"How come this lake got so warm
all of a sudden -- HEY!"
Gappa, the Triphibian Monsters is Nikkatsu Studio's one and only entry into the giant monster genre. Made in 1967, the movie is a pretty shameless amalgam of Gorgo (1961) and King Kong vs Godzilla (1962), only without the energy and fun.
The movie opens as a bunch reporters and scientists arrive in the south seas pleasure spot known as Obelisk Island. Their mission is to find exotic animals for their boss, a magazine magnate who is building a theme park.
Once they arrive on the island, they are informed every two minutes by some random native that "Gappa is angry!" Gappa is the native god, of course, and the natives are absolutely convinced he's angry. How do they know this?
"Next on TBS -- Tag team city destruction!"
The outsiders do pretty much what you'd expect them too, and that's everything the natives say they shouldn't do, because Gappa is angry. The Japanese party despoil Gappa's lair, find a baby Gappa, and remove it from the island. And as is standard procedure in these kinds of situations, it's the natives, who had the right idea in the first place, who end up paying for the mistakes of the outsiders.
The baby Gappa is probably supposed to be cute, what with its big eyes and one little feather sticking out of the top of its head, but it really just looks deformed. The baby Gappa is put in a cage on the orders of the magazine developer, because people will obviously want to pay to see this cut-rate Rodan baby.
Meanwhile, the two adult Gappa mobilize to Japan, following maps no doubt provided to them by Mothra. On the surface, you'd think that the Gappa would be pretty exciting monsters. They are sort of humanoid-bird reptile things. They have wings, so they can fly. They can swim, and most importantly, they can stomp. They have a breath weapon. Plus, they're really big.
"Oh I wish I were an Oscar Meyer weiner..."
Unfortunately, the execution of the Gappa suits, and the rest of the special effects, are lacking. The breath weapon is poorly executed, and the suits look fake. The city models are undetailed. And when the Gappa stomp around the model cities, they are shot at normal speed, from regular camera angles, in full light. In the end, the Gappa end up looking like exactly what they are: people in suits.
Back in the realm of the plot, there are the usual futile attempts at destroying the monsters. The military option is tried, and fails. Later the monsters take up residence in a Japanese lake, and the military tries to drive them out of the lake by playing a really annoying sound into the water. What sound they use is never clear, but we're guessing it was one Adam Sandler's comedy albums.
Oh, and there is human drama involved here too, but it's really boring. We frankly can't be bothered to go back and figure it all out. Suffice it to say it has to do with a little native boy from Obelisk Island, the various reporters who went to the island, and a little Japanese girl who didn't. Our favorite part of the human drama portion of Gappa is the final scene of the movie, where the female reporter, looking at all the destruction caused by human ambition, comes to the conclusion that ordinary women shouldn't work, but "stay home, marry an office worker, and wash diapers."
We saw Gappa when we were very young, and we rembered it fondly. And from that perspective, it was worth it for us to see it again. But if you don't have fond childhood memories, or have a driving need to see every Japanese monster movie ever made, you owe it to yourself to skip Gappa, The Triphibian Monsters.
Civilized Japanese reporters condescend to
the native boy -- who turns out to be right
about every single turn of events. Natch!