Produced in 1980 the movie Virus (Fukkatsu no Hi) came at the tail end of the disaster movie fad of the 1970′s, a sub-genre of movies to which it owes a great deal. Though it would be a mistake to see this movie in the same light as Earthquake or Towering Inferno, Virus is an all together different kind of beast.
Most notable is its Japanese ancestry; based on the book by Sakyo Komatsu (a Japanese Science Fiction author) and directed by the great Kinji Fukasaku (best known for Battle Royale) the movie chronicles the discovery of a mutagenic virus that is dubbed the Italian Flu because of the first slew of fatalities in rural Italy.
The virus is man made, American made as it turns out, and in the distrust created by the cold war it is stolen by mercenaries to sell to the highest bidder. But the operation runs afoul of bad weather as the aircraft the mercenaries is using flies over a range of mountains. The ‘plane crashes and the virus is out.
Within no time it infects animals and humans alike, crating a pandemic that sweeps across the world from northern Russia to the White House itself.
Only a handful of people are safe, for by a stroke of luck the virus is unstable at very low temperatures and the research stations based in the Antarctic have survived.
Less than 900 human beings survive and gradually they realise that the virus is not the only danger that awaits them in this empty planet: because the machines mankind has made to ease his life, and protect it, are still merrily ticking along without us. Counting down to some unimaginable conclusion of their own…
With a cast of names that reads like a who’s who of stars of the 70′s, including George Kennedy, Bo Svenson, Edward James Olmos (only a years or so away from signing for Blade Runner), and the great Sonny Chiba among many, mant others.
Unfortunately when Virus (Fukkatsu no Hi) was released in the west it was the US cut that we all got, trimmed by a massive 50 minutes from the Japanese theatrical version and removing nearly all the non-American cast. This version lost much that drove the excellent original version, mainly by excising Masao Kusakari’s wonderfully realised Dr. Yoshizumi, the absolute heart of the movie.
Dr. Yoshizumi’s epic journey takes him from Japan to the Antartic, where he falls in love with the gorgeous Marit (Olivia Hussey) only to be torn from her to go on a mission to save the survivors.
Epic is really the word for this movie, the odd melodrama indicative of late 70′s cinema is present, but the Japanese cast (along with fantastic actors like Edward James Olmos) manage to reel in the emotion and present us with a film that can transcend its 1980′s effects to become a forgotten classic of Post Apocalyptic cinema.
Put aside 2 and a half hours of you life for this movie, its worth every minute, just make sure its the 155 minute version you see, and not the 108 minute truncated edition.