12/13/06

304 Gamera vs. Barugon

(1966, Rubber Monster, color)

The monster can destroy everything with its tongue.

Rating: **

In a nutshell:

Treasure hunters unleash a giant monster on Tokyo.

Summary:

Those mints really ARE curiously strong!Black and white clips from the previous film in the series quickly tell the story of the titular tusked turtle. When they get to the part where the authorities rocket him to Mars, it turns out that an asteroid smashed his space capsule just out of earth’s orbit, rendering the entire first movie futile. Gamera heads back to earth and stomps around on Japan a little more before going to sleep in a volcano.

Later, a war veteran summons his younger brother Keisuke and a couple of other guys—we’ll call them Evil Guy and Spazzy Guy. He tells them about the time he found a giant opal in a jungle cavern in the South Pacific, and sends them on a ship to go look for it. When they get to the island in question, the Japanese aborigines issue dire warnings of great evil in the cave. Of course, the intrepid trio ignores them.

Spazzy Guy finds the opal and spazes. Evil Guy notices a deadly scorpion crawling up the Spazzy Guy’s shorts but doesn’t say anything until it’s too late. Evil Guy collapses the cave on Keisuke and heads back to Japan with the opal, brutally murdering the veteran and his wife upon arrival. Keisuke somehow survives, rescued by the natives. A beautiful native girl (the exotically named Karen) tells him that the opal isn’t an opal at all, but a monster egg. He takes her back to Japan with him to help him stop the monster.

They arrive too late. Evil Guy has accidentally exposed the opal/egg to his radioactive athlete’s foot treatment and the result is an enormous dog-lizard monster named Barugon. Barugon has a huge tongue that he uses to ensnare hapless victims, knock down buildings, and spray freezing mist. The glowing scales on his back emit a deadly rainbow.

Gamera shows up, attracted by the pretty rainbow, but Barugon freezes him instantly. Keisuke and Karen take control of the Japanese military (they’ll hand command over to anyone) and execute a series of plans to destroy Barugon. Through legends they know that Barugon can easily be destroyed if submersed in water, so they try to lure him with a diamond. Evil Guy shows up and steals it just as they get the beach. Barugon snags the diamond and Evil Guy with his tongue and chomps them both down. Later they build a bunch of mirrors and shoot the deadly rainbow back at Barugon. This wounds him, but doesn’t quite kill him.

Gamera wakes up just as Barugon is about to rain icy death down upon them all. Taking advantage of his opponent’s weakened state, he drags Barugon out to sea and drowns him. The military rejoices while Keisuke and Karen confess their undying love for each other.

Introduction:

Just chillin' aboard the SOL.Tom and Crow debate the relative merits of now-defunct operating systems on IBM and Macintosh computers. Joel brags about his Amiga.

Host Segment One:

Joel invents an animatronic aluminum can to act as a recycling mascot. Tom narrates a recycling commercial while Crow does the can’s voice. The Mads have stolen Joel’s invention from Robot Monster, the cummer-bubble-bund.

Host Segment Two:

Tom narrates an infomercial for destructible Japanese city miniatures. He goes faster and faster and gets more and more off topic until he finally hyperventilates. Joel administers oxygen.

Host Segment Three:

Servo and Crow dress as monsters and talk like midwestern soccer moms. They order building-shaped desserts from their waiter, Joel.

Host Segment Four:

Joel and the ‘Bots dress in tropical clothing and sit in beach chairs. Joel shows stills from the movie, attributing the names of famous actors to each one.

Host Segment Five:

Joel and the ‘Bots discuss the film. Joel explains that Gamera is a triple-threat in the movies, “performer, director, and monster.” “Like Barbra Streisand,” says Crow. They discuss the various behind-the-scenes books that Gamera and Barugon wrote about the film. Down in Deep 13, Frank has bought Dr. Forrester the uncut version of Stephen King’s “The Stand.” Dr. Forrester collapses under the weight.

Stinger:

The Spazzy Guy spazes.

Thoughts:

Grown-up monster children.What is Gamera vs. Barugon? Is it a gritty adventure about murderous treasure hunters? Is it the tender story of a tepid tropical romance? Is it a monster movie featuring a rubber creature against a hapless military? Is it a Gamera film? The answer to all these questions (except the last one) is yes. Joel mentions that Gamera must have had a really good agent to get top billing for so little screen time—the titular monster only gets five minutes, tops. I haven’t seen credits this misleading since Marlon Brando got top billing for maybe ten minutes in Superman.

The movie breaks its own rules early and often, especially when they reveal that Barugon’s weakness is water, ignoring the fact that Barugon swam to shore from a cargo ship within moments of hatching. Further complicating the film is a long list of incongruities, including some inexplicable bloodsucking from the native girl, Karen, and some brutal violence from the Evil Guy when he murders everyone that stands in his way. The dubbing’s horrible too; it sounds like two guys and one girl did cartoon voices for all the characters. At least there were no monster children in this one. Karen filled that role and though she’s no less emotional, she’s a lot less shrill and easier on the eyes.

I wonder if it ever occurred to the Best Brains folks writing the show that the computer operating system discussion in the introduction would age badly. The advent of the Windows operating system made the sketch very obsolete. Tom’s narration of the destructible Japanese models was funny, but the rest of the sketches fell kind of flat. It took me a while to figure out what host segment three was about—I could only see that the ‘Bot’s faces were weird. Somehow they made the cummer-bubble-bund even more phallic this time around.

The film commentary has a few moments, especially during Joel’s impression of Barugon’s supposed appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. “They say I flipped him off, but it’s just the way my fingers are constructed.” Also, when Barugon is about to emerge from the sea for the first time, Tom cries, “It’s the ghost of Esther Williams!” They also lament the lack of martial arts in the film whenever there’s a long, dragged out fistfight. It’s a brash, colorful episode that’s worth one viewing, but probably not more.