Rewatching the Gamera movies! Gamera vs. Barugon (1966) has its high points, but the franchise hasn’t found its voice yet.
Here’s what happens: At the end of the last movie, humans defeated Gamera by putting him on a rocket and firing him away from Earth. That doesn’t last long, as the rocket hits a meteor, and Gamera comes flying back home. Meanwhile, three treasure hunters find an ancient opal that’s actually an ancient egg. It hatches and grows into giant monster Barugon. Gamera is drawn to Barugon’s energy, and they fight it out.
Nice gams: Gamera’s motivation is the same as the first movie. He feeds off energy, and he’s hungry. The movie’s opening set piece is him destroying a dam for sustenance, and the only reason he goes after Barugon is after sensing Barugon’s power. After defeating Barugon at the end, Gamera merely flies off into the sky, like a cowboy riding into the sunset.
Turtle power: Gamera doesn’t get a lot of screen time, as the filmmakers clearly hope Barugon will be the new marquee star. After a lot of failed attempts to defeat Barugon, the humans deduce that he’s a saltwater monster, and freshwater will kill him. In the final battle, Gamera drowns Barugon in a freshwater lake. Can we assume that Gamera has some sort of connection to humanity similar to Godzilla?
Big baddie: Barugon has ice breath, which conveniently counters Gamera’s fire breath. He also has his inexplicable rainbow attack, shooting pretty lights out of his back to attack threats behind him. The rainbow looks silly, but it causes massive destruction. We’re not really told where Barugon comes from or what he wants, though the island natives where he comes from suggest Barugon is magical/supernatural in nature.
Hapless humans: The four treasure hunters are Keisuke, Onodera, Kawajiri, and Ichiro. They’re WWII vets returning to an island they once visited during the war, chasing rumors of a lost treasure. This is way more Treasure of the Sierra Madre than it is Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s all about greed and suspicion among the four men, leading to violence and then murder among them. After a lot of back and forth, Keisuke emerges as the hero, helping the army think of ways to fight Barugon. An island native whom the English dub names “Karen” is also along for the ride, providing exposition about Barugon and a little romance with Keisuke.
Kid stuff: The Gamera movies are famous for being whimsical and kid-friendly, but this one attempts a serious drama with all the paranoia and backstabbing.
Thoughts on this viewing: While the “evil that men do” plot is interesting, it means the monster action is fleeting. And the monster action is what we’re here for. This movie was allegedly a box office bomb, causing the series to pivot in a new direction after this.
Next: Going volcanic.
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