This review is of the original Japanese version of the film.
In the fifties and sixties, Toho Studios released ton of fun and colorful genre pictures, including sci-fi flicks, monsters movies, gangster films, sex comedies, spy thrillers, horror stories... you name it, Toho was releasing it, along with a new Akira Kurosawa masterpiece just about every year or so. DOGORA, THE SPACE MONSTER is an attempt to fuse two genres together - the gangster film and the giant monster film. Imagine somebody splicing together the original OCEAN'S ELEVEN and, say, MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, and then attempting to tie the plots together. This is what DOGORA feels like. It is not a good movie. On the other hand, it is not a bad movie.
According to those more in the know than me, DOGORA is supposed to be a parody of both genres, an attempt by director Ishiro Honda to kid two of the genres he had had the most success with. Parts of it are funny, but I think much of the humor gets lost in the States and the film was probably much funnier to Japanese audiences. The story reminds me of the kind of caper film that the aging Edward G. Robinson was making again and again in Europe at the same time - two groups of diamond thieves keep chasing each other for the next score. Only, unlike Edward G. Robinson capers, in DOGORA, this film has a giant jellyfish monster from space that lives on the earth's carbon. Yes, try to make sense out of this one, I dare ya! The "gangsters chasing diamonds" story is fun at times, and the "giant monster in the sky" features some of the most impressive special effects Toho had yet to come up with, but neither story ever gels with the other. The funniest part of the film, and it may or may not have been intentional, is a climactic gun battle between the good guys and the bad guys, in which the pistols never run out of bullets, hundreds of shot are fired, and not a single person is hit.
Several actors in the film will be familiar to Giant Monster fans. The gorgeous Akiko Wakabayashi (KING KONG VS. GODZILLA, GHIDORAH) has a sexy part as a mob boss's moll, while comic actor Eisei Amamoto (KING KONG ESCAPES, GODZILLA'S REVENGE) does what he can with a bit part as a safecracker. (Both can be seen in the picture to the left - Wakabayshi in leopard skin dress, Amamato in derby). Some of the other familiar faces such as Hiroshi Koizumi (GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN, MOTHRA) don't register much because their parts are dull and underwritten. Perhaps the most impressive performance of all, if only for its uniqueness, is Robert Dunham, an American actor who lived in Japan and spoke fluent Japanese, and is clearly not dubbed in the Japanese version. ½ - JB