There are a lot of giant monsters in the film world, and having gone through a renaissance of late, there are more than ever. Pacific Rim, Monsters, Super 8 and Cloverfield with more that keep getting released every year prove that there is an audience for those creatures that can cause mass destruction. There have always been giant monsters on film for almost as long as film has been around and one of those creatures was named Gamera. Saying that Gamera is not the greatest giant movie monster, nor even the the best of the giant creatures is probably a true statement. Most people would give that title to either King Kong or Godzilla. It is hard to say if Gamera would even come in third on the list, but to his credit, Gamera has twelve movies to his name. That is more than Mothra ever had, or even King Kong. More does not always mean good though, but to the credit of the Daiei Film Company, Giant Monster Gamera (also called Gamera the Invincible when released in America) is entertaining and surprisingly a whole lot of fun.
Gamera himself is a giant turtle that can breathe fire and fly, often being mistaken for a flying saucer. He is by all accounts, a bit juvenile, geared towards a younger market, but also made to cash in on the kaiju craze that the world found itself in at the time. He is a little different from many of the creatures that were seen on film during those years, being able to fly as he does, not to mention the connection he creates with a small boy in the film, but he is still overly large and able to destroy cities with the best of them. The creature effects were not the greatest in this first film, with Gamera’s giant eyes looking absolutely fake, though the costume overall was fairly decent with the tusks being a nice addition. The practical effects were much better, namely the scenes in the Arctic and when Gamera was destroying the various cities. Of course, everything was reminiscent of Godzilla and comparisons will always be drawn between the two films and the two creatures, but effects come 1965 were only so advanced. Of course, one must always wonder why the studio decided on a giant turtle for their new film creature instead of say, your average dinosaur.
The performances in the film are actually decent, especially by leading man Eiji Funakoshi who plays Dr. Hidaka, the man who will attempt to save them all. The little boy, who has that strange connection with the monster, is a little annoying at times, though he does represent the demographic that the movie is targeted at and allows those younger than adulthood someone to empathize with. While the various actors and actresses did a fair job with what they were given, the script could have been tightened up quite a lot to create a stronger film. It may not have been especially weak as it could still be enjoyed by those of all ages, but neither was it fairly exceptional and if it had been, this story of a giant prehistoric turtle could have turned out better than it ultimately was.
Daiei Studios may have just wanted to cash in on what was popular at the time for movie-going audiences, but then who was not trying to do the same thing back then, or even today. With Godzilla dominating the kaiju market, getting any sort of runoff that his popularity generated would be exactly what Daiei could hope for. What they could not have predicted was how popular Gamera would turn out to be and just over how many years and how many sequels the film would generate. Giant Monster Gamera, with its overly simple title would never go on to win any rewards, nor even be favourably looked upon at the time of its release or even anymore so throughout the years. It is a bit of a shame, for even though the film is not a masterpiece, it is an enjoyable movie, fun for the child in all of us.