Earthquake 7.9 (1980) a.k.a Megaforce 7.9
Director: Kenjiro Omori
Writer: Kaneto Shindô
Starring: Hiroshi Katsuno, Toshiyuki Nagashima, Yumi Takigawa, Kayo Matsuo, Hideji Ôtaki,
Yoichi sweats the big one
Winter break was always the greatest. No school for a few glorious days between Christmas and New Years. Both my parents worked during the day so when I was old enough I got to stay home all by my lonesome. Being an only child meant I had the run of the house. So I could have my G.I. Joes have an all out war in the middle of the living room or He-Man or what ever I was into that year. It also meant I had free run of the old television. So one winter day I was lounging in the living room most likely having some mac and cheese or ramen noodles for lunch. This was the early 80's so we didn't own a glorious VCR (What are those?) and I had to rely on plain old cable for my lunch time entertainment. Flipping through the channels I stopped on good old Channel 45. I stopped on what I first thought was a unseen Godzilla film. There were a bunch of badly dubbed Japanese actors talking about this potential catastrophe that would wipe out Tokyo. I was intrigued and didn't really have anything to do so my butt was planted on the couch. I had hopes of some monster action to come, but what I got was well...
The government watches Tokyo burn
Brash young seismologist Yoichi Kawazu (Katsuno) realizes a big earthquake is going to level Tokyo within a months time. The Premonition group, a think tank of scientists he works for sadly don't believe any of what h's telling them. All not well on the home front for poor Yoichi either. His mother-in-law believes he's bringing shame to her late husband's reputation as one of Japan's top scientists. Plus his wife has just found out Yoichi is messing around with his pretty female co-worker. Yoichi's lover has her own problems. Her male reporter friend has fallen in love with her despite the fact that she's in love with Yoichi. Whew, thank the maker that the earthquake finally hits around the 40 minute mark. The soap opera theatrics were getting a bit tedious. Once that happens we have get Yoichi and his wife stuck with some other survivors in a subway that's rabidly filling with water. The mistress gets trapped in her burning apartment building as the reporter tries to escape a broken elevator and save her. There's also a brief subplot with the mother-in-law and Yoichi's son trapped in their apartment.
There's part of me that's really ecstatic to find this movie on DVD. Sure the picture quality sucks and the soap opera story makes for a slow beginning. But, that being said watching this film again after so many years makes me smile. I'd forgotten all about it until coming across it on DVD. Then it all came back. As a kid I was hoping beyond hope for a monster when watching it. There was none. But once the quake hits there enough of Toho's always solid effects and miniature work to make up for it. Rokuro Nishigaki's cinematography and Toshiaki Tsushima's rich orchestral score are up to snuff as well. There's a couple of moments toward the end when the two main story lines climax that are very effective and play out nicely. The dubbing as previously mentioned is terrible and adds a bit of unintentional comedy to the film. My favorite is the consent mispronunciation of lava as larva.