Daigoro vs. Goliath (1972)
Hi all, Nate here. Today we thought we'd venture back to the Land of the Rising Sun for an obscure and virtually forgotten kaiju film (one that does not star either a Godzilla or a Gamera). Daigoro vs. Goliath's provenance is somewhat interesting, in that it was originally written as Daigoro vs. Godzilla but Toho Studios pulled the ripcord early in the production and a new monster had to be inserted. Had Big Green actually been in this movie, however, it would certainly fit right in with the early 1970s/late Showa Series Godzilla movies, which were all crappy kiddie films designed solely to sell toys and kill memories. I suppose we should all be grateful that Toho balked at watering down the brand any more than it already had.
Anyway, lets chat about our movie, shall we? First, lets go back in time to six years before the start of movie to that fateful day when a giant monster was unleashed by an atomic accident. The enraged furry, raccoon-faced bipedal beast attacked the Japanese coast in a crazed rage of building-smashing and tank-swatting, but was eventually killed by the military with a big flashy missile to the head. We see all this in an overly-dark and murky flashback scene, but it serves its purpose. In this universe, by the way, that was the only giant monster around.
The big (and dead) mommy monster leaves behind a little baby monster (!) that was soon christened Daigoro by the Japanese. Instead of killing it with fire (FIRE!) like they should have, they decided to raise the baby on "Goroshima Island", off the coast of Japan. In short order, the blubbery little tyke grew up to be a really blubbery 100-foot tall fat kid with the head of a hippopotamus and the whiskers of a Chinese house cat. Does he look a bit like an oversized Minya, Godzilla's spawn? Yeah, but Daigoro has clearly been hitting the drive-thu at McDonald's a bit too much because he's a fat, lumpy, tipsy monster with a Kentucky hillbilly beer gut.
Not exactly inspiring fear and terror.
The surprisingly placid and genial Daigoro is cared for and fed by the locals who use him as tourist attraction in the world's most awesome open-plan beach-side zoo (I'd certainly pay to see him!). Cynical and capitalistic? Yes. Illogical and baffling? Indeed, but there's no Monster Island in this movie's universe. Teenage Diagoro is just like a typical teenage human, constantly hungry and always eating you out of house and home to the tune of 130 pounds of food a day. Actually, as I type that, that doesn't really sound like a lot of food for a 100-foot tall monster, you'd certainly think that wouldn't provide the necessary caloric intake. I hope they are supplementing that with vitamins. As our film opens, however, budget cuts have forced the government to consider giving Daigoro anti-growth drugs to slow down his development so he isn't eating so much.
Nicely balanced diet, if a bit heavy on the starches.
This really upsets his primary keeper Saito the most as he's become Daigoro's surrogate parent in the last six years. Saito is able to understand the monster's warthog grunts and high-pitched squeals and over time has become close friends with it, to the point where it follows him around on dates with pretty girls (not making that up). The actor playing Saito has a very distinctive face that looks incredibly familiar to me but I cannot for the life of me figure out where I've seen him before. Frustratingly, there are no credits on my copy of this movie (that I can read) and even the usually reliable imdb.com is no help. This is truly a forgotten movie staring a bunch of anonymous people, wish I could do something about that without having to buy a Region 2 DVD player off eBay.
I swear he was in a Godzilla movie.
Running alongside the oddly heart-warming and sincere story of Saito and Daigoro are two separate and meandering, if eventually combined, subplots. One concerns a dopey, slacker inventor type guy, a stereotypical Japanese kaiju movie character placeholder that's invariable played for cheap low-hanging-fruit laughs (think Tetsuo from G vs. Monster Zero or Shinpei from That Which Shall Not Be Named). He's trying hard to win a 2 million yen prize from a tacky TV game show, hoping to spend the money to help feed poor, hungry Daigoro. 2 mil yen converts to only about 21,000 dollars in 1972 US money, in case you were interested, which would still buy a lot of monster chow (or a really nice Cadillac).
While he's surely earnest and determined to help out everyone's favorite chubby monster, he's hampered by his insanely bad luck, his geeky, awkward social skills, and the fact that he's really not that good of an engineer. His basement-lab inventions include the decidedly un-aerodynamic Aerobike, which explodes more than it flies, some illusionary magical red canvas shoes, and a DIY rainmaking rocket that is clearly not sanctioned by the Japanese Rocketry Association. As to how this unemployed, bug-eyed dude can afford to built all these gadgets, he's still living at home with his parents (of course he is).
No caption can do this justice.
He's also surrounded by a gaggle of well-meaning, if annoying, groupies, including some chunky kid named Toro and a sore-thumb-sticking-out blonde-haired Gaijun white kid (what?). He also has a bubby, short-skirted jailbait niece, who spends most of her screen time comically angry that her embarrassingly clumsy uncle keeps running off her boyfriends in harharhar ways. Since the inventor character is supposed to be the quiet, reflective type, whenever the giggly, perky niece is on screen you almost forget he's there (and he's the hero!). I could see more of her, if you know what I mean.
The other plotline concerns a portly, schlubby, drunken, working-class slob named Kumo who is taken in by the quest to save Daigoro and even gives up his eight-bottle-a-day sake habit for the cause. He's hampered by his way-out-of-his-league cute wife who keeps spending his donation money on fancy dresses and pearls, and his dimwitted best friend who insists on wearing pastel neck scarves despite all common sense. With his buffoonish tomfoolery and coked-up physical comedy, the Kumo character quickly takes over this movie, intentionally or not. He's the Asian Robin Williams back in his stand-up day, flying around the screen screaming and raging and joking and passing out, always mugging for the camera (actor must have been a bear to deal with on set). Trust me, his schtick is only funny to small children and people who found Chris Farley hilarious.
Drunks are funny.
And make no mistake, this movie was tailor made for children (and their parents' wallets). From the campy, LSD dream sequences to the hokey Three Stooges dialogue and (literal) eye-poking, it's aimed squarely at 10-year old boys who like seeing grown-ups get hit in the head with rocks and chipper monsters doing kung fu. Probably wouldn't play well in 2013, today's kids are bored too quickly for a film like this.
Even these kids are too old for this movie.
Anyway, strange things are brewing on peaceful Goroshima Island and people are starting to get a tad worried. The weather has cooled dramatically, and snow has even started to fall from the sky in the middle of summer. More ominously, local fishermen have reported seeing a shooting star ditch into the sea offshore and evil portents are in the wind. Pam, why is Daigoro now standing on the beach in a blinding snowstorm, raging out at the frothing sea? Is something out there? What could possibly scare such a beast?
Man, those whiskers look terrible.
Maybe a representative of Weight Watchers, Nate? I know you're supposed to mind your own business about other people's weight, but Daigoro really is packing on the pounds. Time to do something, for health reasons if nothing else. But you just can't reason with some people...
However, to get back to the action, Daigoro's bouncing around and grunting, scaring his keepers, who think that the strange weather might be making him savage. Saito has to wrestle a rifle away from one of them, and there's talk of shooting Daigoro with a tranquilizer dart, when the keepers notice a jet of water spraying up from the ocean. Everybody watches as a large lump slowly rises, finally revealing itself as a large blue scaly beast with a horn on its head. It seems to be covered with ice, which is strange for something that's been underwater, but even stranger is that its horn lights up and shoots a beam of light at the clouds overhead, causing them to break up! Whatever it is, I want it to visit me, it's been cloudy around here for days.
He's big, he's blue, he's not Godzilla.
Daigoro is still grunting and waving its hands, so I can't tell if he's glad to see the blue beast or not. The staff is wondering if it was the blue creature that caused the snow. Daigoro wades out to meet the creature, and at first I still can't tell if Daigoro's feeling friendly or not. There's a few mild punches traded, but it looks pretty much like two boys who haven't seen each other in a while playing around. After a minute or two, you can tell they're fighting for real, but it's the slowest, gentlest, lamest monster-on-monster fight you've ever seen. (I wonder if the footage was supposed to be speeded up when it was inserted into the movie?) Godzilla would be embarrassed. In fact, one of the keepers is ungallant enough to point out that Daigoro isn't much of a fighter, but Saito jumps to Daigoro's defense and points out that he hasn't had enough to eat. But even a well-fed Daigoro might be outclassed by the newcomer, whose horn lights up and administers an electric shock severe enough to cause Daigoro to light up in turn, then collapse and fall down in the water. With that, the newcomer turns and walks out to sea, leaving Daigoro lying in the shallows, looking very much like a beached whale. Oh, no, is Daigoro dead?
These guys are no help.
The movie's going to keep us in suspense a while longer, although my guess is Daigoro's fine. The movie's only halfway finished, how could they kill off the title character this early? The next scene opens with a ferry unloading three trucks filled with food for Daigoro. (Remember all the fund-raising activities earlier in the movie?) Based on the way we've seen Daigoro eat, I'd say that those three trucks are carrying at most only a two- or three-day supply of food for Daigoro, but it's the thought that counts, after all. And Daigoro looks as though he needs all the help he can get. The tide has gone out, leaving poor Daigoro stretched out on the beach, still unconscious. I notice that the suitmakers went to the trouble of adding lines and whorls to the soles of Daigoro's feet, a bit of realism that's kind of nice.
Some really nice split-screen matte work in this one, as well.
I'd been thinking that his keepers just let Daigoro lie there and didn't try to resuscitate him, but I was wrong. They called a doctor, who's been there trying to help Daigoro. Unfortunately this is a small island, and the quality of medical services available isn't the best. The "doctor" looks as though he should have lost his license to practice medicine some time ago, and if he were treating a member of my family I'd make him take a breathalyzer test before he laid a finger on him. However, it seems he's the only doctor on the island, so Daigoro will have to make the best of it. The doctor's tried his entire repertoire of resuscitative techniques, which seem to consist of taking Daigoro's pulse and using a syringe to force something into one end or the other, but Daigoro's still prone on the sand. Fortunately Kuma has shown up to save the day. He grabs up a pail of what the subtitles say is honey, climbs aboard Daigoro, and empties the pail into Daigoro's mouth. This doesn't seem to do any good, and Kuma's beginning to collapse in tears, when Daigoro's mouth finally starts to move a little. This proves to be a mixed blessing for Kuma, since he's still in Daigoro's mouth, but in the next scene we see that he survived, although he's now sporting some bandages on his head.
Whoever did the fansub on this one did an excellent job.
It seems that Kuma helped Daigoro in more ways than one, because during his sojourn in Daigoro's mouth, he found a piece of the blue monster in Daigoro's throat and heroically pulled it out (his story), or it came out when Daigoro spit him out (his wife's version). Daigoro's keepers analyzed whatever it was, and it turned out to contain some elements that aren't found on Earth. From this we and the keepers deduce that the monster came from outer space, probably on that shooting star the fishermen spotted. The monster might be Godzilla's cousin from Venus, since he attacked a "seaside industrial complex," then disappeared out to sea.
Silly Asian people, why don't you sit on chairs?
It seems that the weirdo inventor tagged along with Kuma, and he's now sitting in Kuma's hospital room. Not only that, but he brought along the troop of kids that followed him around. One of the kids, possibly Taro, suggests that when they located the monster, they nuke him, to punish him for hurting Daigoro. The inventor points out that that would contaminate the water and hurt the fish, and Kuma chooses this moment to wake up and say with his typical brilliance that the sea's already polluted with industrial waste, so what harm can a nuclear bomb do? In fact, he offers to deliver the bomb in person, and when his wife, who has also tagged along, points out that if he does, he'll blow up along with the bomb, they get into a knockdown fight while the keepers slip out. Let's hope Kuma and his wife are arrested for domestic violence, their absence would decrease the movie’s stupidity factor considerably.
I think she's got something else lined up, if you know what I mean.
Back on the beach, the donated food is piled up and Daigoro is invited to eat his fill. The advent of the blue monster has suddenly made it more cost-effective to fatten Daigoro up. Daigoro may have eaten too much already, since he can barely walk, but he manages to stagger his way back to the beach, where he practices kicking and punching. One of his keepers urges him to look more aggressive (something which is a lost cause for the chubby slow-moving Daigoro), only to run away when Daigoro takes him at his word and punches loose a shower of rock from the nearby cliff.
There's a running joke with this lonely guy trying to be Daigoro's friend.
However, one way or another Daigoro better get his act together, because the blue monster, called the Great Stellar Monster in the subtitles, is hard at work incinerating an oil refinery. What is it with monsters and oil refineries? Do they get something out of the flames and destruction, or do they do it just to see things blow up? Back on Daigoro's island, the debate about using a nuclear bomb is still raging, as though any of these losers has anything to say about using nuclear weapons. The debate ends with the solemn observation that humans have survived many crises throughout history (although probably not anything like this particular crisis), and the sun sets.
The sparky horn effects are well done.
The next morning, the entire gang is back on the beach, trying to teach Daigoro some fighting moves. Unfortunately Daigoro is still moving in slow motion, although as Saito points out, Daigoro is a child monster, after all, and it's unreasonable to expect too much from him. But finally, after much effort, Daigoro reveals a new talent. He opens his mouth and belches forth a sizable flame! Nobody seems too surprised, so maybe this is a known ability of adult Daigoros.
Fire must be hell on your enamel.
Daigoro's new achievement happened just in time, because the Great Stellar Monster has been located on "Emakajima Island," which may not actually exist, since the omniscient Internet seems to know nothing about it. For some reason the inventor for seems to be running the whole fight against this monster, who he has chosen to name "Goliath." You'll recall that up until a minute ago, Daigoro seemed to be a total washout as a fighter, and it seems that the inventor put something together to help Daigoro out. It's wrapped up so we can't see what it is, but the inventor is sure it'll kill the monster, even though it's small enough to hold in one hand. There's only one catch: somebody will have to place it on the monster's horn. Since Kuma just recently volunteered to hand-deliver a nuclear bomb, his wife feels that he's the best person to deliver this new device (this marriage seems to have its issues). Kuma must be even dumber than he looks, or maybe he's been nipping at the sake, because he actually agrees, although I must say he doesn't look too happy.
She must be the sole beneficiary on his life insurance.
Kuma, another fat guy who may be his brother, and the inventor acquire a small motorboat and duly set out for Emakajima Island. You know, Nate gave Zombies of the Stratosphere a lot of grief for making it look as though two men and a woman were responsible for protecting the entire Earth from alien invaders, but this movie's even worse. We're supposed to believe that four zookeepers, a few dysfunctional adults, and some children are going to destroy a monster from outer space who goes through oil refineries like Popeye goes through spinach. With the help of Daigoro, of course, who's still on his island, practicing his fire-breathing. We learn that the inventor's device will only knock out the monster's horn, and it'll be up to Daigoro to finish him off. The head zookeeper promises that if Daigoro kills the monster, his food budget will be greatly increased.
On Emakajima, the inventor's on a hilltop preparing the signal fire to let the motley crew know that the monster's horn's been neutralized and it's safe for Daigoro to proceed against him. Unfortunately this means that Kuma and the other guy are the ones who have to track down the monster and cap his horn. There's an extended "humorous" sequence that the Three Stooges would have rejected as being too idiotic, and which I will spare you, but suffice it to say that through a series of unfortunate events, the signal is triggered accidentally. The monster sets off for Daigoro's island along with the three guys (I'm fighting down the urge to call them the Three Stooges), who have somehow ended up on its back. In the meantime, poor unsuspecting Daigoro is preparing to do battle, convinced that the horn which shocked him into unconsciousness earlier is no longer a threat. He finds out soon enough that it's still active, because as soon as the monster gets near Daigoro's island, be shoots a bolt that knocks Daigoro down.
It's not polite to point, kid.
But on the monster, all is not lost. After a struggle that's supposed to be funny but isn't, our three heroes manage to wrap the cover around the horn, after which Kuma and the other fat guy jump off and swim to shore. The inventor prepares to follow but realizes, fortunately before he jumps, that he can't swim. Equally fortunately, he's come prepared with an inflatable life preserver, and he too makes it to shore.
My, that was easy, mighty generous of the monster to stand perfectly still for them.
Speaking of the shore, Daigoro has revived and is marching toward the water. I use the term "marching" deliberately, because his gait resembles a very slow, awkward goose step. He has to kick his leg out with each step he takes, kicking sand into the air each time. Was this done to make him look cute and babyish, or was it the only way the stuntman could walk in the suit? But he makes it to the water, and he steps in to take on the Great Stellar Monster. The fight's again very slow, and unfortunately for Daigoro, the Great Stellar Monster's horn cover comes off almost immediately. The monster gets in a few good blows, but Daigoro receives a pep squad to encourage him when the kids show up cheering and waving signs (not very responsible on the part of the adults to let them do this). This must have been just the help he needed, because Daigoro clenches his fists, inhales, and breathes out a plume of fire. Not only that, but he aims it at the monster's horn, which appears to send a jolt of something thorough his body. He goes down, and Daigoro triumphs.
VHS video effects at their finest!
Is the Great Stellar Monster dead? Probably not, because in an epilogue, we see him tied to a rocket and blasted into space. The launch pad is on Daigoro's island, where the inventor shot off a rocket earlier, although the rocket and the pad looked way too small to accommodate something the size of the Great Stellar Monster. Probably the inventor whipped up a bigger rocket and launch pad on the spot. Once the monster's gone, everybody lives happily ever after. Kuma, his brother(?), and his wife go home and knock back a few beers. The inventor goes to his quaint little cottage, whose garden is filled with beautiful flowers and small animatronic figures (really), where he's greeted by his niece in a wedding dress, on her way to her wedding (really). She's had some trouble catching herself a husband, so this might or might not be a good thing. But he seems pleased that she's moving out of his life, especially when her veil snags on the fence gate, setting off a chain reaction that causes the figures to emit smoke and fly through the air (really). Life is never dull when you're an inventor.
Wow, 70's fashions were terrible...hey, look, giant monster on a rocket!
And what of the hero of our movie, Daigoro himself? Is he uninjured? Does he still live on his island paradise? Is he finally getting enough to eat? Yes, yes, and yes. In fact, life is even better than before, because now he has running water. Somebody must have decided that what a young monster needs most is a flush toilet, and he's been provided with one (really!).
WC for water closet, I assume, how Victorian.
I see why Toho didn't want Godzilla associated with this movie. Even for the 1970s friend-of-all-mankind version of Godzilla, this was exceptionally sappy. This really should have been made into a cartoon, not a movie. The childish actions, goofy acting, and idiotic plot would have been perfectly appropriate for a children's cartoon, but as a live-action movie, they're just lame. However, it seems that not everybody shares my opinion. I watched the movie on Youtube, and a number of the commenters actually liked it.
But I do have something good to say about this movie: Daigoro's cute, I wouldn't mind having a Daigoro doll. Did you notice his opposable thumbs and nicely manicured nails? In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to find out he was designed specifically to make an appealing toy. Does anybody know if any were ever made? Maybe not, this movie doesn't seem to have been very popular even in Japan, and I can't imagine it's something that Toho points to with pride.
Loved the way the Daigoro suit bent and creased when the stuntman inside moved around, that made me laugh every time.
Tell us, Nate, what was your opinion of this, um, unique movie?
Thanks, Pam. Well, I have to say that I enjoyed it, especially the last third when things started to pick up. There was a lot going on in that final battle, and I like how the humans actually contributed something to the ending tally instead of just standing around and gawking. I rarely say this about a Kaiju movie, but the human scenes were far more interesting than the monster scenes, but that might be because the fights were so short and the people were, by and large, well-written and acted characters. It's shamefully absent from a Region 1 DVD release, but hopefully Toho will clean this print up and release it on disc one day, I'm sure a lot of Kaiju fans would love to have it.
Lobby card, because it's awesome (thanks, James!).
Written in February 2013 by Nathan Decker and Pam Burda.
comments powered by Disqus
that's between you and the vengeful wrath of your personal god...