Nezura 1964 (2020) [REVIEW] | #giantmonstermarch

Would it really be a Giant Monster March if i didn’t reserve a spot for a japanese monster movie?

This time though we’re going for a triplette, as this one does not only – indirectly – involve the Friend Of All Children himself, but also it’s a dramatized biopic of a now defunct movie studio regarding the failed production of the Giant Horde Beast Nezura, which was slated for a 1964 release in theathers, but was never finished or completed.

Which led the company, Daiei, to try again in entering the kaiju market, this time with a more shameless but also safer choice of a reptilian creature, a giant turtle with fangs, the ability to travel through space by rotating firejets when retracted into its shell, Gamera, and squarely aim its movies at a far younger audience than what the Godzilla series targeted at the time.

But before he could fly into the deep abyss of space to defend all the younglings of the universe, Daiei was indeed planning something else, something else that wasn’t original at all either, as the producers were inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, with the idea to replace the swarm of avians with one of rats.

With these premises, it goes without saying this was indeed a troubled production, otherwise you wouldn’t get to have the health department come in and basically shut the whole thing down to avoid the rats spreading diseases around. Again, it’s the 1960s, you can’t just CG the things, so of course some get out and scurry out of control, and the production’s conditions were so precarious that the project might have been dropped anyway.

Interestingly, this is also a crowfunded project that in 2021 had a US DVD release, but at the moment lacks any UK or notable release in european soil, i’ll gladly buy a hard copy proper when there’s options outside of importing the japanese or US DVD release.

Directed by Hiroto Yokokawa (The Great Buddha Arrival, Ghost Cat Rhapsody), Nezura 1964 is undeniable very indie, as right away you can tell it’s a “lo fi” production made by people that care about the subject matter enough to celebrate it as much as poking fun at it, from the very beginning scene of the “rat disposal” to the opening title sequence that replicates what the movie Nezura could have looked like, with the understated ammission that it would have looked pretty silly, even back in 1964, i mean, this could have been the japanese Night Of The Lepus, those rats are way too cute to take seriously, even when the devilish Nezura appears roaring menacingly.

In case the subject matter wasn’t niche and peculiar enough, the movie it’s shot (mostly) in black and white and it’s also narrated in a documentary style, with the in-universe premise being that a Daiei employee has been tasked to , well, document the process of filming the movie Nezura, from the pitch meeting to the camera test of shooting live mice, and of course the many troubles of shooting with live animals, like imagine being the staffer tasked of “rat poop removal”.

(love the silly musical themes used during the filming section with the poor rats)

The premise is sound and honestly it delivers in its intent to tribute that era of kaiju movie filmmaking, the doomed optimistical view of the Daiei staff as the production kept getting out of hand, and i can’t praise enough how much love was put into this, as you can just tell the actors had a lot of fun and it does translate with their performances, even more with inspired casting choices, like veteran Yukijiro Hotaru (which would later play Inspector Osako in the Gamera Heisei Trilogy) as the manic, over the top president of Daiei, Masaichi Nagata.

The issues lie in the surprisingly, notably short runtime, as the movie reaches 53 minutes only because of 10 minutes of credits and outtakes, and in how this time is dedicated mostly in showing the film making itself, the behind the scenes nitty gritty of “shooting the shit”, which is fine, but by focusing so much on that it fails in properly conveying how much of a mess the production of Giant Horde Beast Nezura was, with very brief off-hand mentions of complaints, ticks infestation, but nothing like showing the proper, actual working conditions the production staff had to endure, aside from the “rat collecting patrol”, which is also very brief a scene.

The ending linking Nezura to Gamera’s conception was a nice touch, but the film just feels too short for its own good, and spending his runtime in what feel a recap/abridged version of the events (or minor stuff like script readings by the cast), thus failing to properly utilize the premise of a mockumentary film about the absurd, insane production of a monster movie that never was.

It almost feels like i’m watching a short film serving as a prototype/concept of the movie they wanted to make, which still makes for a decent watch where everyone involved clearly loved the subject material and had fun doing it, which in this case does actually trickle down to the audience.

So i’m ready to put down my money if the crew ever goes back to the project in order to produce a full-lenght feature out of this, because it’s so “almost there” it hurts, but in the meantime i can definitely recommend – with some caveats – to the niche audience it was always made for, as in big fans of kaiju eiga that also love movies about cinema and its making of, production woes and the such.

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