OOM #12 – Daikaijû Gamera (1965)

Well, let’s look at what this October Madness has brought us, a new series of films previously undiscovered by me, the Gamera movies is one of those franchises that you hear about, but you’re dubious if it’s worth getting into, specially after hearing so many things about it. But let’s start the conversation right away, as you know I’m guiding myself through this films thanks to James Rolfe’s Cinemassacre’s Monster Madness that explores sequels this year (for the second time) and this time it decided that it was the moment for Gameraaaaaa! You can see the video review of the first Gamera film here. You can read my immediate reaction now.

Gameraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! I watched the original japanese cut of the film, not the infamous ‘Gammera the Invincible’ (1966), well known for chopping up the film, as well as adding a bunch of unnecesary scenes featuring american actors. Thanks to Shout! Factory for releasing the original cuts of the Gamera films, I can do this post, and all the next, untainted by the american simplification of the plot, or how scared the people seemed to be of seeing only japanese actors in the screen. The most interesting and hilarious part of this whole tirade, is that there are a lot of american actors in the original japanese cut as well! The whole film is about the collaboration and new peace treaties that make the world come together to fight one menace to the entire population of planet Earth, in this case Gamera. The film is almost blatantly a call for peace, as it starts with heavy talk about cultures, cold war, and even with a mysterious plane that has no country affiliation but that is gunned down by american planes, only to discover that the plane carried a nuclear bomb, that crashes and explodes in the middle of the Artic, where a Japanese group of scientists and photographers are doing some studies on a local tribe of eskimos.

This film is, really, a rip-off of the original ‘Gojira’ (1954) film, there are many elements that are repeated, from the plan of the electricity to stop the big monster (plan that fails in the two movies), and down to the military confrontations between monster and men, as well as the black and white used to give all of the film a gritty tone. Of course the black and white was dropped for the later releases, as well as the tone completely changed, I’m not sure why, but it suffered the evolution that Godzilla had from the 50’s to the 60’s from one year to the next, finding himself as the ‘friend of all children’ (his most common characteristic, even among them who don’t even know about him, like me), but before all this happened, let’s say that Gamera is a weird creature to have a movie made around. Gamera is a giant turtle, and there’s no question about it, and it’s so weird to find a turtle that walks around destroying things (with big goofy eyes) on two feet! I was actually wondering that once that Gamera had a big wide shot of him standing before some buildings in two legs and then it hit me: turtles don’t walk like that! They walk on all four feet, slowly, and then practically as if the movie saw what I was thinking, Blam! There’s a shot of Gamera going up a mountain, moving slowly, on his four legs, crawling around, it was funny and a spark of brilliance from the makers.

There’s not really any horror to be found here, at least not like in the original Godzilla film, here the tone is gritty and has some horror elements, but scary sequences are scarce, specially because one of the most important characters, a kid, tries to see him as a benevolent creature, specially since he likes turtles so much. There are some inconsistencies regarding this particular character, he seems to be put there to appeal to a younger audience, specially because it tries to humanize Gamera by having him save the kid when he’s falling from a building… that Gamera itself destroyed! That’s something really weird when you think about it, maybe this movie would’ve been truly grim if the kid was murdered just after we know how much he likes turtles. Oh, you like turtles boy? Here’s a big one for you, it will crush your skull the second you lay your eyes on him! There’s some inherent sense that this tries to be a politically correct movie in the end, where it doesn’t try to destroy Gamera, as the nations around the world come together with a plan, something about how peace seems to go through the film as a theme that needs a bit of hammering around here and there every 10 minutes or so. The film isn’t bad, but it’s not great stuff either, specially if you’ve seen some Godzilla movies, you can’t deny that Toho had the marketplace and the best films around. Let’s see how this series evolves with time! It’s Gamera week… I guess.

7/10

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