Friday, September 1, 2017

Movie Review - "Dogora" (1964)

"Dogora" is one of the stranger entires in Toho's daikaiju filmography, which is saying a lot. Considering we have films where Frankenstein's heart gets hit with an atomic bomb and turns into a monster, a film about a giant flying submarine with a drill up front, and one where the Earth's solution to a giant meteorite is to push the entire planet out of the meteor's path. The oddity of "Dogora" mostly comes down to its strange mix in genres, combining a giant monster flick with a bank robbery gone wrong plot.

The film follows a group of international diamond thieves, who have successfully stolen gems from France and America and have set their sights on Japan next. They are being taled by both Japanese police and international agents, both of whom want the glory of bringing the thieves in, so the cops are always at each other's throats. But everything takes a wacky turn when most of the stolen diamonds are sucked up into the sky, consumed by a giant space squid who feeds on diamonds and coal.

The plot with the diamond thieves has a mix of comedy and drama, since the Japanese cop and American agent dispose of each other in the most amusing ways like locking the other in a hotel room or giving the other a fake gun. While at the same time, there's a lot of double crossing and selfish actions with the thieves. One of them is even facing a constant moral dilemma of turning on her comrades or never making a name for herself. The acting is handled fine and the pacing is serviceable, but it does feel at odds with the monster plot.

The scenes with Dogora are some of the most beautifully photographed of all the Toho monster movies, especially with how the monster typically blends in with the sky and the vast range of colors in the clouds when the monster emerges. I feel like many stills in "Dogora" belong in an art gallery. The way the monster attacks is also strangely alluring, lifting everything up with its invisible tendrils, including a massive bridge. For 1964, these effects are impressive.

Overall, I enjoyed "Dogora" though the monster scenes were a much bigger draw than the ones with the thieves. It is funny to see how these two vastly different genres bounce off each other and are somehow intertwined. It's like watching a thriller that also tries to be a comedy - it may not do both extremely well, but you are interested to see how those genres will mix.

Final Grade: B-

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