Monday, 13 July 2015
Monster from a Prehistoric Planet (1967)
There's an old adage that says that the best parodies are those which are themselves good examples of the thing they are parodying. This explains why Scream works, for instance, since it is a decent slasher movie after you strip out all the comedic elements. It also explains why this kaiju-parody (originally known as Gappa: The Triphibian Monster) is a failure: it's a terrible example of the genre.
Now I am willing to allow that the version in this boxed set is a particularly bad and blurry pan-and-scan, so the film was operating under a handicap when I watched it. But the atrocious monster costumes and dire effects would look no better in the latest high definition (possibly worse), and the script would be just as lousy.
A Japanese magazine owner is looking to start up a theme park, and he wants "exotic animals and primitive peoples" to stock it. That's some mighty fine cultural imperialism there, movie. In any case, he sends an expedition to the south seas to find specimens. Said expedition succeeds beyond his wildest dreams when they discover an isolated island with a newly-hatched and apparently unique "bird-lizard" that the natives call "Gappa".
Side note: you may notice that this makes the "prehistoric planet" part of the film's name completely nonsensical, since it is an entirely Earth-bound narrative. This is however, another thing we can't blame on the original film-makers. However, we're not going to be short of things for which they do deserve the blame.
Apparently the expedition members have never seen King Kong, because they immediately load the creature onto their ship and head back to Japan. They also begin a long and tedious series of arguments about whether to publicly announce the creature, and whether it should be an exhibit in the park or be held for scientific study.
So obviously there are only two things that can happen from here: either the creature grows to an immense size and goes on a rampage, or it has parents that go on a rampage to get it back. In this movie's case, it's the latter.
The adult Gappa are fully triphibian - comfortable on land, in the water, and in the air - and they fly at supersonic speed to Japan to begin smashing model cities and fighting model tanks and jets. They are, of course, impervious to human weaponry and able to emit powerful energy blasts that can destroy a vehicle in an instant.
So the Gappa rampage tediously for a while until the humans finally get the bright idea of giving them the baby back and hoping they will leave, and the movie mercifully ends.