Space Amoeba [Gezora, Ganime, Kameba: Kessen! Nankai no daikaijû] (1970)

(aka, Gezora, Ganimes, and Kamoebas: Decisive Battle! Giant Monsters of the South Seas;

Yog: Monster from Space)

This is one of the stranger Kaiju Eiga films Toho made.  One might almost be tempted to say the strangest if it weren’t for Godzilla’s Revenge and Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster.

Although, as you’d expect, many of the elements are familiar.

Some sort of glowing blue stuff takes over a NASA probe, brings it back to Earth, to a tiny island where a big corporation plans to build a new resort.  As this is a Toho Kaiju Eiga film, the glowing blue stuff turns some of the native creatures (a squid, a turtle and a crab — or is it two crabs?) into…Giant Monsters!

Oh, you guessed that.

Mind you, as Toho giant monsters go, these are on the small side.  They also look less like a man in a suit than nearly all of Toho’s monsters.  The tentacled Gezora is perhaps the most memorable, and was surprisingly well done:  you never actually see the stuntman’s legs in the tangle of tentacles (I think some clever editing may have helped).

However,  our heroes have to fight the three creatures on their own, without the help of the Japanese Self-Defense Force, or even a brilliant inventor and his new weapon.  Instead, they end up using the island’s stockpile of explosives, some bats and a volcano.

While it is often dismissed as one of their worst films, on the whole I enjoyed this one for what it was.  I think it may have been aimed at a younger audience than some of their other monster movies, but then, the Seventies were very much the kids-only era of the Godzilla franchise.  Nor does its rather limited setting bother me much:  Around the time this one was made, a lot of the Godzilla films ended up on tiny islands, from Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster to Son of Godzilla and Godzilla vs. Gigan, so that part really isn’t that odd.  It does, after all, save a lot of money on miniature buildings (and many of the ones set in Japan still manage to stage their final battles in huge, open areas).

One recognizes a certain similarity to many of the other Toho Monster epics, with their evil space aliens and their sinister plans.  But the glowing blue mist is unique, even if it never really seems particularly threatening.  It is definitely better than the guys in the weird horned helmets in Terror of Mechagodzilla, but that isn’t saying much.

I find it curious that it has moments that hint at the Classic British SF serials and movies featuring Professor Bernard Quatermass.  You can’t rule out the possibility that someone at Toho might have seen them and been influenced, although it does seem unlikely.  However, one can see a similarity not merely because a character ends up being controlled by the alien, but because the “space amoeba” is defeated when one of its victims throws off its control and fights back, as in the first two Quatermass serials.

Afterwards, the three starring creatures — Gezora, Ganime and Kameba — never really intersected with the rest of Toho’s bestiary.  Kamebas gets a few mentions here and there and did get a cameo in Godzilla:  Tokyo S.O.S.

Well, yeah, he was dead.  We know.  But a part is a part.

It would be tempting to say this one is only for completists, but the terrible truth is that this one is a lot of fun, particularly for those of us who grew up wasting our Saturday afternoons watching these old Toho movies (including a few that are awfully hard to find these days!).  It isn’t brilliant, it doesn’t have any really deep message for the viewers, it doesn’t even lecture us about pollution or nuclear war.  It just offers us some mindless giant monster mayhem.

And we can all use more of that.

Otherwise, how will we make it through Saturday afternoon?

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