Today’s selection: The Body of the Prey (1968, dir. Kenneth Crane)
Available from: Public domain
- This movie might not technically be considered Japanese, depending on circumstances
- Reposting from an old review:
The Body of the Prey is also known as “The Venus Flytrap”, “The Devil Garden”, ”Akuma no Niwa” and, most commonly, “The Revenge of Doctor X”, so I’m really not sure what title to use here. You see, the movie never got a theatrical run; it wasn’t released to audiences until a public-domain version materialized on home video, seventeen years after its completion, with credits replaced by those for the unrelated Doctor of Blood Island. Considering that we’re talking about a movie written by the inimitable Edward D Wood Jr, I’d say this qualifies as a success story.
There’s a lot of misinformation about the film (little wonder with a ton of titles coupled with decades of obscurity), but from what I understand it was made in large part by American military affiliates stationed in Japan. In fact, I suspect that I might have some facts wrong already, so I’ll just shut up about the movie’s mysterious origins and just talk about what actually shows up on screen.
NASA scientist Dr. Bragan (James Craig) suffers a meltdown after an overdose of workahol, so his doctor advises him to take a vacation to Japan for some R&R, even offering to let him stay with his cousin. Like any scientist, Bragan quickly finds himself obsessed over another academic project: cross-breeding the world’s most dangerous varieties of venus flytraps and teaching their offspring to crave human blood. (Okay, maybe NASA should cut back on employee sabbatical.) The product of his research, Insectivorus, is brought to life by lightning and looks like a Kamen Rider villain. If the Frankenstein parallels weren’t strong enough there, the monster also torments Bragan’s hunchbacked assistant and gets hunted down by an angry, torch-wielding mob of angry villagers.
The end product is, in my opinion, on the upper-end of the spectrum for public domain creature features, and wouldn’t have been out of place had it reached theaters in its own time (or perhaps a few years earlier). The fact that it’s shot in color and contains quite a bit of nudity demonstrates a shift from 50’s –style American monster movies, while this sort of really cheap kaijin wouldn’t become popular in Japan until the superhero boom in the 70’s. Perhaps it just got lost in the between-period shuffle.