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Welcome to Obelisk Island...10,056 days without a Gappa attack...aw nuts...
on September 13, 2005
`Is that an island spewing fire?
Or is that a flying giant rock?
It's the true mystery of the universe,
The Triphibian monster Gappa!'
And that was the theme song that heralded my introduction to Gappa the Triphibian Monsters (1967) aka Monster from a Prehistoric Planet aka Daikyojû Gappa, a late entry into the Japanese giant monster craze of the mid to late 60s, and the only monster movie to be released by Nikkatsu Studios (according to the liner notes, the studio switched to the more profitable genre of softcore prior to going out of business). Directed by Haruyasu Noguchi, and special effects by Akira Watanabe (Godzilla, Godzilla Raids Again, Rodan! The Flying Monster, Destroy All Monsters), the film features performances by Tamio Kawaji (The Weird Love Makers) and Yôko Yamamoto (Duel in the Storm), among others.
Now I'd like to include some additional lyrics, based on what I saw last night...
`Yawn if you will, yawn if you might,
The Triphibian monsters are coming tonight,
Giant chickens attack Japan,
Run no further I have a plan,
Set the table, invite the guests,
With my culinary skills I shall impress,
So little children don't you cry,
Would you like breast, wing, or thigh?'
Okay, I may never get an offer for a recording contract, but at least my addition was on par with the original material. As the film begins we learn of a crew of scientists and journalists traveling on a cargo ship to Obelisk Island, located somewhere in South Seas. Seems they were hired by a wealthy, Japanese publisher to retrieve rare and exotic plant and animal samples, which will become part of a plan that includes opening an amusement park on one of these remote islands...a super fantastic Hello Kitty business venture, if you ask me...anyway, the ship arrives at the island, which is complete with erupting volcano, a small native village, and a really annoying native boy named Saki, and begin exploring, against the protests of the natives, as they fear the awakening of Gappa, whom the explorers assume is some local deity hokum. In a cave, under the volcano, they find not only a lake, but also a giant egg, which begins to hatch after some ground tremors (did I mention the volcano is spewing forth hot magma?). From within the egg something gooey this way comes, in the form of a mucus swathed lizard creature, which the explorers capture and take back with them to Japan...definitely not a good idea, as, after they've gone, something stirs in the underground lake...two somethings, to be exact. Seems the slimy, reptilian infant had parents, and they're none too please to see someone has since buggered off with their offspring. After a less than exciting rampage on the local village (thatch huts crush pretty easily), the terrible twosome use some sort of innate homing senses to locate junior, which leads them to Japan, which leads to much more satisfying things to crush, smash, and destroy (thankfully). It's collateral damage a go-go as Gappa squared unleash their angry fury proving yet again one shouldn't come between giant, fire breathing monster chickens and their children.
I'll tell you what, I'm no expert on the kaijû eiga (monster pictures) genre, but I have seen a few, and Gappa seems like a lesser entry. It's just so boring...we don't see any monsters until about a half hour in, and even then it's the wee one hatched from the egg. We then have to wait another half hour before we actually get some action, as that's when the adult creature rise from their watery respite in search of their baby. An hour is just too long to make the viewers for this kind of film to wait for any real carnage. As I said, I haven't seen a whole lot of these films, but others have said there's really nothing new within the story here, and I'd be inclined to believe them as I found myself oh so tempted to fast forward through the parts of the film that dragged (I didn't). The main strength for this viewer was in the technical aspects, provided by Akira Watanabe. Some of it was lacking, but then some of it was really well done. I thought the cities had quite a bit of detail, especially in terms of the monsters destroying buildings, which didn't fall apart like crummy, stacked blocks, but real, honest to goodness structures. I also thought some of the background sets and lighting aspects done really well. The destruction of the industrial sector was pretty cool, as was the brief, tidal wave sequence. As far as the rest, it was all disposable. The monsters were just goofy. They had beaks and wings like a bird, the body (and tail) of a lizard, walked on two legs, could fly, and tended to spend a lot of time underwater. Oh yeah, they also could breath fire. The story's simplistic, which I normally wouldn't have minded in this type of film, but it's simplicity loaded with sappy `touching moments', especially near the end (fire more rockets, damnit!). And then there's that little native boy...is it written in stone somewhere that every, single one of these film must include a really annoying child presence? If so, they certainly met the requirement here. And you really have to see the kid's appearance to believe it...in trying to pass him off as a South Seas native, the filmmakers took a Japanese boy, covered him in shoe polish, and made him wear a shaved Afro wig. The result is an oriental boy who looks like he's been in the oven an hour too long (I like mine medium rare). The other aspect that really annoyed me was how much time was spent by the characters discussing the virtues of their actions with respect to taking the monster baby. There were basically three groups, the greedy publisher bastich wanted to keep the little runt (it was to be the centerpiece of his theme park), the scientist were interested in research, and then those empathetic to the familial instincts apparently present within the creatures...whatever...SMASH! CRUSH! DESTROY! That's what we came to see...there was some of this, but not nearly enough.
Media Blasters/ Shock Tokyo provides a good-looking widescreen (2.35:1) print on this DVD, but it's not without flaws. The Dolby Digital mono audio comes through cleanly. There's a choice available on this DVD to watch the film with the original dialog with English subtitles, or the film with English dubbing. I preferred the former, but the inclusion of both was nice. There really isn't much in terms of special features, other than some informative liner notes. There are a couple different DVD releases of this film floating around, and Amazon like to mix all the reviews together, so be wary of which version you're getting if interested. Something odd...as I write this, Amazon lists the film at a running time of 60 minutes, but it was more like 90 minutes.
By the way, it wasn't entirely clear, but it seemed the theme park was meant to be constructed on Obelisk Island, near the spewing volcano...an excellent location, if you ask me.