Fukkatsu no hi (1980)

Searching the Internet Archive is often a very serendipitous process. I have on several occasions been looking for one thing but found something completely different, perhaps something I did not even know existed, yet immediately realized that I always wanted to see.

One typical example is the Japanese film 復活の日 (Fukkatsu no hi, or Virus in English). I no longer remember what I was looking for in the first place, but when my eye caught this post-apocalyptic thriller I knew I had found what I wanted. The more I learned about it, the more interesting it seemed. Nor was I to be disappointed.

At its 1980 release, the film was the most expensive Japanese production ever. It was intended for an international release (much of the dialogue is in English), but was as disastrous at the box office as the virus is in the film. There are many interesting actors, including a good performance by Robert Vaughn as an American senator and Swedish B-actor Bo Svenson as an American colonel. Not to forget beautiful, beautiful Olivia Hussey (Rebecca in Ivanhoe (1982)), playing a Norwegian(!) woman.

Olivia Hussey in Virus / Fukkatsu no hi (1980)

The story is simple on the surface. Deadly virus is released upon the world in near future. Survivors in Antarctica must try to overcome internal strife and save humanity. The End. However, it is not told according to the standard Hollywood template, and it is full of little subplots and unexpected twists. Sure, there are some really silly moments, and the way people keep dying from a running nose is certainly very funny. But such deficiencies are easily offset by a number of brilliant scenes.

This film does not score high because of the acting. Some actors are good, but on the whole the acting is quite stiff and unconvincing. What makes it worth watching is the wonderful scenography and the constant tension that is maintained throughout. I do not know if anyone has ever dubbed this film a “cult classic,” but it certainly deserves to be one.

The version on the IA is the original full-length version, not the cut-up American release.

This film is best enjoyed sitting in your favourite armchair while a blizzard rages outside your window.

Kinji Fukasaku's Virus / Fukkatsu no hi (1980)

Fukkatsu no hi (Virus)
Download link
Year: 1980
Running time: 2 h 36 min
Language: English, Japanese (English subtitles)
Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Stars: Masao Kusakari, Robert Vaughn, Sonny Chiba, Bo Svenson, Olivia Hussey
Image quality: Excellent
Resolution: Medium (820×436)
Sound quality: Excellent
Best file format: mkv (1.8 G)

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Terror by Night (1946)

As I write this blog’s very first post, it just so happens that tomorrow is the World Book Day. So I thought, what better way to celebrate than to start off with perhaps the most iconic literary character of all time. Sherlock Holmes.

When you think about Sherlock Holmes, perhaps actors like Robert Downey, Benedict Cumberbatch or Jonny Lee Miller come to mind. But they are only the latest few in a very long line of screen Sherlocks. The first one, in fact, is not even known by name. He appeared in a very short and silly film called Sherlock Holmes Baffled (1900).

What actor you favour is a matter of preference, of course. My own vote goes to Jeremy Brett of the 80s and 90s, but before him the undisputed Sherlock for fans all over the world was Basil Rathbone. He did the role no less than fourteen times, defining the almost aristocratic detective that many still associate with the character. Even more important for future interpretations may have been Nigel Bruce’s slightly thick-headed Dr. Watson.

Basil Rathbone and Renee Godfrey in Terror by Night (1946)

The Internet Archive has a good number of Sherlock Holmes features. Perhaps some day I will write about a wonderful little TV series from the 1950s, but today we focus on Rathbone. Five of his Sherlock films are on IA. All are good, but if you want to watch just one, make it Terror by Night from 1946.

While not Rathbone’s most well-known performance, it is certainly a very good one. Holmes is given the task of guarding a valuable diamond during a train journey, and most of the film is set on board the train. An old train with its steam engine and passenger compartments makes a perfect backdrop for a mystery, as has been proven again and again in films such as Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes (1938). The shape of the train helps to tighten the plot, since it is impossible to move from point A to point C without passing point B along the way. Good use is made of this dramatic convenience in the film.

Terror by Night is packed with clichés, but quite honestly: How is it possible to make Sherlock Holmes without the clichés? Even the modern interpretations cannot do without them. In this particular case, they are used with such charm and ease that they only serve to raise the film to even higher levels. Rathbone acts cool and in control in a way that is pure joy to behold, and quite a relief from today’s slightly psychotic Sherlocks.

This film is best enjoyed with a large cup of hot Earl Grey tea, and some scones and marmalade.

Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce in Terror by Night (1946)

Terror by Night
Download link
Year: 1946
Running time: 58 min
Director: Roy William Neill
Stars: Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce
Image quality: Good
Resolution: Medium (720×540)
Sound quality: Good
Best file format: MPEG2 (1.9 G)