Zeiram (a.k.a Zeram)

If “Dog: The Bounty Hunter” looked like this and chased after aliens I might be interested in that TV show, but as it is I think I will stick to Zeiram, a series of two films in the early 1990’s that starred the doe-eyed Yuko Moriyama as Iria, an intergalactic bounty hunter who always gets her man – or beast – or other life form. The cult success of these two films paved the way for Yuko to become the only somewhat legitimate female action star in Japan during that decade as she followed these films with a few other fantasy oriented adventure films – two “Reborn from Hell” films, “Moon Over Tao”, “Kunoichi Lady Ninja” and even a role in the Hong Kong film “Tokyo Raiders”. The two films also spawned a number of anime's based on the character of Iria.


Director: Keita Amamiya
Year: 1991
Running Time: 97 minutes

Iria and her partner Bobo, a cheerful talkative computer, flit around the universe chasing after bad guys with a reward on their head (or heads). She is completely unflappable in any situation and as tough as a rock wall. Armed with super technology and weapons that range from swords to guns to land mines, she confidently takes on any villain as long as the money is right. Oddly, she and Bobo converse in an earth language known as Japanese – and I thought it was generally accepted that English was the Universal language. This time her target is something called Zeiram – a creature that they have very little information on except that it is coming to Earth - and so they arrive before Zeiram to set a trap to capture it. Iria figures this will be a snap and tells Bobo “what could go wrong now”. Everything.

To trap Zeiram, Iria creates a “zone” – which is a parallel continuum – you probably studied those in physic’s class – but in the “zone” the world appears the same as before but there are no living creatures in it. This serves two purposes – it allows her to fight and blow up things without any danger to the citizens of the world they are visiting (when that happens they can be fined) – and more importantly it allows the film producers to shoot the film without any extras and in empty streets and warehouses. After she has set up the “zone”, Iria is about to use her transporter machine to enter it when two hapless employees of the power company come to investigate an illegal electrical hookup. Kamiya (Yukijiro Hotaru) and Teppei (Kunihiro Ida) stumble into Iria’s lair filled with more computers than a Dell storage facility and manage to accidentally get transported into the “zone” along with their lovely female companion.
Zeiram shows up as expected – a tall creature looking a bit like a ratty Musketeer with his broad hat and face hidden behind a long cloak. Zeiram adorns his hat with an alabaster colored white head. He turns out to be a much tougher customer than Iria was counting on – nearly indestructible, armed to the teeth – and the white head is actually the brains as it can launch itself like a slimy eel with sharp deadly teeth at anyone – and once it has eaten some organic material it can create these vile gooey life forms that will attack on command. At one point it looks like Iria has managed to capture Zeiram and leaves the ‘zone” with the two earthlings and Zeiram together remaining behind – and of course he escapes and it is their lives on the line.
Much of this is enjoyable sci-fi fantasy for all ages – it isn’t particularly violent, there are no romantic overtones, the two humans provide the goofy comic relief and Iria is a great role model for young women with a yearning to become bounty hunters. The special effects aren’t bad at all – sort of equal to a Power Rangers movie – as Zeiran goes through some metamorphosis from his initial form to that of a skeletal like arachnid to a disgusting mutated mass of flesh that is filled with breasts and slobbering saliva. Yuko brings a sleek cool edge to Iria that may not be particularly emotive but that is imminently watchable.

My rating for this film: 6.5

Zeiram 2

Director: Keita Amamiya
Year: 1994
Running Time: 103 minutes

Apparently, the first film did well enough to bring back a sequel a few years later and for the most part it is the same story with a few modifications – such as Iria looking even more fashionable and sexy with a streak of gray in her hair. It is very becoming. She is back on earth – of all the gin joints and planets in the universe – and has actually made it her base of operations – it must be the great food in Tokyo. She is here this time along with Bobo to intercept a valuable item that was stolen by some alien criminals. That’s the easy part, but this gang then invites all of their friends to earth to help them kill Iria – they look like a group of out of work extras who escaped from a Star War’s convention.

Though she is able to use her flying umbrella to rise above this motley crew, they all have their guns drawn on her and are about to shoot when her “bodyguard” appears. His duty is to protect Iria and he has been programmed to be a perfect killing machine – forty dead bodies later seems to prove that out - but Iria is not pleased - "I knew some of them". The “bodyguard” appears to be another Zeiram like creature even with the small white head firmly attached. It tastes blood. And tries to kill Iria. Of course the comic relief from the previous film shows up – both Kamiya and Teppei end up being trapped in the “zone” created by the Zeiram as it tries to hunt them all down and kill them.
This is a case of the sequel being better than the original – it is much faster paced and practically has something happening all the time – it’s like the Adventures of Pauline as the threesome constantly avoid being killed. The production values are higher as well – though once again through the use of the “zone” it keeps the extras to a minimum and the sets fairly downsized. The action and special effects are quite well done and generate some mild excitement at times. In the end though it is really the benignly beautiful presence of Yuko that gives these films a certain cult cache and makes them go down so easily.

My rating for this film: 7.0