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You may have been originally released as Gezora, Ganime, Kameba: Kessen! Nankai no daikaijû (1970), but you'll always be Yog: Monster from Space (1971) to me...directed by the legendary Ishirô Honda (Godzilla, Rodan! The Flying Monster, The Mysterians), with original music by Akira Ifukube (Godzilla, Rodan! The Flying Monster), the film features a host of familiar faces to those who love on these Japanese Toho monster features including Akira Kubo (Gorath, Matango, Destroy All Monsters), Atsuko Takahashi (Destroy All Monsters), Kenji Sahara (Matango, Atragon, Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster), and Yoshio Tsuchiya (Baran: Monster from the East, Matango, Godzilla Vs. Monster Zero). Also appearing is Noritake Saito (Godzilla vs. Gigan), Chotaro Togin (Destroy All Monsters), Tetsu Nakamura (Mothra), Yukiko Kobayashi (Destroy All Monsters), and Wataru Omae (Godzilla Versus the Sea Monster).
The movie begins with an unmanned rocket blasting off into space, one that's carrying a space probe intended to scope out Jupiter. On it's way to the Jovian gas giant, the probe encounters some sparkly space dust, which gloms on to the craft, takes control, and turns it back towards Earth. During its re-entry, a photographer named Taro Kudo (Kubo), traveling on a plane, witnesses the craft crash into the ocean, but no one believes him. He then gets an offer from a development company to photograph an island where they plan to build a paradise resort, and he agrees only because the island happens to be in the same area he saw the probe crash (great idea there, building a luxury resort on Monster Island). Along for the ride are a really annoying company woman named Ayako (Takahashi), a scientist named Dr. Kyoichi Mida (Tsuchiya), and a mysterious individual named Makoto Obata (Sahara). Prior to their arrival, a company man on the island has an encounter with a gianormous squid (be sure to send us a postcard from inside the beast's belly), and the natives go crazy go nuts (they believe the arrival of the outsiders has angered their god, resulting in the giant monsters getting all frisky). The group arrives on the island and soon enough sees first hand the wackiness caused by the space dust, which is actually some sort of amoeba-like alien life form, and its penchant for embiggening the local animal population. There's the giant squid, followed by a humongous crab, and last, but not least, a monstrous snapping turtle. Turns out not only is the alien goo a sentient being, but one that desires to dominate the world, and has been super sizing various beast in order to make it happen. The various monsters thrash the island, copulating with many a thatched hut in the process, the small group fights back with the help of the natives (initiating what has to be the biggest cookout I've ever seen), but given the enormity of the beasts, all hope seems lost. All bow down before your new alien embiggened crustacean masters!
While this may not be one of my favorite Japanese monster features, it's still kinda fun (I have a hard time believing Honda was behind this one). I suppose the main issue I have with the film is the fact that while there are various monsters running around, they don't really engage each other in any battles (at least not until the end), or have any real personality, as the aliens control them all, and there is no `hero' type creature (like Godzilla) to save the day, providing some real rompin' stompin' action. The creatures do work over the native village pretty well, but how many thatched huts can you see smashed before it gets old (I think maybe a limited budget confined the action to the island, avoiding the cost of tons of miniatures)? Had the beast actually made it to civilization, then we would have had something, but it never happens. Here's a really funny bit...initially we're told the development of a paradise resort on this island was supposed to be some sort of top secret project, but when the group arrives on the island, there's a good sized sign posted, the kind developers use to advertise what they're building on a specific piece of land, which is really a great way to keep a secret (actually, the hotel was supposed to be some sort of submarine habitat, I think...the story began falling apart at the seams as more ultimately useless plot details were revealed). I suppose it didn't really matter, as the island was fairly remote, but then how stupid is that, to put up a sign virtual no one will see? Arggh...another really funny bit was when one of the main characters early on actually proposed the whole `monster' aspect a hoax, despite the fact that not only was the company hut completely demolished (along with the man inside), but there was a humongous path of plant destruction from where the giant squid walked across land to get to the hut, and then traveled back to return to the water (who knew squids could walk?). I liked most of the characters in the story well enough (the two company men stationed on the island were pretty idiotic), but I did find the female lead about the most irritating I've seen in a long time. If she's not screaming indiscriminately, she's offering forth the most idiotic statements and just making herself a pest in general. The only reason the others didn't feed this useless bit of excess baggage to the monsters immediately was because she did rate relatively high on the `cute' scale. Her character really served no purpose in the film other than to provide keep it from being a sausage fest (an all male film). As far as Dr. Kyoichi Mida, the scientist hired by the development company to examine the native animal life, he makes some of the most intuitive deductions this side of a Sherlock Holmes movie. Seriously...from out of nowhere he comes up with the theory that the giant monsters are a result of manipulation by some alien life form...yes, it happened to be true, but I have not a clue in hell how he came up with this given how little he actually had to go on...as far as the monsters go, I thought they looked pretty cool, showing a whole lot of detail. The squid was a bit funky, but the crab was spectacular, with the snapping turtle falling somewhere in between. Eventually a couple of these creature do tangle (near the end), as you really can't have a giant monster movie like this featuring three beast and not have them fight at some point. It may seem like I have a lot of misgivings about this film (I do), but I still had a lot of fun between the unintentional stupidity of some of the characters and the monsters themselves. There's any number of better Japanese monster, or "kaiju", films out there, but if you've curious, this one's worth a look.
Media Blasters provides an excellent looking anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) picture on this DVD, along with a newly created Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound audio track, along with a Dolby Digital mono track. As far as extras, Media Blasters goes that extra mile yet again providing a commentary track with producer Fumio Tanaka, a short documentary titled `Meet the Marine Animals behind the Monster!', a special announcement bit, an original trailer, English subtitles, and previews for other Media Blasters DVD releases like Dogora (1964), The Mysterians (1957), Varan the Unbelievable (1962), and Atragon (1963).
By the way, does anyone happen to know which monster was Yog?