THE BOOTLEG FILES: “GAMERA VS. MONSTER X”

BOOTLEG FILES 149: “Gamera vs. Monster X” (1970 kaiju shenanigans based at the Osaka World’s Fair).

LAST SEEN: Available for online viewing at Veoh.com.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: Only in duped copies.

REASON FOR DISAPPEARANCE: Nobody wants this one!

CHANCES OF SEEING A DVD RELEASE: Probably not as an “official” version.

Last week, I suffered through the 1965 kaiju nonsense “Gamera.” And I made it very clear that I did not enjoy that movie. So why am I reviewing the 1970 sequel “Gamera vs. Monster X” this week? Well, there are two reasons: the sequel was included on the bootleg DVD of the original (hey, I might as well watch the whole DVD) and because I hadn’t seen the film in over 30 years and I was curious to see if it was as awful as I recalled it.

No, it wasn’t as awful as I recalled it – it was actually worse, and I can easily wait another 30 years before watching it again. But there was something of a surprise in viewing “Gamera vs. Monster X” at this particular time of my life. I was genuinely shocked to see how much Monster X resembled a woman I used to work for. Both Monster X and my monstrous ex-boss had the same deranged gaze, the same built-in sneer, the same sloped head, the same belligerent personality and the same sense of utter ridiculousness in trying to assert their authority. The only difference was that Monster X had nicer legs (trust me, my ex-boss would’ve turned Colin Farrell into Nathan Lane).

But enough of my one-time job woes. Back to the movie.

“Gamera vs. Monster X” is a rather curious affair because it was pegged to Expo 70, the World’s Fair being held in Osaka. Clearly this was a major event for Japan, and in that pre-al-Qaeda era the only genuine major threat to a major international gathering was the untimely appearance of a grumpy monster. In this case, the grumpy monster came from a Pacific Island where a large Easter Island-worthy statue was dug up for shipment to Japan for Expo 70 display. The island’s chief (a large black man wearing one of the floral muumuus favored by Mrs. Roper on “Three’s Company”) protested this plundering and even Gamera tried to dissuade the Expo 70 bunch from taking the statue. Gamera, for those who forgot, is a giant fire-breathing turtle who flies thanks to jet propulsions in his shell.

Well, the removal of the statue brings up Monster X from the depths of the island. It is a triceratops that shoots spears from his horns, and it uses that trick to impale Gamera in his limbs while flipping him over on his back. Gamera may be the world’s largest turtle, but like any terrapin he’s helpless when flat on his shell. Monster X then swims to Japan with the goal of flattening Osaka and Expo 70.

Gamera eventually gets himself back on his feet and flies to Osaka to stop Monster X. But the nasty interloper has another trick: a needle in its tail. Monster X injects Gamera in the neck with the needle, causing the terrific terrapin to stagger around Osaka screaming in pain. Gamera then falls into the harbor and turns ashen white. A giant x-ray is taken and it’s determined that Monster X injected some sort of larvae into Gamera, which is growing in Gamera’s lung. How the larvae got from the neck to the lung is never explained.

So who’s going to save Gamera? As luck would have it, a pair of tween boys (the Japanese Hiroshi and the American Tommy) have been observers to these shenanigans. In kaiju movies, little kids get to run around top secret scientific and military conferences and offer sage advice on using monsters to save the world. The boys “borrow” a yellow submarine invented by Hiroshi’s father – but not the Yellow Submarine which sailed in another (and considerably better) movie. The boys navigate the submarine into Gamera’s mouth (Gamera conveniently fell into the harbor with his mouth wide open). Then stealing the plot from “Fantastic Voyage,” Hiroshi and Tommy ride their submarine through Gamera’s body, locate the source of his pain and kill the Monster X larvae (basically a mini-Monster X) using a radio transmitter. It seems the li’l monster cannot stand high frequency noises.

Neither can the big monster. So the Japanese Army blasts Monster X with radio waves while they plant electrodes in Gamera’s mouth to revive the behemoth turtle. However, the overdo the voltage and wind up creating a major blackout that shuts down all of Osaka (and you wonder why they lost the war?). However, Gamera is revived by the jolt and is in top fighting form. After doing a bit of rope-a-dope with Monster X, he dispatches the nasty triceratops by impaling its skull with that pesky statue from the Pacific Island. With Monster X dead, Gamera picks up its corpse and flies away, leaving the Japanese Army to figure out how they can turn the lights back on in Osaka.

I don’t know if “Gamera vs. Monster X” was the official kaiju movie for Expo 70 – though admittedly there are more intelligent methods of promoting a world’s fair then making a bargain basement film starring grown men wearing baggy rubber monster suits. Actually, we see relatively little of Expo 70: just a few quick glimpses of the surreal pavilions. I sort of imagine the filmmakers sneaked into Expo 70 when the security guards weren’t looking and shot the footage quickly.

In fact, the film is so cheaply made that we never see in the interior of the submarine – we only see a tight close-up Hiroshi and Tommy standing close together against a blue backdrop (a similar cheat-trick was tried in “The Turkish Star Wars”).

In case you are wondering, Monster X didn’t get his moniker as a tribute to Malcolm X – it’s called Jiger in the Japanese version, but for the English dubbing it became Monster X.

As with the entire “Gamera” series, this film was very popular in Japan and not the least bit popular in America. In fact, it never played in U.S. theaters. American International Pictures acquired the rights and took it straight to television. The film eventually lapsed into the public domain and has been bootlegged ever since. The copy I saw was taken from a scratchy and well-worn pan-and-scan dupe (not that the film would be more artistically pleasing in a letterbox format).

Not unlike Expo 70, “Gamera vs. Monster X” is barely remembered today. Unfortunately, I am still thinking about that awful ex-boss I had. Maybe I need to see another Gamera movie to get that memory out of my mind? Or maybe I should forget the whole silly thing and find a better bootleg video?

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IMPORTANT NOTICE: The unauthorized duplication and distribution of copyright-protected material is not widely appreciated by the entertainment industry, and on occasion law enforcement personnel help boost their arrest quotas by collaring cheery cinephiles engaged in such activities. So if you are going to copy and sell bootleg videos, a word to the wise: don’t get caught. The purchase and ownership of bootleg videos, however, is perfectly legal and we think that’s just peachy! This column was brought to you by Phil Hall, a contributing editor at Film Threat and the man who knows where to get the good stuff…on video, that is.

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Posted on September 29, 2006 in Bootleg Files, Features by
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