Archive for Gamera Vs Jiger

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.

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Mmm, Reptilicious

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2010 by dcairns

My quest, the one I’ve entitled See Reptilicus And Die — my quest to see every film depicted in the pages of Denis Gifford’s A Pictorial History of Horror Movies — the book he wrote by taking dictation form my childhood nightmares — my quest, I say, is not far from completion. If you visit the pages where I listed the films I had to track down and see, you’ll observe that most of the entries are now coloured BLOOD RED, meaning I came, I saw, I choked back my vomit.

Here’s a list of movies located but still to be watched —

THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR: killer moth romp with Cushing. Lovely.

MURDER CLINIC: never knew what this was, turns out to be a giallo. Got a very scratchy, very pink copy.

THE PHANTOM OF SOHO: actually got two radically different cuts of this krimi kaper, in different languages. Will watch both, become confused, write post.

INVISIBLE INVADERS: an Edward L Cahn atrocity.

WILLARD: rat movie with Michael Jackson theme song. Figures. Anyone remarked how the lyrics of “Thriller” describe accurately Jacko’s use of THE EXORCIST to terrify small boys into sexual submission?

THE VAMPIRE (1957): around this time somebody also made THE WEREWOLF. I guess it was time somebody noticed those basic titles hadn’t been exploited.

GAMERA VS JIGER: monsters duke it out at the 1970 Japan World’s Fair.

KING OF THE ZOMBIES: one of the easiest to see, since it’s actually online, and one of the hardest to sit through (I’ve tried, God knows I’ve tried).

RETURN OF THE APE MAN: the original was pretty bad. This phony sequel at least George Zucco and John Carradine to bolster Lugosi (and by “bolster” I mean “physically support”).

THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA: it is entirely possible that I’ve seen this, on a b&w portable TV in my bedroom when I was 17. But I’m not sure that counts, since I don’t remember a damn thing about it.

BLACK DRAGONS: is going to be an ordeal. What drugs do you recommend to enhance the experience?

THE MONSTER MAKER: Ralph Morgan as a mad scientist is an attractive prospect, though part of me wishes it was his brother Frank.

DEAD MEN WALK: Zucco always cracks me up.

INVISIBLE AGENT: this ought to be good fun.

THE MAN IN HALF MOON STREET: watched half an hour before sinking into a coma. Will try again, using strong stimulants. Even duller than remake, THE MAN WHO COULD CHEAT DEATH. Even with the lovely Helen Walker, an immortal snore.

THE DEVIL BAT: has to be at least watchable.

EQUINOX: one of several Gifford titles to have received the Criterion treatment. And I’m not just talking about classics, but THE GRIP OF THE STRANGLER also.

THE HYPNOTIC EYE: I just tracked down a copy of this nasty-sounding thing. Beatniks, hypnosis and mutilation.

REPTILICUS: the mother of all Danish dinosaur movies.

The tricky ones are still the remaining rarities I haven’t laid hands on, of course. But plans are afoot…

Playmates

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on August 30, 2010 by dcairns

I’m actually nearer the end than the beginning — my INSANE QUEST to see all the films depicted in Denis Gifford’s big green book of monsters actually looks like it might have an end in sight. For instance, I realised that GODZILLA VS THE THING is in fact GODZILLA VS MOTHRA, which I’ve seen, which left only two giant Japanese monster movies (kaiju) to watch, GAPPA THE TRIPHIBIAN MONSTER and GAMERA VS JIGER. Both sure to be treats, I thought, since I’d never seen either monster in action, despite having gloated at their images in books like Gifford’s since I was old enough to squawk.

GAPPA came first, an intriguing monster since he stems from the Nikkatsu studio, rather than Godzilla’s progenitors at Toho, and also because there’s three of him. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First let me tell you about my NEW WORD. This is a word you use to describe something that seems to be in the wrong place, like a giant gorilla in downtown Manhattan, and the word is KINGKONGRUOUS.

Maybe the film’s one original idea/image — monster eyes watching from the deep. Impressive, especially as it seems to be a real physical effect. I refuse to count “triphibean” as an idea.

GAPPA is a film of two halves, both of them stolen. The first half is pure KONG, with a ship full of scientists trawling the pacific in search of undiscovered animals which can be used to populate a new resort, improbably named Playmate Island, which is the dreamchild of a magazine magnate (mag-mag for short). Hitting the ground running, director Harayasu Noguchi (whose career seems to have come to an end the year of this film’s release) introduces us to this gang of clichés (soulful girl, staunch fellow, annoying comedy dweeb) already en route to Obelisk Island (so named for the mountain shaped like a slow-witted Gaul), and sets up their purpose with a quick scene back on the mainland. All that out of the way, they can come ashore on the monster-infested isle only ten minutes into the film, thereby making me morally certain that Peter Jackson has never seen this film. Call it my woman’s intuition.

Oops — aren’t you supposed to REPLACE the blue screen with something?

Thrillingly, the island is populated by Japanese extras in blackface, and a particularly disturbing little boy in an Afro wig, who warns them not to disturb Gappa, but being scientists they’re unaccustomed to listening to the simple native wisdom of small boys in afro wigs, so they go blundering in. An earthquake swiftly clears away the statue blocking their path and cracks open a massive egg. Behaving slightly more sympathetically than Sinbad’s men with the Roc egg, they abduct the gallumphing newborn Gappa and set sail for Tokyo (Playmate Island now turns out to be a big land-mass-shaped red herring, never to be spoken off again).

Now the movie makers can stop ripping off KING KONG, although they don’t, and start ripping off GORGO, the British entry in the kaiju stakes, where a mother monster tramples London in search of its young. In GAPPA, we have a mother AND father beastie, stomping all over the map of Japan while the authorities refuse to even consider giving up the infant monster, until finally they do. At this point I was perversely rooting for little Gappa Jnr to join forces with Ma and Pa Gappa and continue ravaging the nation until there’s not a three foot balsa skyscraper left standing.

To stave off the inevitable tedium as the monsters, looking not unlike Sam the American Eagle from The Muppet Show, stagger disconsolately around a dusk-lit diorama, I started fantasising about my dream project, a shot-for-shot remake of GAPPA in which all the scenes would be the same, with only the sets changed around. In this version, the human actors, grown grotesquely swollen, would play their scenes amid the miniature scale replicas of island jungles and Tokyo streets, while the monsters would lumber around in conventional sets, bumping into sofas and barking their rubbery shins on coffee tables.

If we can’t get the rights to this one, let’s just remake AS GOOD AS IT GETS, but with the entire cast in rubber monster costumes. “You make me want to be a better man.” Poignant!

“Whee!” Baby Gappa recreates the opening of LA DOLCE VITA.