Gammera the Invincible (1966)

Article 1963 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-30-2006
Posting Date: 12-27-2006
Directed by Sandy Howard and Noriaki Yuasa
Featuring Albert Dekker, Brian Donlevy, Diane Findlay

An atomic bomb in a Russian airplane goes off when it is downed, and the explosion releases a giant turtle (known as Gammera) from his icy tomb.

Long-time followers of this series may be asking why I’m covering this movie again; after all, my review of GAMERA was done more than four years ago. The reason is that sometimes it can be a little difficult to say how much a movie has changed before it can be called a different movie. The movie I covered several years ago, GAMERA, was the Sandy Frank dub of the original Japanese movie. When the movie first came to the states, it had lots of new American footage edited in; this is the version I am now covering. As far as the question whether it is the same movie or two different movies goes, I let IMDB make the call for me, and they do indeed list the two versions as separate entities.

So how does this version compare with the Sandy Frank version? It’s the better of the two. The dubbing is better, for one thing, though it’s still far from good. The dubbed script is also better written; it does a better job of setting up plot points. The new American footage is, however, quite bad. Some of the acting is way over the top; in particular, a scene involving two scientists on a talk show (which looks like it was shot in a broom closet) having a loud, obnoxious argument about the existence of Gammera is unbelievable. One of the other segments features an actor giving the worst oriental accent I’ve ever heard. However, the saddest sequences involve Brian Donlevy. He was a heavy drinker, and I suspect that he was far from sober when he shot his scenes for this, as he seems just barely able to deliver his lines.

Overall, though the quality is slightly better than the Sandy Frank version, I still find this to be a fairly dull kaiju. Part of the reason is that this movie tries to have it both ways; Gammera is supposed to be both terrifying and sympathetic, but the movie just comes off as muddled. He’d fare a little better in the sequels, and much better in his revival during the late nineties.


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