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Gamera (1965).

March 6, 2009

The Scoop:
The folks at Japan’s Daiei Studios wanted to compete with Toho in the kaiju arena by creating their own monster movie series to rival “Godzilla.” So they came up with this — a black and white film about a nuclear explosion that awakens an evil monster. (Kinda sounds familiar, doesn’t it?)

Unfortunately, they miscalculated a bit — turtles, even giant ones, just aren’t that scary. So, even at his most fearsome, Gamera is no match for the original lizard king himself.

The plot is almost a complete rehash of “Godzilla” — a nuclear explosion in the Arctic awakens Gamera, who has been sleeping under the ice for millenia. Of course he wakes up on the wrong side of the bed and goes on a worldwide rampage looking for energy. A group of scientists try everything they can to stop him, but to no avail. Instead (and this is the only original wrinkle in the formula), it is up to young boy with a special link to Gamera to put a stop to his rampage.

The results just don’t hold a candle to the first “Godzilla” movie. Not only are the writing and directing weak in comparison, but the effects are laughable and Gamera comes off as more humorous than threatening. It is no wonder that as the series continued, he was quickly made into a good guy who, as the script of every film likes to remind us, “is the friend to all children.”

The film’s American distribution rights were bought by schlock-meister Sandy Frank, who dubbed it, recut it, shot some new footage and released it as “Gammera the Invincible.” For years, that version was the only one available in the United States. If you have a choice, opt for the original if you can. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better, but at least you’ll be seeing it as the director intended.

Best Bit:
Old Man: “I guess that flying saucer I saw was really Gamera.”
Old Woman: “As the old saying goes, ‘We see terrible things if we look too long.'”

Side Note:
“Gamera” was the last of Japan’s tidal wave of monster movies to filmed in black and white.

Companion Viewing:
“Godzilla, King of the Monsters” (1955) and the rest of the “Gamera” series.

Stomp Tokyo.
Brain Eater.
Beyond Hollywood.
Sci Fi Japan.

Take a Look:
The trailer:

Much like the Spider before him, Gamera hates rock ‘n’ roll:

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