An atomic explosion awakens Gammera--a giant, fire-breathing turtle monster--from his millions of years of hibernation. Enraged at being roused from such a sound sleep, he takes it out on Tokyo.
Directed by: Sandy Howard
, Noriaki Yuasa
. Starring: Albert Dekker
, Brian Donlevy
, Diane Findlay
, John Baragrey
, Dick O'Neill
, Eiji Funakoshi
, Michiko Sugata
, Harumi Kiritachi
, Mort Marshall
, Bob Carraway
, Alan Oppenheimer
, John McCurry
, Steffen Zacharias
With the rising popularity of the now iconic Godzilla series, like with any hit cinema event, there was inevitably going to be a crowd of imitators trying to cash in on the success on the big lizard. With Godzilla came the dawn of a rising popularity of the kaiju (giant monster) genre. Many sought after success; a few gained it. One of the few that not only profited, but garnered popularity was Gamera, a giant turtle that could breathe fire in and out and fly by spewing flames from the sockets in his carapace as a means of jet propulsion. But unlike Godzilla, Gamera was marketed as a friend to all children, later fighting other monsters to save kids in peril, and thus Gamera became very popular amongst the kiddies. Unfortunately, that's about the only audience mainstream that the original Gamera series will have any appeal to. While the new Gamera movies directed by Shusuke Kaneko are marvelous, revolutionary monster movies, the original series, including the original, is nothing special.
The first Gamera movie, titled in Japan as "The Giant Monster Gamera" was clearly a Godzilla want-to-be. Even though the movie was produced in the era of color films, it was shot in black-and-white. Why? To imitate the first Godzilla movie from the 1950s. Gamera also attacks Tokyo. Because Godzilla attacked Tokyo in the first movie. I don't know much about the Japanese version, for the version I am familiar with the Americanized version, where scenes were cut and new footage with American actors were inserted (is it coincidence that the same thing happened with the first Godzilla film?) Now whether this adds or takes away from the film, I cannot say. But "Gammera the Invincible" is really nothing more than a ponderous bore that just plods along like the big turtle himself.
"Gammera the Invincible" is a very routine-orientated movie. The characters are from a stock of science-fiction standards, the story is inane, the monster has no real motive for attacking civilization, the acting is laughable, and so on and so forth. The only thing that differentiates it from the Godzilla series is the ending of the movie, but that's also a detractor since the plan that eventually halts Gamera's rampage is completely phony and ridiculous. Now the rest of the movie and many other entries in this genre also fit that description, but this is a direfully stodgy monster movie.
And although Shusuke Kaneko would later transform Gamera into an interesting monster with his trilogy in the 1990s, in the original series, Gamera was not an attractive screen presence. He was neither scary nor sympathetic. He just waddles around like a toddler, swaying with each step, and knocks miniature sets over. As usual, everybody wants to destroy Gamera except for a little kid (Yoshio Uchida who was lazily left out of the credits though he plays a 'central' role) who thinks Gamera is a nice turtle.
Most movies in the genre that "Gammera the Invincible" is a part of are easy targets for criticism and this one is subject to extra pressure. Even in the company of many other Godzilla-imitators, this Gamera film is not a particularly good entry. And as far as my cinema experience goes, the rest of the movies in the series are either just as boring or worse. Like Godzilla, Gamera would be filmed in color and go on to fight monsters. And like Godzilla, he'd get cheaper and cheaper with every film until it was time to revive the series and make him serious again.
It's peculiar. Usually I recommend people to stick with the originals and pass on the remakes. But in the case of Gamera, my verdict is just the opposite. I strongly encourage people to watch the 1990s Gamera trilogy directed by Shusuke Kaneko and to skip over the original series unless interested. The new films are inventive, well-made, exciting, and above all, fun. The original series is a long stream of boredom.
Review by TheUnknown837-1 from the Internet Movie Database.