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Movies Eddie McMullen Jr.

Review by
E.C.McMullen Jr.

Gamera
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GAMMERA THE INVINCIBLE - 1966 (Hollywoodized)
Daiei Studios / NTC
Rated: NR

GAMERA or GAMMERA, it's just a freakin' turtle, y'all! And Sandy Frank, you had jack shit to do with making this movie, so stop acting like a petulant doyenne over Mystery Science Theater 3000 satirizing it. It's a movie about a giant fire-breathing, jet flying, snow turtle for Noodle sake!

Well, Kaiju fans are knowingly nodding their heads over what I just wrote, but as for the rest of you who've never actually seen a GAMERA movie, let me fill you in.

Whoosh! A flight group of futuristic Russian jets fly through the sky, and though they are obviously models, the model builder took care to make them look not only Russian, but the kind of cultural-military style that a futuristic Russian jet might have. Kudos for that.

Splash! We see an obviously fake ice cutter ship go bouncing through the ice and relatively calm water of the Arctic ice cap. The ice breaks apart with a "Skeek!" sound. Clench your teeth together and blow a quick blast of air through the space between your cheek and teeth. "Skeek!", right? I swear this is the sound effect of a ship crashing through ice in this movie. Best not to drink while watching this flick. And gimmie back my kudos! The sudden and serious voice-over narration tells us that we are looking at an ice cutter boat going through the arctic.

"Skeek!"

Ah good.

The narration certainly makes it appear more realistic.

"Skeek!"

Just as we see an all Asian and, I'm guessing, all Japanese crew, the narrator tells us that we are, in fact, looking at a crew that is a mix of American and Canadians. So I'll suspend my disbelief further and imagine that the crew is made up entirely of hyphenated Japanese-Americans and Japanese-Canadians. I do this because I prefer to actually enjoy a movie while watching it rather than cut it down, and I always give an enormous amount of slack to any feature I watch. And if it's kaiju? Hoo-boy you wouldn't believe the slack!

The ice cutter wants to create Henry Hudson's "fabled northwest passage". But there ARE no fables in the actions of Dr. Hidaka (Eiji Funakoshi: KAIDAN KAKUIDORI, KAIDAN OTOSHIANA, MÔJÛ, GAMERA VS. GUIRON), so there! He rides his jeep to an isolated Eskimo village, complete with igloos (no problem there). The igloos have chimney's belching out plumes of smoke! How the hell can you have a hot iron stove in a house made of ice? I grant you that they may be burning whale or seal blubber, but still, an igloo with a freaking metal smokestack chimney? Criminey!

Dr. Hidaka and his group, along with the eskimos and the sailors, witness the Russian flight group flying overhead. The Russian aircraft models change several times over with every view. It could be that they are transformer jets, but its more likely that they are the result of bad film making.

Over at the U.S. Headquarters of Air Defense SEC in North Alaska, the proximity of the Rooskies unnerve Air Force General O'Neill (Dick O'Neill: WOLFEN). He barks orders at his sex harrassing men, sending them off to do important work, and asks for a cup of coffee from his one female staffer. It's gonna be a long day. The American jet fighters scramble and shoot a Rooskie out of the sky, which makes it crash into the ice. "Skeek!" Which, in turn, makes its atomic bomb payload explode (which means those bastards were armed with live nukes!), which treats Dr. Hidaka and entourage to a rather nice nuclear explosion show that they all watch admiringly. Without eye protection! Great Cthulhu!

This being a 1965 flick, you know what happens when anyone uses radiation. Yep, a giant monster awakens from slumber. In this case, it's a giant turtle. Dr. Hidaka is stunned by the revelation but the local Eskimos tell him that its not as big a deal as he might think. Gamera has been around for a long time and is even a part of their Eskimo lore.

Boy! Just when you thought you knew everything about them dang ol' Eskimos! Lemme tell you something, Inuit Eskimos have about 15 words for snow. Yu'pik Eskimos have about 24, Aleut have their words for it and so on. Granted there are many different tribes with different languages which sends the snow word count into the hundreds, but they can all be broken down into double digits (the English language also has many different words for frozen water: snow, ice, sleet, slush, hail, powder, drift, mogul, etc.). But none of the Eskimo languages have a word for turtle. Turtles don't live within the Arctic Circle: Not sea or land turtles either. But hey, turtles aren't several hundred feet tall, or breathe fire either. So I can let that pass.

So Gamera is awake, breaks out of his icy prison - "Skeek!" - and he goes on to tear ass - first on a passing ship (it's tradition in Japanese monster movies that a passing ship always gets first strike).

The world media doesn't know what to make of it. Newspapers from various countries in various languages all ask the same question with headlines in English: A GIANT TURTLE YOU SAY?

On American television, Zoologist Dr. Contraire (Alan Oppenheimer: WESTWORLD), with all of the pomposity of a preening John Edwards (Psychic fraud or politician - take your douche), dresses down the local scientist (this is a Hollywoodized movie so therefore scientists are stupid) on the show as he insists, sight unseen, that the giant turtle must certainly be true. Alan had fun with this part and his cartoonish histrionics served him well in later years when he became the voice of Man-At-Arms (Duncan) on He-Man and the Masters of the Universe as well as Beachcomber for THE TRANSFORMERS, to name a few.*

Well the Gamera thing is Dr. Hidaka's theory and he... well actually, Dr. Hidaka hasn't seen the giant turtle either. He's only heard rumor and speculated on that, which makes John Edwards - I mean Dr. Contraire - seem like an even bigger douche. There are also photos in the papers of a silvery metallic flying UFO. Dr. Hidaka is convinced that the UFO and Gamera are connected somehow, but he has no idea how. He never actually witnessed either and he's investigated neither.

Dr. Hidaka opines that Gamera has been buried in the snow for 200 million years - which makes you wonder how in the hell the Eskimos know a damn thing about him. It also makes you wonder how a fireblowing turtle could ever get trapped in something like snow!

Our nation's best and brightest (that nation being the U.S.) gather to discuss the Gamera and UFO issue. There remains some skepticism over whether either is factual and General Arnold (Brian Donlevy: THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT, QUATERMASS 2, CURSE OF THE FLY) gets a dressing down from a skeptical senator. Meanwhile, that UFO is travelling around the world for reasons unknown.

Okay, so, meanwhile, Gamera makes a beeline for the...

Russians who woke him up with their atomic bomb?

No.

The Americans who shot down the Russian jet?

Nooo!

The Japanese. Gamera goes on holiday to tear hell out of Tokyo.

Yep, whenever the Superpowers get up to their stupid shenanigans, it's the people of Tokyo who pay the price. So Gamera saves a fat turtle lovin' kid from certain death, then slaughters tens of thousands of kids when he tears ass through Tokyo. In case you haven't pieced this puzzle together yet, this is NOT your average turtle. No, seriously! Throw all of your preconceived turtle notions out the window because I'm telling you, this is NOT your father's turtle.

No wait, this movie is from 1965 so it may very well be your father's turtle. Wow. Chew on that for a moment. If Gamera is my Pop's turtle then my father may be responsible for the death and destruction of the people of Tokyo! And all because of a giant fire-belching turtle. Man, that's some heavy burden for me to carry.

But I digress.

The Japanese military decides to use their weapons to flip Gamera on his back. Seriously. This really is the plan in the movie. Once you have a 500 foot turtle on his back he's helpless. Then you just wait for him to die and stink up the rest of Japan. But Gamera is one canny terrapin and, while on his back, sucks his head and feet into his shell, then fires rocket blasts out of his leg holes and flies outta there! Man whatta whacked out concept! Did I mention he also has tusks and walks on two legs? The makers of this movie didn't know the meaning of "going too far"!

Writer Nisan Takahashi (GAMERA VS. BARUGON, GAMERA VS. GAOS, GAMERA VS. VIRAS, GAMERA VS. GUIRON, GAMERA VS. MONSTER X, GAMERA VS. ZIGRA, GAMERA SUPER MONSTER) clearly didn't think this one through. Hollywood scribe, Richard Kraft did no better and never worked in movies again. Remember THAT the next time you decide to take on a crappy movie project just to get your "foot in the door".

Speaking of the folks who made this movie, Japanese director Noriaki Youasa (GAMERA VS. GAOS, GAMERA VS. VIRAS, GAMERA VS. GUIRON, GAMERA VS. MONSTER X, GAMERA VS. ZIGRA, GAMERA SUPER MONSTER) made himself a nice little career with Gamera movies even though they all flopped. Sandy Howard directed the Hollywoodized cuts in this flick and thankfully, it was the first and only time he directed SciFi Horror. He went on as a producer, to bring us some of the most insipid Horror Thriller ever to smear the screen like THE NEPTUNE FACTOR, THE DEVIL'S RAIN, and EMBRYO.

If you are a fan of Big Horror or Kaiju, then the Hollywoodized version of GAMERA THE INVINCIBLE should just crack you right the hell up.

Three Negative Shriek Girls.

Negative Shriek GirlNegative Shriek GirlNegative Shriek Girl
This review copyright 2008 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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*
TRIVIA
Alan Oppenheimer was also Dr. Wells on THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN - though he toned the hammy acting down considerably for that.

Now you can learn far more about Gamera than you'd ever care to know.

CALCINATOR
DEATH RAY

 

 

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