Vintage Pulp Aug 18 2021
SEA YOU SOON
Sometimes just staying afloat takes everything you've got.


Every once in a while Nikkatsu Studios surprises us with a restrained and serious movie, and Jûhassai umi e, for which you see a poster above, falls into that category. In English it was called Eighteen Years to the Sea, and the long and winding plot starts when top science student Aiko Morishita sees fellow student Kaoru Kobayashi win a game of death against the leader of a motorcycle gang. The game is to see who can wade into the ocean farthest weighed down by rocks and not drown. Aiko gets all hot and crazy watching this macho contest, and later tries the same game with her friend Toshiyuki Nagashima. They only look like they're trying to commit suicide.

The weirdness is just beginning. When a student at Aiko's school jumps to his death from a building, she's not horrified, but fascinated. Aiko and Toshiyuki decide to play another game of death, this time with pills, each taking one at a time, not planning to die, but risking overdoses in the pursuit of... we're not sure. Call it the search for some sort of nebulous existential revelation. In any case, they do overdose, but both survive. Those around Aiko come to understand that she has a screw loose. Meanwhile Kaoru, whose macho contest against the gang leader was the trigger for all that has happened, starts dating Aiko's sister.

We'll stop there with the plot description. Suffice it to say that, via the circuitous route director Toshiya Fujita takes to reach his destination, viewers are reminded that life can be hard—apparently even for gorgeous young college students. We don't mean to be glib. It's just that for uncounted millennia someone from both our mother's and father's branches of the ancestral tree had to survive cold, predators, disease, injury, poverty, human malice, and more, generation after generation, just to have their genes culminate in our existence. We would never risk casting all that hard work and luck aside seeking a fleeting insight. But that's just us.
 
Fujita, on the other hand, clearly thought he had something deep to say. The running time alone tells you that—Nikkatsu movies were often just over an hour long, but this one unspools for almost double that length, clocking in at an hour and fifty minutes. That's a lot of ennui. A lot of ennui. But Jûhassai umi e is good. Maybe even very good. It premiered in Japan today in 1979.
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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
October 22
1926—Houdini Fatally Punched in Stomach
After a performance in Montreal, Hungarian-born magician and escape artist Harry Houdini is approached by a university student named J. Gordon Whitehead, who asks if it is true that Houdini can endure any blow to the stomach. Before Houdini is ready Whitehead strikes him several times, causing internal injuries that lead to the magician's death.
October 21
1973—Kidnappers Cut Off Getty's Ear
After holding Jean Paul Getty III for more than three months, kidnappers cut off his ear and mail it to a newspaper in Rome. Because of a postal strike it doesn't arrive until November 8. Along with the ear is a lock of hair and ransom note that says: "This is Paul’s ear. If we don’t get some money within 10 days, then the other ear will arrive. In other words, he will arrive in little bits." Getty's grandfather, billionaire oilman Jean Paul Getty, at first refused to pay the 3.2 million dollar ransom, then negotiated it down to 2.8 million, and finally agreed to pay as long as his grandson repaid the sum at 4% interest.
October 20
1947—HUAC Hearings Begin
The House Un-American Activities Committee begins its investigation into Communist infiltration of Hollywood, resulting in a witch hunt that destroys lives, ruins careers, and makes Senator Joseph McCarthy the most feared politician of the era.
1968—Jackie Kennedy Marries
Former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy marries Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis. The marriage comes as a total surprise to the American public, and results in a terrible backlash against her and also makes her the number one target of paparazzi for years.
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