Gamera, the Giant Monster
|Gamera, the Giant Monster|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Noriaki Yuasa|
|Produced by||Hidemasa Nagata|
|Screenplay by||Fumi Takahashi|
by Yonejiro Saito
|Edited by||Tatsuji Nakashizu|
Gamera, the Giant Monster (大怪獣ガメラ Daikaijū Gamera, lit. Giant Monster Gamera) is a 1965 Japanese kaiju film featuring Gamera, produced and distributed by Daiei Film. The film is directed by Noriaki Yuasa and stars Eiji Funakoshi, Harumi Kiritachi, and Junichiro Yamashita. It is the first film in the Gamera franchise 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.
In an icy Arctic region, an unknown aircraft is shot down by an American fighter jet. The aircraft crashes and its cargo, a low-level atomic bomb, explodes. The resulting cataclysm awakens a giant, prehistoric monster called Gamera, who has the appearance of a giant turtle with teeth and large tusks. Japanese scientists on an expedition (including Dr. Hidaka, Kyoko, and Aoyagi) nearby are given a "devil stone" by an Eskimo 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 from 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 that same 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 his head, limbs and tail into his shell, emits flames out of his arm and leg cavities and flies away by rising up into and spinning around through the air 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 figure out what to do with its 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 lands 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 disappears.
Z Plan is still not ready and 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 car to keep Gamera occupied for 24 hours. Toshio has found his way to the refinery and sneaks on board the train to Gamera, chased by the refinery headman, and they are both thrown from the train when it explodes. They are unharmed and Toshio is sent on his way.
In the meantime, Z Plan is completed and Toshio sneaks on board the 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 to a rocket and blasted off 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 so he can go visit Gamera one day.
- Eiji Funakoshi as Dr Hidaka
- Harumi Kiritachi as Kyoko
- Junichiro Yamashita as Aoyagi
- Yoshiro Uchida as Toshio
- Michiko Sugata as Nobuyo
- Yoshiro Kitahara as 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:
- Albert Dekker as the Secretary of Defense
- Brian Donlevy as Gen. Terry Arnold
- Diane Findlay as Sgt. Susan Embers
- John Baragrey as Captain Lovell
- Dick O'Neill as Gen. O'Neill
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. The rats received for the film had fleas which halted production on Dai gunju Nezura. The success of Toho's Godzilla films led to the rival company Daiei to create a monster series of its own. As the miniatures for the film were already built, Masaichi Nagata had the idea 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 the second film had a expanded budget that Yuasa stated was 80 million 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 US version run at 86 minutes. These included the scenes with the Alaskan army base, the Pentagon, and the UN headquarters. This version of the film was also shown frequently on American television in the 1970s.
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 US version on VHS in 1999. Alpha Video released a cropped, public domain version of the US 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, paired with other Gamera films, on Blu-ray in April 2014. The film was last released by Willette Acquisition Corp. on Feb 17, 2015.
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". It currently has a 20% "Rotten" score on Rotten Tomatoes.
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- Rhoads & McCorkle, Sean & Brooke (2018). Japan's Green Monsters: Environmental Commentary in Kaiju Cinema. McFarland. ISBN 9781476663906.
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