Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Legend of Dinosaurs and Monster Birds (1977)
After Toho closed down the Godzilla-shop in 1975, after Ishiro Honda's masterpiece (and a movie that also failed to gain enough audience) The Terror of Mecha-Godzilla and Gamera took a nine year long break after Gamera vs. Zigra in 1971, the Kaiju died away in cinemas (but continued to wreck havoc in television with armies of Ultramen, Kamen Riders and everything in-between in tight pants and spectacular helmets) and seemed to be a lost cause... until 1977 when Tsuburaya Productions and Rankin/Bass Productions co-produced the entertaining The Last Dinosaur (starring a very visibly drunk Richard Boone) and Toei tried their hands on one of the oddest pieces of Kaiju cinema so far, Legend of Dinosaurs and Monster Birds.
Not technically a typical Kaiju movie with men in suits battling in miniature cities, instead it's another version of Jaws...or Grizzly, or Tentacles etc etc. A small tourist spot near a lake experiences odd disappearances and deaths and soon some scientists suspect there's a dinosaur swimming around there, hungry for human flesh. It starts of beautiful and quite scary with a woman falling down in a cave - after walking in a fairy tale forest, breaks a big egg in the fall and a huge slimy, yellow eye looks out at her. She screams and runs away and soon everyone wants to go to this little town to look for dinosaurs and monsters!
Already here the movie feels very off-kilter and has a very modern (for the time) look and characters who are more grown-up and cynical than everyone else who ever appeared in a Godzilla-movie - not to forget Gamera. There's not stupid kids or slapstick here, not talking monsters or colourful space aliens shooting rays of death against skyscrapers. The humour here is very adult and dark and that's also the feeling of the whole movie. This is not for kids and maybe it's goal to be aimed at a grown-up audience also made it less popular and confusing for the contemporary audience. Everyone expects most Japanese rubber monsters to be for kids, yeah? Not here. LODAMB is also quite gory with some torn off limbs, unexpected deaths and adults having problem with each other. No nudity though, which feels even odder when you look at the rest of the movie - because it belongs there.
The effects is all over the place, but as a fan of the Toho flicks I can't say they're less convincing here. They fit the genre and even if this is less "fun", the script is also dark enough to make the story work even with rubber and plastic filling the screen. Another fine detail I like is the inclusion of - I guess - the infamous suicide forest Aokigahara. I can't remember they're mentioning it in the movie, but it's located in the same era and fits both the look and the story. In LODAMB they walk through the forest and finds some human remains and the guide just laughs at it and explains that it's a common place for suicide. It's a macabre little twist and it's left like that without explanations. Check out the wiki page about Aokigahara, seems like a "nice" place.