Tuesday, June 25, 2013

War of the Gargantuas

In War of the Gargantuas, scientists and the military race to discover why a giant, hideously deformed, green ape has suddenly risen from the sea and started to destroy Japan. Will they discover the answer? Well, sort of, because the film is apparently a follow-up to Frankenstein Conquers the World, all references to which were scrubbed from the American release, the only version currently available online. So let’s just provide this simple explanation: a chunk of a bigfoot-like creature (who, in turn, may or may not have been an outgrowth of a tiny piece of the heart of Frankenstein’s monster) finds its way to the ocean, where deep-sea radioactivity causes the chunk to mutate into a monstrous, evil version of the original creature. Makes sense, right? But how does it score?
  • Giant squeaky rubber toy octopus…ATTACK! = +25pts 
  • Forgetting to put baking soda in your toy boat in order to make a quick getaway. = -5pts 
  • The Japanese have a saying: Out of the octopus tentacles and into the arms of Gargantua. = -7pts 
  • Russ Tamblyn puts on an amazing performance as an actor who just doesn’t give a shit. = -15pts 
  • See if you can spot the cameo by Rabelais, 16th century author of Gargantua, the satirical classic on which this movie was not based. = +2pts 
  • Everyone throws the word “gargantua” around so casually. “Do you think it could be a gargantua?” “Could it be the same gargantua you nursed in your lab about five years ago?” “I can’t imagine a gargantua hurting anyone.” = -3pts 
  • Baby Gargantua. = +10pts 
  • For having every single scientist in the lab clustered around one microscope. = -5pts 
  • Not running away the instant Gargantua peeps in through your 20th story office window. = -13pts 
  • Dr. Stewart: Hey, remember that idea I had about there being two Gargantuas? That idea I just had 10 minutes ago? I just had that idea again. = -10pts 
  • A lot of 60’s movies had horrible musical interludes, but this one…the words get stuck in my throat. = -23pts 
  • When your horrible song is covered by Devo. = +23pts 
  • Gargantua travels all the way to Tokyo and makes one stop, just to attack the singer of said interlude. = +20pts 
  • Doesn’t finish the job. = -20pts 
  • Cut to Russ Tamblyn, waking up in bed, remembering he’s in the movie, getting up very slowly. = -7pts 
  • Gargantua hates tiny model tanks! = +6pts 
  • OMG, setting up giant lasers takes forever. = -3pts 
  • Fun Fact: in the electrocution scene, Gargantua’s dialogue translates as “Don’t Tase Me, Bro.” = +3pts 
  • Electrocuting all of the wildlife in a river for the sake of snaring one Gargantua. Tokyo version of fishing with dynamite?= -7pts 
  • No mountaineers ever noticed or reported the trails of smashed trees and deer that would have led them to the brown Gargantua. = -5pts 
  • As of the date of this scorecard’s calculation, there is no satisfyingly disgusting result when typing “Brown Gargantua” into Urban Dictionary. = -10pts 
  • From The Diary of Brown Gargantua: Dear Diary - I rescued my radioactive and emotionally disturbed offspring, Green Gargantua, today from electrocution at the hands of the army. He was distraught, making many bellows to the effect that he had been most affronted. I made profuse apologies, entreating him to attain succor in the waters of the mountain lake, but he remained sullen. I left him to his brooding and sought to clear my head of the day’s travail by briskly stomping through the mountain flora. I was midway through my perambulations when I happened upon a beautiful maiden who, much affrighted at my presence, fell off the side of a cliff. I rescued the poor creature, but broke my leg in the attempt, and was horrified to discover that this maiden was in fact a matron, the very same who reared me in the laboratory! I was aghast at the evil effects which my Gargantuan progeny must have had on her person - to drive her to the edge of mortality in terror! I fled in shame, back to the lake where I found the green fiend, nestled in my own favorite sleeping spot. This presumptuousness was at last too much, and I regret to admit that I smacked him in the torso with a tree. I fear that relations have soured between us. = +25pts 
  • Meanwhile, back in Tokyo, they’ve installed a Gargantua siren! = +4pts 
  • Casting tiny, tiny people. Oh, wait, that’s a split-screen effect. = -2pts 
  • Akemi dropped, literally, as a doll into the subway. = + 5pts 
  • For being 1966, when, God forbid they would show Dr. Stewart and Akemi developing a love interest, because – gasp – they’re two different races! = -17pts 
  • All of the tanks are controlled by one button? Seems like a bad idea. = -3pts 
  • Gargantuan sign language consists of two statements: “No!” and “But I’m doing the funky chicken!” = +12pts 
  • For further reference to Gargantuan use of boats as weapons, see Jane Goodall’s Apes Ahoy: Aquatic Tool Use among the Greater Radioactive Primates (Muffaleto Press, 1969). = +12 pts 
  • The monsters are destroyed by a volcanic eruption out of nowhere? What is this, Rodan? = -7pts
Total Score =- 15pts
Available on: Netflix streaming

Forgive us while we put the movie aside for a moment and fixate on Russ Tamblyn’s acting. We’re not professional actors, but we have enough experience to know how genuinely difficult it is to be as consistently non-committal to a role as Tamblyn is to the part of Dr. Stewart in this movie. Every line he utters is delivered in the same tone as that of a teenager who might look his teacher in the eye and nonchalantly say, “This class is bullshit.” Tamblyn was Dr. Jacoby. He was Riff in West Side Story. He knows how to act, which is what makes his performance here so fascinating. It’s not actually a performance. It’s Tamblyn deliberately saying, every single scene, “let’s get this shit over with.” Even the worst actors can’t help but betray some sort of effort at an emotional interpretation of the characters they’re playing; it’s in their natures to be emotional exhibitionists. An actor who just doesn’t care, who goes so far as to purposefully tamp down any hint of delivery in his lines is a rare and impressive beast indeed. Rarer than a radioactive gargantua.

Score Technician: Alex Pearlstein

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