Monday, June 6, 2016

"Gamera vs. Barugon" (1966) d/ Shigeo Tanaka

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The following review is dedicated to Stacie "Final Girl" Ponder, surely one of my inspirations to do this very thing I do on a semi-regular basis for nearly ten years now. Tonight, we'll look at my favorite of the Showa Gamera series, which really ain't saying too much, when you look at the other films we're dealing with here. I rarely missed the opportunity to catch it on late night tv, where it usually turned up during my childhood, regularly reveling in the Daiei Studio-based rottenness that comprises the giant fire breathing turtle's first turn as a hero instead of a villain. Seeing how it's only the second Gamera movie, the producers really didn't wait too long to give the big guy a change in heart, did they? Let's check it out, shall we...

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"Don't go fuckin' around opal huntin' in that cave now. You'll regret the fuck out of it, son."
When last we left our terrible terrapin, he was trapped inside a rocket destined for Mars. Unfortunately for earthlings, the rocket crosses paths with a wayward meteorite that frees Gamera, who returns to Earth and abruptly demolishes Kurobe Dam. Meanwhile, a World War Two vet named Kano sends a trio of adventurers to an island in the South Pacific to retrieve a fist-sized opal he hid in a cave years earlier. On the island, Onodera (Koji Fujiyama) proves to be a right greedy bastard, indeed, letting one of the other men die slowly from a scorpion sting, and double crossing Keisuke (Kojiro Hongo), Kano's younger brother, setting off a cave-in with grenades. While Keisuke is rescued by the villagers and more specifically, a tasty primitive native bird who cleans up real nice, named Karen (Kyoko Enami), Onodera foolishly incubates the would be opal with an infrared light as he returns to the mainland via ocean liner. From the gemstone hatches Barugon (not to be confused with Giant Japanese Frankenstein's floppy eared foe, Baragon), who grows to monstrous size, sinking the ship and destroying Kobe harbor in the process. In Osaka, Barugon utilizes his hyper-extending tongue which emits a freeze ray and his spiky back, from which a destructive rainbow emerges to negate both the defense forces and Gamera, who shows up just in time to get frozen solid. Oof-ah.

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"I'm always chasing rainbooooows, waiting to find a little bluebird in vaiiiin..."
Onodera, who refuses to believe that the opal was really a monster's egg, plans to dive to the ship's wreckage in the harbor and retrieve the gemstone, but accidentally relates to Kano that he murdered two men to get the opal, not excluding his younger brother. He then abruptly kills Kano and his wife to further mask his own treachery. Keisuke and Karen stumble upon Onodera, who they leave tied up, only to be rescued by his own wife later on. The duo work in conjunction with the defense ministry to lure Barugon into a nearby lake, using a massive diamond, and it nearly succeeds if it weren't for Onodera who boldly makes the scene and steals it, only to get tongued, gem and all, directly into the giant lizard's waiting yap. Serves you right, greedy wankstain. Next, the defense forces reflect Barugon's rainbow beams back at the creature using giant mirrors, successfully weakening him, just in time for...Gamera's triumphant return (yeah, wasn't this a Gamera movie to begin with?), and a final kaiju throwdown to the death. Who will come out victoriously, the giant flame-eating tusked turtle that flies? Or the giant horned chameleon/gecko with the lopsided face and an aversion to water? To find out, you must get your hands on a copy of it!

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"Ahhhh, you're wailing on the asymmetrical side of my grillpiece!"
Unlike most of the other early Gamera films, there are no annoying Japanese children scream-whining Gamera's name to speak of throughout the running time of this one, which I suppose makes the adult drama and crappy giant monster effects more palatable to me,  in this case. The purple blood of monsters flows graphically and frequently here, as is usually the case in the Daiei series. Weren't the vast majority of these movies marketed towards little kids? Strange. You'll never mistake this for a good movie, a good monster movie, or even a good Gamera movie, ferchrissakes, no matter what kind of spin you put on it. Thus, it receives the solo woppo of reverse-excellence, on the rating scale. It might be my favorite, but I wouldn't expect it to become yours, by any stretch. Hell, even if you dig rotten monster movies, you're gonna wanna approach with caution.

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Gamera gives Barugon the Mary Jo Kopechne treatment.
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