Submersion of Japan (1973)

SUBMERSION OF JAPAN (1973)
aka Nippon chinbotsu, Tidal Wave
Article 3110 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-2-2009
Posting Date: 2-18-2010
Directed by Shiro Moritani
Featuring Keiju Kobayashi, Hiroshi Fujioka, Tetsuro Tanba
Country: Japan
What it is: The ultimate disaster movie

The disappearance of an island in the Pacific and an exploration of the ocean floor leads scientists to the conclusion that a change in the continental drift will result in the sinking of Japan into the ocean. The question is…what to do about the people?

The reportedly awful American reedit of this movie (known as TIDAL WAVE and featuring new footage with Lorne Greene) is 82 minutes long. The full Japanese version is 143 minutes long. My version runs 110 minutes and is sans Lorne Greene, making it longer than the American version but still a full half hour shy of the long version. I do find myself wondering what is missing from my version.

I can understand why the movie was recut and modified for American audiences; I found much of the non-destruction footage in this version to be sincere but rather dry and boring. I also found it sometimes hard to follow in detail, which may have to do with cultural differences. Still, there are moments where this movie goes further into the reality of a disaster of this proportion than any other disaster movie I’ve seen; I get insights into what it might be like for a whole people to be torn apart and to no longer have a home to go to. The scenes of destruction are quite impressive, but other quieter moments are just as chilling; when one character talks about modifying the maps, the mundane nature of the idea causes the immensity of the catastrophe to hit home. Somehow, I suspect the American version cut out much of the heart and soul of this movie as well as the dull parts, and, though IMDB lists both movies as a single entity, I wish they were separate entities; with a rating of 5.0, I find myself wondering how the votes would separate themselves out depending on which version was seen.

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