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Friday, August 17, 2007

DOGORA (1964)

Toho Studios made more kickass and just plain downright entertaining giant monster flicks than anybody else of the planet, a genre that the Japanese have made uniquely their own despite us round-eyes getting the ball rolling with fare like KING KONG (1933), THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953), and THEM! (1954), but when they tried to shake up the tried and true formula in questionably experimental ways the results could be disastrous. I mean, who in their right mind would think a fusion of the daikaiju genre and crime drama would be a good idea? Apparently the brass at Toho did and the result was DOGORA, an intensely boring, completely uninvolving waste of time, money, talent and celluloid that pissed off the 4:30 MOVIE generation whenever it was unwelcomely wedged into an otherwise watchable "Monster Week." No joke, it was so bad it almost made you pray for the advent of THE PEOPLE'S COURT and OPRAH. And the American distributors didn't even bother to spell the title right! (They spelled it "Dagora.")

Basically, a constantly mutating extraterrestrial life-form shows up on Earth and starts eating coal and diamonds, the ingestion of the latter causing much consternation to a bunch of inept jewel thieves. That's pretty much it, and way too much of the film's running time is spent on the crooks, a bunch of dolts that you just won't give a shit about, and in what's allegedly a giant monster flick that's an unforgivable flaw. In fact the film has only one sequence worth checking out, and that when Dogora, in its flying jellyfish-like form, sucks up a shitload of coal and rips apart a suspension bridge.

The puppet used for this is quite elegant and believable, its tentacles given life by cel animation and its body gracefully belying its enormity, truly a one-of-a-kind member of the Toho bestiary. But even that one moment of interest just isn't worth enduring the entire film. The attempted blend of city-destroying monster epic and jewel heist movie simply doesn't work, and the finished product can't have done well at the box office, not even in its country of origin.

And now this unholy mess is available on DVD.

Why?!!!? Even us giant monster diehards fucking hate this movie and wouldn't buy it, so who are they expecting to shell out even a nickel on this sorry black hole of entertainment? I was suckered by not having seen the film in over thirty years and hoped that I'd appreciate it as a grownup, but that was obviously not the case and I fear that other monster movie nostalgists may suffer in exactly the same way.

Bottom line: it takes a lot for me to flat-out pan a giant monster movie because even in the most pedestrian entries in the genre there's a slight chance that you might see something cool, but other than the maybe two minutes previously noted, and the presence of Akiko Wakabayashi — a sultry babe who in three years would go on to fuck 007 in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE — DOGORA is (to steal a line from the infinitely superior TOP SECRET) as worthless as a truckload of dead rats in a tampon factory.

If you never listen to me regarding any other film, TRUST YER BUNCHE on this one!!!

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