Plot: The impact of the Cold War spreads across the globe, even to remote regions such as isolated stretches of the Arctic. A team of Japanese scientists witness this first hand when a squadron of unidentified planes cruise over an Eskimo village, which not only prompts immediate concern, but draws the attention of the United States military forces as well. After the pilots refuse to make their identities known, one of the planes is shot down and as it turns out, was carrying nuclear cargo, as a massive explosion follows, though that is soon a mere afterthought. In the wake of that explosion, a huge beast soon rises from within the deep, frozen land. The creature is a colossal sight and appears to be some kind of mutated turtle. The locals recognize the monster as Gamera, a creature from the era of Atlantis, now awoken and mutated from the radiation. But how will this towering, terrifying beast take to the modern world?
Entertainment Value: Gamera is a low rent Godzilla knockoff of course, but who doesn’t love to watch a giant, cheap looking turtle monster unleash chaos, right? This is quite low budget and while that will steer some off, I think it is a positive, as it leads to camp elements and ample unintentional humor. The special effects could be more believable, but does that really matter when the scenes are a lot of fun to watch and there’s a guy who looks like a Japanese Colonel Sanders? The narrative is basic and doesn’t do much we haven’t seen before, but the bond between Gamera and the kid is neat, while I also liked the various colorful characters. The movie’s story is content to set up scenes of Gamera on the warpath and those tend to be the highlights, while the more plot driven sequences slow down the good times a little. I can see why some would find a good deal of the movie perhaps too slow, but I appreciate the wooden performances, stilted dialogue, and the small, offbeat touches. I think the more you are into older b movies and monster movies in specific, the more Gamera will entertain.
Even if you are put off by the slower, narrative focused scenes, kaiju fans are bound to have fun with the outlandish attack sequences. Gamera is of course someone in a rubber suit and it shows, down to the silly walk and hilarious sequence where the monster slides awkwardly down a mountain. I love that rubber suit mayhem, so I had a blast with the destruction scenes and I’d have to think most fans of the genre will as well. The special effects are sometimes laughable, but that is fun in its own way, while other scenes have some very cool miniature work involved. I think Gamera crushing a lighthouse for no real reason is a personal highlight, but the movie packs in more than a few scenes of rampant chaos. I can’t get enough of rubber suit creatures stomping on miniatures, so I am biased, but I appreciated those scenes, to be sure. So in the end, Gamera might not be one of the best kaiju films out there, but it does have a unique legacy and for me, is more than worth a look.