Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Gamera Vs. Barugon / War Of The Monsters

Title: Gamera Vs. Barugon / War of the Monsters
Director: Shigeo Tanaka
Released: 1966
Staring: Kojiro Hongo, Kyôko Enami, Yuzo Hayakawa, Takuya Fujioka, Kôji Fujiyama, Akira Natsuki, Yoshiro Kitahara, Ichirô Sugai, Bontarô Miake, Jutaro Hojo

Rating: 3 / 5
Plot: A giant opal turns out to be an egg, which hatches into the monster Barugon who sets about wrecking havoc. Meanwhile Gamera is heading back to earth, having been released from his rocket prison.

Review: Now if you’ve found yourself looking at that great painted poster you might have found yourself thinking, wow this looks like quite an exciting looking movie, I mean right there on the cover we have Barugon being thrown by his tail! Well for those of us familiar with the concept of the painted movie poster (I.e: Don’t expect to see anything on the poster) you will probably not be surprised to know that, this film doesn’t have anything close to this in it, in fact it is just one of a number of misleading ideas that this film throws out there, with the most glaring being Gamera, who in all honesty seems kind of lost with his appearance here, which totals all of about 15 minutes and could easily have been edited out, making what would essentially have been a better monster movie.

Gamera for those of you not in the know is a giant fire breathing, flying turtle who in later entries in the series would become better known as being a "friend to children of the world", which is kind of surprising seeing how gory the Gamera films are as the monsters gush blood, making for an interesting contrast to the relatively blood free Godzilla movies, whose films it is almost impossible to not draw comparisons with when you look at the Gamera films. Still at this point in the series Gamera is still keen on trashing Japan, much like his fellow monsters, who he is supposed to be stopping, making it more of a Darwinian contest for territory and resources than anything resembling the monster smackdowns, which the later movies would become.

The main story involves a bunch of Jewel thieves and their quest to steal an Opel twice the size of a man’s fist, which their leader of sorts Hirta (Natsuki) a WW2 veteran hid in a cave, when he was stationed in New Guinea. Seeing how he is now unable to make the trip back to the cave, he recruits his brother Keisuke (Hongo) and his two friends, one of which being Omotura (Fujiyama) who has plans of his own for the Opel and is also the one responsible for the trouble the party encounter on their quest to retrieve the Opel, rather than them encountering a giant monster on route. It is soon pretty clear what a bastard Omotura really is, not only content to let his so called friends get killed by a giant scorpion, but also willing to bury one alive in a cave in. He is also willing to put the fate of Japan at risk, by attempting to steal the diamond lure which Karen and her fellow members of the black tribe (a tribe it would seem made up largely of blacked up Japanese actors), have supposedly used over the years to kill off Barugon’s ancestors. This storyline is interesting enough to keep the audiences attention, especially seeing how it takes up the first half of the film until Barugon hatches, when his egg is exposed to an infrared lamp’s rays, releasing a decidedly plastic looking and slime covered dinosaur.

Barugon is an interesting first opponent for Gamera, mainly because he is the first to highlight Gamera’s weakness for the cold, thanks to his extendable tongue which shoots out a freeze ray, while his back shoots out a rainbow death ray, which is certainly an interesting choice of attack, even more so when it is never explained why it has to look like a rainbow! Still due to Barugon’s freeze ray, Gamera get his ass truly handed to him within minutes of their first encounter with each other, leaving Gamera knocked out for most of the film, until he’s needed to finish off a heavily weakened Barugon at the film’s climax. It’s in this respect that this film in particular stands out from so many of the other “Kaiju” films, seeing how the military forces are actually pretty effective in their attempts to stop Barugon, which came as even more of a surprise to someone like myself he is more used to watching the military show up with impressive looking pieces of hardware, followed shortly afterwards by that said hardware exploding in a shower of pyrotechnics, which is not to say it doesn’t happen here aswell, it’s just that it actually does some real damage, than seeming like a distraction. Though this is also not to say that they don’t still manage to come up with some random ideas of solving their giant monster problem, with my personal favourite being to hang a giant diamond from a helicopter and have Barugon follow it, to the sea where he is expected to drown, which is kind of surprising seeing how he emerges from the sea to begin with, especially when you consider what a weakness water is to Barugon, who is also stopped at one point by it raining!

All in all it is an interesting entry in the Gamera series, criteria which it only just manages to scrape thorough, as I mentioned before he could have easily have been edited out of this film and just left it as a Barugon movie. Still it makes for a fun viewing while it lasts, even if the first half feels a little slow in places, meaning that the less dedicated amongst us will have no doubt switched off, long before Barugon has unleashed his first attack and in a way provides an idea of how the series could have gone, especially seeing how it is the only film without a child lead and lacking many of the Gamera trademarks which would appear in later films, which would see Gamera change from being a destructive monster into “The Guardian of the Universe”.

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