12/12/06

302 Gamera

(1965, Rubber Monster, b&w)

Kenny!

Rating: **

In a nutshell:

A nuclear blast awakens the giant turtle-monster Gamera.

Summary:

Part Godzilla, part rocketship, part turtle, part wild boar.Unidentified aircraft carrying nuclear arms fly over the arctic continent. (Yes, I know there’s no arctic continent—tell that to the movie.) Patrolling American fighter planes shoot them down, and one of the nuclear bombs detonates on impact. (Yes, I know nuclear explosives don’t work like that. Again, tell it to the movie.) The resulting atomic explosion looks more like rock concert sparklers than a mushroom cloud, but it’s enough to rip a hole in the ice and awaken the fearsome tusked turtle, Gamera. He trashes an icebreaker and heads south to Japan.

Coincidentally, a Japanese zoologist specializing in giant turtle folklore happens to be visiting a nearby tribe of Eskimos. The heavily mustached Eskimo leader gives the zoologist an ancient tablet describing the turtle monster. The zoologist nods sagely and heads home.

Back in Japan, a little boy named Kenny has an unhealthy obsession with his pet turtle, Tibby. His father forces him to release Tibby back into the wild one night, but Kenny stays out moping until Gamera comes to cheer him up by stomping all over his town. Kenny takes refuge in a lighthouse, which Gamera promptly knocks over. Gamera saves Kenny from falling to his death, and then takes off.

Kenny and his family evacuate to a power plant, along with the rest of the Japanese population. This turns out to be a bad move, since power plants are one of Gamera’s favorite foods. The zoologist shows up to take command of the military and, ignoring Kenny’s cries that “Gamera is good,” they futilely fire round after round of ammunition at the impervious turtle. When they finally reach the obvious conclusion that Gamera likes heat, they decide to try a new freezing bomb they’ve just conveniently invented. They freeze him for a few minutes, and then flip him on his back with dynamite. Gamera unthaws rather quickly and flies away with his rocket-powered shell.

Kenny and his family go to Tokyo while their town gets rebuilt, but Gamera follows them there as well. When they try to evacuate again, Kenny runs off, still proclaiming, “Gamera is good!” even through the worst of the monstrous turtle’s murderous rampage. The U.N. shows up and demands that the zoologist (who, by now, has been handed complete control of the whole country) execute Z-plan, which involves setting the ocean on fire to lure Gamera to a remote island. Once he arrives there, the zoologist, the ubiquitous stowaway Kenny, and all the U.N. folk snare him in a giant metal ball on the end of a rocket and send him to Mars. This humane solution satisfies everyone, even Kenny, who still insists that “Gamera is good” despite the fact that all of Japan is a charred, smoldering ruin.

Introduction:

Hey, that salad's made of paper!Tom Servo leads Joel and Crow in warm up exercises. Joel does leg lifts, revealing pink leg warmers.

Host Segment One:

Crow talks Tom into doing a trust fall, then drops him. Joel invents the endless salad bar, which is a restaurant take-out container that spits enormous amounts of spring-loaded paper. TV’s Frank invents the birdcage vacuum, which sucks up birdcages whole.

Host Segment Two:

Tom sings a heartfelt love ballad to Tibby, the discarded pet turtle in the film. Crow interjects his own lyrics, “I love you, you little fella / Though you gave the whole family salmonella.”

Host Segment Three:

Tom and Crow dress a Jim Varney doll up like Kenny, the Gamera child from the movie, and stick needles into it, voodoo-style. Joel asks them to think of the positive things about Kenny. They find themselves unable to comply.

Host Segment Four:

Tom, Crow, and Gypsy dress like beauty salon ladies and get their hair done. Gamera comes to visit and explains the whole “Kenny” deal. Turns out that under his turtle head, he’s actually a human being.

Host Segment Five:

Tom narrates a film montage of some of the lesser characters, attributing goofy names to them. They read a letter. Joel thanks Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank for not sending such a bad movie this time. The offended Mads electrocute him.

Stinger:

The mustached Eskimo leader says, “Bye.”

Thoughts:

LOATHSOME!The host segments disappointed me in this one. They were serviceable enough, I guess, but when the ‘Bots sit around in goofy costumes and talk about nothing in particular, I’m used to them going off on one of their really weird (and funny) tangents. Instead, they get interrupted by Mike Nelson in a green turtleneck, who, for once, doesn’t really have anything original to say. The character montage, the inventions, the warm ups, and the “Tibby” song are all similarly amusing but unspectacular. I’ll say one thing, though. Kevin Murphy has a fantastic singing voice, especially in the “Tibby” song. At least Gypsy was fairly articulate in this episode.

This movie can’t really decide whether it’s about man’s futile struggle against a terrifying force of nature (e.g. Godzilla), or the touching story of a misunderstood hero who loves children (e.g. every other Gamera film I’ve ever seen). It tries to deliver on both levels, and really isn’t successful at either. The odd connection between Gamera and the loathsome turtle-loving Kenny keeps us from viewing Gamera as the fearsome ancient power he’s supposed to be, and Gamera’s wanton and deliberate rampages keep us from generating any sympathy for him.

This is another one of those films where the appropriate scientific specialist gets granted absolute executive authority in times of crisis. Also, did I mention that Kenny is loathsome? It can’t be stressed enough, really. For a full explanation of the “monster child” phenomenon, go read Kevin Murphy’s write-up on this episode in the Amazing Colossal Episode Guide. For now I’ll just summarize by saying, if a child encounters a monster in Japan, he immediately becomes a key political decision maker, with enormous influence over the Japanese government’s monster policy.

Like the host segments, the commentary during the film is fast and witty, but not special. The funniest part is when Tom and Crow sing the MST3K theme song while Gamera gets shot into space at the end. Aside from that, there are riffs about how the American General looks and talks like Curly Howard, and the comments about the obligatory drunken farmer, but there really isn’t that much quotable material in his episode. It’s not painful to watch, like other episodes I’ve seen, but I did get a little sleepy at times. Watch it if you don’t have any better unwatched episodes lying around.