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May 17, 2024 88 mins

In this episode of Weirdhouse Cinema, Rob and Joe discuss one of the towering monoliths of Japanese weird cinema: Nobuhiko Obayashi’s “House” AKA “Hausu.”

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Speaker 1 (00:03):
Welcome to Stuff to Blow your Mind, a production of iHeartRadio.

Speaker 2 (00:13):
Hey you welcome to Weird House Cinema. My name is Rob.

Speaker 3 (00:17):
Lamb and I am Joe McCormick.

Speaker 2 (00:20):
Today on Weird House Cinema, we're tackling what might be
by many measures, I think, by my measure, the ultimate
haunted house movie. In another Haunted House property, nineteen seventy
one's Hell House, a novel by Richard Matheson. This was
later made into the Legend of Hell House in seventy three.
There's a description of the Belasco House, this haunted house

that's key to the plot, and it's described as quote
the mount Everest of haunted houses, due to the intense
sanity warping powers that it holds over anyone who attempts
to make it through the night there to complete the journey. Now,
there are various great haunted house films out there, and
I feel like the best of them excel in connecting

with something very ancient in the human psyche, right, the
essence of the damned place, a location that is so
just fundamentally physically or spiritually polluted that to venture into it,
to be there, to take place there is to just
absolutely warp your identity and connection to reality. So there
are haunted house movies that tackle this in a very
serious fashion, and you might argue that they tackle it

more seriously than the movie we're talking about here today,
nineteen seventy seven's House. But when the chips are down
and House is firing on all cylinders, I think it
absolutely delivers on all the goods. It absolutely checks off
all the boxes. For my money, right now, I'm going
to say that House is the Mount Everest of haunted
house movies.

Speaker 3 (01:47):
It's got to be up there, and like Mount Everest,
it may cause the kind of altitude sickness, maybe a
sense of dizziness, a visions of other figures climbing up
the mountain with you, may or may not be there.
It is a weird, baffling, life changing experience. House is
one of the weirdest movies I've ever seen, but that's

not an observation unique to me. It is widely regarded
as like one of the great weird movies of all time,
and yeah, I think it also qualifies in the subgenre
of weirdest and most interesting haunted house movies. Though it's
different than than a lot of haunted house movies, because
a lot of haunted house movies, like you're pointing out,

are about a house that's been polluted, a house that
has been sort of like made into a place of
evil because of something evil that happened there. You know,
like a person, an evil person, does something wicked inside
the house, and then that evil infects the house and
so forth. But the difference I would point out is

that the evil in those cases seems to be spurred
by human wrongdoing, and in House nineteen seventy seven, I
don't know if I'd say that's the case. Instead, it's
hard to say where the evil comes from. The person
who occupies the evil haunted house doesn't seem to have

initially been an evil or bad person, but someone who
suffers a kind of unfortunate fate and is transformed by
forces unnamed into a type of monster. And in that transformation,
it's like the house comes with her, you know, like
she and the house merge into one being that is
fully just an expression of monstrousness and magical predation.

Speaker 2 (03:39):
It's like tragedy plus time equals house. Yeah, that's like,
you know, like you're saying, she's not an evil person
and she had, she went through a great tragedy, but
it's like over time that is like spiritually fermented into
this new shape, and that shape is is hungry and
in many respects evil.

Speaker 3 (04:00):
Maybe it's a tragedy plus time plus cat equals house
because the cat. What is the role of the cat
in this movie? Could we last October did an episode
or a series of episodes about monster cats of Japan
that was October, wasn't it?

Speaker 2 (04:15):
I believe it was?

Speaker 3 (04:16):
Yes, Yeah, like the Bakan echo and stuff. There are
a number of different sort of cat ghosts or evil
cat monster entities cat yo kai in Japanese lore, and
we talked about a few of them shape shifting cats,
cats that the cats that might lurk out in the
wilderness and be some kind of monster. I don't know

if the cat in this movie is exactly supposed to
be supposed to correspond to one of these cat monster archetypes,
but what a presence it is. It feels kind of
like maybe all of the evil in the movie comes
from the cat, and it's not clear where the cat
comes from.

Speaker 2 (04:55):
Yeah, the cat is somehow key to it is like
a nexus point or a physical incarnation it's uncertain. I mean,
as I feel, like, you know, scary supernatural things should be.
They're difficult for us mortals to fathom. But we yeah,
we have this fabulous cat at the center of everything here.

And I think it also this is what serves to
make House not only a great haunted house movie, but
also a great cat movie. Like all the cat stuff
is completely on point and very cute, very cute cat,
very cute flu fear.

Speaker 3 (05:28):
This movie got me thinking about it what it is
meant to say about a character when a character often
has a cat in their lap. So this is the thing.
Actually I mostly associate with villains in films like Blofeld
and the James Bond movies. Is this villain who in
the early James Bond movies, I think you don't even
ever see his face. You just see the lower half

of his body. He's a man who's presiding over this evil,
shadowy criminal empire known as Specter, and he has all
these henchmen going out and doing things for him. When
you see the lower half of his body, he has
a fluffy, very flufy white cat in his lap and
he pets the cat while you know, demanding updates from
his assassins, and then later in the James Bond movies

you do actually see the face of Blofeld and so,
and he's played by various different actors, but in one movie,
for example, he's played by Donald Pleasance. And so you know,
we were sharing before coming in here, like images of
Donald Pleasants holding a white cat, much like blanched the
cat in house. What does the cat mean? Why is
the cat in the villain's lap, and what associations are

we supposed to make from seeing that image?

Speaker 2 (06:36):
I mean, in the case of Blowfeld, I guess kind
of you know, it's the idea of like a regal
sort of lap creature, but also maybe a commentary on
the nature of the cat. You know, the cat has
its own air about it. Though it's weird that owning
the cat is villainous in these Bond movies, and yet

James Bond kicks a cat. I would think that that
is me. That's that's the And also like the Forgo
what was this? I forget which one this was. This
may be the one that actually takes place in Japan
part of the time anyway, but there's a whole bit
where it's like oh, Blowfeld has a double which one
is a real Blowfeld? Better kick the cat to find
out which master it scurries to. And it's like, I

don't even know if that would work, Like, is that
really going to be the cat's number one? Moves like
to go back to a safe lap. I think the
cat may just go hide under something.

Speaker 3 (07:29):
I think there is something to be signaled about the
villain with the cat that it like makes them seem
more threatening and sinister, the fact that they are ordering
up murder of humans at the same time that they're
being very gentle and stroking a cat. You know, It's
like that contrast of of delicate gentleness and and friendliness

with one creature but cruelty to another.

Speaker 2 (07:53):
Yeah, I think that. I think that probably sums it up.

Speaker 4 (07:55):

Speaker 3 (07:56):
We've talked about House as a as a widely reputed
ultimate weird movie. We've talked about it as the mount
Everest of haunted House movies. But there's another thing that
we haven't really mentioned about it yet, which I think
is key to understanding what it is, which is the
childlike logic that operates in House. It is different from

a lot of horror movies, and I somehow connect this
to the fact that, say, the house doesn't have a
standard backstory of like human evil drawing in demons and
wicked spirits. Instead, it feels like the evil that infects
the house is just sort of totally unexplainable and random,
something that comes in and strikes and infects the house

and the occupant of the house from outside. That seems
much more in line with the way that children imagine
evil spirits. You know, you don't need that like backstory
of it being caused by someone's human wicked choices. Instead,
it's just it comes out of nowhere and it's scary
and it doesn't even need to be explained.

Speaker 2 (08:58):
Yeah, this is a a very important aspect of House,
and we're going to be talking about Nubuhiko Obyashi, the director,
who is also an actor in it and a producer
and director of special effects. But famously this, like the
key aspects of this film were inspired by conversations he

had with his daughter, who I believe was ten at
the age, Chigumi Obayashi, where he would come to her
and like, well, what what what do you find scary?
Tell me what what frightens you or what would be
I think he also said, like, hey, if daddy were
to make a movie, what kind of things would you
want to be in it? And and so she came
up with these various ideas that were all based on

just this child's eye view of the world, like, for instance,
so one particular thing. We'll probably run through most of them,
but there's a scary clock in the movie. And according
to her on the Criterion collection disc of this film,
there's a interview with her and her father from several
years back, and she says that there was this there

was this point where they were staying at this house
in the country, you know, family house, and there's a
big clock in the hallway and she would have to
cross by it in the night in order to go
to the bathroom, and she was frightened by the clock,
you know. And so it's the kind of thing like
humans are generally not frightened by big, dusty clocks and houses,

but children can be. And so the beauty of this film,
one of the beautiful things about this film is that
he took these ideas from his daughter and then you know,
added a little more traditional ghost story structure to it,
and then handed it off to the screenwriter. But yet
it still retains these very childlike views of fear and

threat and then sort of translates them to a certain
extent into a wider understanding for you know, any viewer
that may watch it. You don't have to be a
child to feel the fear this clock.

Speaker 3 (11:01):
There is a young person's creativity in the way some
of the scary images in the movie are conjured, so
like making connections that an adult might not normally make,
but then also a kind of a young person's fearlessness
in deciding what is scary. So there is a scene
in the movie where a character is fatally attacked by

pillows and mattresses that fall from the ceiling. I think
that is an image that if an adult were to
come up with it, they might think, No, that's silly,
that's not scary. That doesn't work. It just doesn't fit
the language of what is a threat in horror movies.
But I think I read this idea also came from
the director's daughter. You know, she was afraid of like

being attacked by mattresses from the sky, and in the movie,
they just they just do it. That's a scene.

Speaker 2 (11:51):
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think she mentioned in the interview
that it came from or maybe your father did that.
It came in part from going out the countryside and
having to sleep on futons and then fold them up
during the day and as a child, like the futon
is so big and it's kind of heavy, and it's
kind of falling on you, so it kind of feeds
into this idea.

Speaker 3 (12:11):
I never would have thought of that, but yeah.

Speaker 2 (12:13):
Yeah, I mean that's that's really the beauty of it.
Like these are all things that grown ups would not
have thought of. They come from the mind of children,
and the child's mind is capable of such wonders and
such horrors. You know.

Speaker 3 (12:27):
That was that.

Speaker 2 (12:28):
It's one of the joys of parenthood is getting to, uh,
to be on the receiving end of so many wild
and creative ideas that they just come up with on
their own, you know, because they have to this innate creativity.

Speaker 3 (12:43):
Yeah, to see to see the wild mental leaps and
the strange connections that a young brain makes that you
just you're seeing into something that your brain may once
have been capable of but is no longer like the
pruning has cut you off from from that kind of
connection across mental distance.

Speaker 2 (13:01):
So this again, this is a huge part of the film.
We'll keep coming back to this as we discuss the
making of the film and also get into the plot.
But yeah, I'm glad that we're finally covering House. It's
a film that has been on the Weird House Cinema
list for I mean really since the beginning. I mean
that's just if when you think of weird films and

you get into, you know, listings of weird films, it's
always up there. There's a you know, poster or a
recreation of the poster for this film in the front
window of videodrome the movie rental place here in Atlanta,
So you know, it's it's always been on the list,
and today we're finally talking about it. I guess I'm

gonna stick with the mount everest of Hunted House Films
for my elevator pitch. Do you have any anything to
add to that?

Speaker 3 (13:47):
Joe Worst summer vacation ever. Seven high school friends go
out for a leisurely visit to a countryside manor somewhere
in Japan and get and by various household appliances.

Speaker 2 (14:02):
All right, well, let's go ahead and listen to at
least part of the trailer audio here. I'm not sure
it necessarily makes sense to listen to the whole thing,
but we definitely want to get just a little taste
of that music, a little taste, especially of the title.
So let's have a listen.

Speaker 4 (14:26):
House s I see in your rise my ro.

Speaker 2 (15:36):
All right now, if you want to run out and
watch House before we get into any further discussion here, well,
lucky for you, House is widely available in pretty much
any format you might desire. Uh. Here in the States,
you can currently stream it on Max unless it's I
think it's still there.

Speaker 4 (15:54):

Speaker 2 (15:54):
It's also available on Blu Ray and DVD from the
Criterion Collection. And that's how I watched it. I rented
it from Videodrome and watched it on Blu Ray, and
I refer back to some of the special features as
we proceed. All right, Well, let's get into the people

who made this film, starting once more at the top
with Nuwahiko Obayashi again, director. He also plays husband in
this producer, director of special effects. He lived nineteen thirty
eight through twenty twenty. He was a Japanese director, screenwriter,
and editor known for his work in experimental cinema of
the nineteen sixties TV commercials, reportedly by the thousands, and

often involving the sort of Western celebrity appearances that were
parodied in two thousand and threes Lost in translation.

Speaker 3 (16:49):
Okay, so where you might have like a celebrity famous
in English language movies and TV come in and kind
of deliver some strange out of text lines for a
soda commercial in Japan or something exactly.

Speaker 2 (17:04):
And if you look up at images of him, you'll
find a lot of old images of him, like standing
around with various celebrities from the West. Now, this film,
nineteen seventy Seven's House was his first feature film, an
intentionally off kilter, highly weird, experimental horror comedy I guess
you might call it, but you can describe it many
other ways as well. Initially didn't land all that well

with especially with Japanese critics and in the industry, but
it subsequently developed a cult following in Japan and abroad,
and today it's celebrated as just a complete cinematic freak
out and stands tall amid the pantheon of global psychatronics cinema.

Speaker 3 (17:43):
As long as you're sticking to coherent narrative films, it
is one of the weirdest ever made.

Speaker 2 (17:50):
Yeah, and I do want to stress that it. Yeah,
it does have a plot that you can follow, It's
not one of these. You can definitely describe it as
as art house to a certain extent. Ty West, the
horror director, has a little bit on the Criterion collection
disc where he talks about it being an art horror film,
which he says, you see little of these days, in

part because studios want to bring ironically someone in from
the commercial world to direct a very cookie cutter horror
film that kind of matches up with the style of
everything else and doesn't stand out. But you do still
see some art horror films like Slip Through, and there's
some great examples of that for sure. But yeah, this
is a very artistic vision here. Well.

Speaker 3 (18:33):
Yeah, I think horror films are often thought of as
a cash grab, and in many cases they are because
horror films are, for the most part, relatively cheap to make,
and they tend to gross a lot more than their budgets.
But you know, something that might be true of a
lot of entries in a genre is of course never
true of all.

Speaker 2 (18:51):
Right, Right, So again there's a great interview with Obayashi
and his daughter on the Criterion Collection disc and I
highly recommend folks to check that out. But because it
also has a lot of interesting stills, behind the scenes
photos and so forth, and they run through several aspects
of the making of and the reception of the film,
and I just want to go through a few things
that really stood out to me and I think are

important for understanding how this film came together and then
how it was interpreted. So he says that at the time,
so we would be dealing with I think at the time,
like mid seventies Japan. He said that cinema was pretty
much in decline, in that young people did not go
to the movies. TV was what was really in and

even his daughter, who would apparently go with him to
the theater all the time, would comment that Japanese films
were boring, Like when he asked her what kind of
film should Daddy make, she would be like, Oh, don't
make a movie, daddy. Japanese films are boring. So a
lot of what he's doing is definitely trying to create
something different, something new.

Speaker 3 (19:54):
Bummer shut down by your child.

Speaker 2 (19:57):
But he says that a lot of aspiring filmmakers at
the time, like himself, didn't want to do commercials, but
he thought differently. He seems to have thought differently about
a lot of things. He points out that the big
thing is there was money in commercials. And the key
here is not that you would make a lot of money,
and I think that may have also been true, but
more to the point, you could actually work with a budget.

So again, like the Japanese cinematic world, according to him,
was sort of shrinking at the time. You couldn't get
these big budgets, but you could go into doing these
commercials and there was money there could He says that
ultimately the content might be meaningless, but you could experiment,
you could chase the visual expression of the thing.

Speaker 3 (20:37):
Yeah, and you see a lot of directors who eventually
end up making movies in all cultures. It's an American
cinema two that you know, they started in commercials and
also music videos. That used to be a big thing
because it was a place to just like work on techniques,
you know, whatever the actual content is, you're just experimenting
with ways of showing things and learning the craft that way.

Speaker 2 (21:00):
Yeah. Yeah, he speaks in the interview of turning experimentation
into expression, and that really seems to have been a
big part of his im at the time, certainly in
the production of House, which didn't even have any storyboards.
They intentionally they did not do storyboards for it. They
would just try things out and just like throw everything

against the wall and see what they could get. I
believe it's tie West and the extra that points out that,
like they use just basically every in camera technique imaginable
in the film.

Speaker 3 (21:32):
That makes sense because I would say that the visual
style of the finished product is incredibly chaotic. There are
just tons of different techniques on display, sometimes seemingly at random.
I want to talk about this later when we get
into discussing the plot, the sometimes the violation of cinematic
norms that takes place throughout the movie, but also with

in terms of special effects, in terms of editing techniques,
like it all just just crazy different visual stuff happening
all the time that does not feel part of an
attempt to select a particular visual texture that like a
lot of films do, Like they just have totally different
looking effects and styles happening back to back.

Speaker 2 (22:16):
Yeah, he mentions like having great admiration for filmmakers like Carasawa,
but then also wondering what would irritate Carrossola and then
pursuing that line of thinking that's great. So anyway, Toho
Studios famously was inspired by Jaws for this one. This
is often just thrown out there. It's like this was

this was an attempt to catch it on jobs. Well
sort of kind of, at least from Toho's position. Established
studio again realizes they need to they need to do
something fresh, and they look over and they say, oh, well,
this Steven Spielberg guy just made like this enormously successful
shark movie, huge hit from the mind of a young
emerging talent. Let's get one of those young emerging talents
and get them to make us a Jaws.

Speaker 3 (23:00):
And of course Jaws did lead to numerous ripoffs and
copycats in the American market and all around the world.
I mean, you can find the Italian Jaws ripoffs, American
Jaws ripoffs, They're they're popping off all over the place.
Jaws made a lot of money, and much like when
Star Wars made a lot of money, it spawned an
endless series of copycats, so did Jaws. So you would
get Jaws with a bear Jaws. Other people would just

do shark you know, shark copycat movies, Jaws with a
killer whale. There are so many.

Speaker 2 (23:27):
Of these, Yeah, and Obiasci points out that that's how
the grown up mind works, especially like the corporate mind
is like shark attack films are in, let's do a
bear attack. Let's do it, you know whatever, animal attack.
And that's the reason he turned to his ten year
old daughter for this fresh inspiration, like what what does
she want me to make a movie about? And so
she gives him this list of ideas. He adds this,

you know, basic ghost story premise, because he says, you
can't have the house eating people for no reason. It's
got to be a story reason. And then he hands
this off to the screenwriter and they have a script.

Speaker 3 (23:59):
In a way, it's so beautiful just to imagine taking
all of your, like your kid's weirdest, most messed up
ideas and just saying that's gonna it's in the movie,
in the style of the key and Peel sketch for
Grimlins too. It's just very much it's in the movie.

Speaker 2 (24:13):
Yeah, So it's impressive that the screen play was green
lit by Toho. They're like, all right, let's do it.
But there was still apparently a long run up to
actually shooting the movie. I think it was like a
couple of years.

Speaker 4 (24:24):

Speaker 2 (24:25):
And so during this time, they produced and sold the soundtrack,
they produced and sold a novelization, there was a radio
play of it. I was really surprised by all of this.
You know, I'm often not cued into all of the
gears of getting you know, the film from the screenplay
stage to the production and release stage. But you know,

it sounds like obashually put a lot of effort in
just like all right, let's do all these things sort
of to ensure that Toho keeps it green lit and
and knows that it's coming. He talks about like printing
up business cards with the movie poster on it and
handing them out and saying Toho is making this movie,
TOAs making this movie, and so forth. And I also
have to to say that, like in the interview and

the various photos, it's like it's very clear that Obash
was a very flashy, very creative, you know again, experimental
and establishment bucking young director, but also one who seemed
to be very personable with cast and crew, to the
point that he has shares this story about how the
lighting team ends up really coming around to him because

he addressed them by their names and they this had
never happened before in the production of Toho films. They
were just they were never addressed by name and like,
so he brought an entirely different vibe to the production.
And he also says that he made a point of
wearing a different outfit every day in order to sort
of keep the vibe up. So there are all these
interesting photos of him in various flashy outfits. He's often

got sunglasses on. Very hip hoocking dude.

Speaker 3 (25:54):
I think I read something about how in order to
get people in the feeling of a scene in the movie,
he would like play music while they were shooting.

Speaker 2 (26:04):
Yeah. Yeah, it would kind of like, I think, dance
with everyone, that sort of thing. Now. Obyashi was born
in Hiroshima, and all of his childhood friends, he says,
died as a result of the bombing. And he also
makes a point of pointing out that he incorporates elements
of this into this picture as well into the anti

war themes and other movies that he would go on
to direct. So he speaks of the in this interview,
he talks about the youth in this film. The Seven Girls,
as we'll get into that are key. So he was
about forty at the time, and he talks about like
the young people being too young to really know what
war is and as a result to fully appreciate the

joy of peace. And I thought this was really interesting.
I have to hear this after watching the film, because Yeah,
you think about the tension in this movie that's president
most horror movies, like the space between leading up to
the horrible things, and there is like this unnatural, almost
sickeningly sweet aspect to the sweetness, like it's artificial sweetener

leading up to those moments that you know were coming.
And it absolutely works in house like it like I
felt myself, you know, you know, getting chill bumps because
I knew something terrible was going to happen, which I
have to say wasn't what I quite expected from the movie.
Like I was expecting, you know, psychotronic weirdness and craziness
and all that, and I didn't really expect the scary

parts to be scary or to feel that the tension leading.

Speaker 4 (27:38):
Up to them.

Speaker 3 (27:39):
Yeah, well, there is a I would say this movie
is almost always in some ways trying to subvert its
own tone. So there are scenes that are very ominous
in what's happening, or they're conveying dark or sad or
scary information. And a lot of these scenes will have
things about, like the sights and sounds of the scene

that are lighthearted and funny, like it'll play jolly, sort
of happy music while something really sad or scary is
happening this, And then it'll do the opposite too, something
very lighthearted is happening on screen, but there will be
things about it that make it very ominous and unsettling.

Speaker 2 (28:20):
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Now, as mentioned earlier, critics hated it
at the time, many didn't even review it, and those
that did often were just very savage about it all.
But is he stressed the interview, young people loved it,
like he says, like like ten through thirteen were the
ages of people that were going out and seeing this
movie and.

Speaker 3 (28:39):
Too young for this movie. I don't know.

Speaker 2 (28:41):
I don't know. We had a an off mike discussion
like when is the appropriate age to see House? And
I have no answers, but hard to say ten to thirteen.
I guess at least in the late seventies in Japan.
But anyway, yeah, young people loved it, made it a
success in a way, kind of to the disappoint of
the studio establishment, and then ultimately some of the people

who loved it were future filmmakers, the people who loved
it were future film critics, and so it would eventually
be held up as one of the great Japanese horror
movies and ultimately, like we've been saying, one of the
great weird films of global cinema. So Obiyoshi followed up
House with a long filmography that ultimately broadened his mainstream appeal,

including several less nutty coming of age movies, but he
didn't abandon horror. His subsequent movies also include nineteen eighty
two's Cute Devil, nineteen eighty three's Legend of the Cat Monster,
nineteen eighty seven's The Forbidden Classroom, and nineteen eighty eight's
The Discarnates. The same year as House, in seventy seventy,
also made The Visitor in the Eye. This was a

live action manga adaptation, and his twenty seventeen anti war
film Hanagatami was actually forty years in the making. He
was actually working on the script for that film with
the screenwriter Katsura right before House. His last film was
twenty nineteen's Labyrinth of Cinema and again he died in

twenty twenty. Now his daughter is Chigumi Ogashi. She actually
appears in the movie. She's the shoe store girl.

Speaker 3 (30:18):
Oh yeah, yeah, there's a scene outside like a cobbler's shop,
shoemaker shop, and there is an old man and the
girl like hammering on some shoe soles. I think I
think this is where mister Togo, the teacher in the movie,
gets a bucket stuck on his butt and has to
go to the hospital.

Speaker 2 (30:35):
Yeah, in one of the goof here, just like Monty
python S sequences that occur in the film. Yeah, it's
just complete nuttiness, complete slapstick Charlie Chaplin esque and then
some I guess yeah, but yeah, keep a lookout for her.
And bucket butt scene is Yeah, it's powerful, almost as

good as a banana scene. Later on, Oh that okay,
And then the screenplay proper I mentioned Katsura. This is
Chiho Katsura, who lived nineteen twenty nine through twenty twenty,
so he was a Japanese screenwriter novelist, translator, and film critic,
whose work, based on what I could see of his
available filmography, included a great deal of Japanese pink he

erotic films, but he also worked in other genres, including
at least a couple of family films. He worked with
Obashi on several mainstream films, including again twenty seventeen's Hanagatami.
All right, but now we should mention that really on
the acting front, we have seven core characters. These are

the seven girls. Their names are Gorgeous, kung Fu, Fantasy,
pro or Professor Mac, which is short for stomach because
she likes food.

Speaker 3 (31:51):
Oh, I didn't get Mac.

Speaker 2 (31:54):
It took a while for me to put that together.
Okay yea Mac, Melody, and sweet. And they are all
exactly what their names imply.

Speaker 3 (32:02):
Right, So they're named after their traits. So Gorgeous is
supposed to be beautiful. Kung Fu is the jock of the group.
She can like she can do sports and kung fu,
and she's very decisive and active. Fantasy is a day dreamer.
She's Gorgeous's best friend and she likes to I don't know,
she's often daydreaming, though most of the things in the

movie where it's like is she daydreaming? No, they're actually happening.
Prof is very smart and logical, and she often has
a book in her hand. Mac is always hungry to
a ridiculous extent, like I think literally every single line
she says in the movie is like I am eating now, yummy,
you know, I want a watermelon.

Speaker 2 (32:46):
She just has a great metabolism. Though I have to
stress like, it's not like she's overweight or depicted as such,
Like she just is hungry all the time.

Speaker 3 (32:53):
Mac loves food and Melody loves music. She plays the guitar.
I think we see her with a violin case, and
she plays the piano. There's a there's a very unfortunate
piano scene where she gets her fingers bitten off. And
then there is Sweet, who is You might think Sweet
is the one who is into desserts, but no, that's Max.

Sweet is named so because she is friendly and like
gentle and kind.

Speaker 2 (33:18):
But yeah, still, it's kind of like the Seven Dwarfs, right,
like their names yeah tell you who they are for
the most part, except what is Doc. Yeah I don't
know what Doc Steal is, But these these gals names
all make sense. And apparently the number seven was was
important to Gosh because like teams of seven are or

were common in Japan now. In casting the Seven Girls,
he says that, like he pretty much depended on just
casting girls that he'd worked with in his commercial work,
so a lot of them were, you know, models with
very limited acting experience. They're basically gorgeous. I think it's

the only one who had had an acting career that
was already like emotion, but it was still still very early,
so he but he says, like this is also an
important part of the vibe, Like the acting from these
girls is kind of amateurish and it doesn't feel polished
or professional, but that, like other aspects of the film

are intentional, Like I think that's part of the intended
fabric of the thing.

Speaker 3 (34:28):
Yeah, there are scenes in the movie that have an
almost sketch comedy kind of feel, if you know what
I mean, Like characters kind of like stumbling over each
other with their lines, talking over other people's lines, and like,
h sometimes maybe it seems like they're improvising, but it
is clearly part of the fabric of the movie. It's

what they're trying to create. I think somehow it simultaneously
makes the movie funnier but also makes the characters somehow
feel more vulnerable when they are threats by the evil
magic of the house.

Speaker 2 (35:02):
Yeah. Absolutely, and in a way that maybe comparable to
how sometimes your b horror movies are more terrifying in
that they feel more like its documentary footage, you know,
like they're not actors, and it can, Yeah, it can
sort of warp your expectations and experience of watching it.
So anyway, I'm not going to list all seven actresses

who played the Seven girls. A lot of them again
were new to acting and didn't necessarily, you know, stick
around for more acting or maybe only have a handful
of credits. But the key exception is the actor who
plays Gorgeous. This is Kamiko Ikigami born nineteen fifty nine,
American born Japanese actress. She's been acting for a few

years at this point, having made her TV and film
debuts in seventy five. Her subsequent films include nineteen seventy
nine Is the Man who Stole the Sun, The Acclaim,
nineteen eighty three drama Yokiro, for which she was nominated
for a Japanese Academy Award. And nineteen ninety three's Lone
Wolf and Cub the Final Conflict.

Speaker 3 (36:07):
Now, the seven main girls are sort of an ensemble
of heroes, but I'd say I'd also say there are
sort of two main protagonists of the movie, and that
is gorgeous. But also her best friend Fantasy.

Speaker 2 (36:18):
Fantasy. Yeah, Fantasy is very key. Komiko Oba born nineteen
sixty plays this role. I'm also a huge fan of
kung fu. I thought Mickey Jimbo born nineteen sixty was
great in this Big Fu.

Speaker 3 (36:33):
You're so cool.

Speaker 2 (36:34):
Yeah, she is so cool, and she can kick ghosts.

Speaker 3 (36:38):
She can, she does. In fact, she can kick ghosts
even without her head attached to her body.

Speaker 2 (36:44):
But ultimately, yeah, it's an ensemble, and all the girls
are great. They're all wonderful. I love their caricatures.

Speaker 3 (36:53):
It's fabulous.

Speaker 2 (36:54):
Yeah, but again, most of them didn't have a lot
of acting experience.

Speaker 3 (36:57):

Speaker 2 (36:57):
The most established actor in the whole mix is the
actor playing the Auntie who they are visiting, often credited
as Auntie Carrie House, so I guess her last name
is House anyway, played by Yoko Minamieda. She lived nineteen
thirty three through two thousand and nine, a Japanese actress

best known for this film at least internationally, but with
credits going back to nineteen fifty two. So she was
a very established actor, but at the time, according to
the director, had trouble getting work in cinema befitting her
status and her talent. Again, so like cinema seemed to
be down at the time in Japan. So but it
was still it was a big deal that she took

this role, not only because she had such she was
an established star, but also it was key that she
took the role of an older woman, according to Obyashi,
because in Japanese cinema, certainly at the time and maybe
still this is still the case, there was no going
back for an actor or actress once you took an
older person's role. Apparently it was This wasn't even necessarily

like a double standard for women, as men also couldn't
keep playing younger characters as they aged.

Speaker 3 (38:08):
If like they had taken a role previously in which
it was acknowledged they were playing an older character.

Speaker 2 (38:13):
Yeah, like, once you take that older lady role, it's
like that's it. Now you play old ladies. There's no
sort of like midpoint where you can kind of play
both roles, but I have to say she's tremendous.

Speaker 3 (38:25):
Inness. Oh, she's so good, she's the best. Yes, there's
a really great scene where she's eating some food. I
don't remember what she's She's munching on something and then
just kind of like pops her mouth open and Yeah,
she has an eyeball that lives in her mouth and
she kind of looks around at people with it and
then closes her mouth like te.

Speaker 2 (38:45):
Yeah, there are times where she breaks the fourth wall,
and I mean you just kind of expect her to
crowd to the television at you at that point.

Speaker 3 (38:51):
Yeah, she's great.

Speaker 2 (38:53):
And really, the only other like main actor I would
want to mention is is the cat and or cats.
We don't know how many cats play Blanche. You know,
often you have multiple cats in a role. But really,
for the most part, I was just struck by what
a great feline performance this is. Feline actors are notoriously

difficult to work with, and even in the best of
cat related movies, often look like they really would prefer
to be out out of the shot and are more
interested in in like scurrying off screen.

Speaker 3 (39:25):
We were looking at some of those Blowfeld shots where
the cat looks like it's it's trying to be somewhere else.

Speaker 2 (39:30):
Yeah, so it's a lot of that obvious. Working with
cats is difficult, but there are plenty of shots in
this film where yeah, it's like Blanche just looks like
she's completely at ease. Here beautiful cat too, absolutely beautiful
white cat, very.

Speaker 3 (39:43):
Fluffy love Blanche. Hey you didn't mention him, but there.
You also had a credit note for the guy who
like operates the Ramen stand.

Speaker 2 (39:51):
Oh yeah, the guy credited as Ramen Trucker is a
trucker trucker. Yeah, okay, so maybe I don't know if
this is the I'm not sure exactly where he shows up,
but this is a guy named Shiochi Heroes who lived
nineteen eighteeneen through nineteen ninety just a bit player in
a one time stunt man. But he played King Kong

in nineteen sixty three. He's King Kong versus Godzilla.

Speaker 3 (40:14):
So he's the guy you don't there's a scene where
mister Togo, he's supposed to be coming to He doesn't
know that they're in trouble, but he they're waiting, the
girls are waiting for him. To come to the rescue
at the house, and then we cut away to him
and he's like at a ramen cart eating ramen. And
this is the guy I guess operating the ramen cart.
I believe so yeah, And we see him like stuff

a huge mass of noodles into his mouth and then
grin at the camera with the noodles in his mouth.

Speaker 2 (40:41):
Yes, all right, now come into the music. The music
is important in house A's say. Kobyashi has the composer credit.
He lived nineteen thirty three through twenty twenty one, Japanese

composer and occasional actor. And in fact he is in
this acting as well as the watermelon salesman.

Speaker 3 (41:08):
That is an insanely weird role to go to somebody
who's not primarily an actor like that is a weird,
weird role.

Speaker 2 (41:16):
It is very memorable. Apparently it took some convincing to
bring him onto the project, but Obyashi was insistent that look,
a ghost story needs the sweetest, most beautiful music in
order to land properly, and that's why I need you
on the picture. And he was like, okay, okay, I'll
do it. I also want to act in it. I'll
do it. But then he was like, you know, you

really need some youthful energy in this as well. So
it's like, I'll work on these themes and all, but
I think you should also bring in this Japanese rock
band so that they can like recreate some of these
themes and breathe additional life into the picture. And that
is where the rock band Godaigo comes into the picture here.

So this is a Japanese rock band, and I believe
named after the ninety sixth Emperor of Japan. They were
mostly active in the seventies and eighties, but I think
are still around to varying degrees, like I see him
doing press and all. They were notable for supplying the
music for the Japanese TV series Monkey and that this,
by the way, is the Japanese TV adaptation of the

Chinese novel Journey into the West that I think. Actually
it also got some air outside of Japan, like I
think I've read that it aired in Australia, for example,
so a lot of people even outside of Japan have
fond memories of this show. And also I believe there
is a scene in the movie where we see the
band just hanging around. There's like five of them, and

two of them I think two of them are Americans. Hmm.

Speaker 3 (42:45):
Okay, I vaguely recalled this happening, but I don't remember
when the movie it is. Maybe it'll be in my
plot notes here.

Speaker 2 (42:51):
I think it might be in one of those sort
of Sesame Street esque sequences where we see this kind
of like idealistic town. Okay, yeah, anyway, these are the
folks involved in the music, and the music in House
is absolutely bonkers, bordering on and seemingly just intentionally irritating
at times even bordering on madness and yeah, and other

times just super sweet or happy, go lucky or loaded
with this kind of resilient seventies hippie vibes, you know,
like like the hippie dream is degraded, but the music
is really insistent that it's still going.

Speaker 3 (43:28):
There are like pop rock anthems that feel very strange
for the for what's going on with the scene. There
is a main theme that I assume was composed by Kobayashi.
I don't know for sure, but the main house theme
that just plays over and over and over in all
these different ways, and that you know, the dun Dun

dun done it like takes on a kind of evil
magic of its own. It's like the it's like the
music is in some way responsible for the wicked magic
that is taking place on screen.

Speaker 2 (44:01):
Absolutely, and on that note, let's get into the wicked
magic of House.

Speaker 3 (44:06):
I love the animated title at the beginning, so there's like,
of course we get the Toho logo, but then there's
like a blue box on a black background with pink
and green text inside it that says a movie.

Speaker 2 (44:20):
Yeah. Ob Yashi says that this was key because he
had to remind everyone that this is the essence of cinema.
You can't dismiss it. This is a movie.

Speaker 3 (44:29):
I admit it. I admit it.

Speaker 2 (44:31):
It's a movie, but it's kind of telling because I think,
like some of the critics were like, this is not
a movie. This is just a series of commercials, this
is this is excrement. And so like even from the
get go, he's like, this is a movie. I believe
in the vision.

Speaker 3 (44:45):
So after it says a movie, we see some like
little white blobs jiggling like jello in space, and then
the little white jello smudges turn into letters that spell
House in English, and then the letters pop and a
voice comes on and says.

Speaker 2 (45:01):
Howse Obyashi also stresses that giving a Japanese film a
foreign language title, which is the case here, like the
Japanese title for House is house. He says this simply
was not done at the time. It was really kind
of taboo, and so he had to do it.

Speaker 3 (45:18):
Yeah, I was wondering what the cultural significance is of
using English specifically. Now. I know, in say, if it's
an English language movie, you might have a title in
another language that signals something. For example, I think of
a horror movie called Oculus. You know, that's like a
Latin title that I don't know. Something about using Latin

in your title suggests kind of antiquity, something that is
ancient and maybe kind of foreign and scary. I don't
know what the connotations of using English specifically in your
title would be here. But when I first saw the movie,
I didn't even think about it.

Speaker 2 (45:57):
I didn't either, But yeah, he points out that, yeah,
people hated this idea, so you shouldn't do it. This
isn't done. But like I say, he bucks those trends.
So he's like, yeah, I'm gonna call it house, but
we're not done with the credit sequence keeps getting more amazing, So.

Speaker 3 (46:13):
Yeah, then you've got like the white jello house, and
then the O in house grows teeth and turns red,
and then a woman screams. Then the teeth turn into
red lipstick lips, and then the lipstick lips open to
reveal shark teeth and an eyeball in the back of
the throat, and then a piano starts blinking on the soundtrack,

and then the o lips bite down on they bite
down on something, and then they spit out a severed
human hand, and then we finally cut to the action.
And what we see at first is a woman filmed
behind what looks like a green filter, and she's wearing
a white sheet like a hooded cloak, and she is
surrounded by what looks like beakers and glass chemistry equipment,

but also candles in ornate holders, so it's a very
weird shot. And then in a reverse shot, we see
a girl in school uniform taking her photo. She gives
a thumbs up, she says okay, and then the girl
in the photo throws off her cloak and walks to
the window of the room and we sort of zoom
out of the frame. Within the picture to just be

to just see one picture now. And this other girl
is also in school uniform, so she had like a
costume on. And these two of our main characters, I
would say the two most important of our characters, Gorgeous
and Fantasy. Gorgeous was the one who was posing in
the photo with the cloak over her head, and Fantasy
was the one taking the photo. And they're talking about

how summer vacation is coming up, and Gorgeous is going
to spend summer vacation at the fabulous villa owned by
her fabulous dad, which is in Kauizawa. And I looked
this up because I didn't know. Kauwizawa is a mountain
resort town that has long been a popular summer travel
destination in Japan and for international visitors as well. Seems

like it's kind of a beautiful forested mountain environment that
gets like a nice cool weather in the summer, and
like people travel from all over to go there. We
also learned that Gorgeous's father has been away in Italy
and he is supposed to be coming back tomorrow. A
later scene reveals that Gorgeous's father is a film composer

and that he is a rich and successful film composer,
and he's been away working for somebody named Leoni, who
says that her father's music is better than Morricone's. So
I guess they're saying he's working for Sergio Leoni.

Speaker 2 (48:36):
All right, sounds good, I'll buy it.

Speaker 3 (48:39):
I wonder what went into that decision why anyway, let's see. Oh,
but we also learned that so Gorgeous is going to
the villa and Fantasy and their other five friends, the
six girls together are going to go to some kind
of camp for the summer. They're going to a camp
by the seaside that is run by the sister of

their teacher, mister Togo. So it's mister Togo's sisters in
kind of complicated yeah, but ultimately unimportant, right because they
don't go there. So Gorgeous and Fantasy are best friends,
and they kind of tease each other. Fantasy Gorgeous teases
Fantasy for having a crush on mister Togo. Fantasy teases

Gorgeous for looking like a witch in a horror movie
when she was dressed up in the in the cloak
in the picture. They have a conversation with their Jim
teacher who is apparently getting married to mister Togo. I think, yes, yes, Okay.
Then there's kind of a montage of Fantasy and Gorgeous
being best friends. There are a lot of montages in
this movie. Now, while this movie represents a lot of

kind of lighthearted scenes of you know, just like teenagers
being friends, there it also represents I think, a lot
of the like dark side and frustration of being a
young person. And so there's a scene where like Gorgeous
goes home to meet her father and he's home earlier
than expected. So at first she's very happy to see him.
It seems they have a good relationship, but we learned

that Gorgeous' mom died eight years ago, and today her
father has some news he needs to share. A woman
enters the frame at the house in a flowing white
dress with a silk scarf blowing in the breeze, and
her presence feels very almost ethereal. There's kind of a
diaphanous quality to the way she's represented on film whenever

we see her. And this character is named Rioko Emma,
and the father informs Gorgeous that she is going to
be your mom now, and he says several things to
kind of try to soften the news. I guess he's like,
she's surprisingly good at cooking and other things too. You
won't have to mend my shirts anymore. But we can
just see that is like not the kind of appeal

that Gorgeous wants to hear. Gorgeous is hurt by this
because it seems that she hasn't really properly grieved for
her mother's death, even though it was a long time ago,
and she's not ready to accept a new member of
the family.

Speaker 2 (51:02):
Yeah. Yeah, this portion of the film reminds me a
little bit of what we'd get later in Jim Henson's Labyrinth,
you know, with Sarah and sort of you know, the
young woman's angst and so forth, And I imagine you
see that in a lot of other movies as well.
But the other thing, the main thing I want to
stress is that I think it's essential to note that
this is, in many respects the most normal part of

the film, Right. This is the real world set up
to the speculative elements to come, So it would be
the most boring part of your average cookie cutter horror movie,
and yet in house it's full of experimentals and varied
film techniques. I especially love the shooting through a kind
of what is it like a glass mirror lattice work?

Speaker 3 (51:43):
Yeah, yeah, very weird. And also I would say it
is strange in how fearless it is in depicting the
intense emotions of a teenager. So like, after this interaction
where she has this bad reaction to meeting Rioko Gorgeous,
goes back to her room, which is crazy by the way,
it has like purple walls with huge flowers painted all

over them, and she like, you know, she's got a
piano in her room. Uh, and she and she weirdly
like suddenly seems very at peace in her room, despite
having just run away from this family news that caused
her so much distress. But then she is acting kind
of like silly and dreamy, and she speaks to a
framed portrait of her mom and goes through a box

of old family photos, remembering like good times with her
father when he was proud of her, when she like
wanted a sports competition, and then she's just shown drawing
x's over her dad's face in the photos and saying,
I'll bully dad. I hate him.

Speaker 2 (52:39):
Wow. Yeah, it's a time of intense emotions.

Speaker 3 (52:43):
But also in the sequence she remembers her mom, she
remembers her in a bridal costume, similar to how she
cloaked herself in the in the Chemistry lab photo earlier. Actually,
and in she sees sort of a picture of her
mother with her auntie, and she says, I wonder how
auntie is. The antie in the photo is somehow kind

of animated, even though she's in a still photograph and
she is holding a white cat.

Speaker 2 (53:09):
Oh, that'll be important.

Speaker 3 (53:11):
Also here we should mention just that the presence of
music in this movie does not feel like no, I
mean all movie. Most movies have music, but the presence
of music in this movie does not feel normal. There's
kind of a constant soundtrack playing running under nearly every
scene that makes everything feel like a montage or a

flashback or something.

Speaker 2 (53:34):
That's a great point. And then there are choices made
later on, like visually stylistically that also give you that
feel like is this the present? Is this the past?
What's going on?

Speaker 3 (53:44):
Yeah? Now, next, at school we meet our gang of
student heroines, and again they're each named for something about them. Again,
they are gorgeous. Her best friend, Fantasy who's always daydreaming.
Prof who wears glasses, is a nerd. She's logical, she
has a book, Melody who's holding a guitar and loves music,
Mac who loves food and is shown with a donut,

Sweet who is very nice and friendly. And kung Fu
who is the jock and does martial arts. When we
first meet her, she like jumps up and karate chops
of volleyball that is flying toward the group, and everybody says,
you're so cool, kung Fu. Also, when we first meet them,
it's just a weird scene. They're like they're in a

school courtyard and there are just bubbles floating through the air. Also,
there is a fountain in the school courtyard with a
copy of the Venus de Milo in the middle of it,
like the armless you know venus just there. Yeah, So
they're talking about how they're all about to go on
vacation to the you know, the seaside inn of mister
Togo's sister for ten days, and they're bummed because Gorgeous

can't go with them. She's going to the country with
her dad instead. But mister Togo shows up in this
weird tiny car, and he's like, bad news is going
to have a baby. We cannot go vacationing by the sea.
But I was just thinking, did he not know this
was going to happen?

Speaker 2 (55:06):
I didn't get a lot of advanced notice from the sister.

Speaker 3 (55:11):
I guess yeah. And the girls bully mister Togo for this.
I think, he says, don't bully me. But there's a
new plan. Gorgeous suggests that they all come to her
Auntie's house in her mom's old hometown, And so we
see Gorgeous writing a letter to her aunt informing her
that all of her friends are coming, and she says,
I know we've only met once. Please don't think I'm strange.

Is the aunt going to think you're strange? Gorgeous, I
don't know this aunt. Yeah, but she says, you know,
she wants to spend time with her aunt like she
used to spend with her mom. Somewhere around here, she
just happens to run into a fluffy white cat, and
she says, cute kitty, where are you from?

Speaker 2 (55:55):
And instantly adopts the cat.

Speaker 3 (55:57):
The cat is part of the crew, yes, and named
it Blanche. So Blanche is the name of the white cat.
We see it sitting on top of the mailbox outside
Gorgeous's apartment, and she gets a letter back from her
aunt saying, oh, yes, come see me and bring all
your friends. So we know Gorgeous is going to go
visit her aunt and take all her friends with her.
And we also hear get a scene of Rioko, Gorgeous's

dad's new wife, announcing her plan to go later go
after Gorgeous and her friends go to the aunt's house.
She's going to go there and meet her so that
she can get to know her and talk to her
one on one. She says, this is my first trial
in becoming her mother. And again she's got this scarf
on her neck blowing in the wind in a way
that makes it I don't know, it just looks kind

of doomed or vulnerable somehow, like someone's it's suggesting like
a grabbing of her by the neck or something. Yeah, yeah, oh.
And then the very next scene we get is so
off the wall. It is this crazy musical number outside
a cobbler's workshop. There's a guy working on shoes with
a pipe and a cap. There's a young lady in
the leather apron. This is the director's daughter. There's a

donkey in the background or maybe a miniature pony, uh
and uh, yeah, it's just nuts. So, like, mister Togo
comes down to this scene, but like falls down the
stairs and gets a metal bucket stuck on his butt
and announces he will have to go to the hospital
for his butt bucket.

Speaker 2 (57:19):
Yeah. This scene is yeah, it has strong sesame street vibes,
and then it goes into just utter ridiculous slapstick territory.
It's in many ways, yeah, out of keeping with the
tone so far, but also perfectly in line with the
tone of house. Yep, it's hard to describe.

Speaker 3 (57:37):
There's a child drumming on mister Togo's bucket while he's
on the phone.

Speaker 2 (57:41):
This would seem to be aggravating the condition or I
don't know, I'm relieving it. I'm not sure.

Speaker 3 (57:46):
So without mister I guess mister Togo was gonna accompany
them somehow, I didn't fully understand this.

Speaker 2 (57:53):
He was gonna be chaperone.

Speaker 3 (57:54):
Okay, he's going to chaperone this trip to the ant's house,
I guess. But so instead they have to go without him.
So the girls are at a train station and they're
getting on the train and they're like, oh, who are
all these cowboys and rock stars? Or actually no, they
don't comment on it. I'm just wondering. There's yeah, the
train is full of Oh maybe this is where we

see Godaigo. I don't know. But there are cowboys, there
are nuns, there are sailors. The train is full of
all different kinds. Oh el Topo's on there, I think.

Speaker 2 (58:25):
Yeah, yeah, it's like this vision of I don't know,
like a very non conformist Japanese society. I don't know
what it is, like why they're cowboys getting off these trains.

Speaker 3 (58:38):
And blanches on the train too. They let cats on
this train. Somebody while they're traveling with the cats just
happens to say, any old cat can open a door,
only a witch cat can close the door.

Speaker 2 (58:51):
Ah, that'll be key. And also, if you haven't guessed already,
this is definitely a witch cat.

Speaker 3 (59:04):
Now Here, we get some backstory that's very important to
the film, But I want to stress how strange the
delivery of this character information is so gorgeous. Starts explaining
to her friends that her aunt and her mother they
were sisters and they loved each other very much. And
Gorgeous once traveled with her mother to meet her aunt

when she was six, but she hasn't seen her since.
And then like a film strip starts, and again I
want to say, there's no way I could identify that
they could be watching a film strip on the train,
But we're watching a film strip with like CPIA tones,
and it's like the girls are watching it too, and

they're sort of riffing on what happens in the film.
So as we see this stuff, I guess Gorgeous narrates
I think, or somebody narrates a long time ago, Japan
was in a big war. This is Auntie's house, her
late father was a doctor. This is my grandma, This
is my mom. Isn't she cute? And then one says

she looks like you? And then we see the ant
and her fiance, and her fiance is a very dashing
young man. One of the friends calls out he's so handsome.
They say he was a doctor and he was going
to run the local hospital. And the friends asked, you
mean they didn't get married, and she says, no, they
couldn't get married because of the war. So we learned

that her Auntie's fiance gets drafted to serve in World
War two, but he makes a pinky promise that he
will come back and she promises to wait for him,
and we see the auntie and her fiance kiss and
then he has to go away to war, and then
the film burns up and someone shouts a kiss of fire.

Speaker 2 (01:00:46):
Yeah, there's such a strange and wonderful energy to this
part of the film, with the optimistic and youthful responses
to this story they're being presented with and the way
they're riffing on it, so you know, it's they're amazing
and they're to be envied because they see mostly the
beauty and the romance in this story and they feel
it intensely and they're not you know, it's not like

they don't understand the tragedy, but and they're not getting
the tragedy, but they can't fully understand it, and or
their understanding of the tragedy is overpowered by their youthful
enthusiasm for the romantic elements of the tale.

Speaker 3 (01:01:22):
I think, yeah, that's exactly right. But then the backstory
goes on. So after the Kiss of Fire, we learned
that her fiance never returns from the war. We see
him revealed sitting in an almost comical looking in how
strange it is, he's like shown sitting in the cockpit
of a crashing airplane, just expressionless as the airplane goes down.

And then we later see after the war, Gorgeous's mom
marrying her father, posing for the photo that we saw earlier,
So she's in her wedding garments and the auntie is
beside her holding her white cat, looking unhappy and unfulfilled.
After this, Gorgeous explains that her aunt has been living
alone in the house for many years and that she

gives piano lessons to the neighbors for money. And then
somehow suddenly they are on a bus instead of a train,
just a abrupt transition. The bus stops, the girls get off,
and they are in a cartoon landscape. So they cross
these different types of backgrounds, a valley with mountains, a

cable bridge spanning a wide rocky stream. There's a path
through a forest where Sweet says she's afraid of ghosts,
Prof says ghosts don't exist, and Kung Fu implies that
she will use martial arts on any ghosts that appear.
Perfect Also through this whole track, Mac is just relentlessly
announcing the consumption of food, just yelling like yummy, this

tastes good. One of the last things before they get
to the house is the watermelon vendor scene, which is tremendous.
They come across like a watermelon stand and they remove
a watermelon from the shelf of the stand, and then
behind the watermelon is the face of the vendor which
is shaped which is very round and shaped like a watermelon,

making this bizarre expression, and then he comes out and
acts bizarre at them. I don't know how to Rob,
how would you describe this encounter.

Speaker 2 (01:03:18):
It's mad cap for sure, and I guess it is
worth noting that at heart this is a very This
is certainly a hard trope. Like this is the guy
that on the way to the haunted place, whose role
is to either say don't you go to that haunted place,
or as we see here commenting after the kids have gone,

I can't believe they're going to that haunted place. He
fulfills that role while also being this wacky character who
is selling watermelons.

Speaker 3 (01:03:46):
So the girls go on up to the house and
it's on top of a hill with walls grown over
by vines. They're owls diving around in the middle of
the day, and the gates creak open for them. Blanche
runs inside and Gorgeous's aunt greets them. She is seated
in a wheelchair, her hair has turned white, and she

wears these cool Ringo Star sunglasses and she's holding the
cat now. And I just want to point out it's
like the girls, as far as I could tell, there
was no point at which they question this cat magic. Oh, Blanche,
the cat was Auntie's cat, and it came to fetch
Gorgeous in the city. And now they're all here, and
that's just not remarked upon.

Speaker 2 (01:04:27):
No, they just roll with it completely. This is the
cat who lives here. I don't know where the cat
that traveled with us went. This is Blanche.

Speaker 3 (01:04:35):
Also, one of them tries to take a picture, and
Blanch the cat shoots green rays out of her eyes.
This will not be the last time Blanche shoots green
laser laser beams out of her eyes. But it makes
the camera fly in the air and smash on the ground,
and one of the girls yells sexy.

Speaker 2 (01:04:51):
I need to point out that even when Blanche is
not necessarily on screen, even when Blanche is not necessarily
doing that creepy green eye sparkle thing. We often just
get random meals in the soundtrack of the film, which
just keeps you on edge and like somehow keeps the
weirdness level up. No matter what's happening, you're just gonna

get some random mews in there and eventually musical meals.

Speaker 3 (01:05:16):
That's all right, like now mix of the thing.

Speaker 2 (01:05:20):

Speaker 3 (01:05:20):
Yeah. Also, I should mention even though they didn't buy
a watermelon from the watermelon stand in the previous scene,
suddenly Mac shows up with a huge watermelon and her
friends accuse her of stealing it, which she denies.

Speaker 2 (01:05:32):
She's like, I paid for it, and I trust Matt.
I don't think Mac would steal.

Speaker 3 (01:05:35):
I don't think Mac would steal. She paid for it.
She's got some watermelon money in her wallet specifically for
an occasion like this. So they go inside the house
and they learned that Antie can make her lights come
on by talking to them. That's cool mm hm, And
they're like sort of having a they're getting a tour
of the place, and the chandelier attacks them. It drops
crystal shards that impale a lizard on the floor, and

then it starts to drop a more crystal shards, but
kung Fu flies in the air and attacks the shards.

Speaker 2 (01:06:04):
Yeah, and then Blanche eats one of the lizards.

Speaker 3 (01:06:07):
Okay, and then Melody the musical friend is told about
a grand piano in the house and she goes to play,
but like when she gets to it's strapped with cobwebs.
They remark that there are so many pictures of the
cat in the house.

Speaker 2 (01:06:22):
And there are indeed so many pictures of the cat.
It's a constant delight to see all of the Blanche
are the Blanche iconography, as well as the various incarnations
of this cat in this house.

Speaker 3 (01:06:34):
There's so many weird things in the house that we
can't even We're going to reach a point where we're
going to have to stop doing a sort of one
of this minute plot recap and get just focus on
some specific things. But like one thing is they find
a skeleton in the house and they're like, oh, yeah,
grandfather used to treat patients in this room.

Speaker 2 (01:06:53):
Will this skeleton eventually dance randomly of its own power?

Speaker 3 (01:06:56):
Yes, it will perhaps, Yeah, And Anti explains how she
used to give piano lessons. But you know, nobody comes
here anymore. So. She's been very lonely all these years,
but now that she has all these girls in the house,
she is very glad. Something a little ominous about the
way in which she expresses her gladness. So they decide
to help Antie out around the house, and they split

up the jobs. Of course, Mac is going to do
the cooking, and Sweet offers to do the cleaning. There
is a moment in here where they're like moving around
the house and somebody gets a cat thrown at them
from off screen. I think it's Antie.

Speaker 2 (01:07:29):
Yeah, I think the cat quote unquote jumps into Antie's lap,
But clearly there was somebody just out of the shot
gently throwing the cat into her lap.

Speaker 3 (01:07:38):
Just riding around getting cats thrown at her, talking to
her appliances and furniture. At some point, we learn that
Mac wants to chill the watermelon in the fridge, but
the fridge doesn't work, so Antie suggests they put it
down the well, which they do, and just randomly somewhere
around here, Auntie looks at Mac and says, Mac, you
sure look tasty now there. This is just one place

to mention. I could have said it earlier. I could
have said it at any point. There is a very
chaotic editing and transition style to this movie. The rhythm
of cuts and the way one shot transitions to another,
these things do not feel normal for Japanese cinema, or
for any cinema that I know of, So I don't

think it's a cultural thing. I think it is a
unique to house thing. Just one example among many many
weird things. There are sudden cross dissolves, you know where
like so it'll kind of like fade out and then
fade back in on something on the screen. And normally
in a movie that indicates a transition forward in time,

but here the movie uses cross dissolves when the action
seems to be totally continuous, same time and place.

Speaker 2 (01:08:51):
Yeah, it's one of the many things that makes viewing
this film feel very psychedelic. It feels like some sort
of sort of an altered experience.

Speaker 3 (01:08:58):
It's violating like terms of cinematic storytelling that you don't
even normally think of that you wouldn't usually notice our norms,
and like you only notice them once somebody does them
differently than they're usually done.

Speaker 2 (01:09:10):
Yeah, Like I say, he's all about bucking the trends.
And same way he can do to irritate Kurosawa.

Speaker 3 (01:09:18):
Okay, so we're about to get to a scene, the
watermelon head scene, which I think a lot of critics
and film historians people who celebrate this movie have sort
of noted as a transition point in the film that
like things take on, just that things just get different
starting at what's about to happen. And so I think

this should also be the point where we stop trying
to recount what happens just moment by moment, because it
would be crazy and impossible to do here. But to begin,
we're going to talk about the watermelon head scene. So
after supper, Mack disappears. She says she's going to go
get the watermelon out of the well, and she doesn't

come back after a while, and so Fantasy goes to
look for her, and out in the garden by the well,
there's a beautiful multicolor sunset. There's soft focus on the camera,
like we are within a day dream, which kind of
makes sense because this is Fantasy going to do this.
She daydreams a lot, though it's strange because this is
definitely really happening. So it's almost like even Fantasy's regular

life is like a day dream. You know, it's using
the cinematic conventions of showing a dream.

Speaker 2 (01:10:28):
It's like we're in a really nice yogurt commercial or something, you.

Speaker 3 (01:10:31):
Know, exactly. Yeah. Yeah. And so Fantasy starts pulling up
the watermelon from the well. It's tied to a rope
and she retrieves it and it's you know, it's a
round thing. But then she turns it over and realizes, oh,
this is not a watermelon. It's Max's head and Mac
now has sort of blue skin like a vampire and

I think fangs.

Speaker 2 (01:10:54):
Oh my god, and it's alive or undead or something,
and it's it's hot. Horrifye. It's quite frightening. And the
build up to it has been exceptional, like everything's just
super sweet again, yogurt commercial, yogurt commercial, and then just
absolute horror.

Speaker 3 (01:11:10):
The head talks and then it starts flying around in
the air, and then it bites Fantasy on the butt,
and then it vomits blood and then it goes back
down in the well. Excellent, what a roller coaster. Yeah.
So Fantasy goes back and reports what happened, and her
friends go to see the head, but when they get there,
there is no head to be found. It's only a

regular old watermelon, which they decide to eat. Also, Auntie
is here and she like she stands up right out
of her wheelchair and explains, you girls gave me energy
and then grins into the camera while eating a slice
of watermelon. Also, this is the scene where she sort
of shows off to Fantasy and I think nobody else
that she does have a third eyeball inside her mouth.

Speaker 2 (01:11:54):
Yes, yes, all's a wonderfully creepy sequence.

Speaker 3 (01:11:57):
So there's all kinds of just like little little vignettes
of the various characters getting freaked out by stuff. So
like Sweet is cleaning the floors as she gets lured
to a room with a doll that has green laser
eyes like blanch does, and it whispers her name. Gorgeous
is taking a bath and she gets creeped on by

like wet black hair that comes up from some unknown
creature out of the water. It's horrifying. Kung Fu, in
a much funnier sequence, is attacked by flying wooden logs
like she's splitting wood and then the logs start attacking
her and she defeats them with karate chops. Yeah, there's
one point here where Auntie says, She's like, one time

I was excited to go to a restaurant in town,
and now I'm excited like that again. And then she
climbs inside the refrigerator and disappears.

Speaker 2 (01:12:49):
Oh my god, this sequence is so creepy. It's shot
in a way in such a way that the other
characters in the room with her don't see her suddenly
go into the refrigerator, but we do. And then I
think she re emerges in the foreground of the shot
and may break the fourth wall here. I can't recall specifically,
but she does break the fourth wall at various points,

as if to say like, yeah, it's me Auntie, I'm
gonna eat these kids.

Speaker 3 (01:13:15):
Yep, yep, dancing with the skeleton, eating a severed hand,
dropping a fried fish into a fishbowl, and it comes
back to life. I think we see her dancing in
the rafters of the house.

Speaker 2 (01:13:27):
Yeah. Yeah.

Speaker 3 (01:13:28):
There's also a sequence where Melody the musical friend goes
to play the piano again, and she of course plays
the house theme, you know, the Maybe we can get
a little sample of that, because you've got to know
what it sounds like. Sometime around here while like, you know,
Melody's playing the piano and stuff, Gorgeous sort of what

would you say happens to her? She kind of gets
possessed by the house. She's like looking in the mirror
and she starts putting on her aunt's makeup, and she
sees herself as her aunt with fangs and like like
she's looking in a mirror and the mirror shatters, and
then Gorgeous's actual face shatters, revealing animated fire inside. I

think the ghosts have taken her over.

Speaker 2 (01:14:18):
Yeah, it's another fabulous sequence. This one I think was
inspired by just the director's daughter saying, Hey, what if
my reflection attacked me, wouldn't that be scary? And of
course they've taken that and applied you know, the ghost
story logic to it, and yeah, absolutely wonderful.

Speaker 3 (01:14:36):
Somewhere around here is also the scene we talked about
earlier where their friend's sweet she's been cleaning the house up.
She gets attacked by falling pillows and sentient mattresses from
heaven and seemingly killed and then also maybe transformed into
a large doll by the evil possessed mattresses. There's one

part around here where somebody Togo, a mister Togo, their
teacher as like a prince on a white horse. They're like,
he's coming, he'll be here, He's gonna save us. But
it's so funny every time they're like these repeated cuts
back to whatever mister Togo is doing. I think he
is trying to find them, but he never does. They

show him like stuck in traffic in this incredibly tiny
like what is this car of his? Is it like
some kind of dune buggy or.

Speaker 2 (01:15:28):
I don't know, but yeah, he's he's trying to find them.
He's having no luck, and spoiler is eventually turned into
a pile of bananas.

Speaker 3 (01:15:35):
God, that's a crazy scene. Well, okay, we should just
say what happens in that scene. Then this is a
little bit later, so we're jumping around in time. But
eventually mister Togo he stops for Rama and he's Raman
at this Raman card. We see him driving around in
the woods at night like a complete bumpkin, just trying
to like find the house and being like, there's no
house here, And then I guess he eventually does get

close because he meets the water vendor, which we know
is just down the hill from the house. Mister Togo
goes up to the watermelon vendor and says, do you
know where the house is? The house, watermelon Vendor says,
the girls they were eaten. Do you like watermelons? Mister
Togo says no, watermelon vendor says what. Then he says, bananas.

Watermelon Vendor collapses into a pile of bones. His skull
floats and then emids smoke, and then mister Togo runs
away screaming banana, Banana. And then later it is revealed
that by the morning he has transformed into a pile
of bananas inside his car.

Speaker 2 (01:16:37):
Yes, that is what happens, and I don't know what
it means how it really factors into the rest of
the plot, but I guess defies to say he was
unsuccessful in being the white night for the Smithie.

Speaker 3 (01:16:51):
Now, all this while the girls are trapped in the house.
They try to escape, but they've been like locked in.
They try to call for help, but there's just like
weird stuff going on on the phone. Melody is attacked
by the piano while playing it, so she's like playing
the house theme, and then the piano suddenly bites all
of her fingers off, and then it proceeds to eat
her whole body in this mind rending cartoon musical number

where the piano is like chomping on her and there
are like various human organs and body parts just sticking
out all over it, like you know, like a leg
hanging out of a monster's mouth. And then Melody is
also still laughing as she is being devoured.

Speaker 2 (01:17:29):
Yeah, absolutely delirious.

Speaker 3 (01:17:31):
Yeah, gorgeous now sort of possessed by the evil ghost
magic of the house. Is dressed up like a pale bride.
In fact, I think she's supposed to look like her mother.
She's sort of become her mother in a way, but
she's also become her aunt, and we see her sort
of moving around accompanied by Prof and Kung Fu. At

some point here, Prof gets absorbed by reading this book
that I think is the ant's diary. It's a book
that contains lore, and through reading this book, Prof will
get more of the backstory that explains what happened at
the house. Oh but meanwhile she's Prof is like looking
at this book and just yelling like unscientific, illogical. At

the same time, Kung Fu is staring into this giant
steampunk Grandfather clock and sees an undead version of Sweet
inside it, and the clock is reeking rivulets of blood
down its glass front.

Speaker 2 (01:18:28):
This is probably a good point, Is any to mention
that Obyashi again was the head of special effects on
this film and said in the interview that, like, they
actually could have used Toho's in house special effects people,
who were quite good. You know, they've worked on various
pictures Godzilla movies and so forth. But he said they

didn't want to go that route because they didn't want
the special effects to be too believable, Like they needed
to have a certain unreality to them, and I guess
even an enhanced unreality.

Speaker 3 (01:19:00):
Yes, yes, yes, I mean the clock scene looks very
frightening and looks great. There are other parts that don't
look realistic at all, but I love the style. There
is one part where after Melody gets eaten by the piano,
we just see severed, bloody, disembodied fingers playing the piano
and still playing the house theme.

Speaker 2 (01:19:20):
Except mew style. Right is this when it starts being
like a meal?

Speaker 4 (01:19:24):

Speaker 3 (01:19:24):
I think that's right. Yeah, yeah. Oh. We learn more
from the diary of Gorgeous's aunt. We learned that, you know,
she was waiting for her fiance to come home from
the war in denial that he had died. And she
mentions that all of the young girls in the town
are gone now and she is all alone. M And

then suddenly, while they're like reading this learning about it,
a giant head bursts into the room with them, and
it is the head of gorgeous and she says, I'm
in my aunt's world now, and then she morphs into
a giant pair of lips, and one of the girls
yells huge lip, and the lips revealed that Auntie actually
died many years ago, and she became after she died,

and she became a jealous, vengeful ghost. I think the
idea is she she so longed for her fiance, she
wanted to marry him and couldn't accept that he had
died in the war. So now instead she is this
vengeful ghost that eats all of the unmarried girls who
come to her house. So I think the suggestion is

this may have been what happened to all of the
girls in town who were getting piano lessons one by one. Yeah,
And she says that when she eats them is the
only time that she can wear her bridle gown, and
then she says, now it's your turn, just let me
eat you.

Speaker 2 (01:20:44):
So yes, at this point, like the poster art has
come true, that the promise is fulfilled. House is a
house that eats people.

Speaker 3 (01:20:52):
So there's a bunch more stuff that happens. The girls
are attacked by various flying household objects. I do you
want to emphasize the house theme and how much it
is like just the objects one would find in a
domestic residence are all turned evil in the movie. Everything
that would be in a house, appliances, furniture, just household

items are all now monsters that attack the girls.

Speaker 2 (01:21:16):
Yeah. I mean we've talked about this on stuff to
blow your mind before, some of these ideas about how
significantly old household objects can kind of become animated and
so forth.

Speaker 4 (01:21:26):

Speaker 3 (01:21:26):
Yeah, So while they're being attacked by the house, prof
at some point realizes that in order to escape, they
must destroy Blanch the Cat, or perhaps destroy an image
of an image of Blanch the Cat, which is on
the wall. And so Kung Fu is like, right, got
my orders, and she tries to carry out this attack
on the image of the cat, but she is in

turn attacked by an overhead lamp, which latches onto her
skull and electrocutes her, and then like the lamp seems
to suck Kung Fu into a psychic vortex where she
perceives floating, rotating body parts and hears the voices of
her dead friends. But somehow she snaps out of this

vortex and the upper half of her body seems to
have been destroyed, but her disembodied legs fly out of
the lamp and kick the image of the cat on
the wall, which vomits blood and freaks out and leaps
up in pain, which in turn causes Gorgeous to gush
blood and scream like a vampire doust in holy water.

Speaker 2 (01:22:30):
And when the cat leaps up, it's kind of like
animated lightning cat. It's really all this has to be
seen to be understood. We can describe it to you,
but you just have to experience it. It's even crazier
than we made it sound here. It's also like, yes,
there's lots of blood going on here, but it's also
and it is gory. But I don't want to like
oversell that and say like, oh, this is just a

real gorefest. It's not because it's so weird and there
is this unreality to the effects. It exists in its
own demands.

Speaker 3 (01:23:00):
It's hard to describe what comes next. There's a lot
of like there's like cat images vomiting blood. Lots of
things vomiting blood. People drowning in blood. Yeah, floating on blood, floating.
There's there's all this blood. And then finally it seems
that all of the girls are devoured by the house

and that Gorgeous is something altered. She is somehow merged
with Auntie and whatever comfort you know, she offers to
her friends is a prelude to eating your soul. So
they weird to understand that all of the girls are
have their souls eaten by the house. But then, oh man,
the movie has such a stinger. The next day, Remember

remember Gorgeous's new step mom, Rioko.

Speaker 2 (01:23:47):
Yeah, she's scarf.

Speaker 3 (01:23:49):
Yeah, with the scarf she's driving through the country or
scarf blowing in the wind. She said she was going
to go to the house to uh, to catch up
with Gorgeous, you know, to get to know her. Uh.
And she comes to no, wait maybe she wait do
we learn whether she and the father had actually gotten
married yet? I think maybe they had not I think
they were going to get married.

Speaker 2 (01:24:09):
Yeah, I think this is still Like She's like, I'm
gonna go patch things up with her, you know, beforehand.

Speaker 3 (01:24:15):
Yes. So she's driving through the country, she finds the house.
She walks by the watermelon stand where we see mister
Togo has turned into bananas, and then she goes up
to the ants house. This bittersweet kind of beatlesy pop
song is playing. She wanders through the garden and it's
very dreamlike and ethereal, and she meets Gorgeous at the

house and is invited inside, and she asks Gorgeous, where
are your friends, And Gorgeous says they're still sleeping, but
they'll be up soon when they're hungry. They get up
when they're hungry, and then Rioko bursts into flames.

Speaker 2 (01:24:52):
Amazing, just absolutely amazing, like legitimately creepy and amazing.

Speaker 3 (01:24:57):
Oh and then there's like a monologue at the end
which I feel like I should just relate. I don't
see exactly how it connects, but it says, even after
the flesh perishes, one can live in the hearts of others,
together with the feelings one has for them. Therefore, the
story of love must be told many times so that
the spirits of lovers may live forever, forever, the one

thing that never perishes. The only promise is love.

Speaker 2 (01:25:22):
Yeah, I don't fully understand here. It reminds me a
little bit of the how on the nineties Outer Limits.
You'll have the narration voice come on at the end
and some things up in ways that sometimes feel a
little disconnected from what you just watched. But I don't know.
Maybe something's lost in translation here, or maybe it is,
like so much of this film intended to be a

bit off kilter. It intended to make you scratch your head.

Speaker 3 (01:25:47):
So that's how again. Truly one of the weirdest films
ever made, widely recognized as such, and I have to
concur with that opinion. It is there's not really anything
like it.

Speaker 2 (01:25:58):
Agreed, it is a masterpiece. This is a masterpiece of
weird cinema. Highly recommend it again. Luckily, it's pretty easy
to get your hands on if you're interested in watching it,
and it's definitely worth watching it. I mean, have it
on in the background if nothing else, but I think
you'll be sucked in. It's hard to casually watch this movie.

I watched it by myself and I kept catching myself
like making faces, you know, like my jaw literally dropping
at some of the sequences.

Speaker 3 (01:26:28):
It's like a dream that a cat had about being
a human.

Speaker 2 (01:26:32):
Yeah, it might be. It's as good of an explanation
as any. Well, there you have it, House. It's great
to have finally discussed this film on Weird House Cinema.
I felt like it was faded to happen at some
point or another, and we hadn't covered a Japanese film
and a spell there, so it was good to cover
another one here. Obviously, we'd love to hear from everyone
out there. Do you have thoughts on House, memories of

seeing it for the first time, hearing about it for
the first time, Write in. We would love to hear
from you. As always, will remind you that Stuff to
Blow Your Mind is primarily a science podcast with core
episodes and the Stuff to Blow your Mind podcast feed
on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but on Fridays we set aside
most serious concerns to just talk about a weird film
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Speaker 3 (01:27:38):
Here's thanks, as always to our excellent audio producer, Jjposway.
If you would like to get in touch with us
with feedback on this episode or any other, to suggest
a topic for the future, or just to say hello,
you can email us at contact at stuff to blow
your Mind dot com.

Speaker 1 (01:28:00):
All Your Mind is production of iHeartRadio. For more podcasts
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