Boasting an original title that translates as Gezora, Ganimes, and Kamoebas: Decisive Battle! Giant Monsters of the South Seas – but released in America with the slightly more manageable title of Yog: Monster From Space – Space Amoeba was a Kaiju film that surfaced in the ailing years of original run of the genre. Helmed by the legendary Ishiro Honda, the greatest filmmaker ever to launch a rubber monster into a model building, the movie proved to be the last science fiction made under Toho’s studio system thanks to declining profits brought on by the rise of television, but thanks to the talents of the old master, Space Amoeba actually proves to be a refreshing, if slightly inessential addition to the monster movie pantheon thanks to its varied beasties and throwback adventure tone.
After getting probe-jacked by the titular glowing alien intelligence, the Helios 7 abandons its mission to study Jupiter and hot foots it back to Earth with its sinister, extra terrestrial cargo lurking on board. After rocketing back to earth, the probe splashes down in the South Pacific, the malevolent microbes jump ship and mutate a cuttlefish to gargantuan size to become a “Gezora” that starts terrorizing the various ships and islands in the area like tentacled crackhead bugging for change.
Meanwhile, overexcited photographer, Kudo, happened to witness the Helios 7 re-enter the atmosphere through the window of a commercial flight and begs his publisher to bankroll an photoshoot of the islands.
Joined by respected scientist Dr. Milda, who is there to study marine evolution, Obata, who claims he’s an anthropologist but is actually an industrial spy, Akayo who is…. a woman (seriously, it literally seems to be the only reason she’s been included) and various crew mates and friendly natives who will soon be fleeing for their lives when Gezora lurches on shore for a brisk, lunchtime rampage.
The humans manage to see off the undulating creature with the aid of the contents of an abandoned Japanese munitions bunker, only for the Space Amoeba to abandon its frazzled corpse and instead cause a crab to undergo the supersize treatment into the form of “Ganimes” which literally picks up where Gezora left off until, it too succumbs the human’s resourcefulness.
Realizing that it’s invasion plan may, in fact, be a bit shit, Space Amoeba steps its game up by possessing Obata, who finally allows us some much needed insight into its master plan to take over the Earth with embiggened sea life (for some reason) and it prepares for a big finish by not only giving a Mata Mata turtle the same treatment, turning it into “Kamoebas”, but also resurrecting another Ganimes for some destructive, buy one get one free action.
If Space Amoeba has a problem, it’s that despite its lofty goals, the movie is rendered somewhat small scale due to shrinking budgets and changing studio regimes – how else do you explain away the fact that a cloud of alien intelligence seems to think it can conquer the world by having a few mega-juiced instances of aquatic wildlife stomp around a single island? However, time does strange things to movies sometimes, and while Honda’s Toho swansong (until he returned to make the awesome Terror Of Mechagodzilla) may seemed awkwardly dated in 1970, nostalgia for old school Kaiju romps have now made it into something of a genuinely adorable throwback that draws a fun time out of its simple pleasures.
It also helps that the lack of funds makes the film an enjoyably illogical watch as the floppy monsters politely contain their world conquering from going anywhere near a densely populated area and while Kaiju movies that don’t involve a trademark spot of city smashing usually don’t have the same impact (the low-stakes Son Of Godzilla, for example), the fact that the money men were too stingy to supply a urban setting plays more into the adventure feel.
The cast are the usual stock characters who populate this site of gig, with the relentlessly optimistic photographer being played by noticable Kaiju veteran, Akira Kubo, but as I unfortunately only viewed a dubbed copy, I can’t really comment too much on the cast – I can comment of the dubbing, however and Space Amoeba has some hugely enjoyable shit going on as the actual actors flap their gums only for all sorts of crap to fly out. While plenty of mileage can be gleaned from the learned professor who does nothing but state the obvious while being unsure as to what kind of animal Gezora actually is (he bounces between octopus and squid despite being an expert in marine life), or the possessed Obata who bursts out peels of villainous laughter despite keeping a straight face; first prize goes to token woman Akayo who, relieved that they’ve survived a monster attack, worryingly announces loudly, “I’m happy for the first time!”.
It’s not just the clumsy dubbing that generates some unplanned chuckles as Honda devotes a strange side-plot to an islander determined to marry her lover despite the fact he has been rendered catatonic by an attack by a building-sized cuttlefish and credulity is amusingly strained by the seemingly bottomless resources of that magical WWII bunker.
While the Kaiju trio of Gezora, Ganimes and Kamoebas may not be household names in the realms of giant monsters, there’s something hugely endearing in their rather silly appearances with Gezora in looking particularly absurd due to the fact he walks on his tentacles and looks as structurally sound as an upright carpet. Elsewhere, Kamoebas telescopic neck make the craggy beast look oddly phallic and if we’re being brutally honest, Ganimes is merely a ripoff of Toho’s other giant crustacean Ebirah – but I bet it smelt stunning when it fell into the volcano at the end. Yet despite their obvious flaws, they all radiate character in a kitsch way that only a rubber, Japanese monster can – in fact, two of them even went on to be in-joke cameos in later movies with a dead Kamoebas washing up on a beach in 2003’s Godzilla: Tokyo SOS and Gezora popping up everywhere from stock footage in Godzilla: Final Wars to appearances in various Godzilla-themed video games and comic books.
Hardly a glowing example of a rare Godzilla or Gamera-free Japanese movie (it’s no War Of The Gargantuas, that’s for sure), but Space Amoeba still has enough goofy charm to be a fun outing for non demanding Kaiju completists.