Latitude Zero is another Japanese ‘tokusatsu’ Sci-Fi film, made by Toho, which features a hidden undersea kingdom, an evil megalomaniac, and futuristic submarines.
The film was filmed in Japan, but shot in English, with the Asian actors mouthing their lines phonetically, and re-dubbed for the Japanese market.
The film was produced in 1969, and stars western actors, Joseph Cotten, Cesar Romero and Richard Jaeckel, along with Asian actors, Akira Takarada, Masumi Okada and Akihiko Hirata. Joseph Cotten’s wife, Patricia Medina also starred as Lucretia, the lover of the evil, Dr Malic (played Cesar Romero)
It is written by Ted Sherdeman, who also wrote the 1954 monster ant film, Them!
The action starts when the crew of a bathysphere are caught up in undersea seismic activity and after taking a battering, end up trapped in the bathysphere after all being knocked unconscious.
However, they are rescued by a mysterious submarine. It is revealed that the sub is named, ‘The Alpha’, and captained by a man called Craig Mackenzie.(played by Joseph Cotton) It’s further revealed that ‘The Alpha’ was launched in 1805, and that Mackenzie himself, is two hundred and three years old.
They begin a journey to Latitude Zero, a secret kingdom set at that precise bearing, fifteen miles below the southern Pacific Ocean. However before they reach their destination, they encounter The Black Shark, an enemy submarine, ordered to attack The Alpha by Dr Malik, another superhuman who is two hundred and four years old, and lives on an uncharted atoll called Blood Island. Malik is opposed to Mackenzie and wants to see the destruction of Latitude Zero.
The Alpha manages to escape The Black Shark and enters a huge underwater dome and the entrance to Latitude Zero.
Latitude Zero is revealed to be a utopian paradise, where life is ordered and no one ages. It even has its own artificial sun.
Scientists and philosophers appear to make up most of the population, and like Mackenzie, are ageless. Some are seen wearing the dated clothes they wore when they first arrived at Latitude Zero.
Project teams from Latitude Zero are sent out to chose top scientists from all over the world and spirit them away . They are, however not prisoners, and can return to the surface whenever they wish, although things are put in place in keep Latitude Zero secret.
One such scientist and his daughter, on their way to Latitude Zero, are kidnapped by Malik’s agents.
Now that we’ve had the film’s preamble explaining Latitude Zero and its purpose, this is where the action really begins. Mackenzie and his new found allies launch The Alpha and set off to rescue the kidnapped scientist and his daughter from the diabolical, Dr Malik, who is busy threatening his prisoners with grotesque medical experiments. To press his point he takes the brain out of the she-Captain of The Black Shark, and pops it into the body of a Lion/Griffin hybrid, just to prove how adept he is at being thoroughly nasty.
Actually, at this stage, I have to admit some parts of the film do start to look a bit silly, as we are treated to monster costumes that even at the time must have looked a bit daft. But things still move on at a rollicking pace, with giant rats, jet packs, laser battles and a flying sub.
One of the problems is the film is full of unanswered questions. Its clichéd depiction of a utopian society where everyone is terribly nice to each other is a lovely idea but hardly realistic. Another question is just how did Mackenzie and Malik and all their chums acquire that mysterious longevity and advanced medical technique? Come to that, how was Latitude Zero created in the first place using 19th Century technology?
All in all, Latitude Zero is a fun, fantastical, fantasy movie, as long as you don't ask too many questions , and ignore the two blokes dressed as bats!