured elements of horror and science fiction but required fewer special effects. Bijo to Ekitai Ningen (Beauty and the Liquid People) is one such film. The earliest of what is considered to be a series of Toho’s “mutant” films in which men are transformed into other matter by science gone awry (the other films would include Denso Ningen [The Telegraphed Man, 1960, US title: The Secret of the Telegian] and Gas Ningen Daiichigo [The First Human Vapor, 1960, US title: The Human Vapor, 1964]), Bijo to Ekitai Ningen is arguably the best of the lot. Produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka and directed by Ishiro Honda from a screenplay by Takeshi Kimura, the film depicts human-sized liquid creatures (a product of the atomic bomb), that menace Tokyo, dissolving all who come in contact with them. Unlike Toho’s previous outings with radiation, spawned monsters, the film’s science fiction premise takes a back seat to the crime drama subplot in which the police, led by Inspector Tominaga (Akihiko Rirata), are skeptical about the existence of the liquid creatures as they work to break an underworld narcotics ring. The film’s hero, Dr. Masada (Kenji Sahara) continually tries to prove to the unbelieving and uncooperative authorities that the liquid creatures are the true culprits in the mysterious disappearances that are plaguing the city. In the meantime, the female lead, nightclub singer Chikako Arai (Yumi Shiragawa), is sufficiently victimized by not only the liquid creatures, but by the gangsters and the police as well; in effect, the ruthless Hamada Gang and the obstinate Japanese Detective Bureau are just as much the villains in this film as are the monsters. (Ironically, two of the actors portraying young detectives in The H-Man would later star in Toho’s subsequent “mutant” films; Tadao Nakamaru as Detective Ogawa would essay the title role in Denso Ningen, while Yoshio Tsuchiya as Detective Tanoguchi would attain fame as the lead in Gasu Ningen Daiichigo.)

Columbia Pictures purchased Bijo to Ekitai Ningen for American release, giving the film the less poetic but appropriately dramatic (and thus exploitable) title, The H-Man. Columbia would later release Uchu Daisenso (1959) as Battle in Outer Space in 1960 and Mosura (1961) as Mothra in 1962. The H-Man stands as a good example of an Americanization that does not compromise the original film through editing of the Japanese footage for US release, although the film’s dubbing can be considered another story (to be explained later in this article). Differences found in the Japanese version are, as usual, noted in bold type.

– The Japanese version begins with the Toho logo followed by footage of an atomic test. A superimposed white rectangle emerges from the blast and expands until it fills the screen with a rippling water effect. As the ripple dissipates, a newspaper headlining the disappearance of the Dragon King II freight ship (showing a photograph of the lost ship) comes into focus. The credits play over shots of the abandoned Dragon King II drifting at sea and of a second ship approaching it. The last shot of the credit sequence is a gradual zoom into the captain’s wheel of Dragon King II, which appears to be steering itself, before the scene dissolves to a close-up of a Tokyo drainage sewer opening. The American credits are simpler, but still effective. The Toho logo is replaced with Columbia’s familiar “Lady Liberty” logo, though Masaru Sato’s music is thoughtfully retained; it can be argued that Sato’s score works better in the American title sequence since the upbeat opening theme is entirely out of place with the creepy images of the ghostly vessel in the Japanese version. Following the atomic test footage, Columbia’s credits are displayed against a cloud-like background, in front of which is a graphic of the “H-Man.”  Because the credits run about a minute shorter in the American version, two portions of the original music have been almost seamlessly edited out to match the time difference. (Incidentally, .the musical “ping” effect of Sato’s score that is heard in the Tokyo rainstorm sequence is intended to represent “nuclear rain.”)

– During the first Homura Nightclub sequence, about half a minute of Emi Yoriko’s (Ayumi Sonoda) exotic dancing has been deleted from the American version.

– As Chikako sings “The Magic Begins” (sung in English in the Japanese version, as is her other song “So Deep is My Love”), Dr. Masada shows her a note indicating that he needs to talk to her about her missing husband, Misaki (Hisaya Ito). A close-up of the note written in Japanese is replaced in the American version with a similar shot of a note hand written in English which reads: Must See You –I t’s About Misaki.

– Chikako returns to her apartment and is menaced by Saeki (Akira Yamada), a member of the Harnada Gang. Saeki demands to know Misaki’s whereabouts and tries to force Chikako to talk by slapping her across the face four times. In the Japanese version, Toho’s standard “slapping” sound effect is heard. In the American version, these sounds were replaced by Columbia’s “slapping” sound effects, often heard in Columbia features from the 1940s and 1950s such as The Three Stooges.

A shot of a wooden sign outside of Dr. Maki’s lab (Koreya Senda) reads (in Japanese): Maki Biochemistry Classroom – Experiment Station. This is substituted in the American version with a sign on a painted wood door in English which reads: Biochemistry Research — Dr. Maki.

– An insert shot of a woodgrain door bearing the painted English words “Detective Bureau” is substituted for a similar shot of a sign on a painted wood door that reads (in Japanese): “Crime Lab Chemistry Room.”

– Immediately following the above alteratiion, a series of scenes was removed which depicts the police’s unsuccessful attempts to link the recent disappearances to the Hamada Gang. At the Detective Bureau’s Chemistry Crime Lab, Inspector Tominaga, Commissioner Kusada and the Chief Examiner inspect photos of two more dissolved people. Later, Inspector Tominaga receives a phone call from the Yotsuya police station; the pistol that was found outside of Chikako’s window (among Saeki’s clothing) was identified as belonging to Saeki and not Misaki. Furthermore, there are rumors of internal discord among the Hamada Gang; a traitor is said to be smuggling the narcotics for himself. Saeki was under suspicion and the police believe that another traitor may still be at large within the gang. Inspector Tominaga and his men visit Chikako again. When Detective Miyashita shows photographs of the Hamada Gang to Chikako, she identifies Saeki as the man who had menaced her in her apartment. As Inspector Tominaga and his team leave, Dr. Masada appears with information about a buoy belonging to the Dragon King II. However, Inspector Tominaga snubs Dr. Masada and later has him barred from joining in the investigation. The detectives investigate the waterfront home of Saeki’s associate, Nishiyama (Ren Yamamoto) whom they suspect is the traitor within the gang. Breaking into Nishiyama’s home, they discover the gangster’s bullet-ridden corpse; Nishiyama has paid the price for double-crossing the Hamada Gang. In his office, Inspector Tominaga receives a phone call. He hangs up and then tells Commissioner Kusada, “Homicide. Another victim!” (Because of the deleted footage, Columbia changed the dialogue conceming the discovery of Nishiyama’s corpse.) As they exit, the ever persistent Dr. Masada appears, carrying the buoy from the Dragon King II. Inspector Tominaga curtly dismisses this evidence by saying, “Not interested!” Dr. Masada brings the buoy to Dr. Maki’s lab. There, he is visited by Chikako, who tells both doctors about her witnessing Saeki being dis solved by the liquid creatures. Meanwhile, at the Detective Bureau, Detectives Sakata (Yoshifumi Tajima) and Miyashita (Eitaro Ozawa) listen to the boastful ravings of Anchan, a Hamada Gang punk wannabe.  In his office, Commissioner Kusada says to Inspector Tominaga, “I’m sure of one thing; this can’t be the work of the boys from the Hamada Gang.”

– During the second Homura nightclub scene, Inspector Tominaga is shown writing in his notepad. A close-up of the notepad shows that the inspector has written (in Japanese) the names of the gangsters Hamano (Shin Ohtomo), Uchida (Makoto Sato), Kishi (Ko Mishima) and Shimazaki, the Homura nightclub waiter (Nadao Kirino) and has drawn four circles to indicate their locations in the nightclub. In the American version, this shot is substituted with a close-up of a similar diagram with the gangsters’ names written in English and “X” marks pointing out the positions of the four aforementioned gangsters.  Examination of the framrng Japanese footage of Tommaga holding the pad shows that the pad’s color, binding and the way that it is being held do not match Columbia’s insert shot. In addition, Saeki’s name has also been included in the American insert along with the four other gangsters, despite the fact that Saeki was dissolved by the liquid creatures 25 minutes earlier in the film. (In the American version, Uchida is the only one of the five gang members that is identified by name, so the inclusion of Saeki’s name is not apparent as a mistake.)

– During the second Homura nightclub sequence, approximately 25 seconds of Emi’s gyrating performance has been deleted from the American version following Chikako’s second song.

– An unconvincing animated effect of a liquid creature dissolving Emi has been deleted. The blob-like menace crawls up her legs causing the dancer to collapse. On the floor, the dancer suddenly freezes in place (as does the entire scene) just before a transparent green animated effect moves up her motionless form until her entire body is covered. The American version includes two seconds of this shot (just as the scene freezes,) but cuts away the moment before the optical appears. This brief shot is not part of Columbia’s current television/video transfer, which instead cleanly cuts to the next scene of Chikako in her dressing room just after the dancer falls.

– Following the police discovery of Shimazaki’s clothing, a scene panning over the dissolved Emi’s skimpy costume has been removed. (Incidentally, Emi is the only female victim of the liquid creatures in the film, besides the one depicted in the chief examiner’s photo in which high-heeled shoes can be seen [this segment is missing in the American version, as described above]. Emi’s death was also the only one in the film for which special effects director Eiji Tspburaya did not employ the “balloon body bag” technique. The effect of the dissolving humans was accomplished by deflating human-shaped balloons dressed to resemble the actors; by framing this footage with shots of the heinous liquid filmed in reverse as it “crawls” up legs or on the walls, this rather simple technique proved to be chillingly effective.)

– A cut to the English-language Tokyo Star newspaper bearing the headline “Strange Monster Dissolves Humans,” along with the sidebar “Detective A Victim: Completely Disappears,” replaces a Japanese newspaper headline that reads (in Japanese): “Strange Living Liquid Creatures Dissolve Humans,” with a sidebar “Liquid Men Appear Due To Nuclear Explosion.” On the left side of the newspaper is a small photo of Detective Sakata, who was dissolved by the liquid creatures. A dissolve from the Japanese paper to the subsequent scene has been replaced by a cut to black from which the next scene fades in.

– After Dr. Maki’s press conference, an optical depicts a newspaper flipping up and filling the screen. A picture of Dr. Maki appears with a headline (in Japanese) that reads, “Doctor Maki Presents Actual Experimentation Proof To The Public.” This is replaced by a subsequent newspaper containing a photo of a meeting and the headline (in Japanese) reading, “Emergency Countermeasure Headquarters Established.” In the American version, there is a cut following the press meeting to another copy of the Tokyo Star with the English headline, “City Menaced By H-Man Monster” and a sidebar which reads, “Einergency Meeting of Safety Council and Dr. Maki Called To Combat Death-Dealing Creature.”

– Two brief scenes of Uchida and Chikako iin the sewers have been removed. The first, which occurs just after they evade the task force, but before they encounter the Liquid Creatures, is a 10-second shot of Uchida forcing Chikako to keep moving. The second scene, immediately after Uchida has made Chikako throw her outer clothing into the water (to fool the police into thinking that she has been dissolved,) is a 15-second shot of the two travelling through the sewers as Chikako, wearing only a slip, holds her arms tightly across her chest.

– In a rare case for an Americanized kaiju film, Columbia’s The H-Man ends with the Japanese symbol “Owari” taken directly from Toho’s version.  Usually, the “Owari” symbol is replaced by the English language equivalent, “The End.”

While Columbia’s changes to The H-Man involved removing a fair amount of footage, it is inaccurate to call this “butchery” or to claim that the Americanization ruined Honda’s film. The edits were well chosen and to some degree, the pacing is improved by the shorter running time. Most of the difference in running time is due to the deletion of scenes which slow down the middle of the film and simply confirm what the viewer already knows: that Dr. Masada is right about the liquid creatures and that the police are wrong in suspecting the Hamada Gang. Had the optical of Emi being dissolved not been deleted, it surely would have been laughed off the screen by American audiences. Columbia cannot be blamed for the trimming of scenes involving the thong bikini-clad dancers (as well as the shot of Emi’s empty costume), since these deletions were no doubt a result of American censorship restrictions of the time. It is not clear why the credit sequence was changed, yet the substituted one is effective in its own right.

The dubbing, unaccredited in American prints, is passable, with recognizable voices from DCA’s Rodan and Warner Brothers’ Gigantis, the Fire-Monster. The most predominant of the dubbing actors is Paul Frees, who dubbed a number of the characters including Uchida, Inspector Tominaga and Dr. Maki. Frees’ work on this film is an improvement over his Rodan dubbing, since he does not dub as many characters. With the voices that Frees does dub in The H-Man, he manages to match each character’s appearance while at the same keeping them from sounding too much like one another. Unfortunately, the voices for some of the supporting roles, such as Detective Sakata or the ill fated sailors who investigate the Dragon King II, have been dubbed with stereotypical Asian accents and come across as unintentionally funny. Furthermore, the American dubbing tends to overemphasize the more subtle elements of Honda’s original film. In his book, Age of the Gods: A History of the Japanese Fantasy Film, for example, author Guy Tucker points out that upon discovering Misaki’s abandoned clothes, the cab driver’s line, “He’s gone! He’s disappeared! Only his clothes are left!” was dubbed over the self-explanatory visuals. Tucker refers to this as the typical Hollywood practice of “taking its audience for idiots, as usual.”

The H-Man was favorably reviewed by Variety. While lamenting that “culturally, it is unfortunate the West has made such inroads in the Orient that a Japanese picture…looks more like an American film with Japanese actors,” Variety deemed The H-Man to be “…well- made and seemingly more thoughtful than (Toho’s) two other U.S. summer releases (MGM’s The Mysterians and Wamer Brothers’ Gigantis).” Variety felt that “the story is reminiscent of last year’s Paramount release, The Blob, and while recollective science fiction addicts may pooh-pooh the idea of an Oriental copy, they should be pleased with the quality of the replica. (The H-Man) abounds in fewer special effects than either Mysterians or Gigantis, but its one effect, namely, the disintegration of the human body, is skillfully and terrifyingly adept.” {Editor’s note: The Blob was released by Paramount in 1958, the same year that Bijo to Ekitai Ningen was released in Japan by Toho. The interim between the original Japanese release and when The H-Man was first seen on American shores gives the false impression that it is somehow a copy of the American film.)  Curiously, Toho Video’s remastered laser disc of the Japanese version shows signs of film damage/warping at many of the precise edit points where deletions were made for the American release. Most apparent are the two dancing sequences and the removed shot of the dancers’ costume.

RCA/Columbia Home Video first released The H-Man on home video in 1988; it was recently re-released in an otherwise identical box bearing the company’s current Columbia/ Tristar Home Video name and logos. The transfer (the same one used for the current television broadcasts) appears sharper than that of Toho’s digitally-remastered laser disc, resulting in an arguably more attractive image despite being a pan-and-scan VHS tape. Toho’s disc often seems more colorful, although the yellows are far too dominant and the flesh tones look consistently incorrect as a result.

A few minor visual and editing oddities occur in Columbia’s transfer which appear to have resulted from the removal of damaged frames of film. The following are some of the more apparent examples:

– Several dissolves during the credits are replaced by hard cuts. In most cases where this happens, the credit appears to be a video still of a single film fral11e. This is evidenced in at least one example by stationary dirt particles during a credit.

– A few scenes begin or end by slowing down or stopping all together for a split second.

– The two-second “pre-optical” freeze-frame of the dancer mentioned previously is missing.

– A shot at the end of the scene where Dr. Maki is speaking to the press abruptly appears to slow down and jump slightly, causing his lip movements to be more out of sync than they should be. Comparison with other prints suggests that the damaged film removed here is a flaw in Toho’s original negative, which appears in all other known prints. The jump is the result of repeating other frames of film to replace the removed ones, thereby keeping the audio track in synchronization with the picture, in addition to preserving the overall total running time.  For the most part, this is not noticeable enough to be a distraction.


Guy Tucker, Age of the Gods, Daikaiju Publishing, 1996
Stuart Galbraith, Japanese Science Fiction, McFarland Press, 1994
Donald Willis (editor), Varietx’s Complete Science Fiction Reviews, Garland Publishing, 1985

©1998 Keith Sewell, Brian R. Culver/Daikaiju Publishing