Archive for Famous Monsters of Filmland


Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on September 10, 2016 by dcairns


“One is starved of Technicolor™ up there.”

I’d been interested in ANGRY RED PLANET ever since I saw pics of the rat-bat-spider-thing in Famous Monsters magazine, probably. Though I came to know it would be disappointing in many ways.

It IS a cool monster. Better joints and better puppeteers could have lifted it a little (when the left leg goes up, the right leg goes down, hinting at an unlikely skeletal structure: the leg bone’s connected to the… leg bone?), but it’s superior to the predictable man-in-suit approach. With that rather nifty design, it could have made an ace stop-motion effect, if the movie had a budget.


I confess to mixed emotions about the giant amoeba. The idea is sound, and being able to see the most annoying character (Brooklynesque comedy relief astronaut) dissolved in its transparent stomach is a big plus, but the rotating eyeball is goofy. Its endless gyrations, as if the amoeba had gotten clonked on its “head” and was dizzy. made me wonder if this creature were in fact biomechanical, which might have been cool, but it’s still a silly way of suggesting it.


“There are two kinds of oxygen consumption in this world, my friend.” The prototype for Ben Grimm’s Thing waits patiently to be dissolved in a giant amoeba. This audience member was less patient.


What are the chances of me seeing two films in two days with two entirely gratuitous flesh-eating plants? The frog-eating bloom in WEREWOLF OF LONDON is just as ickily orificular as this Martian womaneater, but the designers have chosen different organs to base their plant-puppets on…

The film’s best feature is its novel use of tinting and solarisation to make its Mars-scapes truly alien. A cheap trick, but a stylish one — and it blurs the difference between the cramped studio environments and the crude painting — I won’t even call them matte shots because they aren’t usually composited in with anything live action. Having established what Mars is like, the movie feels the need to keep its astronauts returning to their rocket, because somebody has realised that heavily processed colour has an airless, claustrophobic quality to it, and we’ll need short breathers before we start getting restless. But these breathers serve no other purpose — there is no interpersonal conflict between the astronauts (though if I were cooped up with any of them for weeks, I would get at least a BIT snarky. In fact I’d probably take to booby trapping the airlock) and no driving external tension for most of the story. The film moves along in a series of separate blocks — solarised suspense alternating with sitting about chatting.


Actors are generally repulsive. The “best” is Naura/Nora Hayden, who overplays every moment and grins a lot. The actor, as opposed to the character, comes across as naively likeable. Space is fun!

Film is by Ib Melchior, associated in various writerly ways with PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES and REPTILICUS! He has the true pulp writers gift for wacky ideas and total inability to do characterisation or human drama. But most of his work is enjoyably DIFFERENT…


Turtle recall

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on February 23, 2011 by dcairns

GAMERA VS JIGER marks the end of an era for me — it was the last Japanese giant monster movie depicted in Denis Gifford’s Pictorial History of Horror Movies remaining for me to watch and review as part of my See REPTILICUS and Die mission. From here on, it’s European and American monsters all the way.

As a kid, I was fascinated by images of Gamera, who looked rather cool until I worked out that he was a turtle. I think I saw ads for truncated Super-8 versions of his exploits in the two or thee issues of Famous Monsters of Filmland in my possession. Gamera movies never showed up in monster matinees at the Odeon, Clerk Street, however, and TV shunned them (British TV only very occasionally gave airtime to Godzilla, in fact).

So, now was my chance — and Gamera did not disappoint, although some of that may be down to the radical lowering of my expectations since I grew up and realized that giant Japanese monster movies aren’t very good. But, that aside, Gamera, “friend to children,” has a lot to commend him. The movie, set during the build-up to Expo ’70, a Japanese World’s Fair. Much of the “dramatic tension” hinges on whether the rampaging kaiju will trample the expensive exposition centre. Of course, we kind of want them to, because that’s spectacle, and monster movies thrive on spectacle and sensation. But, patriotic to his core, the giant turtle steers clear of the big construction site, settling for trashing half of Tokyo and wiping out the power supply to Osaka instead. I’m sure everyone was relieved.

A previous Gamera opponent, possibly named Isosceles, the Killer Triangle.

The movie begins with a montage of bloody carnage from previous Gamera outings. Since Gamera is more explicitly pitched at schoolkids than Gojira, who began as a serious monster, naturally the Gamera movies are massively more violent. Because kids crave BLOOD. Turquoise blood, in Gamera’s case. So, under the opening titles we see Gamera tear an opponent’s foot off, and throw a missile through another monster’s nose. The monster sits, for one frozen moment, his nostrils pierced by this sputtering ICBM, before exploding into a gaudy fireball.

Then the plot begins. On “Wester Island”, an American scientist and his family are supervising the transportation of a strange statue, “the Devil’s Whistle,” to the Expo. A Wester Island ambassador (the only black guy in Tokyo, speaking a dialect of his own devising) warns against this, and sure enough, soon Jiger, a sort of saurian Jim Backus, is on the loose. Gamera turns up immediately, perhaps in answer to some offscreen turtle-signal, and there’s a skirmish, ending with Gamera getting pierced by the arrows Jiger shoots from his nose. Like a Testudine St Sebastian, Gamera stands bristling with bloody bolts for a moment, then falls flat on his back.

Discovered: the cause of Jim Backus’s depression.

Then, for no reason, Jiger pursues the Devil’s Whistle to Tokyo, even though it’ll turn out to be the only thing that can destroy him. After performing a bit of self-surgery, Gamera gives chase, using his famed rocket-power. For yes, Gamera is a rocket-powered, fire breathing turtle. The main dramatic result of that is a kind of verfremdungseffekt, manifesting itself in the form of sorrow and pity for the poor anonymous actors who have to climb inside the giant rubber costumes and be set alight.

The second round takes place amid modern Japan, where Gamera succumbs to a stinger sprouting from Jiger’s tale. There’s a long, emotional tracking shot where Gamera staggers, sick and alone, through the city, before falling into the sea. Then his foot turns white. And then his nose turns white. Jiger’s stinger has made Gamera VERY ILL. “Don’t die!” shout the children. It should be mentioned that every fight in this movie is equipped with its own Greco-Japanese Chorus of kids yelling helpful advice like “Don’t lose, Gamera!” and “That’s not funny!” A word of praise for the anonymous genius who subtitled this movie: clearly a master of the art of concealed boggling, he provide magical, incandescent moments throughout. As Gamera pummels Jiger’s abdomen to a fine puree, one little girls exclaims, we are told, “Isn’t it nice?” Later, a scientist watched with consternation as Jiger has Gamera on the ropes, and sadly avows, “It won’t do.”

The scientists are baffled by the Jiger problem, unable to figure out any way to stop his onslaught. Fortunately, the kids yell some advice at them too, and so they X-ray Gamera via helicopter and discover the problem — an obstruction in his lung! One scientist recalls an ailment he’s observed in elephants, a larval infection — cue shaky b&w shot of an elephant looking as if it’s snorted a beach ball (close observation reveals that the pachyderm is wearing a donut shaped prosthesis on his trunk). Jiger has laid his eggs in Gamera (and this before ALIEN)! Though Gamera thought he was fighting Jiger, in reality, Jiger was impregnating Gamera. This movie shouldn’t be called GAMERA VS JIGER, it should be called JIGER LOVES GAMERA.

This plot revelation causes us to think back to the shot of Jiger’s stinger plunging into the soft meat of Gamera’s shoulder, and see it in a new and horrible light as a penetration shot, making this the first ever kaiju hard porn, a thankfully short-lived sub-genre consisting, so far as I am aware, solely of this film. Apart from TITANOSAURUS DOES TOKYO.

Emperor Hirohitler.

What follows is… odd. Stealing a yellow mini-sub designed by a comedy relief dad in a Hitler moustache, two kids sail into Gamera’s mouth and attempt to clear his lung. Perhaps unwisely, they leave the sub and go exploring the humungous terrapin’s windpipe on foot. Finding the giant wound, they are set upon by Jiger’s baby, who’s basically the same guy in the same  costume as Jiger. Disgustingly, he has the ability to ejaculate white gluey fluid from his nose (not a superpower I’ve ever desired). The kids use this glue to paste a mobile phone to Baby Jiger’s forehead, and he dies. Yes, they killed Jiger’s baby. And we’re supposed to be glad about that.

Japan’s answer to Leopold & Loeb gloat over their innocent victim, the telephone still affixed to his brow.

This causes everyone to realise that the Devil’s Whistle is the key to defeating noise sensitive Jim Backus Jiger, so they attach a lot of cables from the local power station to Gamera’s innards and resuscitate him. The newly electro-galvanized Gamera fetches the Devil’s Whistle and carefully rams it through Jiger’s head, facilitating a happy ending for everyone except Jiger.

Oh, and at a certain point somewhere in the proceedings, Jiger uses a special ray on Gamera that necessitates Gamera protecting his eardrums by sticking telegraph poles in his ears. I’m not making any of this up. This is a completely accurate synopsis, and any synopsis which does not mention that Gamera stuffs telegraph poles in his ears is a less accurate synopsis than this one.

And then the theme song plays us out ~

Gamera! Gamera!

You’re wonderful Gamera,.You’re wonderful Gamera.

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.

A big monster is in the way.

A deep-freeze monster come what may.

It leaped, it jumped, go-go-go.

You’ve jet propulsion, we know.

You’re wonderful, Gamera.

Another earlier Gamera opponent, possibly called Sharkturus. Soon to be called fried fish.

Intertitle of the Week: Subway

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on August 30, 2009 by dcairns


An oddly anachronistic intertitle from Max Linder’s THE THREE MUST-GET-THERES, which, as its title strongly hints, is a somewhat lame Fairbanks spoof. But there are compensations — Linder himself is never less than appealing, and there are some grotesque images. In fact, the whole thing is weirdly unpleasant.


Bull Montana as the Cardinal, every bit as disturbing as a Francis Bacon screaming pope. Wasn’t Montana an ape-man in the silent LOST WORLD or something? The name stuck in my head from an old issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland (I owned two issues as a lad).


What’s odd here is the faithfulness to Dumas’ basic plot (or the first half of it, anyway), which sits uncomfortably with the anachronisms and anything-goes farce. I’m a big fan of AU SECOURS!, his Abel Gance-directed haunted house romp, but I’ve only seen extracts from his earlier French work. Must get better acquainted with it.