Gammera the Invincible (1965)

Genres - Science Fiction  |   Sub-Genres - Creature Film, Sci-Fi Action  |   Release Date - Nov 27, 1965 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 88 min.  |   Countries - Japan , United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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The idea of a giant, fire-breathing flying turtle might sound silly - and even fans of the Japanese monster-movie genre tend to consider it so - but viewers might be surprised by how serious and occasionally intense the original version of the first entry in the Gamera series is. Gammera The Invincible, as it was known to American viewers, was watered down with new scenes featuring English-speaking actors and laughable dubbing for the Japanese parts. As such, it's a bit of a misfire. However, the original, unedited Japanese version plays like a fairly effective riff on the first Godzilla film, using moody black-and-white photography and presenting a scenario in which the world is terrorized by the mysterious giant monster of the title. The script is mostly standard stuff for the genre but spices things up a bit by having scientists be the heroes instead of villains or kooks. The actors mostly blend into the background but Eiji Funakoshi does solid work as the film's scientist hero and Yoshiro Uchida stands out for playing one of the most annoying and insane kiddie characters in monster movie history. However, the real attraction is the monster-suit carnage and director Noriaki Yuasa handles it well, delivering the many setpieces with enthusiasm and using the black-and-white photography to bring a spooky edge to the scenes of distruction. Some the effects really show their age (particularly the scenes with model planes on strings) but the majority of the effects showcases play nicely, boasting a gee-whiz sense of comic book excitement that will appeal to the viewer's inner kid. All in all, Gammera The Invincible is a solidly-crafted, engaging monster mash - just make sure you see the original Japanese version.