Virus (aka Fukkatsu No Hi)
dir. Kinji Fukasaku
cast: Sonny Chiba, George Kennedy, Bo Svenson, Henry Silva, Chuck Connors, Masao Kusakari
A genetically engineered virus is accidentally released, killing off vast numbers of people. As governments bicker, hospitals are overwhelmed, martial law is declared and soon the only survivors are international outposts in Antarctica, who now have to cope with being the last people on Earth. This throws up other problems for them, such as there being 855 men and only 8 women. Worse than this, they realise that an earthquake could set off the USA's automatic retaliation system (which had been armed by a belligerent general in his death throws played with characteristic bad assness by Henry Silva), launching a nuclear strike at the USSR, whose own automated system would then fire off their missiles, including one aimed at the Antarctic, where they were convinced the USA had a secret base. A couple of scientists travel to Washington DC to try and disarm the system. They fail, and nuclear war ensues. The surviving scientist treks the length of South America to re-join the survivors of the Antarctic colony.
A lavish Japanese production, this was the biggest budget Japanese film of it's time, with a cast of Western actors used alongside the Japanese with an eye to breaking into Western markets. Unfortunately, the film never got a full release, eventually make it to TV in a heavily cut down form. Most Western versions are 108 minutes as opposed to 156 minute original. Most of what excised are scenes with the crew of the Japanese station (including a powerful scene where they make radio contact with an orphaned child in the USA) and the final trek to South America. The shorter version still makes sense though does feel hurried. It's a real shame as it's actually a good movie; the story's compelling, the cast give good performances (and it's a stable of great contemporary b-movie stars) and it actually has the budget to show the martial law, piles of burning bodies and so on most films only hint at. The film's now public domain and is a poundshop DVD staple, but it's worth tracking down the full version.