GAMMERA THE INVINCIBLE
Gammera the Invincible is clearly designed as a copy of Godzilla. It has the same basic plot of a monster unleashed by an atomic explosion and going on a rampage, causing mass destruction across Japan before being brought down by scientists who find a chink in its near-invulnerability. Gammera even has the same kind of high-pitched howl that Godzilla does, as well as radioactive breath. In terms of inspiration, Gammera the Invincible goes back even further to the film that inspired Godzilla The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) and borrows from Beast the origin of the monster revived by an atomic explosion in the Arctic.
The special effects in Gammera are somewhat variable, with some of the model ships, planes and trains looking exactly like models. There are however some excellent mass destruction sequences, particularly the sequences with Gammera destroying the geothermal station and rampaging through Tokyo. Here it looks as though the filmmakers have actually gone out and destroyed real railway carriages. In fact, these sequences contain better effects than the ones that appear in the original Godzilla. The Gammera monster does look moderately fearsome, despite being mostly immobile. Gammera also manages a much better ending than the original Godzilla, where the monster here is trapped at a rocket launch platform, lured into a capsule and then launched into space.
By the mid 1960s, Godzilla had been transformed from a rampaging monster to become Japans defender. By the end of the 1960s, the Godzilla films had become a childrens series with nauseous kids frequently being thrown into the mix. The same happened with the Gamera series although Gammera is portrayed as a monster here, you can see the beginnings of the juvenile elements that would quickly dominate the series, with the addition of a young boy that Gammera saves from a fall from a lighthouse and spends the rest of the film naively trying to save his friend. There is also a bizarre Gammera theme song that turns up during a sequence where a Tokyo nightclub is destroyed.
The 1966 US release of the film was entitled Gammera the Invincible, adding one m to Gameras name over the Japanese title. (All the subsequent English-language releases revert to type and spell Gamera with one m). The American version, seen here, followed what was the case with numerous Japanese monster movies of the era by filming new material for American audiences. This new footage alters the film to make it appear as though the Gammera threat was international and that it is the US military that coordinate the efforts to destroy the creature. The credits pump up the American content, although, unlike some other Japanese monster moves that were released in America, Gammera the Invincible does at least credit the original Japanese creative personnel. On the minus side, Gammera is somewhat slow and the statically directed American scenes only serve to make it seem even talkier. Brian Donlevy appears as the general in charge of operations but gives a stiff and awkward performance.
The other Gamera films are: Gamera vs Barugon/War of the Monsters (1966), Gamera vs Gyaos/Return of the Giant Monsters (1967), Destroy All Planets (1968), Attack of the Monsters/Gamera vs Guiron (1969), Gamera vs Jiger/Gamera vs Monster X/Monsters Invade Expo 70 (1970) and Gamera vs Zigra (1971). The Gamera series was discontinued after Daiei declared bankruptcy in the early 1970s. Gamera: Super Monster (1980) was a revival but this was a film mostly based around stock footage rehashed from the other films. The series was continued in the 1990s, being revived by director Shusuke Kaneko with some excellent special effects in Gamera, The Guardian of the Universe (1995), Gamera 2: Assault of Legion (1996) and Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris (1999), with very impressive results, as well as the subsequent Gamera the Brave (2006).
US version of the film available online here:-