For this week’s guilty pleasure offering, I decided to delve deep into my geek history and pluck out a name that may be obscure to some, but will bring back instant memories to people of a certain age (no, i’m not telling you how old I am, but if you recognise this film, you can probably guess).
As you may have worked out from earlier posts, my ‘nerd-awakening’ began around 1992. I had reached an age where puberty hadn’t quite taken grip of me but I felt a certain awkwardness within myself and in interactions with kids my age. As a result, I spent a lot of time reading at my local library. I exhausted the ‘choose your own adventure’ books and comics were a scarce commodity at that time. I would often sneak into the adult library like I was committing some kind of crime as it usually had an a number of things in their ‘Graphic Novels’ section that I could vaguely understand. They dealt with themes that my mind was a little too underdeveloped to understand at the time, but they made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up as became swept up their worlds. My most memorable experiences came from reading Alan Moore’s brilliant ‘V for Vendetta’ which transformed my perceptions of heroes and villains and made me understand that even comic book characters could be capable of unspeakable cruelty. They also had a number of comics that seemed to be Japanese in origin. I guessed at that, as they all seemed to be set in Tokyo or other parts of the that far of land. One of the books the library had available was called ‘GOLGO 13’ which seemed to me to be a bizarre name even by Japanese standards. As I read through the issues they had, I was carried off into the world of ‘Duke Togo’ aka Golgo 13, a ruthless assassin who did not come cheap, but never failed to get the job done. Golgo 13 was a man of few words, he had the reflexes of a cat, could take on entire armies single handedly and was simply irresistible to women. He made killing people for a living seem sexy as hell, and I begun to think that maybe my dream profession as a writer needed to be re-assessed.
I got through the libraries 4 issues pretty quickly and realised that I need more of Golgo 13 in my life. Fortunately, I happened to be going through my secondary school years at a crucial time for me. Everyone who was anyone in my year was talking about a new phenomenon that was sweeping the home video world. Known generically by us as ‘Manga’, a number of animated films from Japan seemed to appear in a number of people’s homes from some kind of hipster Father Christmas, determined to ensure we had the nerd education we deserved. The 1st of these films I remember seeing was a beautiful film directed by the master of film animation Hayao Miyazaki. ‘Porco Rosso’ told the story of a cursed ex World War 1 pilot hunting ‘Air Pirates’ as a bounty hunter. Thanks to the curse, he was forced to live as a kind of human/pig hybrid, hence his title ‘Porco Rosso’. The film is tells it’s story with the panache, passion and magic that have become synonymous with Miyazaki’s work over the years, and is my personal favourite of the director’s work. It’s a film I look forward to sharing with my own children some day. But anyway, I digress. The films that everyone was talking about of course, where the ones full of sex and violence, after all, we were teenage boys rapidly approaching the torrent of hormones brought on by puberty. ‘The Fist of The North Star’ was the next film I saw for myself, which I ‘borrowed’ from the rich kid in my history class ( I’m pretty sure I still have the tape in my loft somewhere). In all honesty, I really didn’t care much for the film in those days, bar the spectacularly violent fight scenes featuring the main character Kenshiro taking on a bunch of equally violent misfits and mutants in a post-apocalyptic world, there really wasn’t much else on offer in the way of substance. That said, the sight of Kenshiro literally punching a guy in the face with so much force that his head slowly explodes is a sight to behold! If you’ve never seen it before, head to Youtube to check it out. Then one day at school after PE, the previously mentioned rich kid told me he had a copy of a new film called ‘The Professional: Golgo 13’. As soon as I heard the name a light bulb went off in my head and I told him he needed to bring that video into school tomorrow so I could reacquaint myself with my favourite sociopath’s latest adventures. The rich kid was good to his word, and brought in the video for me the next day. Now the challenge I faced was how to watch the film at home without my parents finding out. My mum was a rather typical West Indian parent in the sense that any attempt at me explaining that I wanted to watch an animation that would in all probability feature heavy doses of gratuitous sex and violence, would likely be met with a swift slap across the face at best. A solution then fell into my lap when my best friend revealed that his mum would be at work until at least 6pm, so we had plenty of time after school to indulge ourselves. A quick phone call home to my mum to say I would be home late ( I made up some story about an after-school study group, as if I would attend something even remotely related to ‘study’) and then we made the short walk back to his house.
Popping the VHS in to the player, we settled in to watch the movie. The film was everything we hoped it would be. Golgo 13 began with a stunning execution of a tycoon’s son in stunningly realised animated a detail and a shiver worked it’s way up my spine as he cooly blew away his target. After carrying out the hit, Golgo 13 discovers he is a marked man as the tycoon Leonard Dawson is hell bent on revenge for his beloved son’s death. Dawson uses his considerable wealth and influence to call on the CIA, the FBI and the Army to hunt him down and kill him. Now Golgo 13 must carry out his contracts whilst dodging these combined forces plus a genetically altered killer name Snake. Snake remains one of the creepiest characters that I have ever read or seen. He stood at what must be at least 6 feet 7 inches tall, his skin was pale and leathery. His eyes were yellow slits of menace and he appeared to have no teeth at all in his mouth. He said very little and took a bizarre pleasure in killing people, unleashing a gleeful laugh as he gouged out eyes, sliced off limbs and decapitated the unfortunate souls who happened to cross his path.
Golgo 13 manages to complete the murder of a high ranking female mob boss in Sicily (not before having completely emotionless sex with her of course) but the combined forces are hot on his heels. As the carries out another breathtaking assassination of an ex-nazi hiding out in San Francisco, he barely escapes an ambush from Dawson’s cabal. Dawson’s frustration and desperation grows and he begins to make a number of shocking decisions in his pursuit of vengeance. He allows the sinister Snake to rape his son’s widow as payment for bringing him Golgo 13’s head, which Snake ( and the film) take far too much pleasure in. He even goes as far as sending his butler and Granddaughter to the airport with a weapon to try and kill him, his reasoning that Golgo 13 would not suspect the threat from a meek butler and a child. Of course, Golgo 13 sees the threat coming from a mile off and dispatches the butler with ease. With few options left, Dawson convinces threatens the US government into releasing the psychotic pair of murders, Gold and Silver from their prison cells and onto the hunt for Golgo 13. It’s revealed that Gold and Silver were the only survivors of a government experiment that released 30 of America’s deadliest criminals into the south American jungle with no food, water and weapons. Not only had Gold and Silver survived the experience, they had killed every last one of the other criminals they had been released with at the end of the experiment.
Golgo 13 had by now discovered that a bounty has been placed upon his head by Dawson and so decides to turn the tables on his pursuers and tracks down Dawson to his tower in New York. What follows is an explosive finale as Golgo 13 uses his considerable skills and wits to defeat Gold and Silver and Snake. As he finally confronts Dawson, we learn that strangely, Dawson’s son had ordered the hit on himself, unable to live with the burden of being the heir to his father’s substantial fortune. Dawson, attempts to commit suicide by diving out of a window, but Golgo 13 has the last word, firing a fatal shot into the twisted billionaire before his body hits the ground. The movie ends with, with Dawson’s son’s widow now living as a prostitute on the streets of an unidentified city. A chance encounter with Golgo 13 sees her trying to shoot the assassin. The final shot of the film, sees Golgo 13 walking off into the crowd, her attempt clearly failing. My friend and I sat back for a few moments, absorbing the awesomeness we had just experienced. I walked home that evening, even more convinced that the life of the assassin was the life for me. Golgo 13 clearly didn’t have to deal with overbearing parents, sliding grades at school or dodging bullies. Hell, if a bully even tried to make fun of him, he’d put a bullet between their eyes before they even had time to blink!
Watching the film nowadays is a very different experience for me. I find the rape scene and the way it’s handled disgusting and unnecessary, it’s truly horrific to watch and the thought that some would get sexual gratification from watching something like that sits very uncomfortably with me. The animation has aged horribly, it’s clear that a level of detail is missing from several scenes and the early use of CGI just comes across as clumsy, although admittedly the technology was very much in it’s infancy at the time the film was made. Inspite of this, Golgo 13: The Professional retains a place in my memory and my heart. It was one of the films that shaped my adolescence and introduced me to the incredible world of Japanese animation. I read online that to this day, they continue to publish the Golgo 13 Manga in Japan, making it the longest running title in the countries history. Some of it’s enduring appeal undoubtedly comes from the man himself. ‘Duke Togo’ or Golgo 13 or whatever his real name is, has blown his way into my consciousness as he done for the millions of his fans around the world. His remorseless cool in dispatching enemies and bedding beautiful women around the world is strangely charismatic in it’s own way. So here’s to Golgo 13, the coolest assassin I know and here’s praying none of you are ever unfortunate enough to find yourselves his next target…