Gamera: The Giant Monster
Directed by Noriaki Yuasa
Starring Eiji Funakoshi, Harumi Kiritachi
Release Date: May 18, 2010
If you’re like me, your only exposure to Gamera may be from episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000. I’ve never seen the film without the familiar silhouettes in front, but Shout! Factory has recently released the first two Gamera films on DVD, so now is our chance to see the original film, with a new English translation. If you’re a fan of Godzilla movies, this will be right up your alley. The rest of us will find a goofy monster movie that may not be a great movie, but is fun to watch.
This is the part of the review where I would discuss the plot of the film, but you know what? Screw it. It’s a giant turtle, and he rampages. That’s all you need to know. Gamera is a pale imitator of Godzilla, but that’s okay, because it’s still good fun. You have the traditional man in the rubber suit, the scientists trying to destroy him, and the child who sees him as a misunderstood friend. Plot is largely unimportant in any of these giant monster films. It’s all about the fun of watching the monster take out a major metropolitan area.
Is it a good movie? Of course it’s not. But it’s got a giant turtle with tusks that destroys Tokyo. Are you really looking for Schindler’s List? The few American actors who show up at the start of the film are hilariously bad actors. This is the kind of film to put in if you want to have a bad movie night. The monster doesn’t move around very well, there’s lots of exploding model planes, but it’s fun. There’s no stock flying footage here. If you see a plane, you’re seeing a model. You can’t fake the enthusiasm that goes into making one of these films. Part of the joy of watching a movie like this is the complete lack of irony. This is not a post-modern deconstruction of a monster movie, this is just a turtle versus a town.
The big selling point of this new version is the original Japanese dub and the widescreen presentation. For a movie made in 1965, this version of the film looks pretty good. It’s a shame that Shout! Factory couldn’t find some way to include the MST3K episode where they mocked this film, since Shout! is releasing this, and also release the MST3K DVDs, but I’m sure it’s just a matter of the ongoing rights issues. Still, a man can hope.
Extras on the disc include a look at the creation of the film, and a commentary by writer August Ragone. The commentary has a lot of background information about the film, but it’s a little dry for my taste. Die hard fans of the series or of Japanese films in general may be more interested in the info presented, but most people will find it pretty boring.
This is a fun movie, but it’s probably not for everyone. If you’re a fan of giant monster movies, I’m sure this is a must-buy. For the rest of us, it’s a fun movie that you can rent and then get a bunch of friends together to watch and laugh about. Gamera may not be as well known as Godzilla, but he destroys a city just as well. Give this one a shot if you’re in the mood for some rubber-suit action.