Wednesday, August 08, 2012

“The monster can destroy everything with his tongue.”

What’s this? MORE Gamera the giant nigh-invincible turtle?? Yep. Here’s 1966’s Daikaijû kettô: Gamera tai Barugon (AKA Gamera Strikes Again AKA War of the Monsters AKA Gamera vs. Barugon), the first Gamera movie to be in color.


We pick up right after Gamera the Invincible with a meteorite/asteroid hitting Gamera’s rocket almost immediately and releasing him from his prison. So much for the Z Plan. Being Gamera, the big turtle is able to fly back to Earth and attacks a power plant because of the whole feeding on heat energy thing. Gamera loves flames. Then he flies away.

Then we have a pilot getting recruited into a shady treasure hunt to (at least in the English dub) New Guinea to recover a huge opal that was stashed there during the war (WWII, presumably). A team of three (and thankfully no little kids in sight) arrive, are warned by the natives to not go, they go anyway, find the opal and of course, one of them gets really dead, one gets really greedy, and one (our hero) gets really almost blown up. He’s rescued (then berated) by the villagers and the girl in the village decides to go after it to return it (our hero agrees to go with her to fix his mistake). The traitor high-tails it back to Japan, but along the way, the Opal is irradiated and starts to hatch. Turns out its not an opal at all.

At landfall, BARUGON busts out of the ship, a giant four-legged dog/lizardy thing with a tongue that can shoot out and catch stuff, breath that can freeze things and a back that can shoot out a deadly rainbow. Wait, deadly rainbow? Barugon freezes Gamera when he shows up (effectively removing him for most of the movie) and goes on a rampage. According to legend, his greatest weakness is water, so the humans try their hardest to lure him into a lake so he can drown. Doesn’t work. They also construct a giant mirror system to reflect the rainbow back onto Barugon. It sort of works. Then, when all hope seems lost, Gamera thaws out and beats Barugon in an incredibly anticlimactic fight: by grabbing the beast and dragging him into the water where he promptly drowns.

Directed by Shigeo Tanaka, the visuals are fairly standard for the genre. The Gamera and Barugon suits aren't bad, but they do look a little lower quality than contemporary Godzilla kaiju costumes. The monster fights themselves are disappointingly brief and most of the movie is spent alternating between the humans and whatever model set Barugon is currently demolishing.

Written by Nisan Takahashi, the story feels a little…divided. Gamera is barely in it, so he feels tacked on, the human stuff isn’t really bad at all, it just feels like a kaiju was shoehorned in to its original pitch. Barugon isn't really a well defined monster: he’s just a baby from a race of “demons” that hatch every 1000 years on his island and when one does, the villagers just throw a giant diamond into a large body of water and said monster drowns. It begs the question: “why?” Why is Barugon’s species drawn to shiny objects like that? Why is submersion an instant kill? Why a rainbow attack?? Why isn’t Gamera in the movie more?

Original music by Chûji Kinoshita, which is fine for the genre. Additionally, the sound effects for Barugon aren't all that great. The beastie makes a kind of snap-hissing sound for almost everything.

Well, Gamera vs. Barugon isn't very good. It’s kind of a slog and there’s not enough Gamera in it to truly justify him getting top billing. Barugon is plenty weird though, with his tongue, rainbow death ray and amazingly specific weakness. Major props for not having a massively annoying kid, too.

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