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When an ancient statue is moved for display in Expo '70, a giant, vaguely Triceratops-like monster is released. The monster goes to Japan in pursuit of the statue and ends up battling Gamera, the giant flying turtle.
A nuclear explosion in the far north unleashes Gamera, the legendary flying turtle, from his sleep under the ice. In his search for energy, Gamera wreaks havoc over the entire world, and it's up to the scientists, assisted by a young boy with a strange sympathic link to the monster, to put a stop to Gamera's rampage. Written by
Jean-Marc Rocher <firstname.lastname@example.org>
As was the case with the "Godzilla" series, first is almost always usually the best...
1965's "Gamera: The Giant Monster" is notable for three things: Daiei Studio's Gamera, the giant fire-breathing turtle of Atlantean origin, was the only significant rival to Toho Studios' Godzilla; two, this is the only movie in the "Gamera" series of films in which the titular chelonian does not battle another monster; and three, this was the last Japanese monster movie to be filmed in glorious black & white. Godzilla is my favorite movie monster of all time - "Gojira" (1954) is my favorite giant monster movie, period - since I was first exposed to the badly dubbed Japanese "kaiju-eiga" (Japanese monster movie) series of films as a young kid. Gamera was my #2 favorite monster from Japan. I deeply regret that Gamera never really obtained the same sort of recognition that his other fire-breathing rival did, but that does not mean that the movies were not bad.
Directed by Noriaki Yuasa, "Gamera: The Giant Monster" has a plot ripped straight from the original "Gojira," but with a significantly lower budget and lacking a meaningful social and political subtext or emotional resonance: at the height of the Cold War, American and Soviet bombers in the Arctic Circle clash with one another, leading to a Soviet plane being shot down and thus inadvertently detonating its atomic payload. The resulting explosion revives Gamera, who had been imprisoned in the ice for over 8,000 years. Gamera, who breathes fire and can fly, makes a beeline toward Japan where he soon causes great destruction and finds nourishment in fossil fuels such as gasoline and petroleum, and other rudimentary forms of energy. Since Gamera is impervious to conventional weapons and the so-called "nuclear options" are quickly ruled out, only a brilliant scientist, Dr. Hidaka (Eiji Funakoshi), has the means of stopping Gamera's destructive rampage once and for all.
"Gamera: The Giant Monster" is not a perfect film. I'll say that it pretty much pales in comparison to "Gojira." But that's because the "Gamera" series of films often had significantly lower budgets and one of the most nagging problems with these films were the inclusion of annoying little children as the main protagonists, which helped earn Gamera the nickname of "friend of children" and the films were often marketed as such toward children. (1966's "Gamera vs. Barugon," a direct sequel to "Gamera: The Giant Monster," is noteworthy for being the only film in the series to not feature any children as the main protagonists, and is my favorite film in the series after this one.) And although there is a kid here, an implacable young boy Toshio Sakurai (Yoshiro Uchida), he is at least made useful to the plot and does not become the annoying little nuisance that his successors would eventually become. And he is also sympathetic in some regard since he comes to view Gamera as his only friend (the exact circumstances of this "friendship" are actually quite touching if viewed with an open mind), and likewise we identify with this unique little bond.
Having viewed the film for the first time in its original, uncut Japanese format, I can say that "Gamera: The Giant Monster" is a worthy kaiju film, despite its flawed attempts at a pro-environmentalist subtext and as an anti-Cold War message movie (different nations coming together to face a worldwide threat, etc.) The film marked the beginnings of another great movie monster, one who never really got the popularity that he really deserved. But at least since his movies are getting the DVD treatment and are being released in their original Japanese formats, a new generation of Gamera-lovers has the chance to view Japan's heartiest export next since the mighty King of the Monsters himself, Godzilla.
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