MOTHER Retro Read-Aloud
After some delays writing this up, I now present to you, faithful reader, a rundown of the movie that traumatized Shigesato Itoi and served as inspiration for Giygas, the main villain and final boss in EarthBound.
If you want to jump straight to the part that he vaguely remembers, click here. Otherwise, read on and enjoy the quick summary of everything.
Jan. 20, 2009 Update: I posted a video of the scene here.
Anyway, on with the movie!
First, some background info. The movie’s title is “The Military Policeman and the Dismembered Beauty”. It opened in theaters on August 6, 1957, and is 74 minutes long. This was one of the first movies of the time to show (or imply with details) certain violent things, like being chopped up, or being hung upside down and tortured and whipped. It was the 1950s, so this kind of stuff was still groundbreaking and shocking. Nowadays it almost seems comedic, since we have things like the Saw series. But this was a big deal back in the day, and the cult success of this film led to other movies in the “Military Policeman” mystery series.
Right, so let’s get to the movie itself now.
First up is some intro stuff. The movie is definitely showing its age The title music is pretty bad too, it changes speed like a bad record is playing or something. But I love these old time movies, especially Japanese ones, they have good atmosphere. Moving on…
The movie starts with this lady talking with an army guy. Apparently they were close lovers, but she asks why the guy won’t agree to marry her. He remains silent, and she tells him that she’s pregnant with his kid now. He stays silent, so she gets pissed and says, “Fine, I guess the rumors about you hooking up with that rich girl were true. I’ll just have to go to your squad captain and talk to him about this!”
She then shows him a picture that was of them together. Keep in mind that taking formal pictures with someone back then was a pretty big deal, so it’d have been obvious they’d been seeing each other for some time.
With no escape, the man says, “Okay, okay, I’ll marry you.” The lady is now very happy and the scene changes. But we never hear the guy’s name or see his face. Hmm, I wonder why.
The scene switches to what appears to be a grassy place by a river. The two are in the love-making mood, aw yeah. Just look at that ankle. Hot. The lady then gently lies down in the grassy earth and the man opens up part of her kimono. We see a tiny bit of boob skin, but back then that was probably red alert avert your eyes level stuff. This is part of the scene that Itoi remembers. He remembered the scene wrong, though; first, they’re lovemaking. This isn’t a rape. Second, he doesn’t grab her boob, and it doesn’t make a ball shape. I guess you could say it’s round, judging from that pic above, but come on, boobs are round by default. Anyway, we’ll see this scene again later, and that’s the scene Itoi probably saw accidentally. This is because…
Next, we learn that the Sendai Infantry has headed to Manchuria, meaning this movie takes place in World War 2, during Japan’s occupation of Manchuria. The infantry has been gone for six months, and the story now picks up at the nearly-empty Sendai Infantry base. Sendai is in northeastern Japan, incidentally, and a decent ways away from Tokyo.
Some low-ranking army guys are hauling up water from their well. They drink a little of it and instantly spit it out. They note that it stinks horribly.
While they’re complaining and spitting out water, Mr. Higher-Ranking Shirtless Man gets all grumpy and is like, “Hey, you guys! Don’t waste water! This water doesn’t stink, you do! This water is precious and you should be thankful you have it! It’s what keeps you alive!”
Just then, an even higher-ranking guy shows up and asks, “What’s going on?” Mr. Shirtless explains that they were complaining, and then goes to show them all that there’s nothing wrong with the water. He takes a big gulp like the macho man he is, but he instantly spews it back out and acknowledges its horrible taste and smell.
They decide to inspect the well, and immediately see something floating in the water. They haul it up, and find it’s a human torso wrapped in straw or something. Check out the guy’s eyes in the middle pic
They call up the local military police to investigate, and they call a doctor to come examine the torso to find out stuff about it. The doc says she’s been dead for about 6 months, and she was 22 or 23 years old and was pregnant at the time. The limbs and heads were severed surprisingly cleanly (ie not with an axe) and with something especially sharp.
Next up, we see all the army guys ready to eat their dinner. Except the rice stinks…
The senior soldiers of the group decide not to eat, and force the others to eat their rice for them. The junior soldiers try to force the rice down, but it’s not easy.
Just then, superior officers walk into the room and tell the non-eaters that they had better eat or else. Soldiers need to eat, after all. This is a short little scene that’s half-gross and half-comedy, but it’s one of the more memorable scenes of the movie
Word of the incident has made it back to Tokyo, and it’s now hit the papers. The fact the investigation is going nowhere is a bit disconcerting, so some detectives (of some sort) from Tokyo come up to have a shot at it. The head guy at the military base won’t allow it though, since they have no jurisdiction. The Tokyo guys get the cold shoulder.
A month of poor investigation by the local military police yields nothing, so Tokyo sends MP Staff Sergeant Kosaka, who’s known for getting things done, and done right. The day he arrives at the base, the military head honcho is like, “Uhh, shouldn’t he be here?” and this other army guy says, “Yeah, he started investigating the minute he stepped onto the base.” A few hours later, Kosaka shows up and greets the head guy. Now this guy means business!
Anyway, Kosaka and his assistant next go secure lodgings for the time they’ll be staying here. It’s half pub half inn, and one of the girls who runs the place is an old childhood friend of the assistant. Assistant Man is attracted to her now, but she plays dumb whenever he tries to show off. This happens throughout the movie, and is a bit awkward, but pretty standard Japanese comedy.
Immediately after this, Kosaka and one of those cold-shouldered detectives from earlier are seen talking, so the local MPs are like hmmmmm. Suddenly they’re very suspicious of him, and they like him even less because of this. Mostly it’s a pride issue, I guess. They don’t like dem fancy-pants outsider boys comin ‘n showin em up.
BTW, the guy on the far left of the third pic is the main local military policeman investigator. He’s pissed now, and from now on assumes everything Kosaka says and does is wrong. Let’s call him Jerk Investigator.
Jerk Investigator starts taking detailed testimonies of various people. Why he didn’t do this before, I dunno. Anyway, the first guy he talks to is a regular soldier who couldn’t sleep one night, and when he casually took a look out the window, he saw the squad captain sneaking around the well, carrying something large and heavy. Thinking nothing of it, he went back to bed. The captain came in shortly after and offered the guy a bunch of packs of cigarettes if he promised not to say anything.
J.I. continues to take testimonies from various people. One says that a girl named Fumiko suddenly vanished a few months ago. He then questions the owner of the place were she worked, and apparently Fumiko was head over heels for the squad captain. She had recently had a big argument with squad captain though. The lady wonders what could have happened — could Fumiko have other men she was seeing, and that was the reason for their big argument?
Immediately after this, one guy who was questioned calls up the squad captain and says, “It looks like the military police have found out.”
Next, Kosaka talks with a doctor guy. I guess in those days, doctors always kept human skeletons handy. Anyway, the doctor mentions again how unusual it was for the body to be cut so cleanly. Whatever the killer used, it was clearly something very sharp and unusual.
Kosaka asks the doctor how long it would take an average person to cut the body up like that. He says that if the victim was already dead, it’d take maybe an hour or so to cut a body up the way this body was.
Kosaka then takes a walk outside to think. Where could someone chop up a person and not be worried about being seen for a whole hour? And being out of sight for a whole hour when army security is very strict would be pretty tough, too. So where could it have been? Kosaka continues to wonder.
Later that night, Kosaka comes home and talks with another of those cold-shouldered Tokyo guys. Tokyo guy complains about how the military people here like to act all high-and-mighty, especially to regular police detectives like himself. Kosaka corrects him, and says that military and military policemen are there for the people’s sake, not for their own egos. Tokyo guy is incredibly moved and impressed, and offers to fully help Kosaka in any way he can. Kosaka gladly accepts.
Just then, a really old lady comes in. She seems to work at this inn, but I’m not sure in what capacity. Anyway, her son apparently needs major surgery, and she’s going to a ceremony to pray for his good fortune. She then leaves.
Kosaka asks about the surgery. The inn lady tells him that scary old lady’s son is a soldier, and he’s staying at an army hospital in the area. Kosaka is like, “Army hospital? Hmm…”
Kosaka takes a walk afterward and sees scary old lady fervently praying at the local temple.
Later that night, Kosaka looks at a map and finds the hospital and sees how near it is to the well, where the body was dumped. The two locations aren’t too far away at all.
Kosaka thinks that maybe the dismemberment took place at the hospital, in the surgery room. He’s not sure, but if it did, then the killer probably hid the head somewhere in the hospital’s vicinity before lugging the torso all the way to the well.
Apparently scary lady’s son didn’t survive the surgery, so a funeral ceremony is held for him at the hospital. Old lady and a few other people are there, and Kosaka and his assistant also attend. Kosaka sits in the corner, his mind seemingly hard at work.
Suddenly, we see all the lights dim except for light around Kosaka. He then sees a ghostly image of the dead lady, and it retreats through the wall and disappears outside. Kosaka takes a look out the window and finds a cat meowing loudly on top of a well.
Kosaka and his assistant check the well, and see there’s an opening has been cut into the grating that covers it. The hole is large enough for a head to fit through, as Kosaka proves by ordering his assistant to stick his head in there.
The next day, Kosaka has people check out the well. First, some clumps of hair turn up. Then a scalp with hair attached. And then a entire skull turns up. I thought it was hilarious how it came up all nice and neat in the bucket like that
I must’ve missed something, because it sounds like they found the limbs too. Maybe they were found along with the skull, I dunno. Anyway, Kosaka et al go visit the doctor guys again. Doctor guy says the skull and the limbs match the body perfectly.
Kosaka pays his respects to the deceased, and then starts to talk to the skull. He says things like, “You want closure, don’t you?! I swear I will find who did this!”
Next, Jerk Investigator brings in that squad captain. J.I. is certain Squad Captain is the killer, so anything Squad Captain says is ignored. He refuses to confess, so Jerk Investigator takes Squad Captain downstairs and shackles him up and then starts to whip him and torture him to get him to confess. Man, Jerk Investigator is a jerk.
In the next scene, Jerk Investigator vehemently insists that Squad Captain is the killer. His argument is that “he’s just too suspicious”. Luckily, Kosaka uses logic to argue that being suspicious doesn’t make one guilty.
J.I. then answers with, “Then do you have proof Squad Captain isn’t the killer, Kosaka?!” Kosaka says no, he doesn’t have proof. J.I. then says that Kosaka is in no position to belittle his investigation.
Kosaka says he can’t agree with the way J.I. is trying to do things, or the logic that Squad Captain is guilty, because of some circumstantial evidence. It’s true that Squad Captain was up to no good, but when he was seen lurking around the well with a heavy object, it wasn’t what it seemed like.
Squad Captain had been in charge of cooking at the time, and he had used his position to steal food from the storeroom. The heavy object he was carrying that night was food, not a body. He traded the food that night with a certain person for money. Of this, Kosaka is sure.
Squad Captain apparently did this so he would have money for his girlfriend Fumiko.
Jerk Investigator goes along with this, but says that Squad Captain killed Fumiko when he learned she was pregnant, because having a kid would be bothersome. He again asserts that Squad Captain killed the girl.
Kosaka says, “Hold on, now. The head and limbs that I found still haven’t been identified. We don’t know who she was yet.”
J.I. says, “It was Squad Captain’s woman! It’s obvious!”
Kosaka says, “It’s still too early to say that for sure!”
J.I.: “He’ll fess up sooner or later.”
Kosaka tells the guy in charge that he thinks the next important thing to do is find out who the victim was. Knowing that will go a long way.
Jerk Investigator is still a jerk and says, “You can do whatever you want, Kosaka! I’ll do things my way!”
And here is “his way”. They actually whip him without cutting or panning away. Pretty impressive for 1950s cinema.
Later, at the pub/inn, Kosaka’s assistant gets mad at some of the guys who’re working with Jerk Investigator. They keep insulting Kosaka, saying he keeps going to the hospital just to check out the chicks there instead of working. Assistant and J.I. guys get into a fight, a pretty cheesy one at that. Just look at that punch connect! And then the assistant guy acts all cheery and show-offy when that childhood friend of his says his name. She said his name to make him stop, not because she likes him. Poor guy doesn’t have a chance with her.
Meanwhile, at the hospital, Kosaka gets a list of four people who used to work at the hospital back when the murder happened, and gets pictures of them. None of them work there anymore (their tours of duty were up or something I guess), and there’s nobody around who knows any of them, so there’s nobody to ask info from.
By luck, a rich girl at the inn shows Kosaka a pic of her new husband-to-be. He recognizes the guy as one of the guys in the four pics. The girl tells Kosaka a few small details about where he once was stationed.
Kosaka later gets the help of his Tokyo friends and asks them to go back and look these guys up and find out if they know anything, seeing as they worked at the hospital at the time of the murder.
One of the Tokyo guys also mentions that soldiers that go to Manchuria often get photographs made of them for their families back home, loved ones, to take with them, etc. He suggests trying photography shops to see if any of the four hospital guys had photographs done, and if so, see if any of them were with a girl in their photograph. This might lead to figuring out who the victim was. Kosaka tells Tokyo guy to go check into it.
Meanwhile, Kosaka goes out to the place where that one guy from the photo was once stationed. He talks with two soldiers there who worked under him at the time. Kosaka asks them if there was anything suspicious about their former boss. Let’s call him Hospital Guy for short.
At first, they can’t recall anything strange about Hospital Guy, he was a pretty normal dude. But then they remember there was one weird thing he asked them to do once. He had them cart a weird, heavy pile of straw from the hospital to a spot near the well.
Back at the inn place, that rich girl and the inn ladies are all chatty about the upcoming wedding, what to wear, blah blah. Kosaka walks in and is amused by their goofiness, and wishes the girl luck in her new marriage.
In the next scene, Kosaka stares at the skull, talks to the skull, thinks about the skull. He feels a real sense of urgency, because if the skull doesn’t belong to Fumiko, then Squad Captain might get tortured to death because he didn’t do anything.
Just then, he sees the lady’s face again, this time on the skull. Pretty creepy, even for today. But then it gets uncreepy when he starts think-talking to the image he’s seeing.
After walking back and forth a while, Kosaka has a sudden revelation, and he smiles.
Kosaka shows his assistant that the victim had a cavity in one of her molars and recently had it fixed. Meaning a local dentist must remember working on her.
They bring in a bunch of dentists, and they all say, “Nope, that’s not my work.” Then one last old guy shows up and says, “Yes, this is definitely my work.” He looks in his records and gets the name “Yuriko Ito, age 21″. She was a maid at a local inn type place, but not the one Kosaka is staying at.
The lady who runs the inn Kosaka is staying at has connections with other inn ladies. So Kosaka asks her to go ask the one about Yuriko Ito. She agrees, because she can’t say no to him. I think they feel close because of a previous scene, but it’s lame and feels forced. But oh well.
Inn Lady goes to see the other inn lady and asks about Yuriko. She says that Yuriko has been gone since March, and that she received a postcard from her from Yokosuka, which is where a big army base is. At this point, we, the audience have to go, hmmmmmmmmm, because there’s no way she could have sent a postcard from another base in Japan since we know for sure that she’s been dead for seven+ months now.
Inn Lady shows Kosaka the postcard, which has a return address on it. It says she sent it from a shop in Yokosuka.
The very next scene has Kosaka’s assistant at that same shop — apparently their two paths led to the same shop. The shop owner tells Assistant that Hospital Guy went to Manchuria in April. Assistant asks where in Manchuria, pretending that he wants to send Hospital Guy a friendly letter. The shop owner says here, you can keep this, and gives Assistant a postcard from Hospital Guy, also with a return address on it.
Kosaka compares the two postcards and immediately notes that the handwriting is exactly the same for both. There’s no doubt Hospital Guy wrote a fake postcard from Yuriko to make it seem like she was still alive. Kosaka is now certain Hospital Guy is the killer.
Just then, the Tokyo guy who went to the photo shop returns with pictures of Hospital Guy with other girls than the rich girl he was about to marry. Kosaka thanks Tokyo guy and says he now has all the necessary evidence all lined up. He says there’s no doubt the woman in this picture was Yuriko Ito, the murdered girl.
They all then thank each other for their hard work to figure this out. Tokyo guy says he’s through with his job in a few months, and that he’d like to be an assistant for Kosaka when the time comes. Sounds like they’re already setting up for a series!
All that’s left now is to go to Manchura and catch Hospital Guy.
Inn lady overhears this and is sad that Kosaka will be going to Manchuria and that he won’t need to stay here anymore. It’s obvious she likes him, but Kosaka doesn’t seem to be to interested. Even so, Tokyo Guy does a creepy smile and says, “Don’t worry, I’ll be your best man at the wedding!”
In the next scene, Kosaka’s assistant is still trying to woo his childhood friend he has the hots for. He says he’ll be leaving soon, and she’s like, “Oh. Okay.” He’s very sad and dejected, but happy Tokyo Guy shows up and says, “Don’t worry, I’ll be your best man too!”
After Tokyo Guy leaves, the girl comes over and says, “Oh! You’re getting married? That’s great! Who’s the woman?” Assistant walks away even more dejected and heartbroken than before.
Jerk Investigator is still beating the crap out of Squad Captain, who we now know is completely innocent. He gets called upstairs, and there he finds that Fumiko is there, alive and well. She had just run off to Hokkaido for a few months. Jerk Investigator was certain that Fumiko was the dead girl, so to see her alive here is a shock. It also means that Squad Captain is completely innocent, and that J.I. had been horribly torturing an innocent guy for days/weeks now.
Kosaka explains the truth to everyone again, and the head base guy says, “Time to go to Manchuria and get this guy.” Kosaka agrees, and off they go to Manchuria.
Kosaka is now in Manchuria. He heads into some sleazy establishment where army guys hang out. Hospital guy is there, making out with some creepy lady. Kosaka sits down at a nearby table and quietly takes out a cigarette. Hospital Guy sees this and is creeped out. He knows something’s up. Maybe he recognizes Kosaka from the papers. Hospital Guy looks around the room and sees other strange people who seem to be undercover.
Hospital Guy freaks out and tries to escape. He throws a few people to the ground and then pulls out a gun and fires. Kosaka continues his pursuit.
Hospital Guy tries to take cover. He finds himself surrounded, though, and takes a shot at someone. This exposes his hand, however, so Kosaka shoots it perfectly. The guy still refuses to give up, so Kosaka shoots him again (while looking like a dork).
Kosaka comes up to the guy and shows him photographs of Yuriko. He says, “Look at these! This is the woman you killed! And this is a photo of the torso we found in the well!”
Now we’re treated to a flashback of everything that happened in the beginning of the movie. This is the scene.
First, we see them getting ready to make love. This isn’t a rape scene, it’s consented love-making by two lovers. There’s no nudity. Nor does he grab her breast and form a “ball shape”. She doesn’t say anything about pain or “it hurts”. There’s nothing at all, really. Anyway, the guy she’s with (who we now know is Hospital Guy) starts to strangle her, much to her surprise. The only sound she makes is one squawk. She either dies here or goes unconscious, it’s not made clear.
Next, Hospital Guy drags the woman to the surgery room at the army hospital. There, he’ll have time to cut her up without anyone seeing him. He even has good tools to do it with. This scene is creepy and cool at capturing this kind of atmosphere. We don’t see or hear him cutting her up, but it still leaves you with an uneasy feeling during the scene and after, since you know what happens right after the scene stops.
The next day, Hospital Guy has two of his subordinates haul the torso, wrapped in straw, to a place near the well. We saw this scene before, but now it’s in context.
The night Hospital Guy was going to dump the body in the well, Squad Captain was also sneaking around the well, since he was secretly stealing food from the army to get money. Squad Captain was seen by the well with a huge bag of something by one of the guys in the unit that night, but he wasn’t the killer. After Squad Captain had left, Hospital Guy continued his work of carrying the body to the well and dumping it inside.
Kosaka forcefully shouts, “This is the same torso you dropped in the well! The torso of Yuriko Ito!”
Hospital Guy is really freaking out now. But in a poorly-acted (or written) scene of craziness, he lets Kosaka handcuff him. Kosaka tells him he’ll receive the proper punishment for what he’s done.
Hospital Guy starts shouting, “Forgive me, Yuriko!” in a crazy voice. He reaches into the air and starts screaming.
Then the DVD goes to the DVD menu. Which is what you see above. That’s all there is.
Anyway, you’ve just fake-watched The Military Policeman and the Dismembered Beauty. Many of Itoi’s memories of the movie are a bit off from what really happens in the movie, but that’s to be expected, since he saw it nearly 50 years ago.
Hopefully this was informative (if not a little TOO informative).
Man, I never wanna do something like this again, took way longer than I expected
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