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Kaitei Gunkan

Atragon
U 2000 - Tauchfahrt des Grauens

Japan 1963
produced by
Tomoyuki Tanaka for Toho
directed by Ishiro Honda
starring Tadao Takashima, Yoko Fujiyama, Yu Fujiki, Ken Uehara, Jun Tazaki, Kenji Sahara, Hiroshi Koizumi, Yoshifumi Tajima, Akihiko Hirata, Eisei Amamoto, Tetsuko Kobayashi, Hisaya Ito, Minoru Takada, Susumu Fujita, Ikio Sawamura, Akemi Kita, Nadao Kirino, Tetsu Nakamura, Yukihiko Gondo, Yutaka Nakayama, Shin Otomo, Wataru Omae
screenplay by Shinichi Sekizawa, based on a novel by Shigeru Komatsuzaki, Shunro Oshikawa, special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya, Akira Watanabe, music by Akira Ifukube

Atragon, Manda

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Several scientits are kidnapped, & the only clue the police have at first leads to the sea, provided by photographers Susume (Tadao Takashima) & Yoshito (Yu Fujiki). Soon, someone is arrested too, & he calls himself Agent 23 (Akihiko Hirata) & claims he is from the fabled Undersea Kingdom Mu, which submerged 12.000 years ago but is still inhabited even today - & in which noone in his right mind believes in, or do they.

Then journalist Itto Uno (Kenji Sahara) turns up though, pays World War II admiral Kozumi (Ken Uehara) a visit & suggests to him that everything has to do with World War II submarine commander captain Jinguchi (Jun Tazaki who was allegedly killed in battle but actually builds a super submarine, Atragon,for the glory of the japanese Empire ... but only God knows where.

... well, God & Jinguchi's communications officer Amano (Toshifumi Tajima), who was sent to Japan to fetch the admiral.

Soon, a typical motley crew, consisting of Kosumi, Itto Uno, photographers Susume & Yoshito (why did they come along ?), & Jinguchi's daughter, pretty Makoto (Yoko Fujiyama) set out to pay Jinguchi a visit, & to ask him for help.

Captain Jinguchi welcomes them all, gives them a demonstration of his amazing battleship Atragon that cannot only swim over & under water but also fly & drill its way through solid rock, however he refuses to help the world against the threat of the Muvians. For him, the defeat of japan in World War II is unacceptable, so he has sworn himself an oath only to use Atragon for the glory of the Japanese empire, & neither reason nor his daughter can convince him otherwise.

... but then there's journalist Itto Uno, who looks just too sinister to not be an agent of Mu ... & of course he is an agent of Mu, & before long he has blown up Jinguchi's headquarters & taken his daughter Makoto & Susume (with whom she has fallen in love) prisoner.

Why would he do that though ?

He actually wants to lure Jinguchi & his Atragon to Mu, because the Muvian High Priest (Eisei Amamoto) & Queen (Tetsuko Kobayashi) desperately want to lay their hands on Atragon to conquer the upper world (& what could come in more handy to conquer the upper world than a super sub).

To some extent, the plan works too, because before long Jinguchi really mans the Atragon to head for Mu ... but the Muvians haven't taken into account 2 things.

1) Susume & Makoto are far from being model prisoners, & together with captured scientist Shindo (Hisaya Ito) & a handful explosives soon find a way to not only break out of their prison & escape the Empire of Mu, but they also manage to take Mu's Queen hostage.

and 2) It's not really a good thing to be attacked by something with a power drill attached to it if you are an underwater kingdom ...

So soon, Mu is flooded, & what isn't flooded blows up, & even Manda, the giant sea serpent/god guarding Mu, proves little defense against Atragon, which uses its deep freeze ray against the animal.

& Jinguchi suddenly knows he has done the right thing, while the Queen of Mu, seeing her kingdom being destroyed from Atragon, jumps ship to be with her people ...

 

A film that has

- a flying submarine with a drill attached,

- an underwater kingdom with a queen wearing a funky red wig,

- some loving destruction courtesy of Eiji Tsurubaya,

- a giant seaserpent trying to strangle a submarine, and

- a character called Agent  23

just can't be all bad.

Unfortunately Atragon isn't all that good either, it simply takes ages to set up the characters & the situation while using the submarine & the seaserpent almost exclusively in the finale. However, if you love classic pulp fiction, this one should at least bring a smile to your face.

By the way, in 1995, an anime, Shin Kaitei Gunkan/Super Atragon, was based on this film.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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special appearances by
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directed by
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written by
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produced by
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