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Film / Giant Monster Gamera

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"Gamera is a good turtle!"
Toshio, after Gamera has destroyed Tokyo and killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

Giant Monster Gamera, also known as Gammera the Invincible during its North American release, is a 1965 film that marked the beginning of the Gamera franchise. It is directed by Noriaki Yuasa and written by Niisan Takahashi. The film originally started life as a story about giant rats, but when the rats that were going to be used ended up being unusable due to fleas and other reasons, the filmmakers retooled the script and changed the monster(s) into a giant turtle. The film was one of the last giant monster films to be shot in black-and-white.

The film stars Eiji Funakoshi as Dr. Hidaka, Michiko Sugata as Nobuyo Sakurai, Harumi Kitaichi as Kyoko Yamamoto and Junichiro Yamashita as Cameraman Aoyagi.

There are two different English dubs of the film: the U.S. cut Gammera the Invincible, which included additional footage and also cut many sequences, and the later "Sandy Frank" or international dub, which follows the Japanese storyline closely, with only a few changes.

The film was released on November 27, 1965. Its story is followed by Gamera vs. Barugon.

For the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode see here.

This film contains examples of the following:

  • Adjective Noun Fred: The literal translation of the Japanese title is Giant Monster Gamera.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: While the Japanese version never had one to begin with, Gammera The Invincible does. You can listen to all of its mid-'60s grooviness here.
  • Antagonist Title: The protagonist is Dr. Hidaka.
  • A Nuclear Error: Gamera is freed from the arctic ice when a bomber plane from an unknown country is shot down by US Air Force fighters, setting off the atomic bomb it was carrying.
  • Anti-Villain: Gamera isn't so much evil as he is... well, an animal. Like any animal he needs to feed. The problem is he feeds on fossil fuels and nuclear power, which are often in populated areas, especially cities. This is the main source of the problem.
  • Atlantis: The stone tablet that Dr. Hidaka looks at implies that Gamera lived on the lost continent. It's mentioned that the continent extended to the arctic circle at one point (i.e. the Hyperborea myth), on which multiple Gamera specimens inhabited, before becoming frozen in glaciers at one point. This connection is cut from the Sandy Frank version of the film.
  • Big Bad: Gamera himself drives the plot with his rampage.
  • Dub Name Change: Most of the main characters' names were changed in the '80s dub used for Sandy Frank's version, Toshio rather infamously being given the moniker of Kenny.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: During his rampage through Tokyo, Gamera rips open a building, exposing the terrified people inside, and then roasts them to death with his fire breath.
  • Flipping Helpless: Attempted on Gamera. Fails because Gamera can fly.
  • Friend to All Children: Gamera, although this would be ignored in the next film. It's part of why Toshio believes that Gamera is a good turtle who's only lost and confused.
    • Of course, he likely kills and roasts many children during his rampages through the cities. His saving of Toshio may have been entirely accidental. It almost works as a deconstruction of what the series would actually become.
  • Gentle Giant: Toshio would like to believe this about Gamera, but it's clearly not the case.
  • Giant Equals Invincible: Since conventional weapons don't work, and the energy of nuclear weapons would only feed Gamera, the only feasible solution is to trap him in a rocket and send him to Mars. No, seriously.
  • Giant Flyer: Gamera. This, and his love of children, is what sets him apart from Godzilla.
  • Gratuitous English: Dr. Hidaka and the Eskimo village chief speak to each other in English as a lingua franca, and since neither are fluent speakers, it's... rather poor.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Mr. Aoyagi, although he really just wants to be near Kyoko, even going so far as to call her his "Goddess of Luck."
  • Importation Expansion: Much like King Kong vs. Godzilla, new U.N. scenes were shot for the altered 1966 American release, Gammera, the Invincible. Notable for having Brian Donlevy of Quatermass fame among the cast.
  • Kick the Dog: The rail crew mocking Toshio after he nearly gets himself killed is supposed to be this.
  • Monster in the Ice: Gamera is awakened by an accidental atomic detonation in the Arctic, freeing him from the ice.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Mr. Aoyagi. He admits (casually, repeatedly, and without much prompting) that he's following Dr. Hidaka around solely to stay close to his daughter, Kyoko — and that's about the extent of their romantic interaction throughout the film, as Aoyagi never flirts with, attempts to charm, or even really has a proper conversation with Kyoko herself. Apparently that's enough, however, as Dr. Hidaka still suggests at the end of the film that Kyoko should give up whatever scientific aspirations she might have and stay with Aoyagi. This whole subplot is removed in the Gammera cut.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The defense force commander in charge of the operation against Gamera at the power plant fully cooperates with Dr. Hidaka and his colleagues. General Arnold and the Secretary of Defense in Gammera are also supportive of Dr. Hidaka's conclusions about Gamera from the start.
  • The Reveal: The mysterious flying saucer is revealed to be Gamera, who shocks everyone as he ignites his jets and takes off. Dr. Hidaka and co. then realize the wave like pattern on the stone carving was supposed to represent clouds instead of waves.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Toshio certainly counts after getting on a train car heading straight for Gamera, after the monster has already destroyed most of Tokyo. The people in the nightclub who insist on continuing their dance party, despite warnings that Gamera is rampaging through the city and headed their way, also qualify.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: The film goes to great lengths to avoid giving details about ‘Plan Z’ even during scenes that exist solely to talk about the plan. It’s not until Gamera is on his way to Mars (no, seriously) that any details are given.
  • Walking Spoiler: Since one of Gamera's defining characteristics is his ability to fly, it's clear from the start for many viewers what the UFO really is.