Latitude Zero: Chapter Two
When we last left the heroes of Latitude Zero, they had outwitted Kroiga, captain of the Black Shark. Then, after a brief discussion of sexual etiquette, they set course for the underwater settlement that gives the film its name.
The nature of Latitude Zero is somewhat unclear. It’s housed in a huge, white dome that resembles a pimple desperately yearning to be popped, yet it’s accessed through a secret tunnel in an undersea rock wall. A secret tunnel marked with a sparkly, yellow and purple “zero,” which might as well be a neon sign post reading “This Way, Malic.” Maybe they thought bad guys would mistake it for the entrance to a disco.
|Freudian symbolism alert.|
The Alpha surfaces near the shore of an island which appears to exist in an air bubble within the colossal whitehead. That means it’s time for a Toho Studios standard…miniature mecha porn! The next two minutes of the film’s running time are spent on long, lingering shots of the Alpha arriving, being cradled by a claw-handed gantry and extending its landing ramp. It’s what most of us call “filler,” but what the Japanese call “a four-page spread in Hobby Japan magazine.”
After Kuobo loads Dr. Masson into a waiting ambulance, MacKenzie takes Ken and Perry on a tour of his submerged Shangri-La, an idyllic land where the cars are electric, the artificial sun shines exactly 14 hours a day and everyone has time to visit the pool.
|And here’s where they make balloons.||Today’s forecast: Sunny. Always fucking sunny.|
|Richard Jaeckel, playa.|
There seem to be two types of people in Latitude Zero: respected scientists and babes in swimwear. Presumably the latter are an inducement when recruiting the former. Gold, extracted from seawater, is so abundant there that much of the swimwear is made from it.
|“Hi! Have you met my concubine?”||Latitude Zero understands the need for
girls on trampolines.
|The ’70s are right around the corner, folks.||Actual dialogue: “How was the volcano?” “Erupting!”|
Meanwhile, at the “rehabilitation center,” Dr. Barton is seeing to the recuperating Jules Masson, who continues to harbor the illusion that he is French. Anne finds him confusing yet appealing.
|“Take out Spare Ribs for one hundred dollars!”|
This section of the film goes on for a bit, and unlike Captain MacKenzie, I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice to say that in Latitude Zero, everyone lives in peace and harmony. Greed has been eliminated. People piss champagne and crap diamonds.
In fact, they literally use diamonds to fill their planters the way we unenlightened mortals use glass beads. Perry stuffs his tobacco pouch with a million dollars of sparkling stones.
And it should go without saying that there’s nothing as de’classe’ as fast food restaurants at the bottom of the sea. Instead, wall slots dispense dinners from the central kitchen, where scientists cook as a hobby.
|Actual dialogue: “Today’s chef is Dr. Neudorro, a mineralogist. Don’t worry, you won’t find any stones in your steak!”||It’s Lobster Night at Old Country Buffet.|
Back on Blood Rock, Malic fumes as he ruminates on the difficulty of destroying MacKenzie. More bad news comes when he learns that his Tokyo agents have failed to kidnap the prominent scientist Dr. Okada. Malic not only wants Okada for his anti-radiation formula, but as bait to lure MacKenzie outside the protection of his impregnable dome. Lucretia worries that MacKenzie is being invited to invade Blood Rock, but perks up when she learns that Malic intends one final mission for her rival Kroiga–intercepting the boat ferrying Dr. Okada to Hawaii–before he “retires her from service.”
The next morning, Perry, Ken and the fully recovered Jules are reunited, and given spiffy new surface world-style suits. MacKenzie, never one to miss a chance to prattle on about his technological paradise, shows off a model of the transforming cars his own agents use when recruiting scientists from above.
|Also available from the Latitude Zero gift shop.|
The scientists who willingly emigrate to Latitude Zero are believed to have defected to the other side of the Cold War. Under the sea, they work on boons rather than bombs. Their results are secretly distributed back to the surface through the old “switch the notebook pages” trick.
Meanwhile, bad things are brewing. The Black Shark retrieves Dr. Okada and his daughter, and reports of the hijack hit the international news.
|Miss Okada enjoyed picking her father’s nose.|
|“Sir, I’ve got Orson Welles on Line 2.”||It’s GHN: Giant Head News!|
Back at Blood Rock, Malic and Kroiga share a moment in which he promises that he will reward his “little one” with some alone time together. But before we can firmly implant the image of Cesar Romero bumping uglies into our heads, he ushers Kroiga into a small room to await him…then pushes the “Big Yellow Cage” button. Apparently, this is not the foreplay Kroiga expected, and she cries, “Malic, daaaaaaamn youuuu!”
|Honestly, I think this is preferable to the prospect of naked Cesar Romero.|
Okada refuses to share the secret of his serum, which could allow a rogue nuclear state to immunize its population against radiation and than indiscriminately destroy its opposition. Because the retaliatory nukes would bounce harmlessly off its cities and infrastructure.
Malic introduces his captives to one of his experiments, comically hideous bat creatures, and threatens to turn Okada’s daughter into one of them unless he cooperates. Then he plays his trump card: the ability to surgically remove Okada’s brain and dissect its “memory bank!”
As Malic and Lucretia retire, Okada activates a homing device that Latitude Zero’s agents have hidden in his eyeglasses.
|Actual dialogue: “You’re a monster!” “No, I’m a genius!”|
The stage is set, the players are in place. Soon, it’ll be time for the ultimate confrontation between Malic and MacKenzie for the fate of the world.
- Will Miss Okada be forced to wear a bat costume?
- Will Dr. Masson realize that he is Japanese?
- Will Malic and MacKenzie confess their love at last?
The answers to these and other burning questions will all be revealed!
Next: Assault on Blood Rock!