Overlooked & Underseen: Yokai Monsters: One Hundred Monsters (1968)
Have you ever had one of those movies where you’re pretty sure you’ve seen it but, for whatever reason, you were so fucked up at the time, you’re not exactly sure if you have actually watched it? I think we all do. Yokai Monsters: One Hundred Monsters is that movie for me. If you’re ready for a fever dream, nightmare-fueled, Japanese-Samurai film where creepy-ass monsters haunt the rich, this is the movie for you!
Like a lot of Japanese movies, this story is about rich men trying to get richer by screwing the lives of the poor. In this case, a greedy landowner wants to tear down a local shrine along with the tenement house where many poor people in the village happen to live. The rich guy wants to build a brothel, of all things to want to build, in what is essentially a kids movie. Of course, the villagers are outraged. Rich dude doesn’t care because, well, he’s rich and also he’s greasing the palms of the officials. The caretaker of the shrine protests what is happening and is killed by some henchmen. This further upsets the villagers but they are all poor and no one cares about their plight, so what are they to do?
The rich guy and his flunkies decide to have a ceremony, a 100 Monsters ceremony, where a master comes and tells, well, 100 Monster stories. At the end of the all the stories, there is a purification ceremony to ward off evil curses. Of course the rich guy tells the storyteller not to bother with the curse removal. He’s so arrogant, not only does he not want the ceremony but he decides to have his own, which consists of him handing out money to all in attendance. Evil curses can only mean one thing: strange monsters are a comin’ to town.
Now, these monsters, for me anyway, are really the stuff of nightmares. There’s an umbrella monster who hops around on one leg with an incredibly long tongue who (I shit you not) goes around licking the son of the rich guy. There’s a female monster who can stretch her neck out so long, she can rap her head/neck around someone to strangle them. There are monsters who look like potatoes (or penises, still undecided there), one is just a ball of fire, and another is just a head the size of a house who has a mouth that looks sliced open on the sides (think Ichi the Killer). Seriously, when you watch this, and you will, be warned if you’re on any type of substance; these monsters will fuck you up.
Nearly all of the monster effects are practical, which adds to the freakishness of the creatures. Can you see some seams and other giveaways? Sure, but again, it adds to the charm of the movie. If you’re familiar with Japanese films of this time period and if you watch a lot of Daiei releases, you’ll see several familiar faces here including Jun Fujimaki (Daimajin) and Miwa Takada (Zatoichi, Daimajin).
Yokai Monsters: One Hundred Monsters is the first of three movies about the Yokai. The second one, Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare, is actually the best one but I always feel you should go in chronological order (unless you follow my Saturday Afternoon Kaiju column, that is all over the place for a reason). All three films, strangely enough, were released in 1968. They’re all available on out-of-print DVD, individually or as a complete set. I wish someone would come along and put them out on Blu-ray. These movies are crying out for a restoration.