Gamera (1965)

I’ll come clean. As a kid, I liked Gamera more than Godzilla. Sure, Daiei Film Studios was just following the success of Toho’s kaiju superstar, but I always felt a kinship to a monster who could just withdraw into his shell. Gamera was, after all, a friend to all children. And man, I wanted to be his best pal.

Originally released on November 27, 1965 in Japan, a re-edited version with new footage was released the following year in the U.S. as Gammera the Invincible. It was the only movie in the series to get a theatrical release in this country.

Over the Arctic, a nuke blows up and awakens a prehistoric giant turtle that just so happens to have big tusks. That’s Gamera, but he’s no friend to anyone at this point.  He can also breathe fire, which he does to blow up an American jet real good.

These scientists that he battles are pretty much morons. They’re smart enough to come up with freeze bombs, but they think that if they get him on his back, he’ll die of starvation. So Gamera just pulls all his arms and legs inside his shell and starts spinning around like a UFO.

This movie will also teach you that turtles are not even. They’re just turtles.

Back to those scientists. A whole bunch of Russian, Japanese and American ones invent this thing called Z Plan. You know what it is? They put Gamera in the nose cone of a missile and send him to Mars, all excited about how their scientific ways have triumphed over idealogy.

It’s a crock of turtle shit.

You know what’s really awesome? This movie was originally going to be called Dai Gunju Nezura (The Great Rat Swarm), but all of the real rats that were going to run over the miniature city got fleas.

This is the only Gamera movie where he doesn’t fight another monster and also the singular black and white film in the series. He’s also a good guy in every movie after this.

You can watch this at the Internet Archive and imagine a young Sam losing his mind screaming, jumping all over the TV room, so happy to see a turtle fly.

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