certainly different. Dogora is an unusual
entry in the kaiju genre, mainly because so little
emphasis is actually placed on the title monster
in comparison to the human drama. In fact, Dogora
almost seems out of place at times, simply tacked
on so the film can capitalize as a monster movie.
Nevertheless, the human interest is far from boring
and the soundtrack is another success for Akira
Ifukube. Perhaps it isn't
the most lavish sci-fi film, but it certainly
isn't worth missing.
As an amorphous alien lifeform
annihilated a television satellite above Japan,
a similar creature on Earth suddenly thwarted
the efforts of a local branch of the International
Diamond Robbery Ring. The diamonds they sought
vanished, and similar unexplained events continued
to occur across the globe. The gangsters thought
they were in luck however, for they caught word
of a shipment of raw diamonds in Yokohama. The
professional thieves took advantage of this ripe
opportunity and attempted a heist on an armored
car; unfortunately for them, they were fooled
and escaped with nothing but candy...
Meanwhile, Inspector Kommei's investigation
of these strange events led him to the crystallographer
Dr. Munakata. In the process of tracking down
the solo “jewel thief” Mark Jackson,
the police came to learn of the mysterious events
of the armored car heist. A nearby coal truck
had begun to lift off the ground by some unknown
force and disappear into the atmosphere. The creature
from outer space was deemed to be the culprit,
an alien beast that drew its energy from carbon.
Dr. Munakata, confident in a remarkable scientific
discovery, left for the coalmines near northern
Kyushu, where it was proposed that the strange
being would make its next appearance. Mark Jackson,
whose motives were still unclear, also took leave
for Kyushu, as the realization was finally made
that the candy recovered at the heist was likely
his doing. It was probable that he had, in truth,
absconded with the true gems. Hamako, one of the
gangsters responsible for the failed heist, prepared
to double-cross her commrades and retrieve the
diamonds for herself.
As Dr. Munakata arrived at Dogora's
next likely target, unidentified objects began
to show on radar. A swarm of wasps was attacking
Dogora in retaliation for the disturbance of their
hives in the mines, and as they attacked, solid
crystal sections of the monster began to fall
to the Earth below. Over Dokaiwan Bay, as night
fell, evacuation orders were put into effect as
the jellyfish-like monster began to descend from
the sky. The self-defense force fired, to no avail.
The monster continued to absorb carbon-based materials
wherever they could be located, and the abomination
even destroyed the Wakato Bridge in the process.
The military continued to unleash their artillery
at the alien creature, and succeeded in momentarily
silencing their foe. Unfortunately, the creature
was only undergoing mitosis, and the horror remained...
Noting the crystallizing effects
of the wasp venom on Dogora, mass production was
soon ordered for the creation of a similar toxin.
The gangsters, still desperate for a successful
heist, tracked Mark Jackson and Inspector Kommei
and almost immediately jumped to the conclusion
that Mark had hidden the real diamonds in a safe-deposit
box. Hamako left to retrieve the stash, but instead
fled solo with the stolen goods. The thieves left
Jackson and Kommei tied and doomed to death-by-dynamite,
but the two men joined forces and only barely
managed to escape.
Meanwhile, Dogora attacked once
again, but this time, powerful artificial wasp
venom quickly ate away at the creature. The robbers
and the police clashed at the beach, and in the
heat of a vicious gunfight, the gang was completely
wiped out by a falling crystal boulder, once a
section of Dogora's extra-terrestrial flesh. The
wasp venom finally took full effect, and Dogora
was no more...
It was soon discovered that the
diamonds Hamako had retrieved from the safe-deposit
box were, in fact, synthetic; and Mark had always
been on the side of law enforcement. As this truth
came to light, Dr. Munakata and his secretary
left for the UN to discuss the peaceful potential
of the Dogora incident with the world. With the
thieves out of the picture and the monster defeated,
peace returned to Japan and the whole of Planet
The writing, while a bit rough
around the edges, is still interesting when it
pans out. The addition of dialogue suggesting
Dogora could potentially move on to digesting
humans was an interesting touch, and brought the
monster out of the realm of an economic nuissance
to an actual danger. Despite this fact, Dogora’s
nature was never made out to be all that intimidating.
Luckily, the movie made up for this flaw in other
ways. The use of humor is actually rather amusing,
but there is nothing really laugh-out-loud
funny. Kommei’s numerous blunders, the proclivity
of characters to fall for the same shoes-under-the-curtain
mistake, and the mildly amusing antics Haruya
Kato’s character (Sabu) do make for a lighter
atmosphere. Even still, suspense is actually managed
to a surprising extent. The scene with Kommei
and Mark attempting to escape from their predicament
in the hotel room does tighten the nerves a tad.
Although, anything having to do with the dynamite
leads to eye-roll moments. In the final scenes,
the question remains: if the dynamite continued
to explode only mere moments after impact, what
made Kommei think he could successfully throw
the explosives back to their source in time (and
why was he so successful)? Let’s just ignore
that however, and return to the hotel scene, which
does deserve some applause for acting.
Speaking of which, the actors all
do a satisfactory job moving the plot along, considering
what little they're given. Robert
Dunham fits pretty well into his slightly
comical role, and his fluent Japanese greatly
helps his performance. In fact, of all the American
actors in Toho films, he deserves thumbs up for
actually giving a good performance. Yosuke Natsuki
is given yet another deadpan lead role, so it
isn’t too much of a stretch from the norm.
Nobuo Nakamura, as the elderly scientist, manages
to forge in his role a level of curiosity and
dignity not too far removed from Takashi
Shimura's performance in Godzilla
Wakabayashi crafts a sly, seductive, and sinister
nature in her performance, adding an excellent
antagonistic flare. Hiroshi Koizumi, Yoko Fujiyama,
and others such as Eisei
Amamoto are, unfortunately, given little to
work with in comparison to the other main actors.
It would have been interesting to see them used
a little more frequently, or at least it would
have been nice to see their respective characters
given just a little more development...
On that note, characterization
isn't a great strong suit for this film. For example,
we know little to nothing about Masayo Kirino
except her growing affection for Kommei. Inspector
Kommei isn't graced with a great deal of development
either. Simply, he's the protagonist... a very
flat protagonist. Although, one could say he's
a little dynamic, as he is duped less and less
as the film progresses. So, in a way, he matures
as the plot unfolds (but not too much). Dr. Munakata
is a little rounder, in a literary sense, than
his fellow characters. He seems to have a Professor
Yamane approach to Dogora, believing the monster
is a wonder to be studied. Although, deviating
from Yamane's approach, he seems not at all repentant
about the destruction of this remarkable discovery.
As far as the character of Mark Jackson is concerned…
well, the movie just doesn't seem to know how
to characterize him. This is, of course, intentional.
His true purposes are supposed to be a mystery
until the very end. Hamako is given a little more
motive than her fellow characters, but only to
the point where it becomes apparent that she's
in it for “number one”. Other than
that, there really aren’t any other characters
with very many discernable traits, or an impressive
impact on the plot for that matter.
While perhaps the movie doesn't
deserve a huge credit for effects, it is nice
to say that the shots are, for what they
are, solid and well crafted. The Dogora prop is
shot at just the right camera speed, and given
just the right movements to give the illusion
of an enormous, organic cell hovering above Kitakyushu.
Combined with mists and matte effects, the process,
though simple in execution, is acceptably realistic.
The scenes of coal flying into the atmosphere
are also rather well done; however, when large,
physical objects are supposed to be lifting into
the atmosphere, that is a completely different
story. These scenes just scream “strings!”
The destruction of the Watako Bridge is a nice
illusion, although the rotoscoped Dogora tentacle
seems a little unrealistic. Probably the most
embarassing shot in the film is that of the robbers’
demise. The matting on said scene, where crystallized
chunks of Dogora fall on the beach, is just cartoonish.
For the most part, and for what few effects shots
there were, the filmmakers did manage to pull
off some acceptable visuals.
As far as the
music is concerned, this movie does do well for
itself. Maestro Ifukube brings his style of monster-movie-meets-space-epic
to yet another film, and this score is somewhat
similar to his work one year later in Invasion
of the Astro-Monster
(1965). However, this soundtrack as a whole is
relatively unmemorable, and there is one theme
that plays during the venom-mass-production scene
that is actually somewhat grating on the nerves.
For the most part, it is still Ifukube's endearing
style, which has become almost synonymous with
the kaiju movies from this era.
Well, there you have it. There
isn't anything that really stands out
about this movie. Dogora is a pretty interesting
monster in the Toho roster, impervious to most
weapons but doomed to die a very strange and inglorious
death. The actors tend to do a satisfactory job.
The special effects are fairly solid for the era
and the music is a plus. In the end, it isn't
too entertaining, but well worth seeing at least