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Review All Monsters!

Some Monsters Are a Diamond Dozen, or…

Uchu Daikaijű Dogora (1964)

[Space Monster Dogora]
a.k.a. Dagora
Written by Jojiro Okami and Shinichi Sekizawa
Directed by Ishirô Honda
Details at the IMDB, US.IMDB

[T]o researchers of the future,
poking about among the ruins of time,
we shall all be tiny glitters.
But then, so are diamonds.

- James Thurber (1894 - 1961)

One evening in late spring, a college sophomore was talking to an upperclassman friend.  The latter, known as Big Dave, was a rabid memorabilia collector and deep repository of monster movie trivia.  This night in particular, they were discussing Toho styled giant monsters.

"Minya," said Big Dave.  "You know that one?"

"Yeah," said the sophomore.  "Godzilla's son.  He blows smoke rings."

"Yeah.  He used that in Destroy All Monsters to take out one of Ghidora's heads."

"Yeah."  The freshman was slightly envious.  He'd read about these characters, but since he grew up in a rural area with limited TV reception, he had been able to see only a few of these movies.  Big Dave had seen 'em all.

"Dahgora."

"What?" asked the sophomore.

"Dahgora.  He was another Toho monster."

"What was that?  A giant dog?"  The thought of an amazing colossal collie marking his territory in Tokyo came to mind.

"Giant squid.  Or maybe a jellyfish.  Not sure.  I've got a figure for it back home, but I've never seen the movie. I'll bring it back next time I go home.  Nothing special.  You'll see it the beginning of classes next fall."

But that was the last the sophomore ever saw of his friend. Big Dave, who was named for his substantial body mass, became a statistic near the banks of the Ohio during that brutal summer of 1980.  His death was attributed to the heat.

And now it's twenty years later - time for the sophomore then to do something wise and foolish now.

This one's for you, Big Dave, wherever you are.

 

Contents

The Plot

Diamonds Are For-Whom-Ever

We open with a TV satellite in orbit over the Earth.  Downstairs on the planet, technicians are monitoring its progress. (And yes, this Mission Control is completely Japanese.  You got a problem with that?  Take it up with Ernst Blofeld -- see You Only Live Twice (1967).)  One of them comments that things look well.  Another says that they usually have problems on the sixth orbit.  And speak of the devil; the alarms go off.  

The technicians go to a monitor showing a POV shot from the satellite.  (They put a TV camera on a TV satellite?  Well, why not?)  The picture shows something that looks like a nebula before the signal breaks up and is lost.  The satellite travels into one of three pulsating nebula-looking things and explodes.  (Must've been one of those early propane-powered satellites.)  Go to opening credits, yellow over shots of debris in space, followed by a slow zoom in on Japan.

Continue the downward zoom sequence to a jewelry store at night.  Outside, a woman listens to a news report about the satellite disappearance.  Two cops come over and question her.  She turns on the charm.  The cops go away.  (Must be something about Japanese culture I don't understand.  In the Western world, a woman turns on the charm and cops stick around.)  They turn the corner and see a levitating drunk.  (Man, I've imbibed to the point of feeling floaty, but this….)  Apparently, levitating under the influence is against the law here, because cops chase after him.  The floating drunk lands on the ground, and the perplexed patrolmen grab him.

Back at the car, the woman turns on a small radio to tell someone that the cops have gone.  Inside the jewelry store, some safe crackers resume working on a vault door.  Although this gang is getting a bit tense, one of them, Eiji (Eisei Amamoto), tells the others to calm down.  (Yeah, he's cool.  He's so cool he wears sunglasses all the time, even in a dark room like this.)  However, unseen by the lookout in the car and the robbers inside, a small, glowing nebulous cloud has entered our story.

The robbers sense something is wrong.  Then they start levitating.  Turns out they were using flubber gas instead of acetylene, and...nah, just kidding.  The nebulous cloud is on the safe. Outside, the robbers run to the car and get in. The cops arrive and start shooting at the fleeing robbers.

Can't argue with that.... Looks like Godzilla sneezed.

Elsewhere, Dr. Munakata (Nobuo Nakamura) is dumping diamonds into a dish.  (This would be for people who find Grape Nuts too soft and chewy.)  He gets up, goes to a window, and shouts to whoever is hiding out there to come to the window.  Detective Komai (Yosuke Natsuki) reluctantly comes to the window.  Dr. Munakata confesses he wasn't really sure there was anyone out there.  Komai tells the elderly scientist that he followed someone to this house and asks to come in.

While Komai comes in, Dr. Munakata looks at the dish.  The diamonds are gone.  Komai turns on a light and sees the toes of a pair of shoes peeking at him from under a curtain.  The detective pulls back the curtain.  Nothing there but the shoes; however, a European looking guy (Robert Dunham) leaps out from behind the couch.  He claims to be a guest of the doctor, but then knocks out Komai with a surprise move.  The gaijin grabs his shoes, apologizes to Dr. Munakata, and leaves.  Outside, the girl from the earlier jewelry store robbery (hereafter referred to as Car Girl) is waiting for the foreigner.  So are a few thugs.  They "invite" him into a car.

Back inside, Komai wakes up.  The doctor's cute secretary, Masayo (Masayo), helps him.  After a few polite pleasantries, they discuss the other guy. His name is Mark Jackson, and he claims to be a diamond broker.  They talk about the earlier diamond robbery.  A diamond ring, er, diamond robbery ring has been hitting several places worldwide.

At the hideout of the diamond robbers, the bad guys discuss their failed theft and the weirdness during that event.  Their unnamed, bearded big boss (Seizaburô Kawazu) decides the thing was some kind of trick.  Enter Jackson at gunpoint.  The big boss asks him who he is.  Jackson tells him his name and trade (no serial number).  The boss says there is no such person.  Jackson says he's an unlicensed broker.  They search him and pull out a big bag o' diamonds.

Meanwhile, Komai takes Masayo and Dr. Munakata to police headquarters.  He shows them pictures of the earlier robbery in town.  The vault doors were melted like wax.  During the conversation, Dr. Munakata tells Komai that he's a scientist and he's been working on methods to make artificial diamonds out of things like nylon and germanium.  The ones stolen from his house were samples of his work.  Instead of their value as jewelry, he's more interested in diamonds for their industrial use.  Dr. Munakata and Masayo politely laugh at Komai when he doesn't get it.

Back at bad guy central, they've figured out that the most they've gotten out of the evening is a bag of fakes.  Jackson suddenly heads for the door while saying, "Guess I'll be going."  One of the thugs knocks him out.  The boss tells two of the thugs to take him to the garage for holding.  Outside, Jackson jumps up and attacks the two thugs that were carrying him out.  One of them realizes their prisoner was faking just before Jackson takes him down.

Masayo, Dr. Munakata, and Inspector Komai debate the relative merits of HDTV in a non-HD world. The diamond robbers ask Jackson (far right) if Woody Allen is going to screw with the dubbing on this movie, too.

Komai takes Masayo to her home.  She lives in a factory area.  This surprises Komai, and she laughs at his surprise.  She explains that she was born in this area and tells them how, when she was a little girl, she was scolded for playing on the mountains of coal.  Then the musical cue cuts in, and we're treated to a big production number for "Coal Miner's Daughter."  Nah, just kidding.  They talk about Dr. Munakata.  Komai suggests the serious scientist could be in future danger from industrial spies.

Just then, Masayo's brother Korino (Hiroshi Koizumi; we met him early at Mission Control) arrives in a hurry.  He looks up into the sky, which is beginning to brew like a storm.  He tells the others that this is the same thing as when the satellite was destroyed.  One of the stacks at a nearby factory comes off and floats away.  The other stacks do likewise.  (I've heard of blowing your stack, but this....)  There's a dark cloud over the factory.  The mountains of coal begin to swirl like a tornado.  They're sucked up into the cloud, along with various other large pieces of equipment and vehicles.  High in the sky, several bright sparks flash.

Diamonds Are a Monster's Best Friend

Much later, at Dr. Munakata's place, the scientist is looking at a photograph of the sparks.  He tells Komai and Masayo he can't run a spectral analysis on this, but he thinks it could be a carbon substance.  (That'd be a hit and a miss.  Yes, he can't run a spectral analysis because it's a normal photograph.  But there's no explaining why he thinks it's carbon.  And, no, it's not supposed to be the levitated coal.)  Komai's boss calls.  He tells the detective to stop monster hunting and find out what Jackson is up to.

Jackson is looking into windows at diamond stores.  He goes a hotel.  Nitta, a detective, is following him.  Jackson goes to his room and sees the toes of a pair of shoes peeking at him from under a curtain.  While he's pulling back the curtain and looking at a pair of empty shoes, Komai comes down from overhead.  Komai asks the surprised (and mildly amused) foreigner where he went last night.  Jackson tells him there is no time for this because someone is leaving soon.  Komai won't leave.  Jackson goes to a drawer and reaches for a pistol, but Komai stops him before he can lift it and takes it from him.

The detective asks him if he has a permit for this and tells him he has to come down to the station.  Jackson agrees, but runs for the door.  Komai points the handgun at Jackson and tells him to stop, but the fleeing fellow continues opening the door.  Komai tilts the pistol to the side for a warning shot and fires.  Out the barrel shoot some delightful paper streamers.  Jackson pauses to smile at the surprised detective before running into the hallway and closing the door.  Naturally, Komai can't open the door when he gets to it.

Later, Komai and Nitta return to headquarters.  Their captain (Jun Tazaki) is politely dressing them down for letting Jackson get away.  He reminds them of the shame this could bring on the department, and tells them there was another diamond robbery in Rhodesia.  The thieves got the whole truck.

That night, an armored car with diamonds is running along with no escort.  The two guards see a body on the road and stop.  After arguing about which one should get out and look, one of them finally does so.  He tells the other guard it's a nice looking woman, so the other one gets out to see.  (Yup, it's the Car Girl.)  While this is happening, the diamond robbers are already in the back of the armored car cutting open the door.  Just then, Jackson arrives, apparently uninvited by either party.

The thieves grab a strongbox from armored car and beat it to another car, shooting at Jackson.  Jackson pins them down with return fire.  The two guards dive for cover by Jackson and ask if he's a policeman.  He apologizes for not being one.  Then, a coal truck wanders into the plot.  Some of the thieves hijack the truck and charge Jackson with it.  But while the truck is zooming toward Jackson, it slowly levitates up out of sight.  The gang with the strongbox in their car takes off.  After a while, the coal truck falls from the sky, smashing the armored car.

The next day at police headquarters, it occurs to them that all the recent diamond thefts worldwide may be the work of the monster that lifted the coal from the factory.  (Well, duh! We know a lot of weird creatures have shown up in the Japan of the Toho movie universe, but in what appears to be a single monster flick, you'd think they would've figured that one out by now.)  During the meeting, Masayo calls and speaks to Komai.  Jackson is at the Dr. Munakata's place.

Jackson is showing Dr. Munakata a set of pictures from recent robberies when Komai and a squad of policemen arrive.  Jackson was expecting them.  He tells them he's been chasing after the thieves, too.  When they put him under arrest, he shows them his credentials.  He's a detective working for the World Diamond Exchange Commission.  He offers his help, but they decline, telling the token gaijin that despite the fact he crudely knows their language, he wouldn't understand how their police force works.  However, they do agree to let him go and conduct is own independent investigation.

Meanwhile, at the bad guys place, the gang cuts open the strong box.  Inside are bags of sugar candy.  (No, that isn't one of my folksy colloquialisms.  I really mean sugar candy.)  Eiji puts a piece in his mouth and laughs. The big boss, who is understandably hacked off at this point, shouts at them.

Back at Dr. Munakata's, Korino arrives.  He has info on the monster.  It's a cell from space that mutated after exposure to a pocket of radioactive particles in our atmosphere.  (Uh, sure.)  Why would it want coal?  The doctor says for food.  And since coal and diamonds are both carbon based, the monster seems to have a taste for both.  (And just as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, classy monsters from outer space prefer diamonds.)  Then the doctor points out that as long as the monster has an ample supply of coal, they'll be doing OK.  He's not thinking about the industrial crises of having no coal (and he isn't worried for Santa Claus having enough to go around, either); when the coal runs out, well, people are carbon based, too.

Their conversation is interrupted when a levitating rock crashes through a window.  A small nebula looking thing drops the rock and burns through a vault door.  (We tried to figure this out.  If that thing could burn through the door of a safe, why in the heck did it need a rock to break through the window?  Maybe it was going to eat the rock, carried it through the window, and then realized some more better food was behind door number two.)

Dog'ra In the Sky With Diamonds

Interlude.  News bulletins tell how others have sighted the monster and it's been given a name.  Dogora.  The Japanese Self Defense Force (JSDF) sends units to north Kyushu, where they expect to engage the monster.  Dr. Munakata and Masayo get on a train headed south, too.  (For those of you not familiar with Japanese geography, Kyushu is the southernmost in the chain of Japan's islands.  It has a tropical climate and some touristy areas.  Kita-Kyushu ("North Kyushu") is a major port and industrial city, and was incorporated from several smaller communities one year before this movie was completed.  Just thought you'd like to know....)

At police headquarters, they figure out the monster went after a coal truck instead of diamonds; therefore, the diamonds in the armored car were fake.  After making that conclusion, they'd really like to know where the heck Jackson is about now.  They learn that he went to Kita-Kyushu.  (My, what an amazing plot contrivance, er, coincidence.)

On a night train heading south, Jackson runs into Dr. Munakata and Masayo.  The science duo won't say much about what they are doing on this trip, and the detective won't discuss his business, either.  After an awkward moment, Jackson leaves and runs into the Car Girl.  She turns on the charm and tells Jackson she found out he'd bought some sugar crystals just before the armored car robbery.  Then she offers to cut a deal for the diamonds that should've been in the armored car.  He picks up his bag and leaves. She asks if the diamonds are in there, but he assures her that they aren't.  (Whole lot of refreshing innocence in this movie.  Had this been made by others, he woulda banged the girl, and then found her dead two scenes later.)

The next morning on Kyushu, Dr. Munakata and Masayo walk along an overlook in the rocky foothills while discussing their next move.  Some JSDF infantry arrive and secure the area.  General Iwasa (Susumu Fujita) enters and tells Dr. Munakata and Masayo that they have to leave.  The doctor acts like he's ignoring the general, so the military gets rude with him and suggests the elderly scientist is deaf.  Dr. Munakata says, "I'm a young soldier."  The general recognizes the doctor; they know each other from way back.  The general not only allows them to stay, he also puts them on his staff.

Ask Liz Taylor.  (Oh, calm down...) "Monster Division?  No, that would be Colonel Godzilla's group on Monster Island.  They're having problems with Major Kong...."

Air raid sirens interrupt the conversation.  Radio transmissions report that radar shows something approaching.  Anti-aircraft batteries gear up.  Dr. Munakata, the general, and company arrive at military headquarters.  Operations specialists are trying to track it, but they are having problems.  They decide to use some high-powered directional microphones to see if they can hear it.  They get something, but they don't think it's the monster.  It sounds like a swarm of insects.

Overhead, a reconnaissance plane sees what looks like a swarm of bees, but the pilot notes that this is too high up to see a thing like that.  The swarm flies up into a cloud.  While the recon group is reporting this, they see something else.  Something is falling from the cloud.  It looks like Michael Caine from The Swarm (1978), who is assuring the pilots that there is no bee.  Nah, just kidding.  Huge boulders fall out of the cloud.  Down below, the hail of huge rocks smashes up the city while various extras run.

That night, the rest of the diamond gang arrives.  Car Girl meets them and tells them that Jackson's in his room.  But while they walk further into the hotel lobby, they see Jackson coming through the front door.  They move off to the side for cover.  (He either didn't see them or he is being rude by not waving.)  After he leaves the lobby, Car Girl says he was in his room earlier; he was answering the phone.

Jackson goes into his room.  Komai is already there.  The police detective tells him he had four calls, no messages.  He also tells him they know about the switch he pulled on the armored car diamonds.  Where did the real diamonds go?  Jackson won't tell him, and asks Komai to go out the way he came in.  The police detective goes out the window, four stories above the ground.

Komai climbs down one story, goes through the open window, and he's in Dr. Munakata's room.  This surprises the doctor and Masayo.  (Surprises us, too.  You'd think there'd be more than one hotel in a major city like Kita-Kyushu, and that said hotel would have more than a couple of rooms.  Otherwise, what an amazing contrivance, er, convenience.)  The science team is examining some of the crystallized rocks that fell from the sky earlier.

The air raid sirens sound again.  Dogora has been sighted.  Various extras run to shelters.  Something is coming out of the swirling, dark clouds overhead.  It looks like tentacles.  Then the rest of it comes down.  It looks like some kind of jellyfish or squid, unless you remember it's supposed to be based on a single cell, and then it looks like a giant mutant neuron.  (Takes a lot of nerve to visualize.)

The AA guns open up, but they don't seem to be slowing it down much.  It does the coal sucking trick again, and the stream of coal goes up into its mouth (?).  The AA guns keep shooting.  It reaches down with ethereal looking tentacles and pulls up the large bridge connecting the islands.  (We can't figure out the reason for this move, unless there's a whole lot of carbon fibers in the bridge.  Homage to the giant octopus vs. Golden Gate Bridge in It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955)?  You decide.)  The guns keep shooting.  The tentacles drop the bridge. While this thing is ripping up the city and the military keeps hammering at it, terrified extras huddle in the shelters.  (Did I forget to mention that Kita-Kyushu is not far from Nagasaki? Silly me….)  Finally, instead of AA guns, the JSDF group launches some missiles.  Big fiery explosions in the air, followed by a flashing light show in the clouds.

Flying trucks!  And the Absent Minded Professor is nowhere in sight. Dogora arrives, and there ain't an open sushi bar for miles, either.

They think they got it.  Dr. Munakata is not so sure.  At the command center, the operations specialists are picking up hundreds of contacts on radar.  Dr. Munakata tells them the thing is going through some kind of cellular division.  In the sky, there are several flashing sparks.  In a closer shot, they look like little glowing nebulas in transparent sacks.

Dr. Munakata explains to the general that he thinks, after an examination, that the fallen rocks were parts of the creature that had died.  Furthermore, he says it might've been bee stings that did this.  In other words, Dogora may be allergic to bees, which were instinctively incensed to attack it.  But he's not sure, because he lacks one more piece of proof.  Komai enters and relates that his group found an abandoned mine with wasp nests near where the creature had dropped a few pounds.  (Whoa! Detective Komai had time to run an errand like that?)  Dr. Munakata figures it's not bee but wasp toxin that destroyed part of Dogora.

Just Ask for Diamond

[Ladies and gentlemen, as many of you may know, it is my practice to avoid telling the entire of the plot if I respect the movie.  And up to this point, this unusual story gets plenty of respect from me.  However, the rest of the plot leaves a lot to be desired.  Therefore, for your entertainment and a sense of closure, we present the  the conclusion.]

And so worldwide industry goes to work synthesizing a whole lotta wasp toxin.  In the space of a day (?) transports are bringing millions of gallons of this stuff to the base.  (Dang, what fast work.  What an amazing plot contrivance, er, show of industrial mastery.)

Meanwhile, the diamond gang is still shadowing Jackson, trying to figure out where he has the diamonds.  Komai drops in on Jackson and asks about the diamonds.  Unfortunately, the gang decides it's time to ask these questions, too, and barge on in.  After a roughing up the two detectives, they find a safety deposit box key.  Car Girl and another thug go to get whatever is in the box.  They have to hurry; there's a boat meeting the gang at the beach.

While the gang handcuffs Jackson to an upright bar and ties Komai to a chair, the gaijin detective laughs and laughs.  When they ask why this man is laughing, he tells them the girl isn't coming back.  Just then, the girl's escort returns and tells them she got away.  The big boss opens a bag with some explosives, lights a couple of sticks of dynamite with some very long fuses, and leaves with the rest of the gang.

Jackson tells Komai about the pistol in his suitcase.  Komai wiggles out of the ropes on the chair, but his hands and feet are still bound, with the hands behind the back.  He wiggles over and manages to get the pistol into his hand.  Jackson extends the chain on his handcuffs.  Komai shoots the chain.  (Oh, calm down.  Sure it's a tough shot, but it's also a long chain and it takes Komai a couple of tries before he is even close.  Cf. handcuff removal with an axe in Titanic (1997).)  Jackson tosses the sticks of dynamite out the window just before they explode.  (No blood curdling screams follow.)

During all this, the air raid sirens have sounded again.  Dark clouds form over mounds of coal.  Extras beat feet while another windstorm starts.  Tanks and artillery start firing.  Dogora sucks up the coal and few stray trucks.

Car Girl has arrived at the beach.  Unfortunately, the rest of the gang has arrived right behind her.  She runs down the beach while the big boss shoots at her.  She gets away from the boss.  But she doesn't get away from the two thugs who've already taken position down the beach in her path.  The big boss comes up and slaps her down to the ground.  Then he orders her to walk into the water and stand there.  She gets up and starts walking (and there doesn't seem to be a bit of sand on her black dress).

Just then, the cops, plus Komai and Jackson, arrive.  They close in on the gang.  It's a shooting stand off.  The gangsters throw lit dynamite sticks at Komai and Jackson, who have taken the point.  Occasionally, Komai throws a lit stick back at the bad guys.  (This is oddly familiar...oh, yeah.  Warner Bros. cartoons.)  After an accurate return from Komai, the gang is forced back.  During the confusion, Car Girl grabs the bag with the diamonds and runs.  The big boss shoots her in the back.  She falls and dies while clutching at the diamonds, which have spilled into the sand.  (Oh, did that strike you as a bit too ironic? Hang on….)

Back at the other war, helicopters come in toting large bags.  They drop the bags and chutes open on them.  The bags float down into the dark cloud.  The JSDF also wheel in some giant sprayers on towers, and they spray the cloud.  Fighters take off.  Dogora is still sucking up coal, but it's dropping all the vehicles from earlier.  The sprayer towers move forward and continue.  More stuff falls from the cloud.  It's crystals (and I don't mean Folgers - you can run your own "Good to the last drop" jibes if you want to).  The fighters fly in and release a trail of chemicals.  (Or, rather, stock footage fighters during an aerial demonstration release some colorful smoke.)

On beach, it's hailing bits of dead Dogora.  The thugs and the cops take shelter in caves.  When it stops hailing, the chase resumes.  Unfortunately, the thugs are in an open area when Dogora starts dropping again.  Rocks the size of apartment houses drop to the right of the gang, then the left, and then right on target.  (My, what an incredible plot contrivance, er, ironic bit of justice.)

Things you can use against Dogora:

1) Anti-aircraft guns
2) Helicopters with bags of stuff
3) Precision flight demonstrations
4) Really really big bug sprayers

a = Huge falling Dogora piece (outlined, center of mass marked, and shown at 3 meters from the ground)
b = Fleeing bad guys, who have just seen a coming
c = Downward vector of a

b × (a · c) = I,
where I is the Irony within the frame of reference.

Elsewhere, the chemical attack with helicopter bag bombers, giant bug sprayers on towers, and stock footage of jet fighters continues until they run out of Dogora to exterminate.

Denouement.  At an airport, Jackson gets on a plane but Komai stops him.  The policeman asks the investigator if the diamonds at the beach were real.  They weren't.  And also arriving for the flight is Dr. Munakata.  He's on his way to give an account of what happened.  Komai and Jackson offer to help him with his bags, but the elderly scientist declines, saying, "I'm a young soldier."  The End.

The Good Stuff

Unique Monster

Dogora's an interesting monster. Unlike most of the early stable of Toho monsters, neither direct atomic testing creates it nor do pesky aliens or an isolated civilization send it to Earth to make life difficult.  It owes its origin to civilian applications of science (TV satellites) and those mysterious "pockets of radiation" high in our atmosphere.  It may be correct to think of Godzilla and other mutants as personifications of nuclear bomb fears, but this is less applicable here.

Also, the other Toho monsters resemble things the audience is already familiar with.  Godzilla, Rodan, and Gorosaurus resemble dinosaurs.  Ghidora is a variation on the eight-headed snake in Japanese myth.  Mothora is a really really big bug.  On the other hand, Dogora really does look alien.  Hence the confusion many viewers have regarding what it's supposed to be.  Squid?  No, but many reviewers say it is.  Jellyfish?  Nope, but close.  (We wonder how many people who've written reviews on this movie have actually watched it.)  Who'd expect a giant cell with tentacles?  You'd have to wait a quarter of a century before Toho would do something equally unique with a monster; see Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989).  The closest thing as mythical precedent to Dogora that comes to mind are the weird creatures that dwell at the edge of the maps; back when this movie was made, our outer atmosphere was the edge of the map.

However, there's a downside to this.  See The Bad Stuff below.

Special Effects

As with any Toho giant monster movie, this one has some entertaining special effects.  The opening sequence with space scenes are relatively gorgeous.  Later, when the monster starts sucking up coal, you know you're looking at spilling stuff shown in reverse, but frankly, it's too entertaining to raise complaints.  Besides, the initial animated vortex looks cool.  Perhaps the only weaknesses are the set of giant bug sprayers, because they look too much like models, and the falling bits of monster at the end, because we get no sense of scale.

Mystery Men

Running along side the monster story is the subplot about diamond thieves.  This story is surprisingly good.  Not great, but good.  The rivalry between Komai and Jackson, as they each try to out do each other with trickery, is fun to watch.  It's slick story telling with lots of twists.  Usually, a subplot would be more forgettable than the core monster story.  But in this case, it's more memorable.

But this implies a downside.  The monster story is routine.

Western Friendly

Americans watching this story will probably see the character Jackson introduced early on and think, Well, it's a Japanese movie, so the Caucasian guy will probably turn out to be evil or stupid and then the Japanese main character will probably send him to prison.  Not so.  They let the token gaijin be a good guy.  And they let him outsmart the local hero a couple of times, too.  Think reversal; that is, what about an American movie made in the mid '60's with a token Japanese character pulling slick stuff on Americans.  It's not likely he would have been presented as well as Jackson is in this movie.
 

The Bad Stuff

Ill Defined Monster

Although Dagora is interesting for it's uniqueness, plus trying to figure it out adds some push-pull to the plot, too much of the monster is not explained.  In particular, when we first see the monster, it's a nebulous cloud of light.  (Actually, what we are shown are three of those nebulous clouds in space, but that's going to complicate the matter further.)  During the big fight scene, it's a big tentacled creature.  So you may be thinking, the cloud thing went though some kind of metamorphosis and became the tentacled thing.  Or maybe the tentacled thing was inside the nebulous cloud.  We don't know.

Later, when it is revealed that Dagora is going through some sort of cellular division, we are shown a lot of those little nebulous clouds floating around the main monster.  So are these little nebulae supposed to be the young?  If so, then this is not really a form of cellular division.  Or maybe they're supposed to be extensions of the creature.  That is, instead of smaller versions of the creature, all those little guys were just remote control parts of the original.  This would make more sense, given how something huge and unseen sucked up a bunch of coal near the beginning of the story, but one of those little guys was later seen cutting through a vault door.  Or maybe that was one of its young that had already split off from the main monster….

Arrgh!  See what I mean about ill definition?  Perhaps what we're looking at would make more sense to those familiar with Japanese mythological traditions.  I'm so mystified by this, I'm not even going to approach the requisite bad science and engineering questions.

Splitting Threads

While watching this movie, you become aware that this should've been two movies.  Veteran viewers of Toho style giant monster movies have seen this problem before.  Toward the end of the movie, the two plot threads, monster story and crime story, become less dependent on each other.  It takes several plot contrivances to keep these two stories together to the end.  And since the cops and robbers subplot is more entertaining than the monster plot, the awkwardness of these contrivances become more pronounced.

For example, when the action shifts to Kyushu, Dr. Munakata and Masayo have legitimate business there.  After all, they have to help with the monster hunt.  On the other hand, Jackson leads the diamond thieves to Kita-Kyushu.  Why there in particular, we are never told.  Later, we learn that not only is Jackson staying at the same hotel as Munakata and Masayo, he also has the room directly over them.  Coincidence?  Pretty awkward one if it is.

We could fill in the gaps and suggest that Jackson took the room directly over the others so he could be around to protect them from the criminals.  But nobody even hints this possibility, and it shouldn't be the job of the audience to invent this reasoning to cover the contrivance - that's the work of the writers.  They should've thought of a better, less transparent way to keep the plot threads in one place and give Komai an excuse to be in Kita-Kyushu for the rest of the movie.  The alternative would be junking the whole cops and robbers subplot, but that would have been a shame.
 

The Who Cares Stuff

Notes on the Cast and Crew

Most of the people in this production, as we shall see, worked solidly for Toho.

Yosuke Natsuki (Komai) was also Detective Shindo in San Daikaijű: Chikyu Saidai no Kessen (1964, a.k.a. Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster).

Yôko Fujiyama (Masayo) was in Kaitei Gunkan (1963, a.k.a. Atragon) as the captain's daughter.

Nobuo Nakamura (Dr. Munakata) appeared in both of Honda's Furankenshutain monster movies, which we know as Frankenstein Conquers the World and War of the Gargantuas.  He did more work with Akira Kurosawa than he did with Honda.

Robert Dunham (Mark Jackson) was Captain Martin in Green Slime (1969) and the emperor of Seatopia in Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973, US cut 1976).

Hiroshi Koizumi (Korino) was Tsukioka the pilot in Gojira no Gyakushu (1955, a.k.a. Gigantis, or Godzilla Raids Again) and played learned science types in various Godzilla movies.

Akiko Wakabayashi (The Car Girl) was also the possessed princess in Ghidora. She can also be seen in Kokusai Himitsu Keisatsu: Kagi no Kagi (1964).  The title means International Secret Police: Key of Keys. You might know it better as the base film used for Woody Allen's What's Up Tiger Lily (1966).  (The opening credits of that one say something like "Starring Nobody You've Ever Heard Of." Now we know better, don't we.)  Those into Bond-age may also see her as Aki in You Only Live Twice (1967).

Eisei Amamoto (Eiji) is one of the more recognizable character actors in Japan and achieved cult status playing outrageous bad guys.  He can be seen as the evil Dr. Who in King Kong Escapes (1967) and Dr. Deathgod in the old Masked Rider series (early '70's).  He was also in Kagi no Kagi (and therefore, What's up Tiger Lily) as the snake monger.

Seizaburô Kawazu (The Big Boss) started acting in films during the late '30's for the time obscured director Kenji Mizoguchi. He may also be seen (or not) in Tomei Ningen (1954, a.k.a. Invisible Avenger). 

Jun Tazaki (Chief Inspector) played military types and sometimes learned men in various Toho features. In particular, he was the militant Captain Jinguji in Atragon.

Susumu Fujita (General Iwasa) worked for Kurosawa in movies during World War II and appeared in several of his films throughout during the late '50's/early '60's, including Yojimbo (1961) and Tengoku to Jigogoku (1963, a.k.a. High and Low), and Kakushi Toride no San Akunin (1958, a.k.a. The Hidden Fortress).

Ishirô Honda (director) started working for Photo Chemical Laboratories (PCL) studios before World War II.  During the war, the Chinese captured him and he became a POW.  After the war, he returned to work for the studio, which later became Toho, and formed a working relationship with Kurosawa.  (Unofficially, Honda contributed to several of Kurosawa's films.)  He directed a few action movies, but the one that made him famous was Godzilla. From there, he directed several Godzilla movies and various non-Godzilla stories for Toho.

You could say that Godzilla was to Honda as Toshirô Mifune was to Kurosawa, but that depends on how much you like people looking at you funny.

Jojiro Okami (story) also wrote the story for Chikyu Boeigun (1957, a.k.a. The Mysterians) and Yosei Gorasu (1962, a.k.a. Gorath).  Usually, screenwriter Takeshi Kimura fleshed out his stories, but in this case, that task went to Shinichi Sekizawa (writer), who wrote several of the Godzilla scripts and many other Toho productions up until 1974.  Okami's work tended toward the serious end of the Toho's science fiction spectrum, while Sekizawa leaned more toward the weird and whimsical.

Roots, Shoots, and Other Compares

You Are What You Eat.  Dogora chowed down on coal, but preferred diamonds for his carbon fix.  Other monsters also had elementary diets, avoiding complex things like human flesh or some form of energy.  Note: since the below is about food, it contains (pardon the pun) spoilers.

The Monolith Monsters (1957) - Rocks in a meteorite grow on contact with water, but it also leaches out the silicates from soil and animals.

Island of Terror (1966) - Cancer experiment gone terribly wrong produces monsters that eat calcium, which is sucked out from whoever gets too close to them.

Star Trek (1966 - 1968) - Early episode, known as "The Man Trap" but also as "The Unreal McCoy," featured a shape shifting salt eater.

Pulgasari (1985) - North Korean movie about a small, living metal figure. It eats iron and, eventually, grows to gigantic proportions and protects a village from an evil tyrant.  In the end, it turns on the people it was protecting. (C.f. the Golem legend and Daimajin (1966, a.k.a. Majin))

Gamera 2: Region Shurai (1996, a.k.a. Advent of Legion) - Big space bugs show up in Japan, but instead of munching up the crops, they scarf down glass to hold their hankering for silicone.

Iron Giant (1999) - Go figure the big guy craves iron, and Geritol ain't gonna do it for him. (C.f. the robotic Moon Mice in Rocky and His Friends (1959 - 1961), who have the munchies for TV antennae.)

The Bottom Line

The daily routine of cops and diamond robbers is complicated by the arrival of a monster that likes to eat diamonds. Unusual (yet ill defined) monster in a routine Toho giant monster story with nice special effects. Subplot with diamond robbers is surprisingly entertaining, but is weakened by its requirement to stay in line with the monster plot. Recommended for Toho compleatists. Also, English-speaking audiences should select the subtitled letterbox version instead of the dubbed version, since Japanese mannerisms play more naturally when everyone is speaking Japanese instead of English.

But Wait, There's More

This article is only a small part of The Dreaded B-Master's Cabal's Review All Monsters.  Do please check it out.  Or else, we'll sick Minya on ya, and he'll give you such a pinch!

Review All Monsters!

Originally published 11 August 2000

 






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