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Daikaiju Gamera

Gamera
Gamera: The Giant Monster / Gamera the Invincible

Japan 1965
produced by
Hidemasa Nagata, Yonejiro Saito, Masaichi Nagata (executive) for Daiei
directed by Noriaki Yuasa
starring Eiji Funakoshi, Harumi Kiritachi, Junichiro Yamashita, Yoshiro Uchida, Michiko Sugata, Yoshiro Kitahara, Jun Hamamura, Kenji Oyama, Munehiko Takada, Yoshio Yoshida, Jun Osanai, Daihachi Kita, Kazuo Mori, Koji Fujiyama, Osamu Okawa, Ikuji Oka, Bokuzen Hidari, Fumiko Murata, Shigeru Kato, Jutaro Kitashiro, Daigo Inoue, Takehiko Goto, Chiduru Ko, Ryoko Oki, Kenichi Tani, Akira Shimizu, Yasuo Araki, Kenji Ohba, Ichigen Ohashi, Fujii Tatsushi, Yuji Moriya, Kenichiro Yamane, Tsutomu Nakata, Wakayo Matsumura, Misato Kawashima, Saburo Kurihara, Tetsuro Takeuchi, Shin Minatsu, Rin Sugimori, Shinichi Matsuyama, Toichiro Kagawa, Kyosuke Shiho, Shunji Sayama, Ken Nakahara, Shigeo Hagiwara, Tetsu Furuya, Osamu Maruyama, Toshio Maki, Kazuo Sumida, Ichiro Ise, Shinji Sayama, Hajime Munechika, Tsukako Fujino, Gunter Braun, and as Gamera: Teruo Aragaki, Kazuo Yagi
written by Nisan Takahashi, music by Tadashi Yamauchi, special effects by Yonesaburo Tsukiji, monster designed by Ryosaku Takayama

Gamera

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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It's Cold War time: An airplane of unidentified origin carrying an atomic bomb is shot down over the arctic. The bomb, of course, goes off, and with the typical logic of a Japanese monster movie, it immediately causes a monster to hatch, and this this time it's ... a giant, sabre tooth turtle, Gamera. Almost immediately the turtle, which can walk on its hind legs and breathe fire, commences on its way to Japan with only one thing in mind - destruction. But while Japan's scientists - most prominently Dr Hidaka (Eiji Funakoshi), who saw the turtle hatch in the Arctic, and professor Murase (Jun Hamamura) - and the military are still trying to find a way to get rid of the monster, it also finds a supporter in young Toshio (Yoshiro Uchida), a little boy obsessed with turtles, whose life Gamera at one point in the movie saves (!) when it destroys his lighthouse home.

Gamera of course seems indestructible, it feeds on fire, energy, oil, radiation - you name it really. So eventually, our scientists come up with a plan that is as elaborate as stupid - to lure the turtle into a pit and force it to fall onto its back, because once on its back a turtle can never get up again and therefore must starve. This is of course utter crap even with ordinary turtles, but with Gamera, once on its back, it retracts its head and legs, starts to spin around really fast and flies off to wreak more havoc.

Another plan, plan Z: Since Gamera is feeding on energy and fire, why not use fire to lure it into some sort of egg-like container and shoot the container to Mars? Frankly, this now is stupid enough to actually work ...

 

Now quite obviously, Gamera was inspired by the Godzilla-series, and while truth to be told this movie here is no match for the original Godzilla from 11 years prior, by 1965 with films like Ghidrah, the Three Headed Monster and Monster Zero, Godzilla was already transforming from atomic nightmare to your friendly neighbourhood monster - and that's exactly where Gamera (both this movie and the series as a whole) picks up the ball, presenting a literally child-friendly monster (also mirrored in the kid protagonist in this one and almost every sequel) based on a slightly ridiculous concept (it's a sabre tooth turtle walking around on hind legs, flying and breathing fire after all) fighting its way through very naive storylines. And truth to be told, the Gamera-series was never quite on par with Godzilla, both story- and effect-wise (even if both story and effects were often quite shoddy in later Godzilla-films of the original cycle as well), but in a way its simplicity married to often wild ideas makes it irresistible to the dedicated viewer.

 

Now this first of the Gamera-movies, and the only one in black and white, is very probably the best of the original cycle, as the makers hadn't found the cookie-cutter formula back when and managed to tell a somewhat engaging story with some quite cool scenes of mayhem. And the title creature, too, hadn't yet become the do-gooder it was in later entries, which adds to the suspense aspects of the story. Now despite the series' longetivity, this is not a classic at all, but fun to watch for sure.

 

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review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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