Direction: Noriaki Yuasa
Screenplay: Nissan (a.k.a. Fumi) Takahashi
Music: Shunsuke Kikuchi
Special Effects: Daiei Special Effects Department
Producer: Hidemasa Nagata
I must be getting sentimental in my old age -- this is a Showa era Gamera entry, back when Gamera was inarguably second-tier Godzilla, strictly small fry fodder, and yet . . . I like it.
With the possible exception of the super-turtle's 1965 movie debut, Gamera vs. Monster X is the best of the seven Gamera movies Daiei produced between 1965 and 1971. Jiger (a.k.a. Monster X), Gamera's monster opponent this time around, is easily the best designed and best articulated of Showa Gamera's various kaiju foes. In fact, Jiger looks as though it could have popped out of Toho's monster warehouse. Even better, the stuntman inside Jiger is careful to keep the monster on all fours without waddling on his knees. Why Toho didn't have Angilas and Baragon similarly keep their back legs propped up as they trundled about is a mystery.
The first battle between Jiger and Gamera on the island is well-handled. Jiger's subsequent rampage of Osaka is fun, even if the miniatures aren't particularly well-detailed or convincing. The whole thing plays out like a story a child might tell and design, only fitting since the movie is clearly aimed at the grade school set. On that level, it succeeds wonderfully. But it can be fun for grown-ups as well if taken in the right spirit.
Among its other virtues, Gamera vs. Monster X features the most inventive plot of the Showa Gamera series. Mid-way, it appears as though Jiger has killed Gamera. However, two young boys steal inside a mini-submarine, and with the guidance of adult scientists, actually sail into Gamera's body a'la 1966's Fantastic Voyage. There, they discover a "larva" baby Jiger and further find out that their radio transceiver kills it. Using this knowledge, the adult scientists hatch a plan that will use similar radio transceiver waves amplified.
Of course, it is Gamera who ultimately saves the day, as he always did in director Noriaki Yuasa's super-turtle tales. The movie's trio of kids naturally knew Gamera would prevail; throughout the movie, they constantly act as a kind of "Gamera Cheerleading Squad." You even get the impression that Gamera is supposed to hear them and (gasp) understand what they're saying! Shades of Toho Kong comprehending English in King Kong Escapes!
Mr. Yuasa's pacing keeps things moving along at just the right clip. Also, the usual Showa Gamera "kaiju bloodletting" is toned down a bit this time around. Of course, Gamera vs. Monster X still features perhaps the grossest scene in any Japanese monster movie -- the sight of an elephant's trunk swollen in the middle like a watermelon and the slicing of said bulge that disgorges hundreds of disgusting, squiggly worms. Blech!!!!
Gamera's cinematic bout with Jiger is a far cry from the adult sensibilities of the 1990's Heisei Gamera series. But that's okay -- there's enough room in the Gamera universe for both approaches. Unlike some Showa Gamera features, Gamera vs. Monster X is good, clean kaiju fun for all the right reasons.