The Killing Bottle (1967)
Charge headlong through adventure as Interpol agents brave the perils of international organized murder!
— International tagline
The Killing Bottle (国際秘密警察 絶体絶命 Kokusai Himitsu Keisatsu: Zettai Zetsumei, lit. "International Secret Police: Desperate Situation")[b] is a Japanese science fiction spy film directed by Senkichi Taniguchi and written by Shinichi Sekizawa based on Michio Tsuzuki's 1959 novel Desperate Situation. Produced by Toho and Takarazuka Eiga with possible contribution from Nick Adams Enterprises,[a] it is the fifth and final entry in Toho's International Secret Police series following 1965's Key of Keys. The film stars Tatsuya Mihashi, Nick Adams, Makoto Sato, Kumi Mizuno, Akihiko Hirata, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Tetsu Nakamura, and Jun Tazaki. Toho released it to Japanese theaters on February 11, 1967. It is the only of the International Secret Police films to employ sci-fi elements.
In Hong Kong, a representative from a syndicate of hitmen called ZZZ speaks with a potential client. Uninterested in usual methods, the man is introduced to the Killing Bottle, a device that expels rapidly-expanding foam which hardens to crush a victim to death before completely evaporating. Finding the room to have been bugged by an agent of the International Secret Police (ISP), the representative offers to demonstrate the device on the man responsible. The agent, Shimada, stashes a reel of photos and an audio tape in a woman's car, but is killed by a Bottle after attempting to flee. In Japan, ISP agent Jiro Kitami is alerted to a newspaper ad which claims to be offering up the reel and tape. Upon arriving at the listed hotel room, he finds the girl whose car Shimada had stashed the evidence in and retrieves it from her luggage, but is held at gunpoint by a blond man who confiscates them. The two break into a fistfight, but are interrupted when a ZZZ sniper begins shooting at them from outside. The men work together to shoot the sniper dead, and Kitami finally recognizes his newfound partner as fellow ISP agent John Carter.
Kitami and Carter submit the reel and tape to the bureau chief, but find that they are blank. Carter goes to visit the hotel of the Prime Minister of Buddhabal, who recently arrived in Japan with the leaders of his army and police force. The army general, Lubasa, explains that ZZZ intend to assassinate the Prime Minister during his stay. Meanwhile, Kitami spots another newspaper ad while drinking at a club. This time, Kitami arrives to find the same girl being strangled by ZZZ Agent Hayata, who he drives to flee after a short brawl. The girl pleads with Kitami to become an assistant to the ISP, but he dupes her and makes off with the actual evidence from Hong Kong, which she had concealed on her body. Kitami brings his findings back to the bureau, and Carter recognizes a pendant from one of Shimada's photographs as being held by Lubasa during their meeting. Carter attempts to phone Lubasa, but is informed that he and the Prime Minister have left to visit Hakone. As the Prime Minister jets around Lake Ashi in a motorboat, ZZZ Agent Ayako and her men attempt to bomb him using radio-controlled boats, but Kitami and Carter arrive to shoot out the explosives.
Convening in a hotel room, Kitami and Carter conclude that Lubasa is not ZZZ's Hong Kong client, based on photographs Carter had taken of him with a hidden camera. After Kitami leaves, Carter is attacked by one of Ayako's men and taken to the roof. Another henchman barges into Kitami's room and unloads bullets into his bed, unaware that he had planted a decoy of himself. Ayako and her henchmen douse Carter in alcohol and prepare to push him off the roof, planning to frame him for killing Kitami in a drunken stupor before committing suicide. Kitami finds the girl he'd stolen Shimada's evidence from in another room, and they work together to hold her bed out of the window for Carter to land on. Ayako's men corner the trio in the room, but the girl disposes of them using vinyl records like discuses. Lubasa arrives and takes the group to the Prime Minister's room, where they find the police chief unconscious and the Prime Minister suffocating in foam. As Kitami and Carter rescue the Prime Minister, the girl spots Hayata grinning and saluting Carter through the window before fleeing into the woods. The agents give chase, but Carter finds himself unable to shoot Hayata, revealing that they had served together in the Korean War.
Later, as Kitami and Carter are driving, the girl from the hotel reveals that she'd stowed away in their car, mentioning that it was unlocked. Suspicious, the men immediately pull over and escape just in time before it explodes. ZZZ hitmen pull up to inspect the burning car, allowing Carter to place a tracker on their car. At a secluded hideout, ZZZ meets with their original client, who is in fact the Buddhabalese police chief. The man berates ZZZ for their attempted use of explosives and insists that they use the Killing Bottle as agreed upon. With only two days left before the Prime Minister's return to Buddhabal, Kitami and Carter launch a search for ZZZ's location using special receivers to trace the tracker Carter had planted. Kitami traces the signal to Club Grand, but finds the source to be a decoy. Ayako appears and sprays Kitami with sleeping gas before having him stuffed into a chest and loaded onto a truckbed. At the same time, Carter traces the signal of a different receiver to a set of ruins, where he finds Hayata. Carter distractedly steps on a bear trap, and Hayata tosses a Killing Bottle next to him. Ayako's men become caught in traffic while transporting Kitami to a burial site, allowing the girl from earlier to rescue him using a pulley. She takes him back to a hotel, where his receiver begins beeping, indicating that Carter is nearby. Kitami and the girl find Carter, who escaped the bear trap thanks to a gun he'd tucked in his boot.
The next day, Lubasa is visited by the Buddhabalese police chief. The two share drinks and cigarettes and agree to join forces, but the chief finds that his drink was poisoned and collapses dead to the ground. Kitami and Carter find the Prime Minister observing a show at the Nara Dreamland theme park, but are taken to a nearby café at gunpoint by two of Ayako's men. Hayata, the ZZZ Hong Kong branch director, and the third of Ayako's men steal the costumes of a trio of performers, and pick out the Prime Minister from the crowd, loading him into the back of a truck with a Killing Bottle. Kitami and Carter manage to kill their assailants with the help of the mystery girl, and split up: Kitami pursuing the truck and Carter chasing after Hayata. Eventually, Kitami climbs onto the roof of the truck and frees the Prime Minister by shooting out a padlock on its rear doors. Ayako and the ZZZ director crash the truck into a ditch, and are consumed by a torrent of foam from the Killing Bottle. Lubasa suddenly pulls up behind Kitami and the Prime Minister and prepares to shoot the latter, but Kitami shoots Lubasa first. Carter chases Hayata to the edge of a cliff and attempts to talk him down, but the man pulls out a blade and stabs himself through the chest.
At the airport, Kitami and Carter speak with the Prime Minister just before his flight home. The Prime Minister insists that his trip was only for sightseeing, and introduces the mysterious girl who'd followed the agents throughout their investigation as "X2", his personal spy. The Prime Minister heads out, but Kitami requests one last explanation from X2. She concedes that the Prime Minister was always aware that the leaders of his army and police were plotting his demise, and so brought them to Japan to eliminate them. Concluding that it was they who were played all along, Kitami and Carter see X2 off.
- Main article: The Killing Bottle/Credits.
Staff role on the left, staff member's name on the right.
- Directed by Senkichi Taniguchi
- Written by Shinichi Sekizawa
- Based on the novel Desperate Situation by Michio Tsuzuki
- Executive producer Tomoyuki Tanaka
- Associate producer Nick Adams (unconfirmed)[c]
- Music by Sadao Bekku
- Insert song "The Black Blues"
- Written and performed by Anne Mari
- Composed by Sadao Bekku
- Cinematography by Takao Saito
- Edited by Yoshitami Kuroiwa
- Production design by Hiroshi Ueda
- 1st assistant directors Shoji Takano, Heikichi Tsushima
Actor's name on the left, character played on the right.
- Tatsuya Mihashi as Agent Jiro Kitami of the International Secret Police
- Nick Adams as ISP Agent John Carter (Japanese voice actor: Masaaki Yajima)
- Makoto Sato as Ken Hayata, ZZZ agent and Carter's former subordinate
- Kumi Mizuno as X2, undercover spy of Buddhabal's Prime Minister[d]
- Akihiko Hirata as chief of the Buddhabalese national police
- Yoshio Tsuchiya as General Lubasa of the Buddhabalese army
- Anne Mari as ZZZ Agent Ayako, aka nightclub dancer Atom Rosa
- Tetsu Nakamura as director of ZZZ's Hong Kong branch
- Jun Tazaki as Prime Minister of Buddhabal
- Ryuji Kita as chief of the ISP's Far East Bureau
- Sachio Sakai as ISP Agent Shimada, victim of the Killing Bottle
- Kazuo Kawakami, Shoji Oki, Hideyo Amamoto as ZZZ hitmen
- Tatsuo Hasegawa as ZZZ sniper who assails Kitami and Carter
- Kiyoshi Nishikawa, Yasushi Yokoyama, Jiro Makino as performers at Nara Dreamland
- Asako Kamiya as woman who speaks to Kitami at Club Grand
- Mari Takeno as apprentice geisha approached by Carter on the street
- Osman Yusuf as man in sunglasses disembarking from plane (uncredited)
- Midori Uchiyama as woman in sunglasses seeing off plane (uncredited)
- Kamayuki Tsubono as man seeing off plane (uncredited)
- Toshiko Nakano as spectacled woman seeing off plane (uncredited)
Weapons, vehicles, races, and organizations
- International Secret Police (ISP)
- Killing Bottle
The Killing Bottle may have originated as a partnership with Henry G. Saperstein. Variety reported on July 28, 1965 that Saperstein's company, Henry G. Saperstein Enterprises, had signed an estimated $25 million deal with Toho to co-produce four films and two television series, as well as to co-finance two of Toho's other movies and gain distribution rights to four. Among the original productions proposed was a series of one-hour television episodes entitled International Secret Police. That October, Toho arranged for the series to be shot by production company Takarazuka Eiga, but it never materialized. It is unclear what relation, if any, the series would have had with Toho's film series of the same name, though the Saperstein deal did grant his company world theatrical rights to two of its entries: Tiger Fang and A Keg of Powder. Whether or not the project evolved into The Killing Bottle, Takarazuka Eiga ultimately signed on to that film, marking the only ISP entry for which it was credited.
By April 6 of 1966, Variety reported that Toho were in talks with another American company, Allied Artists Pictures, to produce a sci-fi film entitled The Killing Bottle based on a screenplay by Michio Tsuzuki and starring Nick Adams, Akira Takarada, Mie Hama, and another American actor. Interestingly, the article made no mention of Tatsuya Mihashi, the leading man of the International Secret Police films. Of this original reported lineup, only Adams would make the cut; the final film was also not written by Michio Tsuzuki, but rather by Shinichi Sekizawa based on a novel by Tsuzuki. Adams had officially signed on to the project sometime before June 15 of that year, when the San Francisco Examiner reported that his own company would co-produce the film with Toho instead of Allied Artists. As mentioned, Takarazuka Eiga would ultimately be the company credited as Toho's partner on the movie, and it is unclear what involvement Adams' company had on the finished product.
Of this planned partnership between an American and Japanese studio, Adams was quoted as saying, "It promotes good relations—particularly with this American. I get 25 percent of the action[.]" He went on to describe his character in the film as "a [Humphrey] Bogart-type detective who foils a plot to assassinate the Emperor of Japan." In the final production, the assassins instead target the Prime Minister of the fictional nation of Buddhabal. Months later on August 17, a quote from Adams appeared in Barney Glazer's Star Gazer column in the South Pasadena Review, writing, "Okay, Barney, fans have been waiting for the guy in [The Killing Bottle]. I'm going to burn up the screen."
In an interview published in Ohio's Akron Beacon Journal on January 8, 1967, Adams briefly commented, "The Killing Bottle is a spy thing. I hope lots of people see it so maybe I can get my career moving again."
Beginning June 23, 1966, The Killing Bottle shot for eight weeks in at least five Japanese cities. Principal photography wrapped no later than August 22, when Pennsylvania's Evening Herald reported that star Nick Adams had returned from Japan. According to the paper, the scene in which Adams' character is caught in a bear trap was filmed on the final day of shooting. A real bear trap was used for the scene, with Adams' leg protected by a metal guard. The paper alleges that Adams actually became stuck in the trap, which was chained down, and had to be given an axe to chop himself free and escape being engulfed by the prop foam used to portray a Killing Bottle.
- Main article: The Killing Bottle/Gallery.
- International Secret Police: Desperate Situation (literal Japanese title)
- International Secret Police: Driven to the Wall (alternate translation)
- Desperate Situation (shortened Japanese title)
- The Bottle that Kills (Flaša koja ubija, Yugoslavian title)
An English-language version of The Killing Bottle was prepared by Toho and advertised in volume 13 of their Toho Films catalog as well as the 36th edition of UniJapan Film Quarterly.
Patel Enterprises of Bombay, India submitted the English version to the country's Central Board of Film Certification, which requested approximately nine seconds of footage be deleted. An "A" certificate for the film was issued on June 21, 1967. Patel also submitted an English-dubbed trailer, which received a "U" certificate that June 29 after about two seconds of footage was removed. The Gazette of India's report on the former provides the only known lines from the English script:
- Kitami: “No more dames.”
- Bartender: “She's imported.”
- Kitami: “I stick to domestic stuff.”
A Yugoslavian poster indicates the film was also released there by Avala-Genex, though it is unknown whether the version exhibited was dubbed or subtitled.
Planned U.S. release
Although The Killing Bottle was never released in the United States, Toho licensed the film to International Co-Productions, Inc. of New York City for $25,000. ICI's rights to the film included all theatrical and television rights in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand through 1980. In May 1968, ICI president Ted Kneeland formed Cineco Productions to prepare The Killing Bottle for release. Peter Fernandez was hired to write and direct the English version through the associated company Zavala-Riss Productions, which also poised to re-edit and re-score the film. Kneeland boasted to Variety that ICI and Zavala-Riss had extensively researched film dubbing techniques and technology, and that the dubbing would be budgeted at $30,000 to $50,000. Because Nick Adams' dialogue for the film had been lost, Fernandez had voice actor Jack Curtis loop Adams' performance.
Toho DVD (August 17, 2022)
- Region: 2
- Discs: 1
- Audio: Japanese
- Special features: Theatrical trailer, photo gallery
- The other films of Toho's International Secret Police series include:
- Interpol Code 8 (国際秘密警察 指令第8号, released August 31, Kokusai Himitsu Keisatsu: Shirei Daihachigō, lit. "International Secret Police: Directive No. 8")1963
- Tiger Fang (国際秘密警察 虎の牙, released February 14, Kokusai Himitsu Keisatsu: Tora no Kiba, lit. "International Secret Police: Tiger Fang")1964
- A Keg of Powder (国際秘密警察 火薬の樽, released December 9, 1964 Kokusai Himitsu Keisatsu: Kayaku no Taru, lit. "International Secret Police: Keg of Gunpowder")
- Key of Keys (国際秘密警察 鍵の鍵, released October 23, Kokusai Himitsu Keisatsu: Kagi no Kagi, lit. "International Secret Police: Key of Keys")1965
- A Keg of Powder and Key of Keys were later re-edited and dubbed to become the 1966 American comedy What's Up, Tiger Lily?, Woody Allen's directorial debut.
- The Killing Bottle is the only film of the series to have had its title significantly changed for international release. Rather than using "Desperate Situation", the English title's focus is shifted to a device used by the film's antagonists.
- The Killing Bottle was actor Nick Adams' third and final Japanese film appearance, after the comparatively more popular Invasion of Astro-Monster and Frankenstein vs. Baragon.
- It is also the only of Adams' Japanese roles in which he was not dubbed over by Goro Naya for its theatrical release; his voice was instead provided by Masaaki Yajima.
- American sources initially reported the film as a co-production between Toho and "Nick Adams Enterprises," with no mention of Takarazuka. Only Toho and Takarazuka are credited in the film itself.
- The "Zettai Zetsumei" portion is instead rendered as 絶対絶命 in the April 1967 edition of UniJapan.
- As noted previously, The Killing Bottle was reported in some American sources as being a co-production with Nick Adams Enterprises. Adams himself was also sometimes suggested to have produced the film, including in the South Pasadena Review and the Akron Beacon Journal—both publishing their stories either during or after filming. Stuart Galbraith IV lists Adams as the movie's associate producer in his 2008 book The Toho Studios Story, but notes that, "His credit as associate producer is unconfirmed."
- Referred to as "Lady X" in the April 1967 edition of UniJapan and on the film's Yugoslavian poster, possibly originating from Toho's English script.
This is a list of references for The Killing Bottle. These citations are used to identify the reliable sources on which this article is based. These references appear inside articles in the form of superscript numbers, which look like this: 
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