STUDIO: Shout! Factory
RUNNING TIME: 78 minutes
• A Retrospective Look at the Gamera Franchise
• Audio Commentary
• Publicity Gallery
It’s the first film in the series of films starring Godzilla’s goofier cousin.
Director: Noriaki Yuasa
Cast: Eiji Funakoshi, Harumi Kiritachi, Junichiro Yamashiko, Yoshiro Uchida, Michiko Sugata,
Walrus sex, not a thing of beauty.
A battle between US and Russian fighters cause an explosion in the Arctic. From out of the ice comes monster of Atlantis, Gamera. It doesn’t take long before the big ninja turtle himself is out terrifying folks and causing plenty o’ property damage. Everything comes to a head with one of the more ridiculous solutions to the then burgeoning giant beast issue.
I love giant monsters. Nothing quite struck the fancy of this writer as a young lad as much as films featuring oversized hatebeasts. Nobody engaged as prolifically and unembarrassingly in the giant monster business as Japan. Known locally as kaiju, they enjoyed an unrivaled period of over representation, for many, in the world of Japanese film. They became the gateway into foreign films for many a Saturday afternoon television ensorcelled child, myself included.
Of course every one knows about Godzilla, he was the true star of the day, the toast of the sub-genre. It’s safe to say, most know King Kong, the American monster star who, like many a Hollywood celeb spent some time doing some embarassing work in Japan. Surely most are at least passably familiar with King Ghidorah, Mothra, and Rodan, the big G’s occasional co-stars and in some cases themselves stars. It takes a bit of digging after that, but then we arrive at Gamera’s doorstep. It’s not to say that he is undeserving of the attention, but his exploits were a thing of legend to me as a child, it wasn’t until I became a man-child with a disposable income that I ran into any of those films. While none of the original series ever quite matched anything Ishiro Hinda was doing over at Toho, they have a charm distinctly their own and are something all self respecting monster fans should give a chance.
Now, the first movie in the series is what we’re dealing with here. The grand introduction to the world of one goofy jet powered 200 foot tall tortoise. While I enjoyed the movie, it really isn’t a very good representation of the series. Much of the what made Gamera a lovable kid friendly dude is absent here, but there are some highlights.
The story takes place at the height of the Cold War, this is something the film clumsily tries to wield in the same way Gojira dealt with post-war anxieties. A bomb causes the awakening of super beast Gamera in one of the most awesomely ridiculous entrances in film history. He destroys a ship carrying a bunch of sailors and reporters and takes off. After failing to appear for like two days afterwards the media moves on to the UFO phenomenon. Little do they know, they are one and the same.
Dr. Hidaka(Funakoshi) is at the forefront of the movie, he is there when Gamera is awoken and he is there when the monsters rampage is put to an end. He is joined by his assistant Kyoke(Kiritachi) and a photographer, Aoyagi(Yamashiko). Rounding out the main cast of characters is the schoolboy, Toshio(Uchida), a character best described by this.
Look into the eyes of love.
Truth of the matter is, this is a monster movie, none of the characters are all that interesting, they only exist to get us from beginning to end and fill the parts with out monstrous smackdowns occurring with dialogue that reminds us how much we wish there was a titanic beatdown happening.
Gamera given the chance proves himself friendly to at least Toshio. Saving him from certain death, but true to form Gamera is back to fucking shit up in no time. Something has to be done and leave it to science to figure that right out for the gung ho military. If you haven’t seen the movie before I’ll save the ending, but it’s a delightfully implausible moment in monster film history that takes care of the other big G.
Much in the same way it was with the original Gojira, the special effects in Gamera have held better than many of it’s sequels. It could be a side effect of being filmed in black and white, but in my humble opinion the effects were the best until the Shusuke Kaneko trilogy. Other than that the film is goofy and silly even when it tries to be serious and scientific, but in a charming way that is best viewed through the lens of nostalgia. For many a monster fan these things will hardly be seen as negatives, in some ways these are the anachronistic charms of these films. Enjoyable and silly. Recommended mostly for the fans only.
It has to be noted that this film looks great. Most of the previous copies I had seen were public domain and as far as picture, audio and subtitling go this is a great big step up from all previous versions I have seen. The features are good, I suppose. The Retrospective feature was clearly from around the late eighties to early nineties based on the fact that they ponder if Gamera will ever be seen on film again without mentioning Kaneko’s terrific Gamera trilogy. The audio commentary track features the ever knowledgable August Ragone, but the one on my disc didn’t play properly on my computer. Also included is a trailer and some promotional material.
You know, the G-force may not have been very effective, but at least they gave a shit.