Category Archives: 1966

Blu-ray Review: Giant Monster Gamera (1965), Or Gammera The Invincible (1966), Or Gamera The Giant Monster.

Directed by Noriaki Yuasa
Starring Eiji Funakoshi, Harumi Kiritachi, Junichiro Yamashita
American version stars Albert Dekker, Brian Donlevy

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Mill Creek’s Blu-ray Gamera sets, Gamera: Ultimate Collection Volumes 1 and 2, have gotten some lukewarm reviews. They don’t look all that good. The detail’s fine, but things are a bit flat. Same goes for the audio: flat. But what I think folks are forgetting is that this is right in line with the way we’ve always seen these Japanese Daiei monster movies in the States. Growing up in the 70s, I saw them on TV — pan-and-scan and perforated by used car commercials. Later, when they started showing up on videotape, they looked just as bad, only you could stop them to go to the bathroom.

What I’m taking forever to get around to is this: in my mind, these kinds of movies aren’t supposed to look all that good. An iffy transfer? If you insist. Scratches? Yes, please. Splices? A few, just for authenticity. And grain? It’s a must. When these start looking too good, they lose some of their appeal. (Grindhouse didn’t look like that just to be obnoxious.)

And, be honest, did you buy a set of Gamera pictures to demonstrate your swanky TV next time your brother-in-law comes over?

A Brief History Of Giant Flying Turtle Movies, Part One.

Gamera: The Giant Monster (1965) was produced by Japan’s Daiei Motion Picture Company, clearly inspired by the callossal worldwide success of Toho’s Godzilla films.

Gamera is a giant prehistoric fire-breathing flying turtle with tusks, who’s released from the North Pole or someplace by a nuclear explosion. Gamera makes his way to Japan, where all hell breaks loose. The first attempt to get rid of him fails (explosives underneath him simply flip him onto his back), and he’s lured into a rocket and sent to Mars.

It’s clearly a Godzilla knock-off, with its meager budget evident in almost every frame. It’s black and white and Scope, which is always a good look, regardless of the picture’s budget (Lippert’s black and white Regalscope pictures were notoriously cheap).

A special version was prepared for the United States, called Gammera The Invincible (note the extra M), with sequences added featuring Albert Dekker and Brian Donlevy. This version played theaters in 1966 and was a constant on TV throughout the 70s.

The first volume in the Mill Creek Blu-Ray set includes the original foreign version, in Japanese with English subtitles. It looks nice and sharp — it’s terrific to see it widescreen, and the original Japanese audio tracks give the picture a slightly more sophisticated feel. (Very slightly — remember, this is a movie about a giant flying turtle.)

Personally, I would’ve preferred the Dekker/Donlevy American version I saw countless times on TV as a kid. It adds an extra layer of cheese, and for me, has added nostalgia value. Some of the dubbed voices are cats you’d recognize from Speed Racer and Ultraman.

By the way, there was a theme song, “Gammera The Invincible” by The Moons, released as a single in 1966 (that’s the sleeve to the right). It’s suspiciously similar to Neil Hefti’s Batman TV theme.

The picture was a success in Japan, particularly with kids, and a series was quickly launched, with Gamera taking on one crazy monster after another. The followups were all in color — and in the States, they all went straight to TV. Only Gammera The Invincible played US theaters.

Gamera: The Giant Monster was followed by six additional Gamera films, released between 1966 and 1971 —
Gamera Vs. Barugon (1966; AIP-TV title: War Of The Monsters)
Gamera Vs. Gyaos (1967; AIP-TV title: Return Of The Giant Monsters)
Gamera Vs. Viras (1968; AIP-TV title: Destroy All Planets)
Gamera Vs. Guiron (1969; AIP-TV title: Attack Of The Monsters)
Gamera Vs. Jiger (1970; AIP-TV title: Gamera Vs. Monster X)
Gamera Vs. Zigra (1971)

Daiei ran into money trouble and went into bankruptcy, leaving an eighth Gamera picture unmade. But just like Gamera busting out of the ice after that long repose, the series was back in theaters in 1980 with Gamera: Super Monster from New Daiei. It includes footage from the seven previous movies. The fiery flying turtle was revived again in 1995 for series of films I have absolutely no interest in.

Mill Creek’s Gamera: Ultimate Collection Volumes 1 and 2 give these eight Gamera movies in hi-def, looking pretty splendid (as I see em). All are in the correct 2.35:1 aspect ratio, are all in color but the first one, and all feature what seems to be a solid job of subtitling. And, to top it all off, the pricing is terrific.

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Filed under 1965, 1966, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Kaiju Movies, Mill Creek

Screening: Frankenstein Conquers The World (1966) And War Of The Gargantuas (1970).

Directed by Ishirô Honda
Starring Nick Adams, Tadao Takashima, Kumi Mizuno, Yoshio Tsuchiya

Directed by Ishirô Honda
Starring Russ Tamblyn, Kumi Mizuno, Kenji Sahara, Nobuo Nakamura

Boy, I’d love to make it to this. The New Beverly has Toho’s Frankenstein Conquers The World (1966) paired with its sequel War Of The Gargantuas (1970) this Friday and Saturday.

The alterations to the US versions remove any indication that the two films are related. My best friend and I saw Gargantuas at a Saturday matinee many years ago and loved it. It remains one of my favorite of the Kaiju movies.

Tim Lucas has written a great piece on these films for The New Beverly’s blog.

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Filed under 1966, 1970, AIP, Ishirō Honda, Kaiju Movies, Screenings, Toho

The Bat Signal.

Just when it seems that everything’s gone Wrong in this world, something comes along that is 100% completely Right.

Tonight at 9 at City Hall (200 N Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90012), L.A. mayor Eric Garcetti and L.A. Police Chief Charlie Beck will light the Bat Signal in honor of Adam West.

If I had a stash of frequent flyer miles, my family and I would be there for sure.

UPDATE: Here’s a photo of the real thing.

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Filed under 1966, Adam West

RIP, Adam West.

William West Anderson (Adam West)
September 19, 1928 – June 9, 2017

To me, Adam West is a big part of summer. Growing up, we typically spent the summer at my grandparents’ place in Texas. It was always a great time, with a particular benefit being that one of their local TV stations (out of either Dallas or Abilene, I guess) ran Batman every afternoon. Our Raleigh stations weren’t hip enough for it. I always looked forward to those few weeks of Batman. The chance to watch the Caped Crusader was a real treat, something special, and it still feels that way today.

Like so many other kids, to me, Batman was high adventure, not high camp. And as I got older and got the joke, I appreciated it all even more. Especially the fine work of Mr. West. The success of the whole enterprise rested on his shoulders. The colors, the camera angles, the sets, the cliffhangers — none of it mattered if he didn’t pull off his part of the whole affair. He was perfect and he’ll be missed.

Batman (Adam West, from the ’66 Batman feature): “Let’s go, but, inconspicuously, through the window… Our job is finished.”

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Filed under 1966, Adam West, Television

RIP, Quinn O’Hara.

Quinn O’Hara
January 3, 1941 – May 5, 2017

Quinn O’Hara didn’t make many movies, but if you turn up in an AIP Beach Party movie and an episode of Dragnet, that’s resume enough for me. She has passed away at 76.

She’s seen above with Aaron Kincaid in Ghost In The Invisible Bikini (1966). It’s one of the weaker ones in the series, but it’s got Boris Karloff, Basil Rathbone, Harvey Lembeck (as Eric Von Zipper), Nancy Sinatra and The Bobby Fuller Four(!). Miss O’Hara is quite funny as Rathbone’s nearsighted daughter.

She worked pretty steadily on TV in everything from The Beverly Hillbillies and The Man From UNCLE to CHiPs and Dallas. She eventually became a nurse.

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Filed under 1966, AIP, Basil Rathbone, Bobby Fuller, Boris Karloff

Blu-Ray News #131: Island Of Terror (1966).

Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Peter Cushing, Edward Judd, Carole Gray

More 60s British horror coming to Blu-Ray. I’m all for it, especially when it’s another teaming of Terence Fisher and Peter Cushing — and a really solid one like this.

Island Of Terror (1966) has cancer research gone horribly wrong on Petrie’s Island, with weird creatures injecting victims with a bone-dissolving enzyme. Its pseudo-science seems somewhat plausible (to me, at least — I’m a real bonehead when it comes to scientific stuff) and it has a pretty cool open ending. Shout Factory promises a new transfer from an interpositive, along with a number of extras. Can’t wait. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1966, DVD/Blu-ray News, Peter Cushing, Shout/Scream Factory, Terence Fisher

Blu-Ray News #127: The Endless Summer (1966).

Directed by Bruce Brown
Starring Michael Hynson, Robert August, Bruce Brown, Terence Bullen, Wayne Miyata

What a wonderful movie Bruce Brown’s The Endless Summer (1966) is. God only knows many times I’ve seen it — enough to absorb some of its lingo: “stoked,” “ultimate thing” and more. And I’ve about worn the grooves off of the soundtrack LP by The Sandals.

Speaking of the ultimate thing, The Endless Summer is coming to Blu-Ray in the UK from Second Sight — this summer, naturally. I’m so stoked.

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Filed under 1966, Bruce Brown, DVD/Blu-ray News