Space Amoeba (1970)
This movie holds a special place in my heart because I recall vividly an aggressive television marketing campaign showing the most awesome tentacled behemoth I had ever seen, and my 30-year old father showing me an an advertisement in a newspaper for Yog: Monster from Space playing at a local drive-in. Along with Toho’s King Kong Escapes (1967), my earliest movie memory, Yog was pure cinematic nirvana to this monster movie kid. For several years I hunted for the film and was tickled when Tokyo Shock cut a DVD in 2006. It even includes the original Japanese mono print, subtitled in English, and the American dubbed version in mono or 5.1 sound channeling. I always go for the mono sound with the sub-woofer cranked up.
The film is still entertaining to me today. I love the opening sequence with unusual percussion music, followed by still shots of the giant squid Gezora (Yog), a monstrous crustacean Ganimes, and a spiny behemoth turtle Kamoebas. Afterward we see a pulsating blue “space amoeba” overtaking the unmanned exploratory Jupiter probe Helios 7, which returns to earth in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The probe descends near Selgio Island, a remarkable ecological preserve with unique flora and fauna, and an indigenous tribe, which is slated for urban redevelopment, condominiums and hotels. Two local fisherman encounter frigid cold water and a strange blue (bioluminescent?) glow as Gezora, with magnificent red eyeballs, partially rises with snake-like tentacles and grabs one of the fishermen.
Meanwhile, a group of scientists survey the island looking for the Helios 7 probe. Gezora, now terrestrial and walking upright terrorizes the locals (in a sequence reminiscent of Kong’s raid on the tribal village) and crushes little plastic palm trees and huts. I love those bat things that fly around Gezora’s head. The film really takes off when the footage goes underwater and Gezora attacks scuba divers investigating the Helios 7 probe. This sequence reminds me of Ray Harryhausen’s (superior) giant ammonite footage from Mysterious Island (1961). Toho really gave us our money’s worth with the design of Gezora -there’s really nothing quite like this monster in all of filmdom. His head, or mantle in cephalopod vernacular reminds me of a bishop’s mitre. The binocular eyes face forward and look like they belong on an owl. The scene with Gezora framed between two tribal totem poles is spectacular. And what’s the best way to kill a squid? Think calamari! But like the alien entity in Horror Express (1973), the space amoeba leaves its host and finds a new vector.
Arise Ganimes (who also gets cooked like the monster crab from Mysterious Island). The space amoeba takes on a human host (terrific special effects) and later we see an epic battle between the giant turtle Kamoebas and another Ganimes. At that point I am totally confused as the amoeba occupies a human host. Meanwhile volcanos erupt on Selgio Island. Like I said, this is monster movie kid heaven.
Sadly, Space Amoeba was one of director Ishirô Honda’s last films. Oddly, while I admit that Space Amoeba isn’t a very good film, I’m never bored with it. About a halfway through Pacific Rim I got fatigued with sensory overload. I lost interest and had difficulty maintaining focus. I liken the effect to listening to music from iTunes. It is synthetic and after awhile I can’t listen anymore. Vinyl LPs plumbed through vacuum tubes is pleasing to my ears. Does this happen to anyone else?