Thursday, February 9, 2012

Gamera vs. The Ice Men (1966, Unmade)

Teaser Art for What Will Be My Version of The Ice Giant

I finally got myself a copy of Shout Factory's release for "Gamera vs. Barugon" (1966), and immediately headed straight for the audio commentary by tokusatsu (Japanese for live action effects fantasy films) expert August Ragone.

No offense to the film itself, but I've seen it plenty of times before, either by itself, or with the "Mystery Science Theater 3000" crew. And that being said, I was more interested in the obscure history of the Gamera franchise, which admittedly, no one touches upon beyond August Ragone's commentaries. And maybe, MAYBE, the odd magazine article that I don't have the time (nor money) to effectively track down.

And it's a real shame that the remaining Gamera DVDs from Shout Factory lack August's input, because I love hearing about giant monster movies that never were. And boy, did I get a welcome surprise gift with the "Barugon" commentary!


Now before I go any further, for those who don't know who Gamera is, let me enlighten you.

The 1960s was the golden age boom for Japanese movie monsters, with Toho Studio's Godzilla series and its various spin-offs, dominating the box office in both Japan, and globally abroad. Because of this, other Japanese film companies, who were somewhat reluctant to follow in Toho's knack for tokusatsu film making, eventually jumped on the band wagon, and with varying results.

The most successful of the these was "Giant Monster Gamera" (1965), a black-and-white B-movie from Daiei Motion Picture Company, which dealt with giant prehistoric turtle from the arctic, accidentally reawaken in modern times by atomic weapons. If that wasn't strange enough however, the giant turtle also lived off flames, had the crazy ability to become a flaming flying saucer-like form while tucked within his shell, and went on a destructive rampage across Japan to satisfy his millennium long hunger.

You know, just like us humans after a prolonged, jet lag induced nap!

In the end, Japanese and other foreign scientists work together to build the Z Plan Project; basically a gigantic rocket ship (far larger than even Gamera himself is), to trap the monster. And to safely send the deadly turtle to live on the planet Mars, since Gamera is too dangerous and virtually invincible to leave here on Earth.

"Giant Monster Gamera" turned out to be a surprised hit, and Daiei followed suit with more movies staring their previously doubted terrapin newcomer, along with other sci-fi and monster based movies that were to rival Toho at the box office. Since then, the Gamera series has been an off-and-on-again affair, especially when compared to Godzilla's more stable career. But to date, there has twelve entries into the series, ranging from sub-par children fair, to fantastic accomplishments that even novices to the genre can easily enjoy.

And like Godzilla and many other giant monster movies throughout cinematic history, Gamera has had his fair share of projects that never made it to final celluloid, which brings us to today's topic at hand...


"Gamera The Giant Monster Versus The Ice Men From Outer Space" (or "Gamera vs. The Ice Men" for short) was the original concept for the 1965 film's sequel. And was a surprisingly ambitious story idea, even by the standards of other unproduced Kaiju Eiga (Japanese for monster movie) ideas.

The original story treatment deals with alien invaders dubbed The Ice Men, whose transparent, ice-based bodies grotesquely exposed their internal organs and skeletons. They begin their invasion of Earth by setting off multiple volcanic eruptions across the globe, in hopes that the ash-soaked atmosphere will create a new ice age. And thus drive an unwitting humanity underground, so that they can have free range, and control over the surface.

Humanity insists on remaining above ground however, and thus the Ice Men are forced to reveal themselves, in order to forcefully enslave the human race instead.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

Meanwhile, Gamera is set free from the Z Plan capsule (not unlike the events from the completed '66 sequel), and flies back to Earth. And by fortunate timing and circumstance, joins mankind in its final, epic battle against the Ice Men, who also unleashes their own monstrous champion, the simply titled Ice Giant.


Unlike other monsters from the Gamera series, who were wildly original creations of a considerably inhuman, animalistic design, The Ice Giant was going to be a very humanoid entity, heavily inspired by the fearsome Jottun (or Frost Giants) of Norse mythology. Particularly the Ymir, who was said to be the most massive and ancient Frost Giant of them all. And of whom the semi-tragic Venusian monster of the 1957 film "20 Million Miles To Earth" takes its name from.

"Gamera vs. The Ice Men" never got pass a basic story treatment, but the concept of a contradicting cold element, against Gamera's fiery one, remained, resulting in the finished version's title antagonist of "Gamera vs. Barugon" (1966).

However, the idea of a humanoid being made from an geological element, stuck with the Daiei production staff, who soon after replaced the element of ice for that of stone. And taking cues from the Jewish folklore creature known as the Golem, and a little bit of Japan's own supernatural legends, resulted in the creation of stone idol Daimajin, and his impressive trilogy of films, all from 1966 alone.

I'm surprised that no one else brought up this awesome tidbit of unproduced movie trivia. And being an artist, I plan on doing my own interpretations of The Ice Giant and his masters, not unlike the educated guess work I've done with this particular Godzilla obscurity, Takegami.

Although knowing my luck, never-before-seen production sketches for the icy villains will suddenly pop up from movie oblivion, and half way into my project; not unlike what happened to me and my Ghost Godzilla designs a year ago. But ultimately, real design art from the original film makers themselves would be better than non at all, let alone my own 'fan fiction' style attempts.

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