Space Amoeba (1970)
- For the titular space amoeba, see Yog.
Space Amoeba (ゲゾラ・ガニメ・カメーバ 決戦! 南海の大怪獣?, lit. Gezora, Ganimes, Kamoebas: Battle! Giant Monsters of the South Seas) is a Gezora Ganime Kamēba Kessen! Nankai no Daikaijū1970 tokusatsu kaiju film produced and released by Toho. It was released to Japanese theaters on August 1, 1970.
This was director Ishirō Honda's last monster movie before he began writing scripts for television as well, and the first such movie made after the death of special-effects director Eiji Tsuburaya. Tsuburaya's former protege Sadamasa Arikawa acted as the director of special effects for this film.
Helios 7, an unmanned probe dispatched to Jupiter, is commandeered months into its spaceflight by a formless alien entity. The space amoeba reroutes the probe back to Earth, where its crash in the South Pacific is observed by Taro Kudo, a photojournalist returning from an unsuccessful shoot in Brazil. Desperate for an exciting story, Kudo brings the scoop to his editor, who dismisses it as science fiction. Kudo is approached by Ayako Hoshino, representing the Asia Development Company. The tourism firm hires Kudo to take scenic shots of Sergio Island, which the company hopes to develop into an exotic high scale resort. Working as a zoologist for the company is Dr. Miya, a colleague of Kudo's. Dr. Miya hypothesizes that Sergio Island may be home to giant monsters, while Kudo believes Helios 7 crashed near the island.
En route to the island, the group is joined by Makoto Obata, a mysterious man introducing himself as a social anthropologist. Dr. Miya informs the others that one of the members of the advance team has been apparently killed by a large creature. This is confirmed at the island by Yokoyama, the company engineer who reported the monster, and Rico, one of the god-fearing natives of Sergio. While conducting a survey of a large cavern, Yokoyama is spooked by a bright light emanating from the water. He drives off in a panic with Rico, leaving the rest of the expedition behind. The monster, called Gezora by the natives, comes ashore and wrecks the camp and kills Yokoyama before being inexplicably driven back to the ocean. When the rest of the group returns some time later, they find Rico alive but in a state of shock and suffering from frostbitten wounds caused by Gezora. With their camp in ruins, they are invited back to the native village by Saki, Rico's lover. Later that night, Kudo reveals that he observed Obata stealing the company's development plans from the wrecked hut. Obata drops the ruse and confirms he is an industrial spy working for a rival firm but proposes they still work together until they can get off the island.
The next morning, Kudo and Dr. Miya discover the wreck of Helios 7 off shore. They are attacked and nearly killed by Gezora, but they're able to escape when a school of porpoises swims by. The angry monster makes landfall again and heads to the native village. During its rampage, the expedition observes Gezora recoil when burned by flames from the natives' prayer ceremony. Deducing that the low-temperature monster is critically vulnerable to intense heat, the group sets the monster on fire using gasoline and torches. Badly burned, Gezora retreats to the ocean. Underwater, and unseen by the men and women on the island, Gezora succumbs to its wounds and the space amoeba exits the monster's corpse.
Not knowing that Gezora has died, the group plans a counterattack using an Imperial Army weapons cache. Ganimes, a new giant monster resembling a crab, surfaces and attacks. The monster's assault forces the group into the jungle, but Kudo leads Ganimes into a pit where it's annihilated by the WWII explosives. This time, however, the space amoeba possesses Obata, who had abandoned the others in an attempt to escape the island. The aliens inform Obata that they plan to conquer Earth, and they will use him to infiltrate and undermine the expedition's efforts to defeat the monsters.
After examining Ganimes' remains, Dr. Miya determines that the monsters must not be natural lifeforms. Although they both resemble ordinary species on the island, he theorizes that they've grown monstrous under alien influence. Meanwhile, with no present threat of monsters, the Asia Development group attends a wedding celebration for Rico and Saki. Kudo snaps a photo of the couple, startling Rico back to consciousness with the camera's flash. Able to recall the events of Gezora's attack for the first time, Rico tells the others how a swarm of bats forced the monster to retreat. Dr. Miya concludes that ultrasonic waves from the bats and porpoises must be the key to defeating the alien monsters. While searching for bats, Kudo and Ayako are chased by a third monster, a giant turtle called Kamoebas. They discover a cave housing the flying mammals. The bats' sonar repels the monster, proving Dr. Miya's theory.
By the next day, the group has relocated to this cave. Obata reappears and lights the entrance on fire in an attempt to kill the bats. He reveals his alien possession to the others, but an emotional appeal by Ayako allows Obata's human side to resurface long enough to let the bats escape. The aliens take control once again and summon Kamoebas and a second Ganimes to the island to finally destroy the humans. The bats swarm around the two monsters, disrupting the extraterrestrial influence. Now no longer controlled by the aliens, the monsters fight. Their battle leads them to the island's active volcano. The conflict ends in defeat for both monsters as Kamoebas drags Ganimes into the eruption. Obata, himself locked in battle with the aliens for possession of his body, jumps into the volcano. His act of self-sacrifice brings the invasion to its end. A passing ship, having noticed the eruption, arrives to rescue the men and women on the island as Kudo jokes that without his camera, and with no more physical evidence of the monsters, no one will ever believe his story.
Staff role on the left, staff member's name on the right.
- Directed by Ishiro Honda
- Written by Ei Ogawa
- Produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka, Fumio Tanaka
- Music by Akira Ifukube
- Cinematography by Taiichi Kankura
- Edited by Masahisa Himi
- Production Design by Takeo Kita
- Assistant Directing by Seiji Tani
- Director of Special Effects Sadamasa Arikawa
- Assistant Director of Special Effects Teruyoshi Nakano
- Optical Photography by Yoichi Manoda and Yoshiyuki Tokumasa
Actor's name on the left, character played on the right.
- Akira Kubo as Taro Kudo, Journalist
- Atsuko Takahashi as Ayako Hoshino
- Yukiko Kobayashi as Saki, Daughter of Sergio Island
- Kenji Sahara as Makoto Obata
- Yoshio Tsuchiya as Dr. Kyoichi Miya, Biologist
- Tetsu Nakamura as Onbo, Elder of Sergio Island
- Yu Fujiki as Asia Development Promotion Division Manager
- Noritake Saito as Rico, Youth of Sergio Island
- Yuko Sugihara as Stewardess
- Sachio Sakai as Topics Chief Editor
- Chotaro Togin as Engineer Yokoyama
- Wataru Omae as Sakura
- Ichiro Murakoshi as Yog / Narrator (voice)
- Haruo Nakajima as Gezora / Ganimes
- Haruyoshi Nakamura as Kamoebas
Weapons, Vehicles, and Races
The original script for this film was written by Ei Ogawa in 1966 as a proposed joint production between Toho and UPA, under the title Great Monster Attack. This script was considerably more ambitious than the finished product, featuring alien monsters invading the Earth and submerging entire continents. Production on the film did not begin until three years later in 1969, when the project first appeared on Toho's production lineup, still under its original title. Ogawa's script was heavily altered, removing the global scope of the original story and moving the setting entirely to the fictional South Seas island of Sergio Island. Producer Fumio Tanaka later said he believed the film went through three drafts, and stated that the original draft featured the alien invaders being attacked with nuclear weapons. Despite his failing health, Toho's longtime special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya expressed his desire to be involved with the production and as such was to be credited as the film's special effects supervisor, while his former pupil Sadamasa Arikawa acted as the director of special effects. However, Tsuburaya passed away just two days after the start of filming on January 25, 1970, and is only credited in early promotional materials for the film. Some of the film's production crew suggested including a message dedicating the film to Eiji Tsuburaya in the opening credits, but Toho decided not to include it, which angered many of the staff, especially Arikawa, who later refused to speak about the film. The film's script was finalized in January, and shooting began that same month. Assistant director Seiji Tani remarked that Space Amoeba was burdened by constant pressure from Toho to minimize the budget, and that as a result the staff was forced to rush through filming. Ishiro Honda originally planned to shoot the film on-location in Guam, but due to aforementioned budget restrictions shooting was relegated to Hachijo Island, located about 700 miles south of Tokyo. The film was shot in the middle of winter, even though the cast was dressed for a tropical location. Underwater scenes were shot in one of Toho's studio pools and Yomiuriland's Ryugu Palace. Producer Fumio Tanaka recalled that he had to personally transport the film negatives back to Tokyo on a prop plane. While Fumio Tanaka officially co-produced the film with Tomoyuki Tanaka, the latter was busy with Expo '70 at the time and as a result had very little to do with the production.
Space Amoeba was the last science-fiction film made under Toho's studio system. Facing declining profits, Toho took several steps to weaken labor unions: establishing a subsidiary called Toho Eizo to make tokusatsu films, releasing most of its actors from their contracts, and dissolving Tsuburaya's special effects department. It would also be Honda's last film under contract with Toho, although he returned in 1975 to direct Terror of Mechagodzilla.
- Main article: Space Amoeba/Gallery.
- Main article: Space Amoeba (Soundtrack).
- Gezora, Ganimes, Kamoebas: Battle! Giant Monsters of the South Seas (Literal Japanese title)
- Great Monster Attack (怪獣大襲撃?, Early Japanese Title) Kaijū Daishūgeki
- Yog, Monster From Space (United States)
Space Amoeba was released theatrically in the United States in 1971 by American International Pictures, under the title Yog, Monster from Space. Producer Fumio Tanaka speculated that the title was chosen in reference to the cosmic entity Yog-Sohoth featured in the works of H.P. Lovecraft. The film was lightly edited, running three minutes shorter than the Japanese version. The English dub was recorded by the New York City-based studio Titan Productions.
While some fans deride the film as a last gasp of the kaiju eiga genre, others appreciate the fact that the monsters have been scaled down (only being 20 to 30 meters tall), making their interactions with human characters more compelling.
Toho DVD (2004)
- Region: 2
- Discs: 1
- Audio: Japanese
- Special Features: Audio commentary by producer Fumio Tanaka
- Notes: Re-released on February 7, 2014 and on August 19, 2015 as part of the Toho DVD Masterpiece Selection.
Tokyo Shock DVD (2006)
- Region: 1
- Discs: 1
- Audio: Japanese (2.0 Mono, 5.1 Surround), English (2.0 Mono, 5.1 Surround; international dub)
- Special Features: Audio commentary by producer Fumio Tanaka, Meet the Marine Animals Behind the Monsters featurette (9 minutes), trailers
- Notes: Out of print.
Though Space Amoeba is not available on Blu-ray, an HD version can be rented or purchased on the Japanese version of Amazon Video.
- The prayer song of the Sergio Islanders in this film is reused from the Farou Islanders' chant from King Kong vs. Godzilla.
- On the poster, Gezora is seen fighting Kamoebas, although the two beasts never come into contact in the film itself outside of the opening title sequence.
- Space Amoeba was spoofed in episode 57 of the anime Sgt. Frog, "Old School Monster Battle: Keroro Style!" (巨大カエル対南海の大怪獣 であります?, lit. It's the Giant Frog vs. the Giant Monsters of the South Seas). The episode features obvious parodies of Gezora, Kyodai Kaeru tai Nankai no Daikaijū de ArimasuGanimes, and Kamoebas, named Ikara, Kanime, and Gameba, respectively. In addition, the episode's opening credits are an homage to the opening of Tsuburaya Productions' Ultraman.
- Space Amoeba was the last non-Godzilla kaiju movie to be directed by Ishiro Honda.
- Although Godzilla does not appear in Space Amoeba, this story does take place in a version of the Godzilla universe, as it is referenced in Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S..
- In the audio commentary included on Toho and Tokyo Shock's DVD releases of the film, producer Fumio Tanaka speculated that the island's primary location of Sergio Island was named after the famous Italian film director Sergio Leone.
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