Gamera, the Giant Monster (1965)
It’s my habit to sometimes put on an old black and white movie when I can’t sleep or wake up painfully early. Today it was the 1965 family friendly Japanese classic ‘Gamera, the Giant Monster’, which includes a scene so unexpectedly dark that I actually had to pause the film and take a few restorative sips of my morning cup of tea.
The scene in question centres on a critical moment in which the army, in an attempt to stop the marauding bipedal giant turtle, Gamera, from trashing more of downtown Tokyo, hatch a plan to flip him onto his back with some carefully placed TNT. They succeed, at which point the commanding officer turns to his subordinate and proclaims, “turtles cannot right themselves once they are on their back. All we need to do now is… wait for it to die of starvation.”
*sound of enthusiastic cheering from the men*
Jesus that’s dark. Earlier in the film we had all watched in adoration as Gamera saved the life of a small child who had been searching for his pet terrapin, Pee Wee. What do you mean “Wait for it to die of starvation!” For a moment I wondered if the rest of the film would be just that: a continuous wide shot of the pathetic beast painfully kicking air as his lifeforce ebbs away, soldiers idly playing cards and chain smoking cheap cigarettes in the background. But I needn’t have worried since moments later Gamera’s secret rocket boosters – yes, rocket boosters – flame into life. Stunned into silence the soldiers can only look on in dumbfounded disbelief as Gamera retracts his four gigantic limbs and fire breathing head into his shell, which now propelled by the booster rockets begins to spin like a Catherine wheel raising him up off the ground and shooting him off into the distance like a demonic Koopa Troopa.
And so concludes the story of how I fell in love with the Gamera franchise.