Gamera The Giant Monster Noriaki Yuasa

Gamera The Giant Monster Noriaki Yuasa
The Japanese monster films of the '50s, '60s and '70s are said to have "cheesy" special effects, but that dismissive tag is a little too easy. Sure, we can all plainly see that Godzilla looks less like a 200-foot tall monster than a stuntman in a rubber suit, but is this really a bad thing? In an age when digital effects march ever closer towards photorealism, it's sort of charming to see these rubber monsters traipsing through model cities, knocking over hollow cardboard skyscrapers and moving with speed and agility quite uncommon amongst creatures weighing 20,000 tons. These images are so deeply and powerfully strange that they can become genuinely otherworldly. This brings us to Gamera (a giant flying turtle/"friend of all children"), who was Godzilla's chief rival at the Japanese box office, but who was always a little less slick in every way. His face was virtually immobile; his mouth opened and shut like a barn door; and his giant, painted eyes never seemed to blink. To see such a transparently fake creature stomp all over such a transparently fake city, and to see the human actors react with such grave sincerity, is a sublime kind of surrealism. In 1965's Gamera the Giant Monster, the first of the low-budget series, our man is woken from centuries of Arctic slumber by an atomic explosion (what else?) and, in his grogginess, wanders into Japan and starts knocking crap over. While the Japanese government and military hash out ways to stop this reptilian menace, a hot-pants-wearing, turtle-obsessed little boy postulates that Gamera might not be evil, just clumsy and dim. Filmed in chilly black and white, Gamera the Giant Monster is the most straight-faced entry in a series that would quickly see Gamera taking on an unabashedly heroic role, fighting various goofy monster enemies in a variety of colourful, sometimes-interplanetary adventures. This isn't the big guy's zestiest hour ― man, some of those scenes where humans sit around debating military actions sure drag on ― but it is the most technically polished, with the monochrome cinematography masking some of the special effects' deficiencies and enhancing the action scenes' otherworldly qualities. Shout! Factory's new DVD represents the first North American digital release of the original Japanese version, not to be confused with the bastardized American cut, Gammera the Invincible. Extras include commentary by kaiju expert August Ragone and a Japanese-language documentary, which assembles most of the original series' key creative team and even offers a new, very low budget facsimile of an unmade Gamera project. Despite all this, one question is left conspicuously unanswered: how does a 60-metre tall turtle sneak up on someone? (Shout! Factory)