Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:
This seaside spook-fest from 1968 shows what can be done with a few good images and a flair for sustained moods. The screenplay, by Kyuzo Kobayashi and Kikuma Shimoiizaka, has something to do with a gang of modern-day pirates, a creepy preacher, and identical twin sisters. From a traditional storytelling perspective it doesn’t add up to much yet the movie is effective from start to finish; it’s heavy with the eldritch mood one expects of a brine-and-fog horror story. (“Night Tide” and “The Fog” are two better-known examples of this sub-genre.) Working on his first and last movie project, director Hiroshi Matsuno displays an instinct for wild close-ups as well as a knack for ‘scope composition; he’s especially good at using shadows and set elements to partition the frame into areas of concentrated interest. (The black-and-white cinematography, by Masayuki Kato, is consistently striking.) But the movie’s effectiveness probably derives more from its even-keeled tone than from any other element. Regardless of the situation served up by the screenplay — they run the gamut from rumpled sexiness to “Scooby Doo” silliness — the picture never lists or leans. Even the crummy effects sequences, amateurish by any standard, work because they’re integrated with the rest of the material and put across with utter seriousness. In this the “The Living Skeleton” bears a passing resemblance to the work of Jean Cocteau, whose movie magic tricks had a poetic reality that never failed to transcend their hokiness.
“The Living Skeleton” can be streamed via the Criterion channel on Hulu+.
- Here’s a nice blog write-up.
- The folks at Criterion have released the movie on disc as part of their Eclipse series. It’s packaged with a few of Shochiku’s other horror offerings, two of which — “Goku, Bodysnatcher from Hell” and “The X from Outer Space” — are also available on Hulu+. I enjoyed both movies, especially “Goku,” which is like a schlock-horror take on the 1939 “Five Came Back.”