April 16, 2007

Virus (Fukasaku, 1980)

1983. The earth is a cold, dead place. A massive ghost town populated by slowly rotting corpses. Silence is the only sound. Nothing moves. The haunting opening scenes of Virus, Kinji Fukasaku’s post-apocalyptic epic, promise a powerful experience. Unfortunately, that promise is not completely fulfilled. The film ultimately collapses under the weight of its lofty ambition, and remains a film more intriguing than it is good.

Taking place all around the world, from the White House, to the plains of Kazakhstan, the film shows of the death of humanity by way of a human engineered super-virus. With a diverse cast that includes George Kennedy, Ken Ogata, and Sonny Chiba, and a runtime of 155 minutes, the film strives for grandiosity. At the time of its release, it was the most expensive Japanese production ever, with a budget estimated at $16,000,000.

Expectedly, this very grandiosity, so prevalent in American disaster films, is what keeps Virus from living up to its potential. The compellingly quiet opening scenes should have set the tone for the film, but instead, almost everything is overdone. A script that frequently lapses into caricature hampers the film. There are a few moments where instead of genuine pathos we are given sentimentality taken to absurd levels. The script also gives rise to some horribly melodramatic acting, with performances by Glenn Ford, Henry Silva, and Tsunehiko Watase, bordering on parody.

It is a testament to Fukasaku’s skills as a filmmaker, that the film remains interesting despite its weaknesses. I appreciated the seriousness with which the films events were handled. There is surprisingly little levity, which lends a sense of reality. Fukasaku also ably rises above the script and performances to infuse the film with a sense of despair that borders on fatalism at times. I get the sense that Fukasaku was going for something very dark but was prevented from fulfilling his true vision by the commercial necessities of such an expensive film. In my view, the mood of the film, the somber atmosphere, is its most interesting aspect. It sets Virus apart from other films of this ilk.

*Virus was cut drastically (by about 50 minutes) for U.S. distribution. However, the DVD released by BCI Eclipse (available as part of the Sonny Chiba Action Pack) contains the original Japanese version in a very nice anamorphic transfer.


diegogue said...

I'm agree with you, the complete intention of the film is not achieved, but it's a big try

Anonymous said...

HERE IS THE FULL LENGTH MOVIE Virus (Fukasaku, 1980)" YOU CAN SEE ONLINE OR DOWNLOAD IN MPG 7 GIGAS AND BURN IT...http://www.archive.org/details/Virus_Fukkatsu_no_hi