LATITUDE ZERO, directed by Ishiro Honda, is an unusual film in Toho Pictures’ filmography of sci-fi monster films. It features four Hollywood stars among the main cast members and one American newcomer in a significant role. It has a Jules Verne-style science fiction setting located underwater far from Japan. There is no central monster to be fought, just a series of smaller, lesser monsters, all rather unformidable and all in the employ of a mad scientist who can’t quite make the best use of them. Production-wise, the film’s most unique feature is the decision to shoot the entire film in English with synchronized sound, which meant all the Japanese actors with speaking parts had to be competent enough in English to make themselves understood. There may have been some post-dubbing to correct a rough patch here and there, but what you’re hearing on the English soundtrack are the actors’ actual voices, mostly recorded live on the set.
I remember seeing the trailers for THE GREEN SLIME back in 1969 and being put off somewhat by the cheesy-looking design of the title monsters, so I didn’t make the effort to see it back then. I was a high school sophmore at the time and more interested in “serious” sci-fi, such as 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, PLANET OF THE APES and…BARBARELLA! I eventually saw it on TV and kicked myself for not seeing it in a theater when I had the chance. It’s a film that’s historically important for several reasons. It was the first U.S.-Japan co-production shot in Japan with an entirely Caucasian cast and the first with more than one name actor from the west. It was the first science fiction film directed by Kinji Fukasaku, who would make two other significant entries in the genre, MESSAGE FROM SPACE and VIRUS, both also featuring American stars. (He’s been more famous in the past decade for his final film, BATTLE ROYALE, 2000.)
I have a still from the film, scanned here, as well as screen grabs from the Warner Archive DVD, which I watched for this review.