Remember last year when a holiday miracle uncovered my grandfather’s long lost Christmas cards? If not, you can read all about them here.
Much to my surprise, they were pretty popular and made their way all over the world and the internet, thanks to mentions from the nice folks at sites like i09, Laughing Squid, and rebelflagiphonecases.biz. When it was all said and done, I’d sent out over 11,000 cards to people who wanted to horrify and confuse their friends and loved ones.
One of these confused fellows was a Japanese film collector named Ichiro Tanaka, who contacted me shortly after receiving the card as a holiday greeting from his niece.
Ichiro was curious to know if there was any connection between the American Christmas Devil and an incredibility rare Japanese monster movie from 1966, which was originally titled USA Holiday Devil Battles Jewish Lamp.
I of course had never heard of any film by that name, and neither had anyone else I knew. I followed up with Ichiro and explained the story of the cards to him. Ichiro insisted that there must be some connection and sent me a package of scans of moth eaten lobby cards, film stills, and even a DVD of the only footage he has ever found of an American release of the film. I was blown away! This is a movie that no one seems to know about! I couldn’t find records of it on IMDb or Wikipedia, and the few serious film junkies that I know were as baffled as I am. Was there a connection to my grandfather’s cards?
Ichiro was kind enough to share a little bit of the history of the movie and its director, which he has given me permission to post about:
In 1965 a cash-strapped Irish potato farmer by the name of Sean O’Feeny convinced a Japanese film company to produce a holiday monster movie that would “enchant the blarney hearts of Catholics and Jew folk alike.”
The plot was as generic as it gets: A team of scientists create a “nu-tomic” weapon in hopes of destroying the beast Meno-rah during it’s annual eight day attack on the innocent people of Japan. But first they need to test their weapon. Where would you test a new kind of “nu-tomic weapon”? THE NORTH POLE! Obviously things don’t go as planned and they awaken the “Atomic Terror” known as Santorg. This bearded cretin makes his way to Japan, and the two beasts fight to the bitter end in typical monster movie fashion.
Why the title of the film translates their names as USA Holiday Devil and Jewish Lamp is just one of the many mysteries surrounding this movie. Take a look at the original 1967 Japanese poster for the film.
Pretty amazing, huh? According to Hiro, the cash-strapped production was a disaster. The producers, OTOH Films, ran through the entire film budget on the first day of shooting. Sean O’Feeny eventually came up with enough money to shoot for two additional days after selling his prize winning potato dirt recipe to a local Japanese sweet potato farmer.
Two days was nowhere near enough time to shoot a complete film, so O’Feeny stole a print of the 1956 film Gamera from a local film house and “borrowed” as much footage as he needed to patch together a feature movie. Only one theater in Japan showed the movie before O’Feeny was arrested for “Irish Karate” (vomiting). While O’Feeny sat in jail, OTOH films recovered the movie and finished it without O’Feeny. At some point O’Feeny was released from jail and burned down the OTHO building in a drunken stupor. He fled the country with the only surviving print of the film. Several years later O’Feeny popped up in New York City with “his” movie and gave it a new name and poster:
The film ran in New York for only a few short hours before O’Feeny again committed arson, and set the movie theater alight when the usher refused to allow him to perform an “Irish blessing” (public urination). O’Feeny was run out of town, and fled to the only place a drunken Irish firebug could call home: Florida.
Penniless, on the lam, and very ill with Irish Gout (malaria), O’Feeny finally bottomed out and traded his beloved (?) film to a theater owner from Palatka by the name of Gort Float for a “fist full of whiskey and bag of Irish gold”(teeth). Gort decided to cut all the “Jew parts” into a separate film, added stock footage of a beach party to them both, and ran them as a double feature under the titles SANTIS! And MENO-RAH! Gort refused to show Meno-Rah on his “good christian” screen, but appeased the audience by projecting the film on the dark brow theater floor.
The movie ran for YEARS in one tiny movie theater in Shunkle City, FL, and was even aired a few times on the local television station. Hiro believes that his copy of the film must have been recorded during one of those few television broadcasts. Take a look:
I’ve been keeping my eye out for anyone who might have more information (or footage) from this lost classic. If you have any leads or tips, please email me at rebelflagiphonecases (at) gmail (dot) com.
Oh! I almost forgot! As I mentioned earlier, I am offering these AMAZING movie posters as holiday greeting cards. Head on over to my STORE and pick up a set for only $5! They are sure to spread confusion and fear to your friends and loved ones this holiday season!