Gorath (1962)

GORATH (1962)
Article #1687 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-27-2005
Posting Date: 3-26-2006
Directed by Ishiro Honda
Featuring Ryo Ikebe, Yumi Shirakawa, Takashi Shimura

A collapsed star with a mass 6200 times of that of the Earth is on a collision course with it. The nations of the world band together to find a way to avoid the destruction of the Earth.

This was one of a handful of Japanese science fiction movies of the late fifties and early sixties that did not emphasize marauding giant monsters, and I class it together with movies like THE MYSTERIANS and BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE. However, I think this movie takes itself much more seriously than these other movies, but part of this may be that I was fortunate enough to see a subtitled print rather than a dubbed one, which isn’t true for the others. On a story level, it’s a bit confusing, but it doesn’t feel confusing in the sense of having been poorly written, but rather in the sense that such a wealth of activities are going on that the confusion feels part and parcel of the event itself. In fact, the movie has a strong epic feel; the movie has a huge cast, a variety of locations, and we follow the big events along with selected smaller events; the overall sense is of monumental events unfolding on a vast canvas. You really do get the sense that the world is on the brink of destruction, and that is the movie’s triumph.

One thing I find interesting is that the movie doesn’t have any scenes of panicking crowds, which is the sort of thing you would think would be de riguer for this sort of movie. I think I understand the omission, though; the fact that there would be fear and panic is so obvious that it doesn’t really need to be shown. If the movie denied the existence of fear, it would be one thing. However, the fear is there, but almost always under the surface, and it shows in subtle ways in how various characters react to the event. If anything, it illustrates one of the wisdoms of life; that merely because you feel a specific emotion does not mean you have to behave in a set fashion; there are many ways to handle fear, not all of them destructive.

Another interesting thing about the movie is that a giant monster is thrown into the mix for a short period of time; a giant walrus does some marauding at the south pole. This feels like a commercial concession; its appearance drags the story to a halt and it feels like a distraction. Oddly enough, one good thing about the American version of the movie is that someone had the sense to cut this scene from that release. Still, as intrusive as the scene is, it does illustrate how well the movie works; whereas most other movies featuring a giant monster would have it as a centerpiece, it seems like small potatoes when considered against the threat presented in this movie.

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