War of the Monsters (1966)
This was the first of the old series of Gamera movies I had ever watched. I had always heard they were ultra-cheesy and a definite step below the Toho Godzilla series running at the same time. So I didn't really have any high expectations when I finally sat down to watch 1966's War of the Monsters. I have to say, however, that I enjoyed it very much! Sure, the dialogue and attention to detail were often lacking, and there were some seriously lame moments, but I found myself really getting involved in the story. The Godzilla franchise at the same time, including Godzilla versus The Sea Monster released the same year, might have had more star power and glitzy special effects, but War of the Monsters was certainly a capable competitor. Now, I have read that War of the Monsters was the "best" of the Gamera movies, so perhaps I lucked out by not starting with one of the cheesier ones, but I still stand by my statement. I will gladly watch the other old Gamera movies now and review them.
I'm sure there are some interesting stories with the production crew, but I don't know any offhand. The film was directed by Shigeo Tanaka, his only Gamera movie, as Noriaki Yuasa directed all the rest. Yuasa was the director of special effects for this movie.
Our movie was released in Japan in April of 1966 and did pretty well at the box office competing against Godzilla versus The Sea Monster and War of the Gargantuas in a crowded monster field. Fairly soon afterwards, b-movie specialist AIP came out with a version for the American market. Over the years, it has appeared in several other versions, titles and formats.
I will be using a 2003 Alpha Video DVD of War of the Monsters for this review. It runs a slim 89 minutes, down from 101 minutes for the original Japanese cut. What was lost was mostly dialogue scenes that might have added a bit more flavor, but didn't effect the plot. Most annoying, the DVD has no subtitles, which is my single biggest pet peeve with cheaply made DVDs. Does it really cost that much extra to put subtitles on a disk? The transfer was clearly made from an original 16mm film, and it shows 37 years of wear and tear. At some points there's clear damage to the negative, with scratches and nicks throughout. It's in color (the first Gamera movie to be so), but the color is so washed out as to be reduced to pale highlights. It's a full screen pan-and-scan, which is the best they could do, I guess. The sound is pretty good, except for a low hissing throughout, and the dubbing is excellent. Really excellent actually, a million times better than Godzilla movies of the same era.
And now on to our show.
The opening credits leap onto the screen immediately. They're in English thanks to AIP and give us all the basic cast and crew info. Nothing really special here.
To get us acquainted with Gamera and the timeline so far, we open with some stock footage from 1965's Gamera (the first movie in the series). A narrator explains about Gamera being released from an iceberg and rampaging through Japan, and how the military lured the monster into a rocket and shot him off to Mars. This old black and white footage has been tinted blue so as not to clash as much with the color stock used in the rest of the movie. This opening montage is actually quite effective in getting us up to speed, especially if (like me) you have not seen the first Gamera movie. It also tells us that our movie begins "about six months" after the end of the first Gamera movie.
The new footage begins with Gamera's release from the space rocket. This happens because a meteor collides with the rocket in space and Gamera is able to fly back to Earth. Hmmm...wouldn't the airless void of space kill off Gamera? [Editor Pam: One would think so, but a jet-propelled turtle may have a way to generate his own air.] All indications point to him being an air- breather like terrestrial animals, so wouldn't he suffocate? And we saw him imprisoned in ice in the first movie, and in our movie he later is totally incapacitated by Barugon's freezing ray, so why wouldn't the ultra-cold temperatures of the depths of space be enough to likewise disable him? I hate it when movies make me think this hard in the opening few minutes.
However he does it, Gamera returns to Japan and launches an attack on the huge Kurobe Hydroelectric Dam. Kurobe Dam is located on Kurobe River on the big island of Honshu, in Toyama Prefecture on the western coast. It was just completed in 1963, three years before our movie, and was known at the time for costing a massive amount of money with over 1,000 workmen killed during construction. The attack is well-executed, with the monster using his flamethrower breath and body mass to demolish the dam, flooding the valley. We get some excellent exploding model buildings and matte shots of people running for their lives. Toho-like quality here. Gamera then leaves Japan to go to a volcano "on the other side of the world" where he senses a steady supply of the heat and energy he craves.
Gamera shoots flames o'death!
We're told that Gamera thirsts after heat and power sources, right? Then why go for the dam? Why would he come to Japan after coming back from space and not go immediately to some larger power source. Was it really the largest power source in Japan at the time? The Tokai Nuclear Power Reactor came online in 1966, and that certainly would have been a better snack for Gamera. My guess is that he was still pissed at Japan for locking him in that rocket and sending him off to space in the first place and he was looking for a little payback.
"Five more months" now pass, with Gamera still somewhere overseas slurping on a volcano. We go to Osaka, Japan and get to know a group of men who we will follow throughout the movie. First some backstory. During WWII, a young soldier named Ichiro Hirata was stationed on the island of New Guinea. Just before the end of the war, Ichiro discovered an opal the size of a softball in the jungle. He hid it in a cave near a native village, vowing to come back sometime and get it.
Flash forward to 1966, when a now-middle aged Ichiro is finally financially able to go after the opal. The problem is that he has a bum leg and is unable to trek through the jungle himself. We don't know how he hurt his leg, if it was in the war or not, but he walks with a pronounced limp and uses a crutch. So in his stead, Ichiro hires three men to go for him.
The first is his younger brother Keisuke, played by 28-year old Kojiro Hongo. Hongo would have a nice career, including three Gamera movies, and was very good in 1968's The Bride from Hell. Here he is in full-bore Stud Leading Man mode, complete with the full range of skills from hand-to-hand combat to wooing cute girls. He's also a licensed pilot, which will come in handy later. Unlike most movie heroes, especially in this Japanese genre, Keisuke is also a deep and conflicted man. Once the monster goes on his rampage, Keisuke effectively fights his own feelings of loss and remorse along with the beast.
The second is a non-descript man named Kawajiri, played by 41-year old Yuzo Hayakawa, a fairly unknown actor with just 28 movie credits spaced over 40 years. He had nice bit parts in 1973's Submersion of Japan and in 1980's Super Monster Gamera.
The third is a heavy-set man named Onodera, played by Koji Fujiyama. He had an unspectacular career, with only 10 acting jobs over a 12-year period, which includes three Gamera movies. I recently saw him in an ensemble role in 1967's Zatoichi Challenged. He's a vile evil man in our movie, perfectly willing to kill and maim anyone who gets in his way in his pursuit of power and money. That said, there are subtle glimpses of a softer human side to Onodera, making even more of an interesting character to watch. He kinda looks like a chubby Ray Romano.
They meet at Ichiro's house in Osaka and discuss the plan. Basically, it involves the three men posing as crewman on a merchantman bound for New Guinea. Once there, they will jump ship, go get the opal, and then jump back on the ship and return to Japan. Ok, this is strange. It's not as if New Guinea is Russia or someplace that would be hard to get in and out of. Since no one else knows about the opal, why would they need to travel so secretly. Couldn't they just get on a plane and fly down there posing as tourists or businessmen? Why the subterfuge?
Anyway, our three explorers board the merchantman and sail south. Along the way, we get some character moments with the men. We can easily develop a fondness for Keisuke, who seems genuine and nice. Onodera comes off as a bit creepy even this early, and the third dude is pretty much a cardboard cutout.
Once in New Guinea, Keisuke (who's a pilot, remember?) arranges to get a helicopter to take them into the interior of the island to the native village closest to the cave. There's no rental pilot, so I can only guess how much money it cost to charter the helicopter.
We see the helicopter landing in the center of the village, eliciting the response you would expect. Villagers circle around and gawk, many of the men brandishing spears. This is not that isolated a village, as it had a Japanese Army garrison during the war, and we shall see that at least one Japanese scientist lives here year round.
Ok, let's talk about this native village. The natives are all Japanese extras in blackface! Yes, blackface. Tropical New Guineans are much darker-skinned than Japanese from northern climes, so they had to do something to make you think you were in the jungle and not on a backlot at Daiei's studio in Kobe. I guess I should give them points for at least trying to be authentic.
A jeep now pulls up, and a well-dressed older Japanese man gets out and approaches the team. He speaks to them in Japanese, telling them that he's a resident of this village. He will prove to be an anthropologist or maybe an archaeologist who has gone native about fifteen years ago.
The old doctor.
That decision might have been helped by the beautiful young woman in his jeep. This is Karen (yes, that's her name) and she's a local girl that has been "assisting" the scientist. He says she has helped him set up his lab, and then puts his hand softly on her shoulder and smiles broadly. Clearly, she also helps him...clean his beaker. To be honest, if I were him and had a shot at having a girl who looks like her as my...personal lab assistant, I'd go native too.
Karen is played by twentysomething Kyoko Enami, who was discovered by Daiei Studio's New Face talent search in 1959. With her exotic beauty and self-confidant acting style, Enami has had a fairly active career, appearing in 58 movies over 40 years. She's probably best known for headlining the popular late 1960s television series Gambling Woman and a juicy role in 1973's Tsugaru Folksong. In our movie she's a knock-out babe, with surprisingly pale skin and long Polynesian-style hair. She has a fierce intensity going this entire movie, reflecting her deep devotion to her people and their plight, that is quite alluring. Note that she's not wearing the blackface paint, even though her skin is incredibly pale. It's never stated, but perhaps she's the result of an affair between a native woman and a Japanese soldier during the war, she's about the right age for it.
The natives absolutely demand that they not go into the cave, as it's sacred to their tribe. They show them a stone stele that's about a thousand years old. It records a warning of dire consequences for anyone who messes with the treasures of the tribe or goes into the cave. If this isn't an overdose of foreshadowing, then I don't know what it is.
But our guys are not about to be dissuaded by some painted natives, not when they have a gun. Onodera shoots a few shots into the ground, forcing the natives back. These people have most certainly seen guns before and they wisely back off.
So our three adventurers head off into the jungle, accompanied on the soundtrack by a bouncy African beat. The jungle is thick and steamy, and they have to hack their way through. Instead of having machetes, however, the three men each have just a knife with at most a 9-inch blade. With those, it would take them forever to get very far. One wonders why the prop department couldn't get them machetes, they could have just gone down to the hardware store and bought them. You see, it's these little problems of detail that snowball to ruin my movie-watching experience.
Now, in every low-budget movie that has a scene in the jungle there must be a shot of a snake...yep, there it is, coiled around a tree. There also has to be some quick sand...yep, there it is, one dude falls in and has to be saved by the others. How about the foleyed-in sounds of howler monkeys? Yep. How about some deadly scorpions with instant-kill venom? Yep, a whole jungle full of them right here.
Finally they reach the cave and go inside. Of course all caves must have bats, right? Right, there they are, flying about on cue. They search around a bit before they find the opal wrapped in a cloth under some rubble. Hmmm...not sure in this humidity that fabric would remain that intact after 20 years.
Kawajiri holds the opal and leaps around for joy. Oh no! He just said something about his wife and kids back at home! He's dead for sure now! Indeed, we see a scorpion inching up his sock. Onodera sees the scorpion, but doesn't warn him. It's clear now that Onodera is looking to increase his cut in the opal.
The scorpion stings Kawajiri who thrashes around a bit before dying. His death scene is brutal to watch, the actor really selling it to us. [Editor Pam: I grew up in Tucson, where scorpions are pretty common, and I can tell you, scorpion stings do not kill this quickly. In fact, they rarely kill at all, but of course this assumes the victim gets proper medical treatment. But even without any treatment, nobody kicks the bucket this fast from a scorpion bite.] Keisuke is crushed, he had grown close to Kawajiri and his sudden death has clearly affected him. Onodera, with a coldness we will come to expect from him, says that they should leave now with the opal.
Keisuke, a light going off in his head, agrees to give Onodera the opal to hold if he gets to hold the gun. I guess this is the only gun they brought, which seems peculiar. Ah, but they also have some grenades, which Onodera still has in his pack. These are strange grenades, more like little bombs with long fuses. Sneaking off, Onodera lights and tosses the grenades into the cave, causing a cave-in that presumably kills Keisuke.
Onodera then escapes back through the jungle, the opal all his now. Hmm...wait. Keisuke was the team's helicopter pilot, right? But Onodera just killed him. So how is Onodera planning on getting out of the interior to meet the ship on schedule? Can he fly the chopper himself? We never learn what he does for a living, so maybe he can. I guess he stole a vehicle somewhere (maybe the jeep we saw before?) and drove to the coast. As violent and obsessed as he is, I wouldn't put anything beneath him.
As well, that helicopter was sitting in the native village the whole time they were out in the jungle, right? And this after they shot their way out of the village and totally violated their requests. I would be worried that the natives sabotaged the chopper while they were gone, or at least ransacked it.
But get out he does. When we next see Onodera he's back aboard the ship, in the sick bay. When questioned by the crew, he claims he jumped ship to go look for the bones of his friend, lost in the war. He's in sick bay now because he got a touch of malaria and a nasty case of "athlete's foot" in the jungle. The best cure for that is an infrared lamp shining on the feet at regular intervals. The ship's doctor (as he smokes on an unfiltered cigarette) tells Onodera to keep the treatments up until they reach Japan. Keep this in mind.
So now we go back to the native village in New Guinea. We see Keisuke lying on a bed, bandaged but alive. Notice his farmer's tan! Karen and the Professor come in now. Karen is royally pissed off at him for unleashing the evil of the opal, her eyes burning a hole through him the whole scene. It's kinda sexy to see a woman that mad, really. She's also wearing a bikini top in this scene that pushes her boobs up and makes them look stunning.
The natives are up in arms over the stealing of their treasure. It seems there is a curse now in effect that everyone is terrified of. They tell Keisuke that the opal is actually an egg with a monster in it, which they describe as many things, including "the evil", "a bringer of evil and misfortune" and a "bringer of misery". Spooky foreshadowing.
After much debate and wailing, Karen declares that she's going to Japan with Keisuke to try and stop the monster. The Professor is understandably worried for her, but she's quite adamant. I guess Keisuke takes the helicopter (since we assume that Onodera didn't take it) to some port where he and Karen could get passage to somewhere where they could get a plane back to Japan. If not, then the Professor arranged something for them.
So we now cut to the major Japanese port city of Kobe, where we see the merchantman in the harbor, having returned from the south seas. Aboard, Onodera is still jealously protecting his opal in the sick bay. A fellow sailor convinces him to come play mahjong, however, and he agrees against his better judgment. He puts the opal in his jacket pocket and leaves.
While away, we see that the infrared lamp is shining on the jacket (this can't end well). Indeed, the opal begins to glow red and actually burns out of the pocket, landing on the bed. We watch as the opal, now revealed to be an egg, pulsates and hums under the infrared. With a gooey squish, it cracks open and a lizard-like baby pokes its head out.
The egg hatches.
Back in the wardroom, Onodera feels the ship shudder from an explosion. He rushes to the sick bay and throws open the door to see that a huge hole has been ripped in the bulkhead leading to the sea. Clearly, whatever was in the room has escaped the hard way. Before Onodera can enter the room, the ship starts to sink.
On the dock, we see Ichiro Hirata (the ex-soldier who bankrolled this quest, remember?) and what is probably a fence. Hey, I guess you have to sell the opal to someone. They see the merchantman explode in flames before their eyes. The police and fire departments come rushing, but only a few men are pulled from the water.
Among them is Onodera, who's found by Ichiro and the fence. He breaks the bad news of Ichiro's brother's death in New Guinea, making up a story about him falling off a cliff. Onodera then tells them that the opal is at the bottom of the harbor now, which causes the fence to roll his eyes and walk away. He didn't seem to believe the huge opal story to begin with.
As they discuss this disaster, a sudden cry goes up in the docks. A huge monster has been seen on the quays! This is Barugon, released from his egg and growing to full size in a rapid spurt.
Barugon is a lizard-like crawling monster with a dog-like mouth full of sharp pointy teeth, a rhino horn on his nose and a long whip tail. His main weapons are exotic to say the least, with a tongue that shoots a "freezing mist" and a rainbow-colored energy beam that shoots out of the spikes on his back. I have to say that the suit design is pretty good, though the solid, mechanically blinking eyes are very distracting. [Editor Pam: Barugon's a little too cute for a monster. It would be easy to make an adorable stuffed Barugon doll. Maybe Daiei was planning to license a toy Barugon and deliberately made their monster appealing?]
My main problem with crawling monsters (including Toho's Angilius) is that you cannot hide the fact that it's a dude crawling around in a suit. From the hind quarters forward, you can have a great-looking monster, but the back legs always ruin it. Either they are crawling on their knees, or they are crouch-walking with legs bent, and either way looks totally fake. It's especially obvious when any crawling monster is fighting and rolls over on its back, then the back legs bend out and extend like human legs, which is a dead give -away. Maybe the makers of 1960's The Lost World had it right when they glued little spikes and horns on an iguana and let it loose on a miniature set.
As the name and the general look of the creature might suggest, Daiei Studios based their Barugon on Toho Studio's Baragon. Baragon had debuted in 1965's Frankenstein Conquerors the World and was a hit, so you can't blame Daiei for milking that cow.
Barugon begins crashing warehouses and buildings, even knocking over the famous Port of Kobe tower. People run and scream like they should. The tongue mist weapon is devastating. We heard that it freezes everything it touches in three seconds, and that the temperature within a quarter mile of the monster has dropped to eight degrees below zero! Wow, that is some serious power.
The freezing mist tongue thingie.
Onodera goes home with Ichiro to Osaka, just to the east up the coast. There they and Ichiro's wife talk about the lost opal. Onodera just won't give it up, plotting to hire some divers to get to the shipwreck in the harbor. He thinks that it will be easy with all the monster carnage going on. He just needs money.
Ichiro has 10,000 yen on him, but is unsure about giving it to Onodera. Onodera slips that he "had to kill two men for this opal". Ichiro connects the dots and they start fighting! This is a great fight, truly better than the monster battles in this movie. Ichiro, despite his bum leg, is a crutch-swinging punch-throwing machine. His wife also gets in the action, but gets shoved away each time. In the end, Onodera's superior strength wins out and he pulls a large metal filing cabinet over on top of Ichiro. He takes his wallet with the money and leaves Ichiro begging for help. We never see Ichiro or his wife again, and Keisuke later says his house was destroyed by fire, so I guess his neighborhood was destroyed later in the monster rampage.
Barugon amidst the docks.
Back to the monster working. He's now headed up the coast for Osaka, burning and crunching as he goes. Barugon's main city-killing weapon is his freezing tongue spray. He uses this liberally, freezing entire blocks of buildings. It's a neat effect, certainly a jet of liquid nitrogen sprayed over the model buildings.
The Japanese Army moves to defend their city. We see a number of small plastic tank models arrayed about the streets of the miniature city. I notice models of Type 61 tanks, M-24 Chaffee tanks, and a type of self-propelled howitzer I don't recognize. They fire their little pop-gun cannons, sparking like firecrackers stuck in plastic barrels. Amazingly, in all this action, I only saw a few seconds of stock footage of some howitzers firing. Godzilla movies of the same time were notorious for copious use of stock footage in battle scenes. Barugon is unfazed by all this and waves his freezing tongue over them, freezing them solid.
The Japanese Air Force now gives it a go. The attackers are all Lockheed F-104J Starfighters (first purchased by the Japanese Air Force in 1962) flying in a tight formation. They all have their wingtip fuel tanks and a single missile under each wing.
This air attack is a mixed bag, with some hits but a lot of misses. On the good side, the use of miniature planes in the same ground-level shot of the monster is well-executed and inventive. On the bad side, the model planes are screamingly fake looking and in several shots you can actually see the wires holding them up!
The jets roar in, shooting missiles that explode around the monster's feet in blooms of dirt and fire. Barugon is unhurt by this, and more than a bit annoyed by the little planes attacking him, and he shoots out his Freezing Tongue. At least three of the jets get caught in the freezing mist, and we see one of them break apart in a very cheesy effect. The rest of the planes wisely return to base. This will be the last jet air attack of the movie.
Next we see that Japan has been busy since Gamera was here last. Somewhere near Osaka, we see a battery of nifty surface-to-surface missiles roll out of underground bunkers. In real-world 1966, Japan had no such SSMs, so we can assume that they seriously up-armed their military in the time following Gamera's first appearance in 1965.
Somehow "feeling" that the missiles were a threat to him, Barugon unleashes his most powerful and ridiculous weapon. Barugon fires a "rainbow energy beam" out of the line of spikes on his back (!!!). This beam flies like a rainbow, in an arc, and washes over the missile battery. The missiles and their launchers, and much of the surrounding infrastructure, is blasted apart. How did Barugon know about the missiles again? They were clearly out of his line-of-sight, so how did he do it?
We now get some shots of the civilian population of Osaka. We first get the obligatory soldier reporting to his general that, "Total evacuation is now complete." Right, sure. We see an overcrowded underground shelter where the civilians have taken refuge. It's tense and edgy in here, with people frightened and unsure. The camera lingers on one middle-aged woman for some time, as she fidgets. Remember the time here, it's 1966, just twenty years since most of these people had to hide in shelters for real as B-29s pounded Osaka. Even for extras paid to sit in the shelter for this movie, it must have been a painful step back in time.
And here comes Gamera! Attracted to Barugon's rainbow beam, the giant turtle flies in from parts unknown to seek out this massive output of energy. This will set up our first monster fight. And it's about time! We're 52 minutes into the movie!
The fight itself is fairly simple. They first yell and hiss at each other for quite a long time, perhaps hurling insults and putdowns. Then there's some charging and thumping, but not too much, as Barugon wisely sprays Gamera with his freezing tongue. Gamera is frozen hard, his old susceptibility to cold coming back to bite him. To add insult to injury, Barugon flips him over on his back (!!!) before walking away. Gamera will remain frozen here for some time to come as our heroes try and deal with Barugon on their own.
So now we go to an airport, to see that Keisuke and Karen have arrived in Japan. Karen is wearing a luscious white skirt and jacket combo, lightyears different from the native garb she was wearing before. Keisuke fronts his Pan-Am carry-on bag to the camera, pleasing one of Daiei's corporate sponsors. We see them watching the monster rampage on airport televisions. Karen laments that all is lost and has to sit down before she faints. Keisuke continues to commit emotional seppuku over his role in the disaster. He will do this in virtually every scene he's in the rest of the movie.
Karen looking fine.
It's here, from the television announcer, that we first hear the name "Barugon". Karen reacts as if this is indeed the monster's name. From this we can assume that the media has somehow discovered that the monster is a New Guinea product. Perhaps someone familiar with the traditions of that area called in and told them?
So Karen and Keisuke go to see Onodera at his house in Osaka. Onodera is stunned to see Keisuke alive, but immediately tries to enlist him in his scheme to recover the opal. Keisuke tries to convince him that it was an egg, but Onodera won't believe him.
Now the two men get into an epic fistfight. This is also one of the best movie fights I have seen, complete with kicks, punches, knives, beer bottles, and lots of grunting. In the end, they leave a battered Onodera tied to a pole.
In a very weird bit, Keisuke has cut his arm in the fight and Karen sucks the blood off the wound!!! She then smiles strangely, almost like she's sexually aroused by doing this, before bandaging his arm with her scarf. What was that all about? [Editor Pam: Could the knife have been poisoned? Or the scriptwriters might have just thrown in a little something to please the sadists in the audience.] Karen is working this Eurotrash sadist goth angle here, which is really kinda hot. They then leave.
Though it happens off-screen, Karen apparently tells the authorities that Barugon is somehow adversely affected by water. This includes rain showers, as we will see. This begs several questions. Why would a monster from a place like New Guinea, which gets a ton of rain, have that particular weakness? And if Barugon is susceptible to water, then how did he get off the merchantman in the harbor? He would have had to have swum a certain distance to get to shore, right? And seeing the size of the hole in the ship's side, versus the size of Barugon when he first appeared on shore, we have to assume that he grew like 10,000% while swimming to shore. Does this make any sense?
Regardless, the plan is to lure Barugon into Lake Biwa and let him drown himself. Lake Biwa is the largest fresh-water lake in Japan, located in Shiga Prefecture northeast of Kyoto. Wouldn't the Inland Sea be closer?
The bait will be a 6,000 carat diamond! This was brought to Japan by Karen, and it's a treasure of her tribe. Apparently, the monster is supposed to be drawn to the diamond by some unknown process. He will follow the diamond anywhere it goes. He has to see the diamond with his own eyes first, I guess, because once it's out of his sight he's on his own.
The diamond lure.
Their plan is to put the diamond in a glass case, and suspend it from a chain under a Bell 47 helicopter. We see in the chopper, along with the pilots and scientist-types, are Karen and Keisuke. Karen I can see, it's her diamond, but why is Keisuke here? I thought that he's essentially a criminal at best and a national scapegoat at worse. I would think that he'd be locked up somewhere until this was all over. It's not like he has any better idea what to do with the monster than anyone else, right?
So they lure Barugon towards the water's edge, the helicopter swooping low over the lake. It seems to be working fine for a bit, but something is wrong, the monster has stopped following the diamond! What's the deal? Barugon even turns around and starts heading back to where he came from.
The suggestion is made that the infrared light that Barugon was exposed to caused him to lose his affinity for the diamond. This seems dicey, as he followed the diamond this far, right? So maybe he's just smart enough not to go into the water, diamond or no diamond. The scientists propose trying to amplify the diamond's "glitzyness" or something and give it another try.
To buy more time, the Army starts dumping load after load of water on Barugon from big Sikorsky H-19 helicopters. This immobilizes him on a wide highway leading towards the lake. Here he will sit for days, apparently, unable to do much except growl.
Helicopters dropping water.
Meanwhile, the smarty-head scientist-types manage to rig up some machine that can amplify the diamond's "shininess". They mount this on the back of an open-bed amphibious truck. The plan is to drive up to the monster, turn on the light to attract him, then lure the beast into the lake by driving out into the water. Hmm...maybe since Barugon is immobilized by the water, you should instead be bringing in every stick of TNT and every bomb you can find and pound the hell out of him? Eh?
But they're going with the diamond again. In the truck are a few soldiers, a few scientist-types, and Keisuke and Karen. I still don't see why Keisuke is allowed to go along on these important missions. Once again, he should be in prison, not here. Hmmm...unless he didn't tell anyone about his involvement with the opal, which might be a smart move. But even if that is the case, then he still has no qualifications for being part of the crew luring the monster, right? By the way, Karen looks stunning here. Her hair is down and flowing in the breeze and she looks like she should be out on some plain, riding a stallion and urging her fellow Amazon warriors on while the skulls of her male victim hang from her saddle... Excuse me.
The plan works splendidly, Barugon slowly lumbers after the truck, dazzled by the diamond. Here we get some ground-level point-of-view shots of Barugon following the jeep which are stunning, certainly giving us the illusion of the monster's great size and power. It's always a good thing to place the monsters in settings where we can truly appreciate their enormity, instead of just having them standing in a cityscape of fake buildings. Kudos to the producers on this!
Barugon at ground level.
As happens in all monster movies, the truck's motor suddenly stops running! Why is it that vehicles always mysteriously stop working properly just as the nasty monster is almost upon them? And why, like here, do the heroes always manage to restart the vehicle just in the nick of time and escape the monster? Is there any more clichéd monster movie happening?
So they now reach the lake and drive out into it. Barugon, again showing us he's smarter than your average lizard, stops short of the water. While the scientists debate what to do now, a small powerboat comes zipping up from the other side of the lake. In it is Onodera!!!
In an earlier scene we saw Onodera's wife untie him from the post where Keisuke left him. She also told him about the diamond. Onodera's eyes lit up, a diamond that size is worth a hundred times what the opal would be. He had to get it, so I guess he stole a boat and here he is. Why wasn't there any security for the mission? Where's the Army, the police?
Anyway, Onodera pulls up alongside the floating truck and jumps aboard. Keisuke tries to stop him, but Onodera pulls out a pistol and starts shooting. He fires four shots, three into the truck as warnings, and one into one of the soldiers in the cab of the truck. He grabs the diamond out of the amplifier and forces his way back to his boat, pistol whipping Keisuke along the way. Apparently no one on the truck thought to bring a weapon, because none of the soldiers lift a finger.
As Onodera speeds off, Barugon wades a little bit out into the lake. Out reels the Freezing Tongue, which we see has a sort of mandible pincher on the end as well. It snatches Onodera, still holding the diamond, out of his boat and crunches him up like a little snack. The monster then shambles back onto the beach and stays there.
"Nice try, puny humans." (Aww, he's so cute!)
Well, that did not go well. Now the diamond is lost forever and no one has any more ideas. Keisuke again gouges his eyes out with guilt. Take some Prozac. The Army starts dumping water on Barugon again, immobilizing him until they can think of something else.
Because she wants to see the vista of destruction again, so she can never forget, Keisuke and Karen now take an Army jeep out to the site of the blasted SSM battery. While Keisuke kills himself with guilt over his role in all this, he spies a rearview mirror from a blasted jeep.
From this mirror, Keisuke makes the intuitive leap that Barugon's rainbow beam is reflected by mirrors. Hmmm...I guess this makes sense, but to have any chance, they would have to build a massive mirror.
And this is what they do. Finding a nice hillock near the lake where Barugon is still laying immobilized by the air-dropped rain, the scientists and the military work to construct a huge mirror. When finished, it's in the shape of a huge parabolic radar dish, made of panels coated with "an exceptionally reflective preparation of mercury." Clearly, this prop is an existing microwave antenna somewhere that the filmmakers dressed up for the shot.
The big dish.
So now they just have to piss the monster off enough that he will fire his rainbow at the dish. To do this, they begin "Operation Reflection", which is to array a bunch of tanks around the dish and then shoot some indirect fire at the monster. As predicted, Barugon is annoyed, and flashes out his rainbow beam at the tanks. We're told that all the weapons are being fired by remote control, so there's no loss of life.
The beam is indeed reflected back by the parabolic mirror dish, lancing into Barugon's left rear flank. The monster bellows in pain as purplish blood pumps out of the wound.
Ok, let's think about this rainbow beam. If it was reflected by the mirror, then it clearly is visible light. Why/how would a multi-colored visible light beam be so destructive? Does it cause damage through heat? If so, then why didn't it melt the dish? And why does it come out of Barugon's back in an arc? It was reflected back to him in a straight line, so how/why would it be emitted in anything less than a straight line? I know the rainbow effect looks cool, and Daiei sure got their money's worth with that color film stock, but it really slashes the believability of the monster.
While badly injured, Barugon is still alive. They desperately need him to fire another rainbow beam to finish the job. But he doesn't. Karen sullenly says that she has worked with animals all her life and she knows that once something they do gets them hurt, animals are loathe to repeat it. That's true and a pall of frustration is cast over our humans. Hmm...hey, maybe you should test that hypothesis? Who knows, maybe Barugon is not like other animals and if you shoot at him enough he will use the rainbow again. What have you got to lose?
Keisuke has another mental breakdown, curling up and burying his head in his hands. Karen actually smiles at this (?????) before trying to console him. I really think Karen is a sadist.
Back now in the frozen wreckage of Osaka, where Gamera is still knocked out. We see that time, and perhaps internal heat, has been slowly thawing out Gamera. He comes to life gradually, and takes off into the sky, still upside down. Watch as the prop Gamera takes off, the fire nozzles used to simulate Gamera's four leg jets have caught part of the prop on fire! The edge of the turtle shell burns brightly as it takes off, clearly not an intentional effect. I guess they spent so much time and money getting this shot off, that they couldn't reshoot it and they just hoped no one noticed. I noticed.
As he flies over Osaka on his way to find Barugon, he "thaws out" the city. While this is also a neat effect, it's way too much to expect me to believe that his ambient heat could thaw that much acreage out just by flying over it.
So Gamera now comes spinning through the air towards Barugon. The final monster- on-monster slugfest is now on. The set for this final climactic battle is clearly a soundstage. You can see that there's a pool of water set up, with the background of mountains and trees simply a painted backdrop. At times you can even see shadows briefly on the backdrop. Thankfully, the scene is darkly lit, masking the more glaring defects.
Gamera flames Barugon!
This battle is pretty much over before it starts. Gamera is at full strength with an extra helping of The Rage on his side. Barugon is already severely wounded, and without his rainbow weapon. He also doesn't use his freezing tongue this time, which is odd because it worked so well the last time. Reduced to just claws, teeth and body mass, it's a forgone conclusion that Barugon will lose. But he gives a good final account of himself, nonetheless, smacking Gamera around in the early rounds before the hits start to pile up.
Badly wounded, Barugon is unable to resist much when Gamera latches on to his neck and drags him into the lake. Pulling him under, Gamera drowns the big lizard. Barugon expires as purplish blood mingles with the murky water.
Gamera takes to the sky, flying off into the distance as the assembled humans cheer. Where Gamera is going is anyone's guess. I understand why everyone is happy that Barugon is dead, but there's still a rampaging mutant turtle in the area, one that has shown a willingness to kill and crush.
We end with a quiet personal moment between Keisuke and Karen. Keisuke one last time jumps on an emotional grenade over his guilt. Karen smiles (!!!) again at his pain, and even says somewhat cheerfully, "It had to happen sometime." Mean, beautiful, sadistic woman...I love you. Keisuke pegs the ham meter by moaning, "Why, why must men be so greedy?"
He has no family left alive now and is totally alone. Karen reaches over and puts her hand on his, smiling sympathetically this time. Keisuke simply puts his other hand over hers, understanding that he's not alone anymore. I was so very pleased that in the end, Karen and Keisuke didn't start slobbering on each other.
Best move of the film.
And that is that. The end.
Bonus! Some handy statistics for you:
5--Number of blubbering emotional breakdowns by stud hero Keisuke. Shacking up with Karen will help ease that pain.
4--Number of cigarettes smoked by our cast.
0--Number of annoying squeaky-voiced kids in pedophile micro-shorts. Yea!
Written in April 2005 by Nathan Decker and edited by Pam Burda.
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that's between you and the vengeful wrath of your personal god...