Review: GAMERA VS. BARUGON (1966)

The giant turtle returns stronger than ever in GAMERA VS. BARUGON, the second entry in the GAMERA series. This kaiju flick is directed by Shigeo Tanaka from a screenplay by Nisan Takahashi. Released in the United States under the title WAR OF THE MONSTERS, this 1966 outing is half moral fable and half monster smackdown. Most of it works, even if the pace is a little on the protracted side and the actual smacking down of said monsters is a little on the thin side.

The movie opens a half-year removed from the events of GAMERA: THE GIANT MONSTER, with Gamera on his way back to Earth after the failure of the Z Plan. He abruptly terminates the Kurobe Dam, then strolls off to find a volcano. In the meantime, a group of treasure hunters is sent to a South Pacific island to locate an opal. There’s a lot of cash in it and they disregard the warnings of the locals to avoid the area. The “opal” is recovered but subsequently turns out to be an egg. A huge lizard appears and takes off on a path of destruction. Gamera may be the Earth’s only hope.

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Much of GAMERA VS. BARUGON hinges on the treasure hunters, especially the avaricious Onodera (Kōji Fujiyama). He wants the opal all to himself and is willing to kill for it, which sets him on a path of destruction of his very own. Not only is he too conceited to heed the guidance of the locals, he turns against his cohorts. Luckily, Keisuke (Kōjirō Hongō) and Karen (Kyōko Enami) try to stop his dumb ass from ruining the whole world with his voracity. Onodera is so worldly he even tries to swipe the diamond used to bait Barugon into a watery grave. Someone give him a job at Exxon.

GAMERA VS. BARUGON features two fights between the titular monsters. The first is lengthier and more impressive, as the beasts tangle with a series of wrestling moves and dives. The second is more critical, with Gamera defrosting and coming for a measure of revenge. He has a formidable foe in Barugon. The lizard’s rainbow attack is killer but it’s hard not to feel bad for the creature, particularly when the colours fade. It’s kind of a shame that everyone’s favourite turtle spends most of the movie frozen, but even New Guinea reptiles need some time in the sun.

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