Today’s Random Tokusatsu: Daigoro vs. Goliath (1972)

Today’s selection: Daigoro vs. Goliath (1972, dir. Toshihiro Iijima)

Subgenre: Kaiju

Available from: fansub-only

Reposting an old review:

There are only a handful of golden-age Japanese kaiju movies that have never gotten any sort of English release. The bunch includes Agon the Atomic Dragon (which was a TV miniseries eventually spliced into a movie), the historical fantasy film Ooe-yama Shuuten Douji, the long lost copyright-infringer King Kong Appears in Edo, and a cluster of Ultraman tie-ins. My point is, when it comes to the giant monster selection that US-distributors had to pick from, one winds up pretty much grasping at straws. One of these passed-upon films, which has only recently gotten so much as a fansub, is Daigoro vs. Goliath, created for Tsuburaya Productions’ 10th anniversary. I completely understand why this has never been seen on official US channels; while it’s good (better than about half of the Gamera movies), it’s a Japanese kids’ movie… in other words, unrelentingly odd.

Unlike any other kaiju movie I’m familiar with, the story opens many years after an attack on Tokyo by a weird catlike creature. The monster has been destroyed, but it left a cub behind, which humanity dubbed “Daigoro” and decided to raise as their own. Daigoro has been slowly growing to monstrous proportions, and several of the main characters are involved in money-making subplots in order to gather funds for the creature’s massive 2 million yen ($6,600) three-year food budget (hey, that’s less than I spend on groceries!). The powers that be decide to either stunt Daigoro’s growth or have him put down, but in a shocking turn (or, it would be if it weren’t in the title), another monster shows up from outer space, and poor Daigoro is the only one that can defeat it.

Considering the vitriol that gets flung around over the child-friendly levity of a movie like Godzilla vs Megalon, it’s fair to say that Daigoro vs. Goliath would be a problem for western audiences. The monster goes through a training montage, eats from a bowl, even has a giant-sized water closet, and, worst of all, just looks stupid. The human characters don’t fare better; they’re archetypical cartoons, from the klutzy scientist to the hot-blooded macho carpenter (comedy is hard to dub), and a lot of their jokes relate to Japanese pop culture (including a Kamen Rider gag from Akiji Kobayashi, who was playing Tobei Tachibana in Kamen Rider at the time). Characters also spend lots of the screentime fantasizing about inventing super-speed shoes or billboard models coming to life, silly vignettes that have nothing to do with the overall plot.

This is all, obviously, a very acquired taste. However, I’ve got to note: the special effects are really nice. The monster suits lack realism, for sure, but the movie is loaded with convincing composite shots and meticulous miniature work. The overall effect is quite in line with Tsuburaya’s programs of the 70’s, a charming (in its own way), kid-friendly effects show, but done on a theatrical scale, so if you enjoy some of the wackier Gamera and Ultraman outings, Daigoro vs. Goliath might just be right up your alley… just don’t hold your breath on a legit US release.

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