Judge David Johnson liked Space Tapeworm better. (Note from DVD Verdict Legal Counsel: We feel compelled to inform you, the valued reader, there was never a movie called Space Tapeworm and that Mr. Johnson just made it up in an attempt to be funny. This addendum waives DVD Verdict's liability if you decide to sue on account of wasted time looking for such a film. Mr. Johnson has been duly disciplined. Thank you.)
Look! To the mountains! What can that be?!? It's a giant squid!!! Run!!! Run for your lives!!! Oh no, the tentacles are reaching for me!!! Oh dear lord, noooooo!!!!! Wait, are these things made out of rubber?
Facts of the Case
Taro Kudo (Akira Kubo) is a bad ass photographer, always looking for the big shot that will solidify his reputation as the greatest shutterbug in Japan. One night, while he's sitting on a plane, he spots a curious sight: a space capsule parachutes in front of his window, disappearing into the clouds. It's the remnant from a recent unmanned space mission, and the fate of that mission is swarmed in secrecy.
Kudo is desperate to track down the probe and grab some pictures, but his editors balk. Eventually, a woman named Ayoko (Atsuko Takahashi) happens to be on her way to the mysterious island where the capsule landed (for reasons of her own), and offers to take Kudo along. He agrees, and the two hop a boat and head out. Along the way, they meet a benevolent doctor and a shifty anthropologist.
When they arrive at the island, they immediately sense something is off. Not long after that intangible feeling of dread sinks in, a very tangible mutated squid monster emerges from the ocean depths and starts spreading wanton destruction. What the @#$%?!?
After Kudo and pals repel the monster with some handy gasoline bombs, another gigantic sea creature—this time, a crab—rises from the ocean and picks up where the squid left off. Our heroes put their heads together and realize that the probe brought something down with it—some sinister alien spores that can infiltrate and control organisms, using the creatures to further their Earth-taking-over agenda.
Ishiro Honda, director of a butt-load of Godzilla flicks, fronted this Toho monster mash-up, detailing the adventures of some islanders as they defend themselves against humongous mutant sea creatures. Where the actual "amoebas" come in, I'm not sure, but this movie sticks fairly close to the established blueprint of these Toho scraps.
You know the drill. The opening teases us about a forthcoming monster menace, and for like the quadrillionth time, the malfeasance originates from outer space, after which we are introduced to those most thankless of movie characters—the humans that pay second fiddle to grown men in rubber suits. Nothing differentiates these folks from the acting fodder in other Toho productions, and the actors here have even appeared in multiple Godzilla films prior to this. Basically, they're old pros and they know what their roles are: to limp through the boring preambles then scream their larynxes out when the monster-of-the-afternoon starts stepping on cardboard skyscrapers.
And this run-up to the monster face-off is particularly boring. Wait, "run-up" was a poor choice of words. How about "stumble-up"? It's just tedious stuff, the poorly-dubbed nonsensical drivel that our protagonists trade with each other, the ham-handed attempts at character development, and the ridiculous plot contrivances (there's a lot of talk about a submarine resort). When we finally get to the island, we meet the obligatory band of backwards natives and the true, sinister machinations of a major character are revealed. Thing is, nobody cares. If you're spending time with a Toho production you care about one thing: monsters beating the snot out of each other.
Space Amoeba features three monsters: Gezora, Ganime, and Kameba. All three are simply big, rubberized versions of marine life, and Gezora, the squid enjoys the most screen time. Homeboy is also the dumbest looking. Hey, I get it—it's tough to sew a believable rubber squid-monster costume, but it's not hard to see the movie magic at work here. While leg-shaped tentacles are bad and all, it's the goofy face and the profoundly fake eyeballs that secure this monster's entry into the Moronic Monster Hall of Fame. The creatures that follow are of little improvement, and exist solely to show the alien spores jumping from creature to creature via real shoddy visual effects. All of the hoopla winds down to the requisite finale where a couple of monsters face off while the humans gasp behind some foliage. The climactic battle is brief and uninteresting, largely thanks to the so-so creatures.
Generally, Space Amoeba does not live up to the coolness of its name, and the weather-beaten Toho playbook suffers greatly from lackluster monster mayhem. Recommended only for die-hard fans of man-in-suit films.
Media Blasters has put out a better-than-average disc, giving the film a decent 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer and 5.1 audio mix. The audio does not particularly overwhelm, but it's a lot better than it could have been. The highlight of the extras is a commentary track with producer Fumio Tanaka (delivered in Japenese, but subtitled in English), supplemented by a strange feature looking at the real creatures inspiring the monsters from the movie and the original trailer.
If you're a Toho devotee, you'll recognize the X's and O's, but unimpressive monsters and malice bring the film down. Frankly, it's dull and stupid.
Guilty. Someone call in a mutant-hunting trawler to take care of business.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Media Blasters
• Commentary with Producer Fumio Tanaka
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