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Dogora - Uchu Dai Kaijuu (Honda Ishirô 1964)


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Dogora
[Uchu Dai Kaijuu Dogora]

宇宙大怪獣:ドゴラ

Genre: Human Technology versus Huge Jellyfish from Space!

review in one breath

Police investigating a spate of diamond thefts soon discover a strange relation between the thefts and the reported disappearance of several satellites. By the time the scientists and military are called in it appears to be too late, as a huge radioactive organism from space methodically consumes the earth's carbon for energy. Can Japan's leading scientific mind grasp the situation and formulate a remedy before all of humanity is consumed by the JellyFish from Outer Space?!?


intro

This is a 1964 film by director Honda Ishiro, who you should recognize as the director of the original 1954 Gojira/Godzilla. Director Honda is a stellar figure in the history and direction of Japanese film and has a HUGE collection of kaijuu (怪獣 - "monster") films attributed to his name. (I recently added a review of his 1958 Dai Kaijuu Baran -- aka Varan the Unbelievable.)

Here the emphasis is upon cellular biology and basic chemistry as a "space cell" happens upon human technology and begins feeding on our stockpiles of coal and diamonds -- both sources of carbon. The space cell soon grows into a formidable creature which wreaks havoc on Kyushu before further transforming by replicating itself a thousand-fold.

Thus human technology and science finds itself once again pitted against the inexplicable forces of nature and the survival of the race will be determined by our ability to discover a scientific solution to the planet's fate.

The scenery and setting of 1960 Tokyo and Kyushu is simply priceless. I just thoroughly enjoy that era captured on film. Also of note is the appearance of Robert Dunham (aka Dan Yuma) in a leading role. Unlike nearly any other Caucasian you will see in Japanese film, Dunham speaks fluent Japanese and easily fits into even the most fast-paced dialogues of this film. (Toho Kingdom has a nice tribute to Robert Dunham who passed away in 2001.)

story

Tokyo detective Komai is hot on the heels of a highly organized ring of diamond thieves when suddenly the clues become stranger and stranger. Bank vault doors seem to have been melted like wax. Global diamond repositories are disappearing. And the nation's coal is disappearing in huge quantities.

Through his investigation, Komai learns from the elderly professor Munakata that both coal and diamonds share the common trait of being purely carbon based, and that the disappearance of the two may be related. But when reports begin trickling in from eye-witnesses swearing they saw mountains of coal being sucked into the air, there's seems to be no possible explanation.

Through military intelligence Komai and Munakata learn of the disappearance of a series of satellites as they made their orbit over Japan. And thus the only possible hypothesis is that something from outer space is responsible for this massive consumption of carbon.

About the time they realize this, the 300-foot organism has descended over Kyushu to extract Japans largest coal repository.

Will Komai and Munakata be able to figure out a solution to this unprecedented challenge?

verdict

Well, if you are a fan of Japanese film per se there are several reasons why you should see this. First and foremost is the fact that this is a film by the grand daddy of kaijuu, Honda Ishirô. Second, (for Western audiences) it is really worth seeing Robert Dunham in action. Third, the technological pride of the era is so obvious, from the opening scenes of Japan's newest satellite dishes to Kyushu's massive (and then remarkable) span bridges and tram cars. It simply makes for a beautiful historical experience. And fourth, where the hell else are you gonna see a 300 foot jelly fish from outer space?? Hmm?

Version reviewed: Region 1 subtitled DVD available via mainstream US venues.

cultural interest violence sex strangeness
Early kaijuu film by the father of Godzilla, Honda Ishiro. Non-explicit gun and jellyfish violence. Although that diamond thief chick is HOT! Another strange monster film crammed with lessons of chemistry and cellular biology. AND the best Japanese-speaking Caucasian role I have seen thus far.

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