GORATH

(1962)
With Akira Kubo, Kumi Mizuno, Akihiko Hirata, Takashi Shimura
Directed by Ishiro Honda
Reviewed by JB

This is a review of the American version of the film

F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gorathspy    One of Toho's "space opera" pictures, following THE MYSTERIANS and BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE, GORATH resembles George Pal's 1951 classic WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE, and, although it does not reach the artistic level of that film, GORATH is one of the more intelligent of the Toho fantasies of the early 1960s.  Gorath, a large star-like object with massive gravitational pull, is on a collision course with our planet.  Can we avoid the end of the world?

    Of course, even in intelligent sci-fi films of this era, whether U.S. made or imported from Japan, we usually have to swallow some junk science.  In GORATH, we are asked to believe that not only cdo scientists and the military believe they can move the Earth out of its orbit, and thus out of the path of Gorath, but also that this moving of the Earth, even if it were plausible, would not doom life as we know it anyway. Whatever.  Kurt Vonnegut's The Sirens of Titan is filled with junk science, and it's still my favorite book of all time. If you're going to complain about plausibility in Toho sci-fi flicks, you're probably taking the art of film way too seriously.

    What puts the film across is the fast-paced editing - we are into the story within five minutes - the well-chosen cast and, most of all, the outstanding miniature work done by Toho special effects artist Eiji Tsuburaya and his crew.  While, yes, you will occasionally spot a toy soldier here and there in the miniature work, the breadth and scope of that work in this film is almost stunning, especially in the closing moments when Gorath's approach causes major flooding of the planet.

Because there are never enough pictures of Kumi    Although I know that American companies bought these films back then to make a quick buck, but it still annoys me when they don't even bother to give a cast list, as if these Japanese actors and actresses were nobodies and not worthy of screen credit. Even Woody Allen's parody WHAT'S UP, TIGER LILY? is guilty of this, and Allen is a guy who should have known better.  I'll say this every chance I get: Toho had an excellent stock company of performers who, especially in the original  Japanese releases, could rise above the often-ridiculous premises of the films they appeared in.  To name a few in this film: Akihiko Hirata, a versatile leading man who could play heroes and villains and anything in between; Akira Kubo, Toho's resident goofy comic relief; Kumi Mizuno, whose beauty and screen presence made even the silliest films worth watching; and Takashi Shimura, who was one of the finest actors in the entire world, although, as in so many of these movies, the enormous depth of his talent is hardly even hinted at.

    I've read much criticism of the edit of this film, done by Brenco Pictures for American release.  "Atrociously edited", "it belongs in a landfill", and so on, some people have said.  Yet I found the English-dubbed version to be one of the best editing and dubbing jobs I have ever seen of one of these imported Japanese sci-fi flicks.  Brenco seems to have thought that they had a pretty good film and did what they could on a small budget to make it successful.  The new script was obviously written with an eye toward matching the actors lips and an ear for actually making sense and putting the story across.  Several scenes of comic relief were edited out, and one scene featuring a giant walrus (Toho HAD to have a giant monster in here somewhere!) was cut completely because the American editors deemed it way too silly.  The one drawback to the dubbing is the use of only four actors to play dozens of characters.  One of those actors is the great voiceover artist Paul Frees, who does his best to create distinct voices for his characters, but too often lapses into the cartoonish voices he would do for television cartoon shows such as Rocky and Bullwinkle and The Beatles. A little distracting, yes, especially when one character who sounds like Paul Frees is talking to another who sounds like Paul Frees, and in the background, other characters who sound like Paul Frees are either barking out orders or delivering announcements!

    GORATH was one of the final serious sci-fi fantasies Toho would produce before the series began a slow but inevitable slide into wacky silliness and kiddie entertainment, both of which are readily apparent in KING KONG VS. GODZILLA of the same year.  4 - JB


IN SPACE, NO ONE CAN HEAR GREAT MOVIE QUOTES

"Couldn't we just move the Earth?"
"Can we move it after dinner?"

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