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Director: Ishiro Honda
Media Blasters/Tokyo Shock

By 1964, Toho Company Ltd. Had established an impressive army of giant monsters (Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, Varan) as well as imaginative “space opera” films like THE MYSTERIANS (1957), BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE (1960) and GORATH (1962). In 1964, (shortly after the release of GODZILLA VS. THE THING and before the filming of GHIDRAH: THE THREE HEADED MONSTER) Toho created this oft overlooked little film (DOGORA, THE SPACE MONSTER) combining the “kaiju eiga” (monster film) formula with the “Yakuza eiga” (gangster film) genre which was also popular in Japan around the same time. Media Blasters has once again given Toho fans a real treat as now this film is presented in a gloriously remastered widescreen (Tohoscope) transfer, which serves as a perfect follow-up to their excellent releases of MATANGO, THE MYSTERIANS and VARAN earlier this year.

The plot of DOGORA, THE SPACE MONSTER is more or less a spoof of the aforementioned gangster films with a dose of giant monster thrills thrown in for good measure. It seems that diamond thefts are occurring throughout the world and Detective Komei (Yosuke Natsuki) is sent by Tokyo police to investigate. Komei suspects that the culprits are an international gang of diamond smugglers (one of whom is played by Eisei Amamoto…”Dr. Who” from KING KONG ESCAPES…PLEASE UNIVERSAL….RELEASE THIS MOVIE SOON TO DVD!!!). Komei is later helped on his search by American CIA agent, Mark Jackson (Robert Dunham, here billed as “Dan Yuma”) as the real thief makes itself known. According to Dr. Kurino (Hiroshi Koizumi), a mutated space cell has arrived with a craving for all things with a carbon-based make-up. Since diamonds are on the top of that list, the creature (dubbed DOGORA and looking like a giant space jelly-fish) proceeds to attack diamond mines throughout the world. All this leads to the usual teaming of police and scientists to stop this spectacular menace.

One of the reasons DOGORA, THE SPACE MONSTER probably never caught on as Godzilla, Rodan, or Mothra did is most likely due to the fact that the monster is really secondary to the principal actors in the story. Since the film plays as a spoof of the Japanese gangster movies, the humor does not necessarily translate well to English speaking audiences. The gangsters are portrayed as idiots rather than really threatening and Detectives Komei and Jackson are presented as bumbling, second-rate James Bonds. However, DOGORA’s one really big appearance in Kyushu is an impressive sight indeed. This was achieved, not only with Eiji Tsuburaya’s usual man-in-a-monster-suit magic, but with a combination of puppetry, cartoon animation and miniature sets.

The cast of DOGORA is loaded with familiar Toho faces and die-hard genre fans with recognize many of the actors immediately. Yosuke Natsuki (Komei) later appeared in GHIDRAH: THE THREE HEADED MONSTER and GODZILLA 1985. Hiroshi Koizumi starred in GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN (1955), co-starred in MOTHRA (1961), GODZILLA VS. THE THING (1964), and would later appear in GHIDRAH: THE THREE HEADED MONSTER and GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA (1974). The aforementioned Eisei (sometimes billed as Hideyo) Amamoto not only stole the show as “Dr. Who” in KING KONG ESCAPES (1967), but also appeared in MATANGO (1963…as one of “the mushroom people”), GORATH (1962), GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER (1966), and as the kindly inventor, Mr. Minami, in GODZILLA’S REVENGE (1969). The skeletal actor had his last kaiju role as a prophet in 2001’s GODZILLA, MOTHRA AND KING GHIDORAH: GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK (available on Sony DVD). Amamoto died in 2003.

Two other actors of note from DOGORA include the beautiful Akiko Wakabayashi and Robert Dunham (“Dan Yuma”). Miss Wakabayashi previously appeared in Toho’s KING KONG VS. GODZILLA (1962) and would later appear as Princess Salno in GHIDRAH: THE THREE HEADED MONSTER. Her most famous claim to fame though to the English speaking world is a major role as “Aki” in 1967’s YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE co-starring with Sean Connery as James Bond 007. As for Mr. Dunham, he was an American actor who relocated to Tokyo after the Korean War in 1953. He became fluent in Japanese and because of this, became a desirable commodity in the Japanese film industry trying to market their films abroad. An interesting side note is that according to Mr. Dunham (who died in 2001), he actually campaigned for the role of Dr. James Bowen when Henry G. Saperstein came to Japan to make FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD in 1965. However, Nick Adams won the role because Saperstein felt his name was more recognizable to American audiences. Mr. Dunham’s other Japanese credits include: MOTHRA (1961), THE GREEN SLIME (1968), and as the side-burned Seatopian ruler in GODZILLA VS. MEGALON (1973).

Media Blasters has done another superb job in the presentation of this DVD. The remastered transfer is in glorious anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen (Tohoscope). The picture quality is great with no blemishes or scratches of any kind. The audio is presented in English and Japanese (both mono). The English track is slightly inferior to the clearer Japanese audio track, but the English track is indeed the SAME dub used by AIP-TV when they released this film directly to television in 1965. So genre fan of this reviewer’s age group (30s) can rejoice…this is the same English voice track that you heard when watching this on New York’s old THE 4:30 MOVIE!!! There are two subtitle tracks…one translates Japanese writing on the English track…the second translates the dialog on the Japanese audio track. Special features are limited to a picture gallery, the original 1964 Japanese trailer, as well as previews from other Media Blasters titles (all of which are now released).

With the forthcoming December 2005 release of Peter Jackson’s widely anticipated remake of 1933’s KING KONG, let us hope that major studios will dig into their vaults to release some classic giant-monster-on-the-loose films to DVD. Classic Media is expected to re-release their 2002 Godzilla titles (with the addition of MONSTER ZERO) this fall and Media Blasters is expected to release Toho’s 1970 kaiju film, SPACE AMOEBA (U.S. title, YOG: MONSTER FROM SPACE) in early 2006. In addition, sources are reporting that Sony will release the last Godzilla film (GODZILLA FINAL WARS) to DVD by the end of the year. Hopefully, they will also release some of the other Toho titles they own like MOTHRA and THE H-MAN and really make our Toho collections complete!!! (Joe Cascio)