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Welcome to Latitude Zero!

June 6th, 2008

Originally posted May 5. Bumped to top of blog.

I think that the term “so bad, it’s good” is overused. Most bad things are just bad. It takes a certain, special type of awfulness, a combination of incompetence and insanity, to complete the circuit and become good again.

Plan 9 from Outer Space achieves it, not because–as Michael Medved would have it–it’s “the worst movie ever made.” To my way of thinking, the worst movie is a brain-numbingly dull one, and Plan 9 is anything but. No, here the confluence of nonsensical plot (aliens raising the dead to conquer the Earth and keep us from developing the Solarnite Bomb), famously awful Ed Woodian dialogue (“Inspector Clay is dead, murdered, and somebody’s responsible!”), and curious production details (Bela Lugosi being replaced by a stand-in a foot taller, with a different hair color) tip merely bad into “so bad, it’s good” territory.

That brings me to Latitude Zero.

Latitude Zero is one of the most obscure Toho Studios science-fiction films. Released in 1969, it was a Japanese-American collaboration, but unlike previous Toho films made with an eye toward the U.S. market, this one was weighted more in favor of the Yanks, with Joseph Cotten, Cesar Romero and Richard Jaeckel in the leads. The screenplay was by Ted Sherdeman and based on his original script for, of all things, a 1941 American radio serial. The latter helped me make more sense of the film after the fact, as it plays very much like a Republic chapterplay with its cavalcade of monsters, fistfights, submarines, mad science and personal jetpacks.

Out of circulation for many years, it was recently released on DVD by the good folks at Media Blasters, who have previously issued discs of more than a half dozen Toho monster/sci-fi flicks, from the surprisingly eerie Matango to the so-bad-it’s-bad kaiju romp Varan.

I bought Latitude Zero out of completism and curiosity; it’s one of the handful of Toho monster movies I’d never seen before. All I knew about it was courtesy of a few black-and-photos from the defunct magazine “Famous Monsters of Filmland.”

I didn’t know what to expect…but I certainly didn’t anticipate an submersible excursion into Ed Wood territory.

Next: Dive! Dive! Dive!

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