We Western tokusatsu fanatics are blessed in that, with some rare exceptions, the majority of Japan’s golden-age science fiction and fantasy output has been available to us in some format or other from the get go. Godzilla and Gamera graced both cinemas and the small screen the world over, along with their horde of contemporaries. With the advent of home video more has become available still, and the number of classic Japanese special effects genre films that can’t be found somewhere is dwindling.
This is all well and good for science fiction, fantasy and the like, but they were far from the only special effects cinema produced in Japan during its golden age. Others like the film covered today have never been released outside of Japan, excepting perhaps a brief run in a regional Japanese theater here or there. To the best of my knowledge Daiei’s 1963 effects drama Wind Velocity 75 Meters / 「風速七十五米」 has never seen a major theatrical, television, or even video release beyond its native shores, where it was recently re-issued by Kadokawa at bargain price. It doesn’t even appear to have an IMDB listing, which means it may as well not exist at all in so far as the English-speaking world is concerned. It’s a shame, really. Wind Velocity 75 Meters may not be the most exciting stuff around, but for the effects hound it’s still plenty neat.
Penned by TAGUCHI Kozo and TAKAIWA Hajime and directed by TANAKA Shigeo, Wind Velocity 75 Meters is a drama of romance, corporate intrigue and tragic crime set around Ginza’s neon billboard boom. The story concerns the young heir (TAMIYA Jiro) to a Nagoya contracting firm who’s looking to hit it big in Tokyo’s bustling construction scene and weed out the competition. Unfortunately for his ambition, he falls for the competition’s daughter (KANO Junko) instead. Meanwhile his father (SUGAI Ichiro), unbeknownst to the son, is gunning for his rival’s top-dog position through less than reputable means – espionage, sabotage, and even murder, all perpetrated by a sociopathic asthmatic henchman (TAKAMATSU Hideo). A reporter (UTSUI Ken) investigates the incidents, but has other things on his mind – a super typhoon is brewing in the Pacific, and Ginza is square in its sights!
Effects director TSUKIJI Yonesaburo posing with a work in-progress – a replica of Toho’s iconic Nichigeki Theater.
Wind Velocity 75 Meters is one of several big-budget typhoon melodramas produced by Daiei at the turn of the decade, and a direct reference to the 1959 Ise-wan Typhoon, a mega-storm that swept from one end of Japan to the other with maximum wind-speed of 75 meters per second. As a plot device the typhoon here isn’t especially well integrated. It just sort of happens once the drama has reached its zenith, dispensing a bit of cosmic justice but serving mostly as a showcase for the Daiei effects department, here under the guidance of TSUKIJI Yonesaburo (Warning From Space / 「宇宙人東京に現わる」 ). Despite representing only a few minutes of the film’s 88 minute running time Daiai’s publicity team relied heavily on Wind Velocity 75 Meters‘ effects production to turn admissions. Indeed, the film’s trailer devotes nearly as much time to scenes of destruction as the film itself!
Though in all ways subservient to the drama (I suppose this is how it should be, whether I came to the show for construction world intrigue or not) Tsukiji’s effects direction is superb, and stands toe to toe with anything produced by the Hollywood majors at the time. The centerpiece is the depiction of a devastating storm surge, which courses through Tsukiji’s miniature Ginza with brutal force. As the water rises even KINOSHITA Chuji’s ace score gives way, letting the power of the effects (with an assist from sound designer NISHII Kinichi) speak for themselves. It’s a hell of a thing, and shared for the benefit of my readers at the end of this article.
A note on the behind-the-scenes stills provided here – all are sourced from Kadokawa’s reissue DVD, which offers quite a few more besides. Those interested in the film are heartily encouraged to pick the disc up. For a Japanese import it’s very reasonably priced, and the quality of the presentation is lovely. There’s a catch, of course. Audio is Japanese only, and there are no subtitles.