And You Thought It Was Safe(?)


Gamera vs. Viras (1968)
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Gamera vs. Gaos (1967)
Insert indigestion joke here.

Insert indigestion joke here.

This is the exact midpoint of Gamera’s original (or “Showa Era”) film series. Not chronologically, or in any other terms material, but in terms of tone. This is the point where everyone at Gamera’s home studio, Daiei Film, gave up on the daikaiju genre as anything other than a cash cow. You can barely blame them. By 1967, the writing was on the wall and it said, “the only people stupid enough to abandon their TVs and visit some run-down, overcrowded, food-and-drink-stained movie theater are children.” Film as a whole suffered, but few suffered more than our favorite flying turtle, who would go on to star in some of the most notoriously bad films in daikaiju eiga as the seventies rose up to choke us all down with mediocrity, bad music, and even worse clothing.

Things didn’t have to be this way, but the makers of mid-60s Japanese cinema made the same mistake their American counterparts so often make and assumed (A) kids were the only ones watching their films and (B) kids were stupid. But there’s a difference between being stupid and not being able to articulate why you like something. My ten-year-old self knew Gamera was awesome on a molecular level but my current self still struggles to articulate why that is. Why do you think I’m writing these things in the first place? To finally pull back the curtain and figure out why, whenever someone goes, “Gamera? Really?” I always go “Fuck yeah, Gamera! He’s awesome.”

Pictured: awesomeness

Pictured: awesomeness

His movies, on the other hand, stopped being  the “unbelievable, imaginatively cool” kind of “awesome” and started being the “incredibly cheap and incredibly crappy” kind of “awesome” right in the middle of this film. I can even show you where it happens: it’s the scene where Our  Kenny – an incredibly annoying little snot named Eiichi (Naoyuki Abe) – takes a joyride on Gamera’s back. Continue reading



Gamera vs. Barugon (1966)
October 10, 2005, 1:16 pm
Filed under: Movies, Reviews | Tags: , , , ,

Gamera vs. Barugon marks the transition of a franchise. After the (relative) success of Daikaiju Gamera, the far-sighted and responsible men of Daiei Studios could have carried on, as their fellows at Toho have for years, mining the tried and true formulas of the giant monster genre to wildly varied, but none-the-less consistent, success.

But the times were, sadly, a’ changing. Those who pine that American cinema is slave to every idiotic trend that comes down the pike obviously haven’t watched enough Japanese monster movies. They provide quite the handy cultural history of Japan, and can be enjoyable on that level even if one has no interest in giant monsters (narrow minded philistine that you are). {More}



Gammera the Invincible (1965)
November 14, 1999, 8:31 pm
Filed under: Movies, Reviews | Tags: , , , , ,

Nothing Freudian about this, is there?Though he began life as a humble Godzilla rip-off in a land and time glutted with them, Gamera would come to symbolize everything that went so horribly wrong with the Golden Age of daikaiju cinema. But let us not tell sad stories about the death of kings just yet…like his more famous cousin/industrial competitor, Gamera began life as a serious apotheosis of the paranoia and insecurity of his age. But even here, at the beginning, we can see his creators at Daiei Studios sowing the seeds of their creation’s destruction.

And speaking of destruction…it’s 1965 again, and despite rising tensions between the Superpowers, someone’s still managed to scare up the funding for an Arctic expedition (chasing  that fabled Northwest Passage, no less). As the film opens, the expedition’s official zoologist, Dr. Hidaka (Eiji Funakoshi), his typically hot assistant, Kyoke (Harumi Kiritachi), and your standard news hound, Aoyagi (Junichiro Yamashiko), stop by an Eskimo hut to warm up and quiz the natives. A formation of toy planes interrupts their welcome. “Russian planes,” Hidaka says. {More}