On a cloudy and very cold Kansas day, what’s a monster movie kid to do but have an impromptu monster movie marathon. One of my goals for 2013 is to finish both the Gamera and Godzilla series. So I took the first steps and decided to add two more movies for good measure.
First up was 1968’s Gamera vs. Viras, presented in its’ original Japanese print with English subtitles. I’ve enjoyed the Gamera films up to this point but this movie definitely was a little challenging. Now, the Gamera series is geared more to kids than Godzilla ever was but they are still fun. However, each film seems to be a slight step down from the previous. This time, I think we took two steps. It opens up promisingly with a space battle between an alien vessel, who are targeting Earth for invasion, and our defender Gamera saves the day. The ship is destroyed but not before they send a message home stating Gamera must be stopped. Our sub-plot revolves around two Boy Scouts, Masao and Jim, who get captured by the aliens, who are using the boys to control Gamera. After the aliens implant a device on his neck, Gamera begins terrorizing cities. Thanks to our Boy Scouts, Gamera breaks free from the control and engages into a final battle with Viras, the alien leader who resembles a giant squid. As far as monsters go, Viras is a bit comical looking but the action sequences are fun. Masao and Jim are a bit annoying and seem to get away with murder without any repercussions. The opening theme song is also very dated. Perhaps the biggest con about the movie is the nearly nineteen minutes of stock footage. This is the most for any Gamera film. They are good battle sequences but they really pad out an ultimately weaker entry in the Gamera series. Still, Gamera vs. Viras is well worth checking out but only after seeing the movies that came before it first. The original Japanese version from Shout! Factory is the way to go but you can also catch the dubbed American version, Destroy All Planets, on various cheap DVDs, Internet Archive or YouTube.
Round two was Son of Godzilla (1967). Now, this era of Godzilla turned our monster into a more loveable beast by altering his face a little. Godzilla’s eyes are bigger and his snout shorter. And to further improve his image, he somehow developed a son. I’ve never been a fan of Minilla, so I somehow have avoided Son of Godzilla all these years. After going in with a lower expectation, I was ultimately surprised. It’s not the best Godzilla movie but far better than some of the negative comments out there would have you believe. Our plot revolves around a group of scientists on an island engaging in experiments to control the weather. There is radioactivity on the island and it’s beginning to create some anomalies, such as giant praying mantis named Kamacuras (or Gimantis in the English-dubbed version). After the Kamacuras attack an egg, baby Minilla is hatched and Godzilla comes to the rescue, destroying the base along the way. The scientists are trying to repair their radio so they can escape the island. Along the way, we have a very creepy giant spider, Kumonga (Spiga in the English-dubbed version), who plays a part in the big battle sequence. Enhanced by some cool jungle music, Son of Godzilla was actually a lot of fun. Not quite the bad-ass Godzilla he started out to be or would eventually return to. But it does take me back to those childhood weekend afternoon matinees. There is only one DVD release to go with here as it offers the original Japanese version with English subtitles. I recommend it but it is out-of-print, so expect to pay a slightly higher price. While you’re waiting for it to arrive, check out the trailer on YouTube.
I needed more monster destruction, so I went with Reptilicus (1961). This movie only got on my radar when I picked up a copy at a local Blockbuster Video when it is was closing out. Again, going in with lower expectations, I was pleasantly surprised. It was originally a Danish film directed by Poul Bang and remade with much of the same cast in English, this time directed by Sidney Pink. American International Pictures eventually had to call in the original screenwriter, Ib Melchior, to help it out so it was acceptable enough for a 1962 release. Essentially, Reptilicus is a winged dinosaur who terrorizes Copenhagen, which in itself is a unique locale. Tokyo finally got a break from the mass destruction! Our movie begins with a group of drillers who inadvertently drill into the frozen body of a dinosaur, only to discover that the chunk of tail they eventually recover can replicate itself. A reporter nicknames it Reptilicus and the scientists go with the name. Soon, Reptilicus grows into a full-blown creature and the mass destruction begins. Reportedly, some 900,000 extras were used as they were seen fleeing the city as landmarks such as the Langebro bridge and Tivoli are threatened. While Reptilicus is simply a marionette, the battle sequences actually work and are quite entertaining. Unfortunately, there is a green acid effect added that is really nothing more than animation. The end result is rather cheap looking. The acting, while not horrible, is not award-winning either. Turn your brain off at the door and enjoy it for the mindless fun it offers. Sadly, the MGM Midnite Movies DVD is long out-of-print. So again, plan on paying a little more to obtain a copy. Or you can watch it for free on YouTube. Either way, have fun with it.
I wanted one more monster to wrap up the day. Unfortunately, I chose Curucu, Beast of the Amazon (1956). I went in blind on this one and this was clearly one of those times I should have at least checked out iMDB first. Let me save you some time. There is no monster at all. It’s a cheat as it turns out to be a native in disguise. What you get are some jungle sequences, a lackluster romantic storyline and a whole lot of nothing. A major letdown. Avoid at all costs. Stick with Gamera, Godzilla and Reptilicus and you’ll have a perfect trifecta for your own monster movie marathon.