Direction: Ishiro Honda
Screenplay: Shinichi Sekizawa
Music: Akira Ifubuke
Special Effects: Eiji Tsuburaya
Producer: Tomoyuki Tanaka
One of my friends used to laugh himself silly over Video Movie Guide's succinct review of Dogora:
"A cache of gems stolen by Japanese gangsters is ripped off by a giant, flying, diamond-eating jellyfish. Probably a true story."
This admittedly droll review notwithstanding, the Video Movie Guide's rating of Dogora (a.k.a. Dagora, the Space Monster) as a "turkey" is unjustified, even by non kaiju-loving standards. And for kaiju eiga fanciers, it's a nifty little Japanese monster flick (in its subtitled form).
The title creature is different than most Toho titans -- this time, it's no man in a monster suit. Instead, it's usually a special effects blob/amoeba, but in the best scene in the movie, Dogora is revealed as a gigantic, tentacled, air-traveling jellyfish! It's cloud-borne appearance over a Japanese city is truly spectacular as it writhes and bobs in reaction to military bombardment, then uproots a major suspension bridge and trashes it. Alas, this is the best sequence in the film, and the movie definitely needed more of this kind of thing. It would have been great to have seen Dogora wrenching a passenger ship from the sea or, what I think may be the movie's best publicity still, bending Tokyo Tower.
Like The H-Man before it, Dogora mixes the gangster genre with Japanese sci-fi/horror. And just as in H-Man, these disparate filmic ingredients don't blend well. Indeed, the criminal plot hampers rather than enhances the film. The diamond thieves' story is often tiresome -- perhaps it played better to Japanese audiences.
Fortunately, the "monster stuff" (stalwart hero, stoic military, wise old scientist, fleeing crowds) is fun. Better still, Media Blasters presents the movie in anamorphic widescreen, and the color transfer is rich and vibrant. In addition, the Japanese version includes more special effects than the 1964 American version released to TV.
Dogora is no classic, but it is an enjoyable creature feature imbued with nostalgic Toho Golden Age ambience. It may not be a true story, but it is a fun one.