|By AL J. Vermette
You can hear a screeching roar coming from out of the sky. Moments later you spot a gigantic
whirling, flaming image flying overhead. As it lands within the city, the thing reveals itself to be Gamera, the
giant monster turtle. With a bellow, he starts to rampage through the streets when you spot another giant
monster on the other end of the metropolis. It too is massive as the two leviathan march toward each other.
They clash in the center of the city and as buildings fall, the monsters battle to the death before Gamera
proves to be the victor.
Created in 1965 by the Japanese film company Daiei to be the movie rival of Toho’s Godzilla,
Gamera, an enormous turtle, becomes a film star in his own right. Like his competitor from Toho, Gamera
started out very much like a monster that needed to be destroyed at all cost as the creature would
rampage cities to dust. Like the Big G, Camera would slowly become the films good guy monster as he
would save the Earth from other giant monsters and become the hero of children.
From 1965 to 1980, the people at Daiei turned out eight movies in all featuring their monster turtle who
in each installment would battle a new monster in each film. The series of movies starring Camera even
continued after Daiei went under and closed production on their films. Daiei was then bought out by
Tokuma Shoten who picked up the films and in 1980 released Gamera: Super Monster. The film was their
first and last Gamera movie as it was somewhat forced upon them to honor in their contract with the
outgoing Daiei who had it in their contract that the Gamera movies go on. It would then take fifteen years
before a new Gamera movie would be made.
Although the 1980 movie saw the death of Gamera due to the fact that the studio didn’t want to make
any more films with the giant reptile, the Heisei film group picked up the Gamera contract in 1995. They
got started on an all-new series of movies using the oversized turtle. Gamera: Guardian of the Universe
marked the return of Gamera after his fifteen year hiatus. The movie opened with all new origins for the title
hero and marked the return of an old enemy as in the monster Gyaos. In the original set of films, Gamera
was of a prehistoric species, the last of his kind who was awoken from his million-year-old sleep when the
U. S. was testing a new bomb in the Pacific Ocean. For this new film, Gamera is the creation of the lost
city of Atlantis who bioengineered him to be the protector of the world if he was ever so called upon, hence
the movie’s subtitle Guardian of the Universe. His main responsibility was to protect Earth if and when a
Gyaos was to return, he then would then awaken from his long slumber to fight the creature and win back
the planet from its evil.
Under the new company of Heisei, Gamera would return for two more adventures as in the films
Gamera 2: Attack of Legion 1996 and Gamera: The Revenge of Iris 1999. In 2006 Gamera underwent
another reboot with the film Gamera The Brave where the hero creature is killed in the year 1973 when
fighting Gyaos. Jump ahead thirty three years later and a boy discovers a turtle egg that turns out to be the
next Gamera. The creature soon grows to become the next protector of Earth and face a new danger. For
the 50th Anniversary of Gamera, there were plans to reboot the series again nearly ten years since the last
Gamera film. As of 2018 though, that movie has yet to be made sadly, however, plans are still on the table
to bring back the giant monster Turtle.
Like all Japanese Giant Monster Movies called Kaiju since the very first Godzilla, the creatures have
always been played by actors in rubber suits. For Gamera, there have been nine actors who played the
fearsome monster turtle in the twelve movies that featured him. Gamera like his Toho counterpart Godzilla
is a monster that started out as a menace but over time became a protector of humanity from other giant
monsters that presented a danger to the world. Gamera sports a set of capabilities much as the same as
Godzilla in that he is enormous, can spit out fire at will and is nearly invincible. He even has one trick in his
shell that even the Big G would envy. When needed, Gamera can pull his arms, legs and head into his shell
and blast fire out of the holes. This action, in turn, enables him to rotate with such force that he can lift off
and fly spinning through the air like a flying saucer.
His look is very much that of a snapping turtle only his mouth is filled with teeth and sports two very
long lower tusks from his jaw giving the creature a unique appearance unlike any other giant monster in the
Kaiju genre. Like his Toho counterpart, Gamera has a very distinctive roar and the moment you hear it, you
know its Gamera. Although the creature is a turtle, he mainly walks on two legs where he can take up a
fighting stance upon his foes. His shell is so powerful that nothing, not even bullets, bombs or missiles can
harm the creature as can any other monster. In the Heisei trilogy, Gamera was given two spikes on his
elbows to use as added weapons if needed.
In his 50 year career, Gamera has been turned into comic books published by Dark Horse, used in TV
shows like The Simpsons, Justice League Unlimited and even fellow Japanese shows like Dragon Ball Z.
Hell even I once had a Box Turtle that I named Gamera in honor of one of my most beloved Giant Monsters
from the Land of the Rising Sun. Yes, Gamera has become nearly as famous as his Toho brother and
someday will return in all new movies. I mean…..how can you not love a giant turtle that flies and breaths