Home > Uncategorized > Gamera the Invincible (1966)

Gamera the Invincible (1966)

            The atomic bomb changed monster movies for more than two decades after it was detonated.  There was no shortage of American atomic freaks in the movies at this time; however, this cinematic phenomenon was not strictly American.  Japan had its own atomic monsters.  Unlike America, which saw atomic war as an inevitable occurrence manifesting in paranoia, Japan had already felt atomic fire first hand.  Japanese monsters were more like atomic weapons themselves than their smaller, American counterparts.   These movies used huge monsters as a thinly veiled allegory for wide spread atomic destruction.  The undisputed king of giant Japanese monsters (kaiju) in the mid-1960s was Toho’s Godzilla.  Godzilla had already appeared in five movies by 1965, and he showed no signs of slowing down.  In a shameless attempt to cash in on the kaiju craze, Toho rival, Daiei Studios, released “Daikaijû Gamera” in 1965.  It was rereleased in America in 1966 as “Gamera the Invincible.”  One thing needs to be made clear before I continue; no kaiju movie is ‘good’ in the traditional sense.  These movies are as good as any movie starring a guy in a dinosaur costume can be.  ‘Good’ in the kaiju genre is a very relative term.  This must be kept in mind.

            Oh, those dirty Soviets.  It seems like everything was there fault during the Cold War, even if it was a total accident.  Everything, including the liberation of a giant atomic turtle named Gamera from an Arctic glacier, can now be blamed on the Reds.  Predictable, this tremendous turtle heads straight for Japan, as if Japan has some kind of great happy-hour-drink-special for giant atomic monsters.  Through some kind of investigation that may have been too difficult to film, it is discovered by Japanese scientists that Gamera is not carbon based, like we are, but metal based.  For some reason that defies all basic logic, this means that he needs to literally eat fire to survive.  Moving with the care and thoughtfulness of a squirrel, the Japanese military tries and fails several times to kill the rampaging Gamera using conventional weapons.  After several ludicrous attempts to stop Gamera fail miserably, the United Nations finally passes a resolution to halt the offending monster.  This initiative, with the laughably bad title, ‘Plan Z,’ involves trapping Gamera in a titanic metal dome and blasting him into space.  So they do, and the movie ends.                    

            The U.S. distributers of Gamera, like the U.S. distributers of Godzilla, felt that the movie wouldn’t be able to stand as it was released in Japan.  In an effort to make the movie more ‘America friendly,’ extra scenes involving American actors were added.  The acting in these scenes is some of the worst ever recorded.  It’s almost like the actors had a running bet to see who could over-act the most; it’s really something to experience.  Bad acting aside, “Gamera the Invincible” is rendered virtually unwatchable by its main character, an obnoxious boy named Aoyagi.  Aoyagi is a big fan of turtles and he feels bad that Gamera gets picked on by grownups throughout the movie.  This boy, who for some reason is able to barge in on government meetings and military command posts, spends the entire movie trying to convince the foolish adults that they should stop shooting at Gamera.  At this point in cinematic history, kaiju movies were becoming more child friendly as more and more kids became fans of the genre.  This shift in the kaiju mentality from ‘mindless marauder,’ to ‘friendly protector’ is what killed the movement.  By seeing Gamera though a child’s eyes, the audience is expected to forget the fact that thousands of people are dying during Gamera’s rampages.  It’s very difficult to side with a Japanese boy in short shorts who’s trying to interfere with the military’s plans to save its citizens from a huge turtle.  Sorry, kid.  Nobody cares that you like turtles, because we like to keep civilians alive even more.  By the end of the movie, I wanted to throw Aoyagi off a bridge to silence his piercing cry.  Gamera may have been the film’s titular monster, but, for my money, he can’t compete with Aoyagi, the film’s real monster.                       

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