Gamera rewatch – Gamera the Giant Monster (1965)

Rewatching the Gamera movies! Gamera the Giant Monster (1965) has a classic “creature feature” feel, only hinting at the kid-friendly action movie silliness the series would become.

Here’s what happens: An airplane carrying a nuke is shot down in the arctic, awakening an ancient prehistoric turtle, Gamera. The monster eventually goes to Japan, hungry for energy. Although he just wants to eat, he clashes with the local military. Despite a lot of talk about an ice bomb that can freeze Gamera, the humans trick him into entering a giant rocket. They save the Earth from Gamera by launching him to Mars!

What’s all this, then? Tracking the history of this movie is infuriating, in that there have been so many versions of it over the years, with multiple edits, dubs, even a bunch of different titles. I’ve given up trying to figure out which version is the definitive one, concluding that the 1965 Gamera is a living document, evolving into something new for each generation.

Nice gams: In addition to being a gigantic prehistoric turtle, an ancient tablet (!) and the writings of Plato (!!!) tell us that Gamera and other turtles like him once roamed Atlantis, and they were feared like devils. Where’s that movie?

Turtle power: We’re introduced to Gamera’s classic moves. He can breathe fire and smash things real good. Later, he draws his limbs into his shell, replacing them with rockets, that allow him to spin and fly around like a flying saucer. This is preposterous, but it’s also what sets him apart from other kaiju.

Hapless humans: Our hero is Dr. Hidaka, a scientist who was present when Gamera woke up in the arctic. He then takes a leadership role and puts himself in the center of the crisis. He’s the stock “man of science” hero seen in so many old B-movies. His sidekicks are his loyal assistant Kyoko, and thrill-seeking photographer Aoyagi.

Kid stuff: Toshio is a child whose parents force him to let his beloved turtle loose in the ocean. He believes Gamera is his pet all grown up. Later he bonds with Gamera and speaks on Gamera’s behalf. Despite all the death and mass destruction, this establishes from the start that these movies are going for a kid-friendly tone.

Thoughts on this viewing: The movie’s not even hiding the fact that it’s cashing in on the success of 1954’s Gojira (a.k.a. Godzilla), but there’s just enough here to give this series its own personality, setting up all the outrageous places it’s going to go.

Next: Treasure of the Gamera Madre.

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About Mac McEntire

Author of CINE HIGH.
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