Meteor strike, nuclear war, zombie outbreak. All ways our world could end horribly where the dead are the lucky ones (as the various movie posters would undoubtedly exclaim). But there is another apocalypse we should add to the list. To the top of the list that is. Big budget foreign end of the world movie riddled with actors familiar from mainstream domestic film and TV cashing easy paychecks.
If your typical Irwin Allen disaster film starring a bevy of fading legends, TV refugees, has-beens, and stars making another mortgage payment are run of the mill, uh, disasters, when you have the same thing, but made by a Japanese film company, it results in all of that but with abysmal syrupy ballad theme song, embarrassing attempts at being preachy and arty and a focus on some Japanese guy that seems completely out of place with all the big names in the film. I mean, what kind of world am I living in when Bo Svenson dies trying to save what’s left of things while Masao Kusakari survives? Obviously, a world that deserves to be destroyed!
When it was released Virus was the most expensive Japanese movie ever made. I can only assume that the budget was paying for bad movie in bulk because this clocks in at a sumo-sized 2 hours and 46 minutes! This allows the film to tell its silly story of a super virus that kills everyone on Earth but 800 odd people in Antarctica and the crew of a British submarine at such a slow pace, you’ll feel like you died three or four times from the plague!
MM88 is a deadly virus developed by the military, but as is want to happen with such things, it gets stolen and released on an unsuspecting world. The movie then takes forever to dramatize its effect on civilization, but does so in a decidedly dull manner, showing a succession of people getting sick and dropping dead, while cutting periodically to the military and the White House as they ineffectively wring their hands over the situation.
Glenn Ford, Robert Vaughn and Henry Silva all humiliate themselves to varying degrees as the president, senator, and general respectively. Both Ford and Vaughn have death scenes that evoke laughter while Silva seems under the mistaken impression that he is in a parody film about idiotic military hawks, spitting out his lines at the top of lungs, most hilariously after everyone but him and the president is dead and he is still demanding the authority to activate the Automated Reaction System (ARS) which would launch nukes at the Soviet Union if it detects that nukes were launched at America.
Since the virus is dormant in extremely cold weather, only the folks at the various research stations in Antarctica have survived. This is also problematic and while the movie dramatizes the most salacious issue in absurd fashion (There are only 8 women out of 860 plus people. Solution? Turn the women into whores!) it totally ignores the most obvious issue – how are the people going to survive in that climate once the existing supplies run out? Even more pressing though is how will anyone even have the will to live after Edward James Olmos’ maudlin song at the first annual Federated Council of Antarctica’s Christmas party?
But the survivors finally catch a break and likely won’t have to worry about Edward butchering “Winter Wonderland” at next year’s holiday festivities because Dr. Yoshizumi has been wasting valuable time on his earthquake prediction theory (I swear this movie was just randomly made up as it went along sometimes) and is now predicting up to a 9.0 earthquake in America very soon! Just think of the carnage if everyone wasn’t already dead!
If you’re feeling pretty smug sitting out the Big One in Antarctica though, you just proved you’ll never get past the first night of Armageddon! Any doomer knows that an earthquake of that magnitude will trick the ARS into thinking we got nuked and will then nuke Russia, who will then nuke America back, including its base in Antarctica! This why all us real preppers have a bug out location mapped out even if we are hiding at the South Pole!
Major Carter (Svenson) is hanging around the base apparently just in case an expert on the ARS is needed because he comes up with a last ditch suicide mission to save Antarctica! Eventually volunteering to handle it himself (and being reluctantly teamed with Yoshizumi after Yoshizumi embarrassed himself trying to fight Carter), Carter and Yoshizumi are taken by sub to Washington where the plan is to turn off the ARS before the earthquake hits.
Any thoughts that a nuclear launch system that can be fooled into firing missiles by an earthquake is kind of a concerning design flaw are quickly forgotten as the film ups the stupidity to 10.0 megaquake levels by announcing a vaccine has been discovered and that Carter and Yoshizumi can test it out since the virus is still live outside Antarctica. Because while the whole world with all its resources and experts working on a vaccine couldn’t make any headway, a guy in a glorified igloo just whipped one up in a year and still had time to go to a freaking Christmas party!
By the time Carter and Yoshizumi pull the biggest choke job in the history of the world and don’t get the system shut off in time, you are actually a little relieved because with everything getting nuked, the movie must be over, right? Ha! The human spirit (and Haruki Kadokawa’s film company’s wallet) is stronger than that!
First of all, the radiation from the nukes killed off the virus! Second and most importantly, Yoshizumi somehow survived getting a nuke dropped on him and spends the next four years wandering the desolate landscape until he can find the survivors who left Antarctica before it was bombed. (Don’t worry – it only feels like two years to the viewer.)
One million megatons of awful, Virus feels like it goes out of its way to make you feel like you not only got a dose of MM88, but had a nuclear warhead shoved up your ass sideways, what with its relentless tediousness, insanely unconvincing plot twists and coincidences and story that dimwittedly thought anyone would ever care about a love affair between Yoshizumi and Marit (Olivia Hussey playing a Norwegian for reasons unknown) when they don’t have that many scenes together and whose chemistry with one another could be charitably described as inert. Not even the Dean of Disaster himself, a dour-looking George Kennedy (the Airport films, Earthquake) can lift this foreign flop from its moronic malaise.
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