Ohhh Gamera, you’re the best monster in the woooorld! One day I shall end up doing a song about this beautiful monster and its beautiful series of films. For now, I only have reviews for you, on the second Gamera film, ‘Gamera vs. Barugon’ (1966), the one with the beautiful video review by James Rolfe for his Cinemassacre’s Monster Madness, the inspiration for todays October Overlook’s Madness. You can watch that review in this link, and you can read my thoughts below.
When we last saw Gameraaaaaaaaaaaaaaa, he was drifting in space, in a spacefish built for him so he could visit the planet Mars, but this time, color happens! And with that, a meteor crashes into the spaceship, breaking it into a million pieces, but behold, Gamera survives! He turns into the spinning ufo shooting fire out of his turtle holes and goes dashing back to Earth. Once there, he attacks a power plant in a dam, only to later drift away to explore new types of energy, he’s like the ecologist monster of the 60’s, always looking for new sources of power to feed on. And that’s it, that’s our Gamera movie, at least for quite a while, we are then transported to the story of three thugs and their boss, a man with crutches, they are having an expedition to New Guinea to find an opal as big as a melon that can be found in a cave, but when the three thugs arrive (one of them is the brother of the boss) they are confronted by the natives, who say that they shouldn’t enter the cave, as people who have done so, have never come back. They, obviously, go in, and there they find the reason for all the people who have never come back: deadly golden scorpions that kill you in five minutes!
What happened here? Where are my giant monsters fighting? What are all these humans doing in my kaiju film? Actually, I quite like it, it’s like the perfect plot for a normal movie (kaijus aren’t normal films), it moves along pretty quickly, and it feels like the start of a american 40’s film filmed in studios to resemble Africa, much like the Tarzan films and other movies that were done in that heydey. Of course that the film then takes another turn when the big opal turns out to be an egg for a furious monster that will try to destroy Japan, of course we’re talking about Barugon, the deadly lizard with spikes that shoots… rainbows… explosive deadly rainbows out of his back… and he also has ice breath! That strange and powerful rainbow actually attracts the attention of… could it be? GAMERAAAAAAAAAAA!!!! Of course! He loves new sources of power, and he also seems to be immune to that power, how could it be? Obviously that’s when the fight begins, and while it’s not the last one they’ll have, it’s pretty clear the striking visual style that they’ll have, as they are shot in the dark, with a great use of limited colours and always the masterful utilization of perspective to give them the presence of giants that they should always have.
But I need to talk about something. There’s a series of scenes put between the discovery of the monster and the first fight between Barugon and Gamera, they all feature humans, and the talk about the monsters or what’s going on is actually pretty scarce, they mostly talk about feelings and they feature big clumsy fight sequences between angry people. What was the aim, what was going on here? After some investigation, I can’t really put my finger on what is the reason behind this sudden importance given to the actual plot of the film over the plotting of the army, the search of solutions or the rumble between the monsters. Then I took a look at the director of this installment and his work. This is the only film in the series of 7 films that I’ll watch directed by Shigeo Tanaka, and also the only one that isn’t directed by Noriaki Yuasa, the one that directed the original and then took a wild approach to the following installments, Tanaka is known for making dramas and films with heavy feelings. This one feels just like that, even in the monster fight sequences, like a serious drama with entertaining aspects about it, it’s never completely silly and it actually has some room for scary moments as well as thrills (the whole scene in the cave with the scorpions is enough to send chills down your spine) that are never found in most Godzilla sequels.
But there’s just something that falls apart in the final 30 minutes of film or so, when they are trying to find an answer to defeat Barugan, and they spend countless minutes testing theories, doing silly experiments and when they’re going better, the drama starts again, and there’s an interesting sequence featuring two of the initial thugs and infrared death ray that is quite suspenseful, but that is cut short by the power of Barugon. In that sense, you could understand me when I say that the ending battle between Barugon and Gameraaaaaa is entertaining, but it’s far from being the best thing about the film. I’m guessing that I’ll end up hating the rest of the Gamera films, but what can you say man, it’s how things are. This one’s pretty good though, I liked it quite a bit, but the ridiculousness of some things had to stop. I also think that this one is better than the first one, but by a really tiny margin.