Leave it to the USA to make things “bigger”; and yes, I am referring to the inclusion of that extra “m” in Gamera’s name…
Gamera, the Giant Monster was released in Japan in November 1965. It was Daiei Studio’s effort toward the kaijueiga phase sweeping Japan in the mid-1960s. Turns out, Gamera proved every bit as popular as the Godzilla entries of the time. In 1966, American distributors picked it up and did what they did best: slashed the run time and dubbed over the original lines. Consequently, for better or worse, Gammera the Invincible was the predominant edition available to US households and impressionable monster-loving kids before streaming in the 2020s.
Director: Noriaki Yuasa; Sandy Howard (US ed.)
Runtime: 86 minutes
US Theatrical Release: December 15, 1966
US Distributor: Harris Associates, Inc.; World Enterprises Corporation
With all that said, Gammera is still fundamentally Gamera, right? Which means it is great the ol’ turtle in action, whatever the particulars. Gamera is such as unique with more powers and abilities than Batman’s utility belt. The black & white film also proves effective here; the light from Gamera’s fire breath looks gorgeous in the contrast.
Despite the many impressive visuals, the film’s pacing often lags. All I can wonder is if this aspect is a quirk of the American re-edit, or equally inherent in the Japanese original.
As for the downright campy, it must be Gamera’s relationship with the kid, Toshio (Yoshiro Uchida). Children are a central component of the Gamera franchise but hey, this is where it all started.
Ultimately, Gammera the Invincible rocks some impressive kaiju mayhem while also dragging its feet at times. At least this American cut. Has anyone out there seen the original? Please let me know what you think!
by Vincent S. Hannam