Long after the series of very cheesy Japanese monster movies in the 1960s and 70s featuring "Gamera," the fire-breathing giant flying turtle was revived by director Shusuke Kaneko for four more features with slightly higher production values, between 1995 and 2006.
Attack of Legion, the second installment, is considered possibly the lamest of the four, but it does have a pretty impressive monster. I'm not referring to Gamera, who long ago evolved into a friendly monster, but to his opponent "Legion," so named because he is formed from a huge cluster of little monsters.
The first half of the film is pretty slow going, as the Legion of little monsters multiply underground in the subway system of Sapporo, capital of the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. The police are unable to deal with the invasion, so the army is called in, and that's when we get a few good shots of Mitsubishi military Jeeps.
Sapporo is famous for its Snow Festival, and there is plenty of snow around as the Self Defense Force convoy arrives.
The lead Jeep pulls up in front of a police bus. The Mitsubishi J24A has a cold-weather cover over the radiator, and a pretty lucky license plate.
The film makes good use of a limited number of Jeeps and other vehicles to create the impression of a large military presence.
In a night scene, Gamera the flying turtle emerges from the sea to help out, and gets swarmed by the Legion of little monsters emerging from underground, as soldiers run to get out of the way.
Our military hero jumps out of his Jeep for a closer look.
A miniature Jeep, approximately 1/12 scale, which appears briefly in the scene, was displayed at an event, circa 2014.
The model is used in this shot where the pavement ruptures, sending the Jeep flying.
In case anybody thought that the Self Defense Forces would be able to deal with the Legion, it somehow coalesces into one giant monster that blasts out of the ground, as seen in the background here. It's a pretty ugly one, with a scorpion body, multiple tails, spikes around his head and the ability to shoot bolts of energy as he rampages across the country.
Luckily Gamera arrives again to do battle with Legion, and fires some energy blasts of his own in the mass destruction fight scene which occupies much of the second half of Gamera 2: Attack of Legion. I won't spoil the ending for you.
Gamera: The Giant Monster (Japanese title Daikaijû Gamera), was the original Gamera film. It was intended to compete with the Godzilla franchise which had been going strong for a decade.
Once it became obvious that Toho Studios had a hit series with Godzilla, other Japanese studios wanted their own monsters. Daiei came up with this giant, fire-breathing, flying turtle. Gamera comes from a time so remote in Earth's pre-history that his cell structure differs from all other living things. He gets energy from heat and eats fire to survive! This makes all modern weapons useless.
If you have to be chasing after a monster, a Jeep is a good vehicle, so there are quite a few shots of Japanese-built Mitsubishi high-hood Jeeps in the movie.
At the arctic base of a Japanese scientific expedition, a Jeep with chains is the transportation of choice.
Unfortunately a skirmish between American and Soviet jets over the arctic results in one of the Soviet bombers crashing nearby and its nuclear bomb load detonating. This causes Gamera to be melted out of the ice and wreak havoc on the world (particularly Japan).
Eventually Gamera gets to Tokyo and rampages through the city. Reviewers on the Internet Movie Database generally feel that the scenes of destruction stand up to anything in a Godzilla film.
Although there are lots of soldiers in evidence, the Jeeps we see are mostly CJ3B-J3R civilian models. This one has some kind of official badge on the front.
There are a couple of big battles with Gamera. A firefight at a nuclear power plant is considered the best example, as the military unloads a large amount of firepower at the monster, and there's a ton of destruction in the process as the entire place is leveled.
After failing in various attempts to destroy the monster, the military succeeds in a plan to trick Gamera into climbing into a huge rocket, which then blasts him into outer space. This of course provides the possibility of a sequel, and the film did spawn a somewhat successful series of sequels, in which the colossal turtle became more sympathetic, almost a superhero.
The sequels about the new Gamera who befriended children, were shot in color, but didn't have the novelty factor or the number of Jeeps seen in the first film. Perhaps the best sequel, both for cheesiness and Jeeps, was produced in 1970 and known around the world as Gamera vs. Jiger (the two monsters seen here on a lobby card, in one of their battles during the film.)
The film was released in North America by American International Pictures as Gamera vs. Monster X.
A sacred statue known as the Devil's Whistle is removed from "Wester Island" in the South Pacific (obviously based on Easter Island, not long after the world's attention was drawn there by the events of 1965.) The statue is taken for display at Expo '70 in Osaka, Japan.
The monster "Jiger" sealed below the statue is released, and heads for Japan to take revenge. There are a few shots of Mitsubishi Jeeps in the film
Jiger has an energy beam that can vaporize buildings instantly, so of course the military is unsuccessful in protecting Osaka. Gamera has to step in to help, and even Gamera is immobilized by a strike from the stinger on Jiger's tail. It injects a parasitic baby Jiger into Gamera, which begins to feast on the giant turtle's blood.
Gamera is eventually able to destroy Jiger using the Devil's Whistle as a weapon, after he is saved from the baby Jiger inside his body, by a couple of young boys in a mini-submarine who enter his bloodstream and destroy the parasite. The plot lines in the Gamera films had become so bizarre that there wasn't a lot of room for Jeeps.
No Jeeps in the 1967 production Gamera vs. Gyaos (220K JPEG poster), although there is an early Toyota Land Cruiser. And there is a good moment when Gyaos' laser beam slices a 1967 Corolla full of reporters in half, but they keep driving.
A similar gag was used in a film produced in South Korea that same year: Yongary, Monster of the Deep (150K JPEG poster).
Yongary, basically a Korean version of Godzilla, takes aim with his laser beam...
.. and bisects a Jeep, this time drivetrain and all.
This is Korea, not Japan, so the Jeep looks like an old Willys CJ-3A rather than a Mitsubishi. The little wheel added to help keep the front half rolling is visible.
These films are fun.
Thanks to Federico Cavedo, Hidemi Hishikawa, Daniel Timothy Dey, and the Internet Movie Cars Database and Flawed Diamonds for frame enlargements. -- Derek Redmond
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