@synth_cinema: Monster Bites - Parent Trap


Monster Bites - Parent Trap

GORGO (1961)

Time for a venture into the world of weirdly familiar second hand ideas and recycled imagery. There aren't too many original monster movie concepts out there, but some are more noticeable than others when they get repeated. In this case it's the old Mothra story in which something is stolen from a mysterious region and something bigger and angrier shows up to cause havoc. This was itself an obvious take on the story from King Kong but sometimes sticking to a simple formula works. There are greedy jerks looking to find fame and fortune and there are strange island locales. Unfortunately there are also some moments involving child actors that would later be copied by the Gamera series. It's a weird self cannibalising genre, but in a way that's part of the fun.

Gorgo, or perhaps Ogra as it's known, is a sea monster discovered during a treasure hunt in Scotland. The film is adamant that this is Ireland but some of the accents say otherwise. The arrival of a ship in need of repair brings with it money obsessed sailors Joe (Bill Travers) and Sam (William Sylvester). They're not supposed to be the villains, but their actions say otherwise. They'll help save the fishing village being trampled by the destructive creature... for a price. They come across Gorgo (or Gorgo Junior) after discovering that the local harbour master and his adopted son Sean (Vincent Winter) have a haul of ancient trinkets. A party is sent to look for more sunken wealth with a diving bell right out of The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. It's just one of many bad plans of action that are soon set in motion.

The locations used give the film an interesting texture, despite some pretty poor blue screen effects. It's not the usual laboratory setting and gives it all a unique atmosphere. The monster itself shows up after just fifteen minutes, which is also refreshing. It's a very brisk film that barely get reaches eighty minutes in total. A lot of the other elements, including the way Sean insists they release Gorgo, are very boilerplate to say the least. So is the reptilian design. But the darker tone and the attitude of the lead characters (who take this all pretty seriously) mean that moments borrowed from the previous decade are all fairly solid. It's not a big budget affair but there are enough stand out effects amongst all the cheap backdrops and stock footage sequences to keep it from ever becoming dull.

There is however a lot of weird, and frankly bad, dubbing; over things like footage of navy officers and pilots. The NATO fleet they send out to stop the rampage of Gorgo Senior isn't fooling anyone. Put up with this for a while though and you'll be rewarded with plenty of fun miniatures and destruction set pieces. Gorgo, the younger, gets put through some serious shit before the Tower Bridge and other landmarks are smashed to pieces. Sam and Joe get one decision to make; give the creature to scientists in Dublin or give it to a London circus for a big profit. Of course this pair of losers can't get anything right and even refuse to do anything when the mayhem starts. It takes several deaths for Sam to even regret his choice, in a drunken stupor, but Joe says 'nuts to that' and is against anything that will put his wallet in danger.

It's an odd choice for the whole story to follow this pair of cash obsessed mercenaries. There are no insipid romantic subplots, and there are few morally righteous characters. Which is refreshing in some ways but frustrating in others. The researchers and eggheads are barely featured instead of being constant rivals to the circus ticket salesmen. Sean is in some ways the voice of reason and innocence, but he doesn't get that much to do. When his guardian Mister McCartin (Christopher Rhodes) is killed nobody is even around to report the death, so its repercussions are never shown. Elsewhere certain characters that deserve to be killed don't get any kind of punishment. The story is more focused on huge amounts of collateral damage as the parent of Gorgo arrives to level half the city.

It is at least fun to watch the military admirals flounder about as their subsequent plans go awry. The giant lights advertising the Gorgo exhibit are smashed in Piccadilly and the Westminster clock tower is demolished. Ships are crushed and burning oil does more damage than good. 'It was certainly killed,' claim army personnel. 'Where will it turn next?' ask others, ignoring the way it is clearly travelling to the circus tent. As people are buried by rubble, some trying to escape and others carrying REPENT signs, the whole thing becomes fairly bleak. The errors of hubris and human greed become apparent but will Sam and Joe do right thing? Well yes and no, and not until it's far too late.

It's an odd story in which the causes of such large scale chaos are made clear, but the subsequent realisation is barely explored. Money may be the root of all evil but they're probably not going to give any to the reconstruction fund. Sam may admit he was wrong after seeing so much death and destruction, at the very last minute, but it's hard to imagine him sticking around. Still, despite some odd things being ignored (what are the weird prehistoric fish from the first act?) it's fast paced and often engaging. It's a disaster movie first and it doesn't have time for comic relief of love affairs. Unless you count the love of gold that the central pair are driven by. But that would only serve to make the whole thing wear out its welcome.


GAPPA (1967)

Meanwhile here comes Giant Beast Gappa aka Gappa: The Triphibian Monster, a rehash of a rehash. There are two parent monsters this time, surely that means it has double the thrill power? This reveal also comes along much earlier in the running time. On the other hand the baby Gappa gets double the punishment in a laboratory in this storyline. If only there was twice the budget in a film that features one whole Pterosaur model on a wire and a lot of bad make-up to make Japanese extras look like an undiscovered tribe. It's not a great movie in many ways but it is an entertaining one. There's certainly a colourful vibe in line with Toho's tropical efforts (Mothra or King Kong vs Godzilla amongst many others) which lends it some charm at least.

On Obelisk Island a volcano is stirring up trouble and some underwater lights cause havoc with a passing ship. The passengers are a reporter and a scientist, backed by a female photographer. Their plan is to find wildlife for 'Playmate Magazine' who want to have a hotel that features live animals. Instead of taking tourists out on a normal safari. It's a silly plan, but it's a pretty silly movie. After meeting with the locals the team conveniently see a giant statue collapse, revealing a hidden cave, and they're drawn to a mysterious egg. Cigar chomping corporate head Funazu (Keisuke Inoue) is sceptical about the discovery but soon has the hatched creature in a secret lab being tested and probed. Somehow this will help him get better press for his resort, though the reasoning seems pretty vague.

Soon afterwards the Gappa parents arrive to raze a city or two, as expected. Will the team release the baby after another child actor say it's cruel to keep it? Of course not, it's better to try and use sonic weapons and fire a lot of missiles. The big monster attack involves some good miniature locations and plenty of tiny vehicles explode along the way. But the decision making feels way more illogical than it was in Gorgo because there are more people involved. Things get worse when Itoko (Yoko Yamamoto) decides that having a career is too much for her, and she just needs to settle down. Maybe with her braindead colleague Hiroshi (Tamio Kawachi) who she hated earlier. Recycled plots are one thing, but bad clich├ęs are worse. Which isn't to say there isn't fun to be had, but overall it's a different kind of entertainment.