Monster from a Prehistoric Planet, 1967
It’s a Japanese Kaiju movie, and not one that anyone really remembers.
And it plays like a Japanese Kaiju movie, one that nobody would really remember.
It’s not really worse than many Kaiju films. It’s certainly not better than a lot of them, either. It’s just kind of there. Mostly entertaining, but with a grindingly boring climax that seems to go on for hours, even though you saw it coming miles away.
The American title Monster from a Prehistoric Planet is about as apt as American retitlings generally are. There are two monsters, not one, at least in the sense of men in suits stomping Tokyo to bits. (There is a third, but it’s a baby, and never really gets to get his monstrosity on. He’s the bait, nothing more.) And the indefinite prehistoric planet is, as any student of New World Films would be able to guess, Earth itself. ((Robert Rodriguez named Planet Terror in honor of that Roger Corman-style tradition. The planet mentioned is earth, and the title is just to sex things up a bit. I’m probably going to include both Grindhouse movies in the last week of this marathon.))
Playmate magazine ((Alas, it’s not that kind of magazine. )) is about to open a theme park. (As it seems to be a news magazine, this is distinctly weird. But this is Japan, after all.) The park will have a Tropical Paradise theme, including a native village, and actual imported natives ((The “authentic” natives in the film are played by Japanese actors in obvious blackface. It’s really, really disturbing to look at, especially the young boy who tags along back to Japan. )), so that Japanese can visit somewhere foreign without actually leaving Japan. ((This part is so, so true. ))
So the magazine sends an expedition to some tropical island, where they discover natives, and — dinosaurs! Well, an egg, that hatches. And what comes out is, as the natives call it, Gappa. It’s sort of a Pterosaur, by way of Japanese monster movies. They take the baby (but rapidly growing) Gappa back to Japan.
This, naturally, honks off the parent Gappa. ((The plural and singular seem to be the same. ))
Which leads to giant monsters attacking a Japanese city, stomping and smashing and, well, you know the drill.
The thirty minutes or so it takes to get to the island is passable. The stuff on the island is interesting. The stuff leading back to Japan is moderately interesting.
But when the monsters attack… okay, I like kaiju as much as anybody. I dig seeing Godzilla stomp Tokyo, I love Gamera and his disturbing fondness for Japanese boys in tight shorts.
The third act of this movie, however, is dead. The monsters are attacking, sure. They’re pissed about their baby being stolen, fine. But other than smashing stuff, nothing happens through most of this! There is no conflict, there is no struggle, the monsters attack, get attacked by the army (uselessly, of course), and nothing else happens till baby is freed, more on a lark than because any of the boring humans actually learned anything. Granted, the publisher is an eeeeeeevil capitalist with no heart. But nothing is done with that idea. It’s a cliché without a real point, other than to have an excuse to keep baby Gappa imprisoned.
The third act should have been the most fun, but the movie just died, all momentum vaporized, and I had a hard time slogging through to the end. Up to that point, I was actually having fun.