GAMERA: THE GIANT MONSTER (REVIEW)
Dir. Noriaki Yuasa
Reviewer. Dan Cook
Following in Godzilla’s mighty footsteps, Gamera was created by Daiei Studios in an attempt to break into the highly popular kaiju genre and rival Toho’s most popular creation. First appearing in 1965, Noriaki Yuasa’s aptly named GAMERA: THE GIANT MONSTER was a fairly standard monster flick, telling the story of a prehistoric beast going on a rampage through Tokyo after it is awoken by an atomic blast in the Arctic. GODZILLA fans may recognise certain similarities between this movie and Ishiro Honda’s genre-defining ‘Gojira’ from 1954.
However, while their origins may bear certain similarities, where Gamera differs from the King Of The Monsters and his legion of colossal comrades is in his truly unusual design - a gigantic fire-breathing, fire-consuming turtle who, with the use of jet packs on his abdomen, can actually take flight! As expected, the sight of a massive turtle spinning around in the air like a radioactive frisbee is actually pretty spectacular while the many scenes of Gamera stomping through Japan are very well done with impressive miniature work and a typically sturdy, highly detailed rubber suit.
For the most part, GAMERA: THE GIANT MONSTER is a solidly crafted creature feature with some fun action scenes and memorable moments of catastrophe and carnage. Unfortunately however, it is made almost insufferable at times thanks to the presence of a deeply annoying kid named Toshio (Yoshiro Uchida) who is completely obsessed with Gamera and spends the majority of the film pining after the giant turtle even while it is in the process of destroying countless buildings and killing innumerable amounts of people.
It is true that over the course of the sequels, Gamera, like Godzilla, would change from villain to hero - an invincible defender who would protect humanity from danger of all sizes and be a friend to the children of the Earth. Personally, I prefer my monsters to be destructive forces of nature and for the entire running time of GAMERA: THE GIANT MONSTER, I wanted the beast to grab Toshio, throw him to the ground and grind the little brat into the dirt with his gigantic foot until nothing more than a red puddle and an ill-fitting white baseball cap remained.
Still, despite it’s lack of plot originality and the inclusion of a character I would gladly see turned into tomato purée, the film is a highly entertaining creature feature and a perfectly enjoyable introduction to one of the true icons of monster movie cinema.