Gamera, the Giant Monster
Gamera, the Giant Monster (大怪獣ガメラ, Daikaijū Gamera, lit. Giant Monster Gamera) is a 1965 Japanese kaiju film directed by Noriaki Yuasa and produced and distributed by Daiei Film. As the first film in the Gamera franchise, it marks the debut appearance of the giant monster Gamera. The film stars Eiji Funakoshi, Harumi Kiritachi, and Junichiro Yamashita, and was released in Japan on November 27, 1965. A re-edited version with new footage was released the following year in the United States as Gammera the Invincible. This was the only film in the original series to be given a theatrical release in the United States.
|Gamera, the Giant Monster|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Noriaki Yuasa|
|Produced by||Hidemasa Nagata|
|Screenplay by||Niisan Takahashi|
|Music by||Tadashi Yamanouchi|
|Edited by||Tatsuji Nakashizu|
In the Arctic, an unknown aircraft is shot down by an American jet fighter. The aircraft crashes and its cargo, a low-level atomic bomb, explodes. The resulting cataclysm awakens a prehistoric monster that has the appearance of a giant turtle with teeth and large tusks. Japanese scientists on an expedition nearby (including Drs. Hidaka, Kyoko and Aoyagi) are given a "devil stone" by an Inuit chieftain, who explains that the creature is called Gamera.
Gamera destroys the American jet with his fire breath and escapes into the sea. The monster heads to Japan and surfaces in Sagami Bay where Toshio, a boy releasing his own pet turtle, sees him. Gamera destroys the city of Fujisawa and a lighthouse. However, he also rescues Toshio from falling from the lighthouse, and then retreats back into the sea. Scientists and government officials hold a conference to discuss killing the monster.
Gamera destroys a research ship, kills the crew and then heads to Tokyo. He is attacked with freeze bombs and blown up, falling onto his back as a result. The scientists indicate that a turtle cannot right itself once on its back and that Gamera will therefore die of starvation. Gamera then pulls its head, limbs and tail into its shell, emits flames from its front leg and back leg cavities, and flies away by rising up into the air and spinning around like a flying saucer.
Toshio and his family decide to stay with an uncle in Tokyo because they have nowhere else to go. Toshio explains to the professor that Gamera is lonely and, like regular turtles, he is not evil. Dr. Hidaka, meanwhile, has observed that Gamera consumes fossil fuels and may seek out atomic bombs for the energy they provide. He also emits radio signals. This leads the Japan Atomic Energy Commission to see an opportunity to use its nuclear stockpiles. Meanwhile, disasters and accidents start to occur: Koto Ward is struck by flash floods and ships collide in Tokyo Bay. Dr. Hidaka claims that Gamera has caused these accidents because he is hiding in the bay.
An international scientific conference is called and they decide to use "Z Plan", based at Oshima Island, involving a consortium of American, Soviet and Japanese scientists to eradicate Gamera. Before any action can be taken, however, Gamera arrives at Haneda Airport, destroying the control tower, and proceeds to wreak havoc in Tokyo (including destroying the Tokyo Tower). Toshio and his family evacuate again, but Toshio gets lost in the confusion.
Z Plan is still not ready, so the scientists plan to keep Gamera at bay in the meantime by confining him to an oil refinery. Dr. Hidaka has surmised that Gamera is gaining energy by consuming fires at the refinery and they will therefore keep shipping petroleum there by train to keep Gamera occupied for 24 hours. Toshio finds his way to the refinery and sneaks on board a train bound for Gamera, chased by the refinery chief. They are both thrown from the train when it explodes, but are unharmed and Toshio is sent on his way.
Z Plan is finally completed and Toshio sneaks on board a ship delivering supplies to Oshima. Gamera is lured to Oshima by lighting an oil slick path from Tokyo to the island, but an oncoming typhoon blows the fire out. Aoyagi starts a bonfire and Gamera makes his way to a volcano erupting on the island. The next day, Z Plan is put into action: Gamera is lured into the nose cone of a giant rocket and launched on a one-way trip to Mars. The worldwide announcement of success extols the triumph of science over ideology. Aoyagi and Kyoko go off together and Toshio decides he is not sad, because he is going to be a scientist one day so he can visit Gamera on Mars.
- Eiji Funakoshi as Dr Hidaka
- Michiko Sugata as Nobuyo Sakurai
- Harumi Kiritachi as Kyoko Yamamoto
- Junichiro Yamashita as Aoyagi
- Yoshiro Uchida as Toshio Sakurai
- Yoshiro Kitahara as Mr. Sakurai
- Jun Hamamura as Dr. Murase
- George Hirose as the Japanese ambassador
The following cast were added in the 1966 American theatrical release of the film:
The success of Toho's Godzilla films led to the rival company Daiei to create a monster series of its own. Director Noriaki Yuasa initially began production on a film titled Dai gunju Nezura (lit. The Great Rat Swarm) which would involve real rats crawling over miniatures of cities. However, the rats received for the film had fleas, which halted production. As the miniatures for the film were already built, Masaichi Nagata had to develop a giant monster to attack the city and had the idea for a giant flying turtle. Yuasa and screenwriter Nisan Takahashi developed the idea into the 1965 film Gamera, the Giant Monster. Special effects technician Ryosaku Takayama designed the turtle suit used in the film.
The films created by Daiei were aimed at younger children than the Godzilla films of the period and had lower budgets. Gamera, the Giant Monster was the only film in the series shot in black-and-white. Yuasa stated that the first Gamera film had a budget of about ¥40 million and that the film went "over budget a little bit". Due to the commercial success of the first Gamera film, the second film had a expanded budget that Yuasa stated was 80,000,000 yen.
An edited version of the film was released theatrically in the United States on December 15, 1966 as Gammera the Invincible [sic]. This version contained additional scenes with American actors, a new theme song by the Moons and all Japanese dialogue dubbed in English, making the U.S. version run at 86 minutes. These included the scenes with the Alaskan army base, the Pentagon and the U.N. headquarters. This version of the film was also shown frequently on American television in the 1970s.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 20% based on 5 reviews and an average rating of 3.65/10. From contemporary reviews, "Byro." of Variety stated that Plan Z in the film was an "appropriate idea for "Gammera" [sic], a film which can be rated as Grade Z" The review went on to note that the films script and acting was "thoroughly predictable and pedestrian level". From retrospective reviews, AllMovie gave the film a positive review complimenting the films direction, special effects, and cinematography stating, "All in all, Gammera the Invincible is a solidly-crafted, engaging monster mash - just make sure you see the original Japanese version".
Keith Phipps from AV Club stated "Gamera finds the perfect intersection between silly and cool, looking both dangerous and ridiculous as he tromps around. He’s no Godzilla, but he’s got his own thing going on." Arnold T. Blumberg from IGN awarded the film 6 out of 10, stating, "Gamera retains a kitschy charm but it was an inauspicious debut for a beloved icon." James McCormick from Criterion Cast called the film "a wonderful slice of schlock that you can watch again and again and appreciate the workmanship and love put into every scene."
Sandy Frank Film Syndication released the film on VHS as Gamera in 1987. This release featured an English dub for the Japanese version and replaced the original soundtrack with a new score. Neptune Media released the original, unaltered Japanese version and the altered U.S. version on VHS in 1999. Alpha Video released a cropped public domain version of the U.S. version on DVD in 2003, along with other public domain Gamera films.
Vintage Home Entertainment released Gamera: The Ultimate Collection on May 17, 2005 which included a compilation of the entire film series. Shout! Factory released the original Japanese version of the film on DVD in May 2010. Mill Creek Entertainment released the original Japanese version of the film, combined with other Gamera films, on Blu-ray in April 2014. The film was last released by Willette Acquisition Corp. on Feb 17, 2015.
Gamera, the Giant Monster was one of the few films featured twice on Mystery Science Theater 3000 (both times as Gamera), the first time as part of the initial KTMA series (episode 5) and again in Season 3 (episode 2). Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro named the original Gamera film amongst his top five favorite kaiju films. A character named "Baby Gamera", who has an appearance and abilities similar to Daiei's Gamera, appears in the manga and anime of Dragon Ball.
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