Gamera: The Giant Monster

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Gamera: The Giant Monster
Gamera (1965) Japanese theatrical poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Noriaki Yuasa
Produced by Hidemasa Nagata
Yonejiro Saito
Masaichi Nagata
Written by Nisan Takahashi
Yonejiro Saito
Starring Eiji Funakoshi
Harumi Kiritachi
Junichirô Yamashita
Music by Tadashi Yamauchi
Cinematography Nobuo Munekawa
Edited by Tatsuji Nakashizu
Production
company
Distributed by Daiei Film Co., Ltd.
Release dates
  • November 27, 1965 (1965-11-27)
Running time
78 min. (Japanese)
86 min. (USA)
Country Japan
Language Japanese
English

Gamera: The Giant Monster[1] (大怪獣ガメラ Daikaijū Gamera?, Giant Monster Gamera) is a 1965 Japanese science fiction tokusatsu kaiju film featuring Gamera, produced and distributed by Daiei Film Co., Ltd. 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 the first Gamera film in the Shōwa series. Gamera was initially created by Daiei to capitalize on the success of rival studio Toho's popular Godzilla films, and it, too, spawned its own franchise. It was released in the United States in 1966 as Gammera the Invincible and has been the subject of two different Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes.

Plot[edit]

In an icy North American 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 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 fireball 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 destroys 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 with therefore die of starvation. Gamera then pulls his head and limbs into his shell and flies away.

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, 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 the "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 Tokyo Tower). Toshio and his family evacuate again, but Toshio disappears.

The 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, Plan Z 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.

Cast[edit]

  • Eiji Funakoshi - Dr Hidaka
  • Harumi Kiritachi - Kyoko
  • Junichiro Yamashita - Aoyagi
  • Yoshiro Uchida - Toshio
  • Michiko Sugata - Nobuyo
  • Yoshiro Kitahara - Sakurai
  • Jun Hamamura - Dr. Murase
  • Mort Marshall - Jules Manning
  • Alan Oppenheimer - Dr. Contrare
  • Stephen Zacharias - Senator Billings
  • Bob Carraway - Lt. Simpson
  • Gene Bua - Lt. Clark
  • John McMurry - Airman First Class Hopkins
  • Walter Arnold - American Ambassador
  • Louis Zorich - Russian Ambassador
  • Robin Craven - English Ambassador
  • George Hirose - Japanese Ambassador
  • Albert Dekker - Secretary of Defense (US version)
  • Brian Donlevy - Gen. Terry Arnold (US version)
  • Diane Findlay - Sgt. Susan Embers (US version)
  • John Baragrey - Capt. Lovell (US version)
  • Dick O'Neill - Gen. O'Neill (US version)

Production[edit]

According to screenwriter Niisan Takahashi, Masaichi Nagata (the former president of Daiei) came up with the story for Gamera when he envisioned a tortoise flying in the clouds during a flight back to Japan or saw an island that resembled a tortoise. Takahashi wrote the first version of the story entitled as A Lowly Tortoise Flies Through the Sky though he credits the idea of a flying turtle to Nagata. Noriaki Yuasa was tasked to direct the film and quickly had to learn about special effects, beginning with an optical printer. Special Effects Artist Akira Inouye stated that Gamera's design was finally chosen after the fiftieth sketch. Masao Yagi (who designed the suits for previous Godzilla films) designed the Gamera suit and reinforced it with duralumin and weighed around 20 kilograms. After the script was completed, it took one month to create the storyboards and three months of principal photography. Daiei chose to shoot the film in black and white due to the difficulties of synthesizing with color.

[2]

English versions[edit]

Harris Associates, Inc. theatrical poster for the 1966 U.S release of Gammera the Invincible.

Gamera was originally presented in the United States by World Entertainment Corp. and Harris Associates, Inc., who renamed the film Gammera the Invincible. Reportedly the extra 'M' in the monster's name was to prevent confusion over the pronunciation. Premiering in New Orleans on December 15, 1966, this was the only film in the original Gamera series to receive a theatrical release in America.[citation needed]

Gammera the Invincible was heavily re-edited from its original Japanese version. To Americanize the film for American audiences, director Sandy Howard filmed new footage starring Albert Dekker, Brian Donlevy, John Baragrey and Dick O'Neill. Many of these new scenes replaced similar scenes from the original cut that featured Caucasian extras. Several other scenes from the Japanese version were removed altogether to make room for the new American scenes. Although not credited in the film, it's likely that the remaining Japanese dialogue was dubbed into English by Titan Productions, Inc. in New York. Notable Titan performers such as Bernard Grant, Paulette Rubinstein and Larry Robinson all lent their voices to the film. Future Speed Racer voice actors Peter Fernandez, Jack Curtis and Corrine Orr also participated in the re-recording sessions.[citation needed]

In 1985, American producer Sandy Frank purchased the rights to five of the original eight Gamera films and distributed them to television and home video via King Features. Frank retitled and re-released the first film under the title Gamera. Unlike the previous American version of the film, Frank changed very little from the original Japanese cut of the film. New opening credits set against a stock shot of the ocean were attached to the film and a new English dub Americanized most of the characters' names ("Toshio" became "Kenny", "Kyoko" became "Katherine", "Aoyagi" became "Alex", and so on). None of the footage shot by Sandy Howard for the 1966 American version was seen in this version of the film.[citation needed]

Releases[3][edit]

In Japan, it was released on 27th November 1965 and in Spain, it was released in June of 1967. The video premiere of the movie in USA was in 1985. In Germany, the DVD premiere was on 18th November 2011. In Greece, it was released to the internet on 11th June 2014.

Reception[edit]

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".[4]

It currently has a 20% "Rotten" score on Rotten Tomatoes.[5]

Godzilla series was so successful that Daiei Studios decided they wanted a monster of their own. Probably realizing they couldn’t compete at the adult level with the Big G, Toho aimed somewhat lower, by focusing on the children’s market. The result is a substandard kaiju flick, the potential of which wouldn’t be fully realized until 34 years later.[6]

IMDb gave the movie a 4.5 out of 10 from 1,990 votes.[7]

Legacy[edit]

The movie was satirized twice in the B-movie-mocking series Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K). It first appeared on the show during its first season on Minnesota UHF station KTMA, debuting on December 11, 1988. On June 8, 1991, it was again featured as the second episode of the third season on cable channel Comedy Central. Since the writing on the show had evolved a great deal since the KTMA days, the writing staff ended up tossing out all the improvised jokes from the first episode and re-wrote the entire show. The 1985 "Sandy Frank version" of the film was shown in both episodes.[8]

Clips from Gamera were used for the scene covering the demolition in the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition "Watson Family, Part 1" special episode on November 26, 2012.[citation needed]

Home media[edit]

All three versions of the film had been made available on various home media formats. The Sandy Frank dub was released on VHS and Laserdisc by Celebrity Home Entertainment under both the Creature Feature label and the Just For Kids label in the 1980s. In the mid 1990s, both the original Japanese cut and the 1966 American re-edit were released separately on widescreen letterbox VHS editions. The 1966 American re-edit version was first released on DVD by Synapse Video. It was released again on May 20, 2003 by Alpha Video. As the 1966 American re-edit is in Public Domain, it has since been released countless times on DVD by various studios. Vintage Home Entertainment released Gamera: The Ultimate Collection on May 17, 2005 which included a compilation of the entire film series. The film was last released by Willette Acquisition Corp. on Feb 17, 2015.[9]

In 2010, Shout! Factory released the original Japanese version of the film on DVD in North America for the first time under the title Gamera, the Giant Monster. Bonus material on this release include an Audio Commentary track, a behind the scenes featurette, and the original Japanese theatrical trailer. A year later on August 2, the company also released the MST3K edition of the Sandy Frank dub version on a DVD box set Mystery Science Theater 3000 Vol. XXI: MST3K vs. Gamera along with MST3K editions of Gamera vs. Barugon, Gamera vs. Gyaos, Gamera vs. Guiron, and Gamera vs. Zigra.[citation needed]

In 2014, Mill Creek Entertainment released the Japanese version on Blu-ray in North America for the first time on the Volume one Blu-ray set of Showa era Gamera films.[citation needed]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Aiken, Keith (February 13, 2010). "Showa Gamera Films Coming to DVD from Shout! Factory". Scifi Japan. Retrieved October 28, 2016. 
  2. ^ "A Retrospective Look at the Gamera Franchise". Youtube. Retrieved November 4, 2016. 
  3. ^ "Daikaju Gamera (1965) - Release dates". imdb. Retrieved 28th November 2016
  4. ^ Guarisco, Donald. "Gamera the Invincible (1965) - Noriyaki Yuasa". AllMovie.com. Retrieved 30 July 2015. 
  5. ^ "Daikaijû Gamera (The Giant Monster Gamera) (1965) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes.com. Retrieved 30 July 2015. 
  6. ^ "Giant Monster Gamera (1965) Movie Review". Beyondhollywood.com. Retrieved 28th November 2016
  7. ^ "Daikaju Gamera - Ratings". imdb. Retrieved 28th Niovember 2016
  8. ^ Episode guide: K05- Gamera. mst3kinfo.com
  9. ^ "Gamera the Invincible (1965) - Noriaki Yuasa". AllMovie.com. Retrieved 30 July 2015. 

External links[edit]