Also known as: Daikaijū Gamera, lit. Giant Monster Gamera (Japan), Gamera the Invincible (USA)
Release Date: November 27th, 1965 (Japan)
Directed by: Noriaki Yuasa
Written by: Nisan Takahashi, Yoneji Saito
Music by: Tadashi Yamauchi
Cast: Eiji Funakoshi, Harumi Kiritachi, Junichirô Yamashita
Daiei Film Co. Ltd., 78 Minutes (Japan), 86 Minutes (USA)
During the height of Godzilla’s reign at the box office, Daiei Film Company felt like they needed their own monster to compete with rival studio, Toho. They gave us Gamera, a kaiju that would go on to star in his own series and become the second most famous giant monster hero after Godzilla.
The first film was the only one to be shot in black and white. While it had a similar visual aesthetic to the first Godzilla picture, it was also eleven years too late, as Godzilla movies had already been in color for multiple installments. Compared to the Godzilla film from the same year, Invasion of Astro-Monster, the original Gamera picture just can’t compete. Yet, it still spawned its own franchise.
Gamera was grittier and darker than where the Godzilla franchise was, at this point. But it was still just a poor imitation of the original film, Gojira. While Godzilla proved that he could carry his own picture, Gamera really needs a monster to face.
The direction and the acting weren’t great. Sure, this is a kaiju movie and apart from a select few, the acting is never top notch. However, there is a steep drop off in quality between this and its competition.
Additionally, the special effects aren’t very good. The early Godzilla films benefited from special effects master Eiji Tsuburaya. Gamera didn’t have the elaborate sets and stunning miniatures of the films it was knocking off. It had very basic looking sets and miniatures that just looked like toys.
While I feel like I am trashing the film, it still has a real charm to it. The kid is annoying but the relationship between him and the giant turtle Gamera, is at least interesting. This would go on to be the framework of the series, which would see Gamera become a friend to children and their protector. Never mind that he literally killed thousands of people in this, his first outing.
Gamera works because Gamera, the character, is likable. He looks cool, he has charisma and he flies around in the most bizarre way possible. Plus, he still only murdered a fraction of the people Superman did in Man of Steel.