As the final installment of Latitude Zero commences, Malic has just concluded transplanting the brain of his once-loyal lover Kroiga into the body of a surgically-grafted gryphon and sent it to “Kill MacKenzie!”
Flush with success, the ageless, mad scientist seemingly forgets that he’d intended to intimidate Dr. Okada into giving up the secret of his anti-radiation formula by turning Okada’s daughter into a bat creature. Instead, he commits a breach of etiquette by moving straight to his back-up plan of dissecting the doctor’s brain.
But first, he observes Captain MacKenzie’s group making its way across Blood Rock on his monitor, and flips a handy blow-up-the-cliffside switch to bring an avalanche down upon them. However, they manage to avoid injury from the falling rocks. This may be due to the protective combination of their corvexa jumpsuits and their swim in the Bath of Immunity, or it might be because the rocks are a poorly superimposed special effect. We’ll never be certain.
Elsewhere, Kroiga the gryphon begins to experience the effects of Malic’s “amplification serum” and grow in size.
Trapped in a cave, MacKenzie and crew suddenly find themselves in a Princess Bride crossover, as Rodents of Unusual Size (species Rattus zippersuitus) menacingly approach. Our heroes respond by firing paralyzing gas pellets from the fingers of their golden gloves, then beat a hasty retreat to another tunnel.
|“Hey, does anyone else smell cheese?”|
They emerge into a bone-filled valley venting poison gas into the air. As the choking fumes enter their lungs, Richard Jaeckel shouts “Bath of Immunity, my ass!” Or maybe that was just me. The corvexa suits–which, as you may recall, are woven from an impervious alloy of gold and platinum–don’t help much either when they encounter a lake of pure, purple acid. Koubo loses a boot when he ignores all common sense and tests the obviously evil, bubbling brew with his foot. Nice going, Koubo.
|“Too bad there’s absolutely no other way
to tell if this is dangerous.”
|“Madre de Dios!”|
The giant rats pursue them across the plain. MacKenzie and Ken Tashiro hold them off with their fingertip flamethrowers. That’s right, fingertip flamethrowers. Never mind how a pair of normally-sized gloves can accommodate gas launchers, laser projectors and flamethrowers, not to mention their assorted power sources and ammunition. It’s science!
Unfortunately, Koubo’s “elevation belt” improbably fell off and melted as Perry and Ken pulled him out of the acid lake, which leaves MacKenzie in a pickle as the now-flaming rodents continue their advance. Ordering the men to link arms, they airlift the beltless Koubo as the rats heedlessly plunge into the deadly liquid.
|This does, in fact, look ridiculous.||Turns out the rats were no smarter than Koubo.|
Back at Evil Medical Center, Cesar Romero is pissed that his newly minted gryphon ineffectually sits around utterly failing to kill MacKenzie. He grouses, “Kroiga was a fool as a woman; is she also a fool as a gryphon? Why doesn’t she attack?” I don’t know, Malic, do the words “Die, die, DIE!” mean anything to you?
He prepares to cut open Dr. Okada’s brain, which somehow involves pointing a sinister sun lamp at his head. From the gallery, Okada’s daughter reinforces a stereotype by shouting “Prease! Prease don’t hurt my father!”
At long last, MacKenzie bursts into the chamber and all hell breaks loose. Bat creatures swoop down, supported by thick wires. One attacks Ken and is promptly smacked in the head. As Perry grapples the monster, Dr. Tashiro rushes to the aid of Miss Osaka, and…kicks a bat creature in the ass.
|Sure, they can fly.
But they prefer the elevator.
|Ken Tashiro, Action Scientist!|
Malic’s galpal Lucretia moves to stab Dr. Okada with a hypodermic needle, but MacKenzie intercepts her. Petulantly, she plunges the hypo into the captain’s chest. However, the needle merely bends as it contacts his intermittently impervious jumpsuit.
Then, in what seems a supremely dickish move by a purported good guy, MacKenzie deliberately throws Lucretia onto Malic’s knife.
|“Into the mud, scum queen!”|
As Lucretia dies in Malic’s arms, the terrible twosome share a touching moment:
“Lucretia! I didn’t…I didn’t…”
“I know, Malic. I know.”
Okay, it ain’t deathless dialogue, but it is the most honestly emotional moment of the entire film.
I haven’t cared much for MacKenzie up until this point, but I now like him even less when I see the insufferably smug look on his murderous face. Malic doesn’t care for it either, urging his bat creatures to “Kill him!”
MacKenzie (or rather, his stunt double) does a quick tuck-and-roll, then begins firing laser beams from his all-purpose gloves. A bisected bat creature thuds into the cavern wall.
|Ladies and gentlemen, Joseph Cotten.|
Koubo lifts a man-bat over his head for a helicopter spin. Perry punches another in the face. And Ken Tashiro, Action Scientist knifes one in the back.
Now I’m even beginning to feel sorry for the bat creatures.
Malic closes the shutters, plunging the room into darkness and bringing forth a swarm of garden-variety bats which, due to a tragic miscalcuation of scale, appear to have four-inch wingspans. The distraction allows him to escape to his submarine.
As Koubo switches on the cavern lights, Lucretia’s dead body is seen to rapidly decay into dust. Why? Oh, why the hell not?
|“Aieee! Tiny bats!”||She should’ve moisturized.|
Captain MacKenzie leads the Okadas back to the relative safety of his own submarine, the Alpha, but Malic’s Black Shark closes in.
Malic launches a shell full of sparking glitter which settles over the Alpha and electrifies the sub’s controls. Again, the Bath of Immunity proves overrated as Koubo is burnt. Inexplicably, MacKenzie is able to overcome the electrical arcs with his bare hands and thrust the lever which disperses the glitter from the ship’s hull.
Undeterred, Malic activates a hidden magnet which draws the Alpha against the cliff wall, then begins to oh-so-slowly pivot his laser cannon for a final, deadly shot.
At last, MacKenzie reveals the “special modifications” that he’d ordered for the Alpha. Rocket engines fire and the vessel soars into the air. Because, honestly, it wouldn’t be Japanese sci-fi without a flying submarine.
Malic rushes to the cannon turret and lauches a furious fusillade. But the Black Shark itself is pulled against the cliffside. Hoist by his own magnetic petard, the villain initially fails to notice that Kroiga–remember her?–has chosen this moment to get off her dead gryphon ass and enter the fray.
The beast flies down and swipes at the laser cannon, knocking it aside. The cliff face is blasted, and rocks rain down on the Black Shark. Malic flails in futility, Kroiga claws at the turret, and finally the whole mess goes up in an orgy of Toho Studios-brand explosions.
|Hell hath no fury like a woman
whose brain was surgically removed.
|“Roar! I say roar, even!”|
Ken Tashiro, Action Scientist observes “Scratch one submarine.” Then as Blood Rock detonates as well, Perry pithily responds “Scratch one island.”
Later, back at the undersea pimple that is Latitude Zero, Perry takes snapshots of happy couples. Anne Barton has at last landed her Franco-Japanese love, Jules Masson. Meanwhile, Ken Tashiro, Action Scientist blissfully plays golf with a woman whom I’ve only realized just now is Miss Okada.
|Irwin Allen presents: Picnic at the Bottom of the Sea!|
Perry prepares to return to the surface world with his camera full of photos and his tobacco pouch loaded with diamonds. He questions MacKenzie, “You said, ‘Everything down here is developed for the benefit of Mankind,’ right? Well, when are you gonna let the rest of the world in on this secret?”
The captain responds, “Mr. Lawton, none of us is wise enough to know when man will live in harmony. Until then, we must continue our work here because it’s the only place on this planet where we can.” Makes sense to me.
We then enjoy a photographic montage of the surface world: scenes of protest, Communists, impoverished kids drinking from styrofoam cups, rocketships blasting into orbit.
After this bizarre interlude, we see a naval vessel which rescues Perry from an inflatable raft. Oddly, no one believes his story of underwater civilizations, baths of immunity, oversized rats and teensy bats.
|“Really, it was an alloy of gold and platinum!”|
Without warning, and for no explainable reason, the film begins to channel the final scene of The Wizard of Oz. The ship’s captain is a dead-ringer for Ken Tashiro, Action Scientist, and the commander is Glen MacKenzie (no relation), played again by Joseph Cotten.
A flustered Perry attempts to prove his tale with the film from his camera, which–as anyone who has even seen this sort of thing before will know–is completely blank. And the pouch? Filled once again with tobacco.
|“Son, what you’ve got here is a Toho Studios film.”|
Now, you may be thinking that all this “and you were there, and you, and you” stuff is a put-on: that Ken Tashiro, Action Scientist and Captain MacKenzie have disguised themselves to mess with Perry’s head and protect the secret of Latitude Zero. But then the ship’s lieutenant enters, and he’s played by…Cesar Romero!
After Perry is led to sick bay to dribble into a cup, the lieutenant receives a message sent to Mr. Lawton from a bank in New York: “Have received 600 carats of diamonds from unknown sender, instructing we hold for safekeeping pending your return.”
“How did the bank know that he’s aboard this ship?”
“Damned if I know, but it’s a cinch he’s the richest man aboard.”
Soooooo, the fine folks of Latitude Zero fogged Perry’s film and replaced his fortune in precious stones with pipeweed, but then they went ahead and deposited the diamonds anyway?
And what the hell is Cesar Romero doing here? Why the pointless addition of a “it was all a dream, or was it?” twist?
We’ll never know. The vessel sets a new course: “Longitude one-seven-six, latitude…zero!”