Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Daigoro vs. Goliath (Japan, 1971)

Seeing as I am an essentially joyless person, I tend to regard all of the trappings of childhood with undisguised contempt. I had to override that tendency in the case of Daigoro vs. Goliath, however, because, while it is unmistakably a movie aimed at the toddler set, it is, more importantly, that rarest of rarities: a Japanese giant monster movie that I had not, until very recently, ever heard of. Sadly, I cannot even blame my ignorance of the film on it being some kind of off-brand knock-off of the genuine article. It's a co-production between Toho and Tsuburaya -- basically the Gucchi and Prada of Japanese giant monster films -- and was made in 1971, close enough to the peak of the Kaiju Eiga boom to make its escaping my notice somewhat inexcusable. Bad me!

But what there is no escaping is the fact that Daigoro vs. Goliath is indeed a children's film, and as such contains its fair share of cute kids and dopey, childlike adults. (If it had been an American film, it would have starred Dean Jones.) Of course, we know what to expect from cute kids in Japanese monster movies (micro-shorts) and as far as the grown-ups go, things aren't much less predictable. We have a wacky and hapless amateur inventor, an irascible yet basically sweet-natured fat buffoon, a bespectacled blowhard, an oaf, etc. Oh, and then there's the whimsy. God, the whimsy! In short, this is Toho's -- at the time, recently instituted -- policy of skewing its monster pictures toward the matinee crowd taken to its logical extreme. Seriously, those people who complain about Jun Fukuda's Godzilla movies really need to check this one out just to see how bad things could have been. And then shut the hell up.

Our hero here is Daigoro, a friendly, dog-like monster whom I'm confident fans of evangelical claymation will recognize as a kaiju version of Goliath from Davey and Goliath (see below). I know that's confusing since he is not the monster in this movie who is actually named Goliath, but it is what it is. Anyway, Daigoro had the misfortune of being the offspring of the only giant monster in Japanese cinema history to be felled by the Japanese military's conventional weaponry. Try not to snicker at that fact, though, because it's sad -- like in Bambi. As a result, Daigoro was orphaned and now lives on his own island where he is looked after by a team of human caretakers.

One thing that can certainly be said for Daigoro vs. Goliath is that it really sets itself apart from the Kaiju Eiga pack, though not necessarily always in the most auspicious ways. For example, there is the fact that it makes a major subplot out of its lead monster's digestive problems. At the time of our first meeting Daigoro, it is made apparent that he has been suffering from constipation for quite some time. His handlers serve him up with bowl after giant bowl of monster Mucelix, but, despite their efforts, the door to his giant outhouse remains wreathed in undisturbed cobwebs. This is a cause of much concern for all -- especially Daigoro, whose stomach is frequently heard to make loud rumbling noises. I didn't make any of that up.

Eventually the mean blue space monster Goliath shows up on the scene, prompting Daigoro's human friends to try to get him to man-up and get in touch with his inner monster. In this sense, Daigoro vs. Goliath is basically a remake of Godzilla's Revenge, but without Godzilla and most of the other things that made that movie watchable. The monster fights that follow are, in keeping with the downscaling that Toho was doing at the time, unambitious but reasonably well shot, keeping their action mostly limited to the island in order to minimize the need for miniatures. In sum they have the look of a monster battle from one of the cheaper tokusatsu TV series of the time, and about the same brief duration, thanks to the time already spent on the human characters Dean Jones-ing all over the place.

I really don't think it's much of a spoiler to reveal that Daigoro ultimately wins the battle with Goliath. In the aftermath, his bashful head caretaker, inspired by Daigoro's example, finds the courage to propose to his girlfriend. Goliath is tied to a rocket and blasted off into space as all of the children wave and cheer. And Daigoro, triumphant, returns to his giant outhouse and has a really good poo.

See, I told you I wasn't making that up.


houseinrlyeh aka Denis said...

Man, that must be one of the most naturalistic happy ends in all of kaiju-dom.

Can it be an accident that Daigoro shares his name with Tomisaburo Wakayama's son in the Lone Wolf & Cub films?

Prof. Grewbeard said...

now, aren't you glad you've finally experienceed D vs. G? when i procured this film some time ago, i had absolutely no idea i was going to be up to my neck in Kaiju poo. you've done your duty(...)in warning the world. can you imagine what this film would have been like if Sompote Sands had made it?...

Todd said...

I was just happy to have an opportunity to address the concept of kaiju poo on this blog. I'm easy that way. And incredibly immature.

generic cialis said...

Holy shit... this really really really was so funny and sucks at the same time haha just like power rangers..., so sad hahaha

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