“Challenging a Godzilla look alike contest loser – No More Mr. Nice Turtle!”
The lovely tagline at the top of this article graced the cover of the VHS I had of this movie as a kid (see right). It was the only Gamera movie I had, and was my only exposure to the giant turtle prior to the Heisei Trilogy. Sure, I read all about him online and saw a couple of the other Gamera flicks on Saturday morning TV spots – but Gamera vs Barugon will always be the first film I think of when someone mentions the Guardian of the Universe. Funny thing is, in this movie Gamera is anything but a guardian.
The basic plot centers around humanity attempting to launch Gamera to Mars via giant spaceship/rocket thingie. This brilliant plan goes astray when a massive meteor from space (is there any other kind?) collides with the craft, freeing Gamera. The giant turtle is pissed – he returns to Japan and ravages the landscapes before going into hiding. Meanwhile, a large, valuable opal is stolen by a group of explorers in the south pacific – which later is revealed to be a monster egg. As the egg begins to glow, Barugon hatches and destroy’s the boat his captor’s had stowed him upon. The giant elemental lizard heads for Kobe Harbor, then Osaka – using his unique combination of fire breath and Ice beams to wreak havoc. Barugon and Gamera eventually cross paths and do battle – laying waste to Japan in the process.
–Jon @ UnCanny
Pretty standard fare, right? Surprisingly enough, Gamera vs Barugon does a decent job with this tired kaiju eiga formula. Our very own KFN expert The Real McCoy explains, using the Japanese version of the film for reference:
The second movie in the Gamera franchise pits the giant turtle against a large monitor lizard-type reptile, Barugon. This movie is decidedly better than the previous film, and it is filmed in color. Gamera looks more menacing than in his previous film; with red-tinted eyes that seem to scowl at the viewer. The second title monster, Barugon, is a fairly plain looking monster at first glance, but is revealed to have the power to spray a freezing mist from the end of his tongue, and emit a heat-rainbow from his dorsal spines. Gamera, at this point, seems like an anti-hero, only coming to fight Barugon because he was invading his “turf”, an argument that could very well be made for the Godzilla series, as well. The biggest problem with this movie, while still being an enjoyable flick, is the lack of screen time for Gamera. He shows up to confront Barugon, gets frozen, and comes back within the last fifteen minutes of the movie to fight him again. The movie is more about Barugon than about Barugon and Gamera.
The human side of the story delivers an enjoyable performance to counter the void from Gamera. Keisuke, Karen, and Onodera all give memorable performances. Keisuke and Karen are trying to right the wrongs of Keisuke’s greed, and Onodera is relentlessly greedy, wanting to gain his wealth after realizing that the Opal was really Barugon’s egg. The rest of the movie between Gamera and Barugon’s initial fight was filled up with Keisuke and Karen trying to help the military deal with Barugon with help from old traditions of Karen’s native history. None of the plans work, but they still make for some interesting moments. The special effects are quite good in this movie, save for the planes being frozen in mid-air.
All in all, it is an enjoyable installment in the series, and much better than it’s predecessor. This one gets three-and-a-half stars out of five. – The Real McCoy
This film was the BIG Gamera movie. Daikaiju Gamera was an experiment of sorts, with Daiei testing the waters to see if they could compete with Toho in the area of giant monster films. After it became a success, Daiei green-lit a big-budget sequel, which debuted in theaters about six months after the original. However, unlike Godzilla Raids Again (the first Godzilla sequel, also released about six months after the first film), this movie would become known as one of the highlights of the series.
Firstly, let’s go over the plot: En route to Mars in the Z Plan capsule following the events of the first film, Gamera is freed by a meteorite that crashes into the rocket. He immediately returns to Earth, attacking a dam and feeding on the fires he starts. He then heads for the equator, drawn by a volcanic eruption. Meanwhile, three men go to a cave in New Guinea to find a huge opal. They find it, but one man is stung by a scorpion and dies. One of the remaining two men, Onodera, takes the opal and attempts to trap the third man, Keisuke, in the cave and leaves him for dead. Onodera gets on a ship back to Japan, while the locals rescue Keisuke from the cave, telling him that they must recover the opal, and that it is in fact not a jewel at all. Keisuke and Karen, a native girl, head back to Japan as well. On Onodera’s ship, however, the opal is accidentally left exposed to an infrared light he’s using to treat a case of athlete’s foot he picked up in the jungle. It turns out to be an egg, from which an infant Barugon hatches. When the ship reaches Japan, Barugon escapes the ship and subsequently emerges from the water, fully grown and, oddly, bleeding. It attacks Kobe, freezing buildings and military forces with a mist emitted from its tongue. It also reveals a rainbow beam it fires from its back. This energy attracts Gamera, who tries to fight Barugon off, but is frozen along with much of Kobe. Karen tells the military some of Barugon’s weaknesses, including water (the reason it was bleeding as it came from the sea) and an attraction to brilliant gems. They try several strategies to defeat Barugon, including a large diamond and reflecting the rainbow beam back at it, all of which ultimately fail. However, Gamera finally thaws out and returns to fight Barugon once again, winning this time by holding it underwater until it dies.
Overall, while longer than many kaiju eiga of its time, this film is very entertaining. The higher budget is apparent in nearly every aspect of the production, from the human drama to the special effects, which are probably the best in the Showa Gamera films. Barugon looks great, as does Gamera. This film introduces the gory element of the monster battles that would become a staple of the series’ later installments. Overall, this movie is highly recommended to any kaiju fan. The acting, effects and story are all very well done and it’s great entertainment for any fan of the genre.