Saturday Afternoon Kaiju: Gamera The Giant Monster
Long gone are the days of getting up early on a Saturday mornings in order to watch my favorite cartoons. Looney Toons was appointment television for me when I was a kiddo. Mum worked late, so I had to be careful not to wake her up. I’d get my Cocoa Pebbles and sit myself down in front of the television for a block of two hours of non-stop cartoon action. Of course, as I got older, I didn’t get up as early; I wanted every single drop of that precious sleep I could get out of a weekend morning. It was during these Saturdays, when I was a teen, that I discovered the glory that is kaiju.
I’m pretty sure nearly every single person reading this piece knows what kaiju is, so I won’t go into too much of an explanation here. Translated from the Japanese, kaiju translates to “strange beast”. Basically, it’s a monster movie. If you’ve seen a Godzilla movie, you’ve watched some kaiju. These movies are so much fun. What kind of person doesn’t like watching men dressed in monster suits battle other men dressed in different monster suits? In this bi-weekly column, I’m going to talk about kaiju films that you might enjoy watching on your Saturday. Today’s entry is Gamera: The Giant Monster (1965), directed by Noriaki Yuasa.
Gamera: The Giant Monster is the first in a line of several Gamera movies. If you don’t already know, Gamera is a giant turtle with tusks. A giant flying turtle with tusks, at that. Gamera has been frozen somewhere in the upper regions of North America. It’s anyone’s guess as to how long he’s been there (he is supposed to be pre-historic), but the Eskimos have a legend about him. Some American fighter pilot decides to shoot down an unknown plane and, guess what is on board?
Yep, you guessed it, a nuke.
The nuke explodes, the ice melts, Gamera is free.
He destroys the American plane and gets the hell out of there. He emerges in the sea off Japan and he’s pretty pissed off. He tears up a town, but he isn’t a total jerk because when he sees a boy about to fall from a lighthouse that he just finished knocking over, Gamera saves the boy from certain death.
Gamera is still pissed off, so he destroys some more stuff and kills some sailors. He gets a hankering to go to Tokyo where there are even cooler things to smash. At the same time, some scientists have some freeze bomb they want to drop on the G-man. All the freeze bomb really does is flip Gamera on his back. Everyone is delighted (except the kid Gamera saved earlier) because they think they will just starve the giant turtle since, of course turtles can’t right themselves, but don’t count Gamera out. Remember I told you he can fly? Yeah, Gamera has these rockets that he fires up (out of his leg holes) which spin him round like a firework. He spins around so fast he’s able to lift off and fly away out of danger, for the moment anyway. Now, it’s the government vs. Gamera. They come up with another plan to trap Gamera on a rocket and shoot him into space. Will he be able to escape and live peacefully wherever it is giant turtles go to live peacefully? You’ll just have to watch the rest of Gamera: The Giant Monster and see for yourself.
Hint: there are five more movies in the original run of this Gamera series. Reboots, of course, come later.