a.k.a. Buru Kurisumasu – Blood Type Blue
company: Toho Co. Ltd
director: Kihachi Okamoto
cast: Tatsuya Nakadai, Hiroshi Katsuno,
Eiji Okada, Keiko Takeshita
not on home video in the USA
UFO sightings are on the rise – a number of incidents around the globe are leading to military mobilizations and governments world-wide are on edge. In the midst of all these sightings a single connecting after-affect begins to emerge – the blood of those who have seen the UFOs is inexplicably turned from the typical red to a deep blue. Another side effect begins to emerge as well – those who have the blue blood also seem to have been graced with milder dispositions and almost an inability to become angry.
Amidst these strange events, prominent Japanese scientist Dr. Hyodo (the inimitable Eiji Okada) has vanished into thin air after being abducted by a number of un-named Americans from a hotel. Meanwhile, Minami (Tatsuya Nakadai) couldn’t be more pleased that his agency’s record sales are off the charts – a band called The Humanoids have released a pop song titled Blue Christmas that is taking the whole of the world by storm.
At a close friend’s request, Minami – a reporter by trade – begins an investigation into the blue blood phenomenon, a phenomenon that the governments of Earth more than willingly kept a secret. Initially skeptical, disturbing reports of blue blooded people being hidden away and even killed by world superpowers convince him that there’s something to his friend’s request after all. His investigation leads him, in a round-a-bout fashion to Dr. Hyodo, who was working with two subjects in specific before his disappearance – UFO research and studies on the blue blood of cephalopods like the octopus and squid.
Working with leads from various sources, Minami makes his way to America – he is laughed out of NASA headquarters in Houston after questioning about UFOs and ends up kicking around New York. There mysterious people begin pointing him in the direction of Dr. Hyodo, who lets Minami in on all the research he’s done – including the disturbing finding that people are being almost systematically changed through UFO encounters for reasons entirely unknown. They’re meeting is cut short when unknown American agents kidnap the doctor once more – another group chases Minami from their meeting place.
The governments of the world grow increasingly uneasy as the Christmas season looms and the UFO sightings continue to increase in frequency. Hushed discussions in the offices of CEOs and officials across Japan lead to military action – violent action is taken against the blue blooded people, who are not allowed to congregate in groups. Minami, having been relocated to Paris to cover the holidays, hears rumors that the world governments are planning some sort of major action for Christmas eve.
Through all of the social unrest, Japanese soldier Oki (Hiroshi Katsuno, thankfully given a chance to show his competent acting chops with better material than he’d receive on many of his future projects) has begun a relationship with Saeko (Keiko Takeshita), the attractive assistant to his barber. The relationship gains momentum and the two fall in love, leaving Oki all the more shocked when, after having made love to her, he discovers that Saeko is blue blooded. On call and knowing that his commanders are all quite concerned with the phenomenon, Oki continues the relationship until being called on duty just before Christmas. . .
It is then that the Japanese – and assumedly the world’s – military plan for Christmas Eve is made clear. Every soldier is given identification cards of their targets that list their names and addresses and include a picture – with the prospect of a country where blue blooded people outnumber the red blooded before them the talking heads have made the decision to eradicate the blues entirely in one violent night.
Apparently aware of his actions, Oki’s commanding officers give him the duty of killing his beloved Saeko. He does so, realizing that if he hadn’t then any number of other soldiers would have for him, and sacrifices himself by attempting to take down his bloodthirsty comrades as they wait for him outside Saeko’s house. Around the world similar action takes place as the blues are exterminated in Russia, America, Britain and beyond. In a final symbolic representation of love Saeko’s blood flows over the snow to meet Oki’s, and the end credits roll – leaving the audience to speculate as to whether this disturbing Final Solution was as justified or even final (given the steady increase in UFO activity leading up to it) as the powers that be believed.
BLUE CHRISTMAS is a strange little film, certainly one of the strangest that auteur Kihachi Okamoto ever helmed, that has gone relatively unseen since its debut in 1978. The veteran director of undisputed classics like SWORD OF DOOM  and JAPAN’S LONGEST DAY , along with writer So Kuramoto, handle some quite lofty social material in the film’s 133 minute running time – shots are taken, notably, at military extremism, racism, corporate greed, and political conservatism. The scenario itself – what would the world do if, suddenly and without real explanation, half of its population was altered both physically and mentally? – is intriguing to say the least and Okamoto’s answer to that question leads to what may be one of his most cynical films (though the ending is, in a symbolic sort of way, somewhat hopeful).
Okamoto staple Tatsuya Nakadai – seen previously in such films as SWORD OF DOOM  and KILL!  – gets a considerable amount of screen time here as reporter Minami. His acting is as superb as always and he takes on an almost Jeff Goldblumian air in this role. Also present is Eiji Okada as Dr. Hyodo. Okada participated in a wide variety of films, ranging in quality from the abysmal THE X FROM OUTER SPACE  to the inimitable HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR . His stand out role, at least in this reviewers mind, was in the role of Niki Jumpei, the entomologist who is forced into slave labor in the Hiroshi Teshigahara masterpiece WOMAN IN THE DUNES .
The best performance of the film is given by Hiroshi Katsuno, surprisingly in his first ever film role, as the soldier Oki. He would go on to play the lead in Toho’s disaster flick DEATHQUAKE  as well as a number of supporting roles in a multitude of films from 1979 to the present. Here he is allowed a wide range of emotions and attitudes in a character that, having seen the film, I can’t imagine being played by much of anyone else. Also present in minor roles are Shin Kishida, Eisei Amamoto, and a number of other recognizable Toho staples of the late 70′s and early 80′s.
The musical accompaniment is provided by master composer Masaru Sato, who provides an electronics-heavy score for the film – his main theme for the film may well be one of the best and most memorable of his lengthy career. Other notable crew members include cinematographer Daisuke Kumura – who provided the exceptional cinematography on films like SUBMERSION OF JAPAN  and Kinji Fukasaku’s VIRUS  – and production manager Takahide Morichi – who worked on a number of the Heisei Godzilla films, including GODZILLA  and GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE .
Excellent work from the director, composer, and stars of the film coupled with the strong subject matter of Kuramota’s screenplay make BLUE CHRISTMAS one of the most interesting films ever to come out of Toho Co. Ltd, but a few nagging issues keep it from being the sci-fi tinged dramatic masterpiece it very well could have been. Working against it first and foremost is the fact that the film is so light on activity and heavy on dialogue – in its 133 minutes you are introduced to so many characters doing so many things that it can be quite difficult to keep track of everything that’s going on. Toho provides some more of its always-problematic English language scenes here as well – while some are simply poorly acted (the press conference by the fictitious band The Humanoids) there are others that are nearly impossible to understand at all (the discussion between Tatsuya Nakadai’s Minami and a French reporter comes to mind – English is obviously not either of their first language).
And for every English language viewer of the film there is pop musician Char’s English version of the song Blue Christmas – this bouncy track dominates the soundscape of the film with its blaring musicianship and lispy vocals from beginning to end and can prove to be more than a little annoying from time to time. Since no amount of description on my part could possibly do the job, the song is provided here for your listening pleasure.
Certainly not a masterpiece and far from the type of film most Toho aficionados will be hoping for, this sci-fi-light drama still poses a number of important questions to its audience and explores a few of the darkest answers to them. BLUE CHRISTMAS is all but impossible to find in the west – WtfFilm purchased the Region 2 dvd of it directly from Japan – and, while it has played a few film festivals over the years, never received a wide release of any kind here in the states. Long and often tedious, the film is far too interesting for me to dismiss outright and is certainly worthy of more praise than it appears to have received. This one comes recommended, if only for the still-pertinent social issues it discusses.