GORATH 1962 aka YOSEI GORASU
Ryo Ikebe (Dr. Tazawa), Yumi Shirakawa (Kiyo Sonoda), Akira Kubo (Tetsuo Kanai), Kumi Mizuno (Kesuke Shinoda), Hiroshi Tachikawa (Wakabayashi), Akihiko Hirata (Endo), Kenji Sahara (Saiki), Jun Tazaki (Raizo Sonoda), Ken Uehara (Dr. Konno), Takashi Shimura (Kensuke Sonoda)
Directed by Ishiro Honda
"If Gorath comes within 200,000 kilometers of us, earthquakes... mountains crumble...and volcanoes erupt. Even Mt. Fuji would become a killer volcano. Along with this, the air and water would be stripped away by Gorath's gravitational influence..."
The giant jet thrusters move the Earth from its original orbit in an effort to avoid destruction from GORATH
When a gigantic star is discovered to be on a collision course with the Earth, civilization bands together in a plan to move the planet away from the path of the approaching star. Named Gorath by Earth's scientists, the destructive force is powerful enough to destroy the planet. Enormous rockets are built in the South Pole in the hopes Gorath can be bypassed saving the Earth from an imminent cataclysm.
Ishiro Honda, famed director of the Godzilla series likewise helmed a series of three science fiction films. Beginning with THE MYSTERIANS in 1957, Honda next took on an even bigger project, BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE (1959). While these two movies featured aliens hellbent on taking over the Earth, or wiping out mankind, there had yet to be a serious take on the end of the world as we know it.
In 1961, the release of a grand scale 'End of the World' movie entitled THE LAST WAR, no doubt prompted Honda to imbue his next (then) non Kaiju movie with the possibility of Armageddon. Bearing similarities to George Pal's award winning WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE (1951), GORATH (1962) depicts various people and cultures coming together to prevent the ultimate destruction of the Earth. Featuring an all star cast, this Japanese production was very ambitious and featured some of the best effects work of Tsuburaya's career. It wouldn't be long before similar disaster movies would become big business for American studio producers.
Originally, the sript for GORATH was a somber, yet patriotic story of civilization putting their differences aside for the greater good of mankind. Those sentiments are retained, but Tomoyuki Tanaka later insisted that a giant monster be included so as to beef up the marquee value of the picture. Already brimming with cliffhanger moments, the inclusion of a giant walrus christened Magma momentarily steers the film into full on fantasy mode. It doesn't really hurt the movie, it just feels tacked on when the film is fine without having a rampaging monster appear at all.
The US release of the movie did eliminate the monster sequence. Many feel it disrupts the flow of the film. I am one of those people. I am all for giant monsters in movies, but this particular one didn't need any. It's quite jarring despite the already outrageous storyline. When Magma shows up, it throws off the rhythm the film has built up to this point. It doesn't ruin the experience, it just takes you out of the film and places you into another for about five minutes as Magma has what amounts to a cameo appearance. Blamed on the warming of the South Pole by the gigantic jet thrusters, Kensuke determines that their operation has awakened a creature frozen in the ice. If anything, it's an added cliffhanger moment, if only a bit jarring.
There are so many excellent sequences in the picture. Once the factory to build the thrusters is underway, an earthquake destroys it making the scientists and workers in a race against time to begin and complete the facility. Later in the film after the South Pole operation is completed, Endo and his crew make the horrifying discovery that Gorath has now grown to 200 times the Earth's mass by sucking up debris on its collision course with the Earth!
Then, once the operation proves to be a success, the scientists realize that more jet thrusters must be constructed since Gorath will continue to grow as the orbital shift will not be enough to save the planet. Gorath strips away the rings of Saturn, sucks up the moon and the expected scenes of destruction take place as the Earth barely manages to get out of the way.
The concept of Gorath would also seem to have been an influence on the popular second season episode of the original STAR TREK called 'The Doomsday Machine' from 1967. That episode features a 'Planet Killer', a gigantic robot construction that wanders the universe consuming planets for its food.
Japanese giant monster movie fans will recognize a great many faces here. Jun Tazaki is of special mention. Often playing military leaders, or characters of some repute, Tazaki tackles a distinguished role here. Playing Sonoda, the commander of the JX-1, a space ship sent to investigate Gorath, he and his crew become trapped within the massive stars gravitational pull. With their deaths imminent, Sonoda rallies his men to face their doom heroically. The opening ten minutes is this one sequence. It's very poignant especially the shot of Sonoda with a tear rolling down from one eye upon realizing they cannot escape the approaching Gorath. At first, his crew wish to save themselves, but after Sonoda's speech, the men welcome death with open arms in the hope that the data they have sent back to Earth will aid in saving the Earth.
This element of Japanese patriotism and unbridled superiority extends to their ability to manufacture fictional armaments that surpass anything being produced around the world. This conversation is particularly interesting...
Kiyo: How about the scientists of the United Nations?
Dr. Kanno: Some countries are building spaceships...but honestly, Japan's scientists are putting the others to shame. Our government's ship hasn't been outdone.
Dr. Tazawa: The government, the nation and we are working hard to solve this problem. America hasn't come to that point yet.
Kensuke: I don't think anyone is as comfortable with it as we are.
Despite glaring displays of National pride, immediately after this conversation, there's a big meeting at the United Nations where it appears Japan has all the answers, but a British Secretary stands and states, "Why are we gathered here? It is to save the Earth and mankind. It is time that the nations dropped all egotism and joined hands." It's at this point that ALL the worlds scientists begin patting each other on the back over their accomplishments and discoveries and decide that EVERYONE should work together to save the planet. It's quite a good moment and some of Honda's other movies included this same type of homeland nationalism such as the intriguing sci fi movie, ATRAGON (1963) with a grand performance by Jun Tazaki.
There's another dialog exchange that promotes racial harmony and equality of cutures with this statement from Endo, Captain of the JX-2, played by Akihiko Hirata (Dr. Serizawa in GODZILLA and Dr. Mafune in TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA to name two):
Endo: Mankind was separated into white, black and yellow races before the U.N. Trust, honor and cooperation was their hallmark to bring us together.
Akira Kubo is another of the most recognizable faces in the picture. Here, he plays one of the main characters and also the love interest of fan favorite, Kumi Mizuno's character, whose boyfriend was killed aboard the JX-1. Kubo alternated between playing goofy characters (the bespectacled inventor in MONSTER ZERO) and serious roles (Captain of the SY-3 in DESTROY ALL MONSTERS). Here, he kind of melds the two creating a fairly unmemorable and occasionally unlikable performance.
But one really doesn't watch a movie like GORATH for standout performances. It's great when they're there, but the main focal point here is mass destruction and cataclysm, science fiction elements and spacecrafts. The first 40 minutes introduce us to the myriad of characters and the build up to the looming threat of Gorath and mankind scrambling to find an answer in lieu of setbacks.
It all comes together to create one of Ishiro Honda's most intriguing movies of his long career in addition to one of, if not the biggest Japanese science fiction film of all time. Serious fans of Japanese sci fi should seek it out, although fans who are only interested in seeing monsters stomp across the screen will be disappointed save for the slightly intrusive giant walrus, Magma. GORATH (1962) is a high point from the golden age of Japanese fantasy cinema.