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Episode guide: K05- Gamera

Movie: (1965) In the first of a long-running Japanese movie series, a giant mutated turtle with super powers is accidentally revived from hibernation and, of course, attacks Japan. Meanwhile, young Kenny is fascinated by the beast.

First shown: 12/11/88
Opening: It’s Christmas time, and Crow has “volunteered” to be the SOL’s Christmas tree
Host segment 1: Servo is thankful he wasn’t frozen. A caller wants to know who does Joel’s hair
Host segment 2: Inspired by a caller, Gypsy does her Godzilla impression. Viewers are invited to take a Ted Turner quiz
Host segment 3: Callers offer opposing views on a Gamera fight, so Joel and Servo go to the video tape
End: Joel explains some Christmas traditions, then its time for carols.
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (156 votes, average: 3.74 out of 5)


• Joel watches the film by himself; as such, this episode contains what is surely the sparsest riffing in MST3K’s history. It’s not uncommon for Joel to go more than two minutes without making a single riff. Servo appears in the host segments, but there’s no explanation for why he does not join Joel in the theater. Trace was reportedly out of town during the shooting of this episode (and in the Q&A Josh suspected he had a standup gig at the time the theater scenes were being shot.
• This episode illustrates what seems to have been an incredibly casual situation with the show. Trace just couldn’t make it, so they wrote him out of the sketches, end of problem. You can hardly blame Trace. I think he was getting something like $35 an episode. Nothing to sneeze at, but not worth changing your holiday travel plans, either.
• That does not sound like Trace in the bit where he is frozen. It sounds like Josh. Which makes sense, since Trace wasn’t there.
• There’s a little teaser of Gamera mayhem at the beginning of the movie. They edited that out of the season 3 version.
• Without the support of Josh and Trace, Joel resorts to what he enjoys most, interacting with the screen. He does it a lot in this episode.
• Some may not remember, and kids may not be aware of, the whole kerfuffle in the late ’80s about Ted Turner colorizing classic black-and-white movies. Many movie buffs – Joel seems to have been one of them – were horrified at the project and he came in for much derision. He quietly backed off it after a while.
• Joel resorts to talking to himself. At one point Joel asks, to nobody in particular, “Would you consider that a plot device?”
• In these early episodes, many of the riffs are what Mary Jo later called “state park” jokes (i.e.: “That looks like a state park.” Not so much a joke as a simple observation).
• Questions for the movie: 1) So, the old eskimo is the latest in a long line of keepers of the ancient Gamera stone that’s been handed down in his tribe for thousands of years, and then these complete strangers show up in his village and he happily hands it over to them? (2) What’s with the scientist pretty much lying through his teeth when he vouches for the reporter? Is he just doing him and the lady researcher a favor so they can continue their tepid romance? He says the reporter guy has extensive knowledge of Gamera. What does he know that scientist guy and lady researcher don’t know? He never demonstrates any real knowledge of the situation, that I noticed. (3) Kenny thinks he has some sort of psychic connection with Gamera. But the movie never presents any evidence that this is the case. Yes, Gamera doesn’t kill Kenny when he has the chance, but that could just be luck.
• There’s a fun moment when Joel laughs heartily at the movie, when a scientist suggests that Gamera has “special organs that operate like a hydro-electric plant.”
• It’s pretty clear the two calls in segment 3 where made by the same person.
• Fave riff: “That could take years!”

74 Replies to “Episode guide: K05- Gamera”

  1. OnenuttyTanuki says:

    #34: As far as Kenny being mentally deranged or having Stockholm Syndrome I don’t really think so.
    After a recent viewing of the original Japanese version I was struck with the idea that maybe he has a form of Asperger.
    Before his meeting with Gamera , he is said to be a smart socially chanllenged kid obsessed with turtles( constanlty drawing pictures of them , brings Tibby/Pee-Wee to school with him, The other children tease/alienate him because of it).
    After meeting the giant terrapin Kenny is shell shocked (no pun intended) enough to believe Tibby is Gamera and his kindness to him when he was a wee little red ear slider is why he was saved from the lighthouse. He then starts his mission to convince those around him that Gamera is good and carrying around the stone home of Tibby/Gamera in hopes of returning it to him.
    Then his 2nd cousin gets rid of the rocks, causing Kenny to flip out and go inward even more which just happens to happen the same time has Gamera’s apperance in Tokyo. Leading to Kenny begging Gamera to stop destroying things and going to see him in the trainyard not realizing the mortal peril only to be saved by an army man.
    Lastly, he stowsaway in a ship crate to see Gamera on the island again not realizing the mortal peril he is putting himself in, witnesses Gamera being humanily taken care of, and vowing that one day he will travel to the stars to see Gamera again.


  2. RaptorialTalon says:

    I dunno, kid’s with Asperger’s Syndrome can usually distinguish fantasy from reality pretty well – a kid Kenny’s age would probably know that there’s no logical way for a tiny turtle to become a giant tusked monster. Heck, he’d probably have read so much about turtles that he’d know they never have teeth, so Gamera would weird him out. At the very least, he wouldn’t assume that Tibby *became* Gamera.

    I’ve worked with a lot of Asperger’s kids (and have it myself, albeit a much less severe case than for many others, which is why I can do support work with them, etc). They can be stubborn and extremely protective of their preferred ideas, but they are also often deeply interested in what is logical and supported by the best evidence. On the other hand, Asperger’s is also “co-morbid” with a lot of other stuff – it tends to occur in conjunction more than would be expected by chance alone with stuff like ADD, Tourette’s, bipolar disorder, anger-management issues, schizophrenia, and a bunch of other genetically linked stuff. So if Kenny has Asperger’s AND some other condition . . . that could explain his obsession as well as his disconnect from reality.

    Speculating is fun, isn’t it?


  3. Fart Bargo says:

    Re Kenny/Tibby/Gamera triad; I’m not weighing in on whats wrong with Kenny but I could have sworn that Kenny deduced that Tibby and Gamera were in fact related, not the same creature. He states this just prior to his “HE IS, HE IS, I KNOW HE IS!” delivery. Or not…


  4. JeremyR says:

    I don’t think the kid was deranged, it’s just we’re seeing it through a different culture and era and language. Imagine what say, people in Korean would think about the 50s show Lassie.

    (Indeed, most children on TV shows in the 50s and 60s were incredibly annoying and obnoxious and come off as deranged today.)

    Anyway, in one of the Gamera remakes, the new Kenny’s turtle actually was Gamera.


  5. Herc502 says:

    I had a great time watching “Gamera” and the previous ep “Gamera vs Barugon.” I can see why the favorable callers who phoned in messages enjoyed the show so much. And as far as K05 is concerned, its probably the closest any of us will ever get to hanging out with only Joel and watching a flick with him…or, at least to me, that’s what it felt like. Crow and Tom’s absence from the theater makes this episode incredibly special, despite the scarcity of riffs.

    I’m sincerely looking forward to the rest of this season and I can’t wait for the next ep “Gamera vs Gaos.”


  6. Bruce Boxliker says:

    I personally think that Gamera let Kenny (Toshio, in the original Japanese) live because Gamera actually hates Kenny, and letting him live was the most cruel thing he could do to him. :)

    As for the Tibby thing, Kenny states (while explaining his stone collection) that Gamera & Tibby are from the same family. Nowhere in the movie did I hear anything that made me think he thought they were one & the same.

    Kenny/Toshio just really wants a friend. All his classmates likely pick on him & beat him up (and sadly, being Japan, the teachers would let them – it’s considered Kenny’s fault for being weird). He really likes turtles, though. Then a giant turtle saves his life (after first endangering it). Kenny then immediately sees Gamera (who is the only being who has ever been nice to him) as his only chance for a friend (and Gamera could beat up the bullies at school!), so he’s constantly trying to get to him. Yes, he’s a little crazy, but what little kid isn’t?

    On the subject of kids in Gamera movies, I’ve often thought that Gamera was one of the earliest inspirations for Pokemon (especially Guiron). Kids yelling at a monster what attacks to use? Sounds like Pokemon to me.


  7. Cheapskate Crow says:

    The CC version of Gamera is one of my all time favorite episodes but watching this just brings home how far the show came in such a short time. This is painful to get through, to the point that I can’t finish this episode. It really is amazing that the show was able to survive long enough to find its footing and become the classic we all know and love.


  8. snowdog says:

    This is, without a doubt, my least favorite episode of the series. The riffs are just too far apart and there’s no one for Joel to interact with in the theater. The whole thing just comes across as kind of sad. The best thing is watching Crow get frozen. So nice, they showed it twice!

    And we do get our first introduction to the omnipresent “Kenny”.


  9. robot rump! says:

    answers to Sampo’s 3 observations of the movie.
    1. everyone’s pretty eager to pass a stone.
    2. the old scientist was obviously very high and thought that he was with Henry Kissinger.
    3. being a 50ft tall turtle, you’re going to attract attention. and while eating Kenny was the natural and most desired course of action, the media would have blown it all out of proportion.


  10. Yeah, I gotta say, this is the worst episode of the entire run of MST3k. Joel being alone in the theater is just too much to overcome, and it doesn’t help that this is my least favorite of the Gamera movies. To put it lightly, this is a tough one to get through.

    Also hurting its quality is the fact that my DAP copy has numerous bad edits and jump cuts. All of the commercial breaks have bad edits, the worst being the bad cut to Host Segment #2, which cuts out the intro and picks up with the viewer question on the screen “why don’t you hire Godzilla or something?”

    Yeah, the video quality of this episode isn’t very good. The screen is so black sometimes you can’t even see Joel’s silhouette.

    Some stray comments:

    Joel says “Gameron” in the Intro and the Host Segments and starts saying “Gamera” while watching the movie.

    Joel, alone in the theater, does lots of pointing, looking, standing, and even dances in his seat at one point.

    “There’s nothing more tragic than a war in an Eskimo village.”

    “All right, I’m a fighter plane.”

    “If you say Tibby one more time I’m going to belt you.”

    The way Joel laughs at the line, “certain organs function like a hydroelectric plant.” :laugh:

    “That’s no way to kill roaches!”

    “Maybe Gamera will get bored and go away?”

    -yes, I think he would. Gamera would definitely get bored with this and go away.

    Like I said,
    this is the worst episode in MST3k’s run and ship.

    Coming up next on KTMA,
    Alphabet City.
    And on Sunday,
    Charlie’s Balloon.

    KTMA05 Gamera gets 1 out of 5 Tibbys


  11. jjb3k says:

    “On the subject of kids in Gamera movies, I’ve often thought that Gamera was one of the earliest inspirations for Pokemon (especially Guiron). Kids yelling at a monster what attacks to use? Sounds like Pokemon to me.”

    I’m sure at least someone on staff at the Pokemon anime is a Gamera fan. The way Ash’s Squirtle unleashes a Hydro Pump attack is identical to the way Gamera flies, except with water shooting from its shell instead of flames, obviously.


  12. pondoscp says:

    I will go on record as saying this is not the worst episode of MST3K. That honor goes to something in season 8, which in a way, was KTMA all over again.

    I used to be quite down on this episode, as well as the rest of the Gamera episodes from the K’s. This time around, I watched K05 in a group setting, and it made for much more pleasant viewing. As we discussed the movie, occasionally Joel would spout out a zinger that would crack us up, as if he was just sitting around watching the movie with us. With the recent discussion about old school movie hosts, this episode falls squarely into that category. Kind of a what if MST3K just hosted movies, not riffed them.

    Still, this is probably the bottom of the K’s, but for me, at least it had the vibe I look for in a great MST3K episode. There’s a handful of episodes that are devoid of all of that homegrown vibe, and this rest right on top of those.


  13. JCC says:

    That honor goes to something in season 8, which in a way, was KTMA all over again.”

    Which is…what?


  14. pondoscp says:

    @63, now I know my opinion on this matter is far from the popular opinion. The worst episodes of MST3K are 815-820 and 822. They aren’t completely without merit, but for the most part are dull and tired, forced by Sci-Fi to make the show something it never should have been. Once season 9 started up, the Brains got their footing back, and even that took until The Space Children, although I do have some fondness for Projected Man, Phantom Planet, Puma Man and The Deadly Bees. Yes, Werewolf is awful, too (except for the end credits, that was genius). I’m really more of a season 10 fan, now that’s a near flawless, hilarious season. Too bad they got cancelled right as they were kicking butt again. At least we have Rifftrax.

    So please don’t hate me because I’m the odd MSTie that has a different opinion about those episodes. I know a lot of you love them.


  15. Kenneth Morgan says:

    Even though the general consensus is that this is a lesser episode, I think I’ll see about picking up a copy. If nothing else, it’s about the only other Christmas episode the series did, so I can put it in rotation with “Santa Claus” and “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians”.


  16. SOLDaria says:

    @63 I know, even Invasion of the Neptune Men is better than this, and comparing it to KTMA? Dislike Season 8 all you want, just have a sense of proportion.


  17. Brandon says:

    From the scene where Gamera is being blasted off at the end…

    KTMA riff: “This reminds me of me.”

    Season 3 riff: “Hey, Joel. Remind you of anything?”


  18. Cornjob says:

    Again, I’m having more fun watching these Gamera movies from KTMA this time around.

    I noticed that in this version Joel wanted to smack Kenny. I’m usually pretty sympathetic to misfits, but even I wanted to beat him up.

    It also seemed a bit odd that Gamera was portrayed like the original incarnation of Godzilla, an out of control destructive force, than in later movies. And yet they still had the annoying monster child element that really didn’t fit with the giant monster being an unholy destroyer more than a protector and friend to children.


  19. jaybird3rd says:

    I think #55 described this episode best: “incredibly special”. For better or worse, it’s the only one in the whole series with a human being alone in the theater. The KTMA Q&A sheds some light on how this happened (Trace was away visiting family for Christmas, and Josh couldn’t stay after the host segments), and when Joel said that he was “taking one for the team” in tackling the movie alone, I believe it.

    It’s true that, without anyone else in the theater to play off of or to help fill time, the riffing is as sparse as MST3K ever got. The absence of the Bots is clearly felt in the theater, but Joel still manages to make it fun; in fact, there are certain little moments in this episode that I like better than whatever replaced them when they revisited Gamera in #302:

    Shortly after Gamera’s first appearance:

    General: “Calling fighter planes! Answer! Calling fighter planes! Answer! Calling fighter planes! Answer!”
    Joel (exasperated): “All right, I’m a fighter plane!”

    After Gamera “rescues” Kenny (after nearly killing him first):

    Kenny: “I was so scared. Gamera saved me, didn’t he?”
    Dad: “Yes, Gamera saved your life …”
    Kenny: “… because he knows I like turtles!”
    Mom: “Gamera liked you!”
    Joel (in a tone of sarcastic patience): “Sure, Kenny!”
    Mom: “Gamera must has a good heart!”
    Kenny: “Yes, Gamera’s a good turtle!”
    Joel: “He’s a good turtle, Kenny!”
    Mom: “Yes, he is good!”
    Joel: “It’s all good, Kenny! You’re gonna be okay, Kenny!”

    (the movie cuts to the exterior of a building)

    Joel: “This must be the hospital where they’ve taken Kenny.”

    (Actually, Joel says “Timmy” instead of “Kenny”, but I liked that bit very much because it highlights the weirdness of that scene.)

    After Kenny is forced to release Tibby:

    Kenny: “Tibby! Tibby! Tibby!”
    Joel: “You say ‘Tibby’ one more time, I’m gonna belt you.”
    Kenny: “Tibby!”
    Joel: “*Bop!*(swipes at the screen)
    Kenny: “Tibby!”
    Joel: “Stop it!”
    Kenny: “Tibby!”
    Joel: “STOP IT!!!

    (This foreshadows Crow’s crankiness in “Monster a Go-Go” when he yells at the “Chinese music torture” soundtrack. It’s a bit out of character for Joel, but Kenny has already been so annoying at this point that it works.)

    After the reporter sneaks on the plane with the scientist and his assistant:

    Catherine: “How did you get here?”
    Reporter: “It wasn’t very friendly of the two of you to give me the slip. Not polite!”
    Joel: “They’re trying to ditch you! Can’t you see that?”

    (That’s just what I was thinking at that moment!)

    Shortly after Kenny “persuades” the scientist and commander not to fire missiles at Gamera:

    Kenny: “Thanks a lot! Gamera saved my life for me once!”
    Joel: (slugs Kenny in the jaw)
    Kenny: “Gamera’s really a nice turtle! Gamera is a good turtle, isn’t he, sir?”
    Scientist: “Well, son, I just pray that you’re right.”
    Joel: “That kid’s going to have a lot of problems when he grows up.”

    (Again, just what I was thinking!)

    Commander: “Is there anything else we can try?”
    Scientist: “There is one thing that has just occurred to me …”
    Joel: “Put salt on his tail!”

    (After Host Segment #2, Joel returns to the movie with a bag of potato chips and can be heard munching on them in the theater!)

    As the scientist is briefing the press on what they have learned about Gamera:

    Scientist: “… and thirdly, he has certain organs that function nearly like a hydroelectric plant.”
    Joel: (laughs aloud)

    (I don’t recall if Joel ever did this again later, but it was a perfect moment because the line was so awkward.)

    After Gamera plows through an airport control tower filled with people:

    Joel: “Good thing they ducked!”

    As Gamera roasts a building full of people:

    Joel: “That’s no way to kill roaches!”

    (Everybody sure forgot how violent Gamera was in this movie when they declared in the later films that he was a “friend to all children”!)

    As for the host segments … Trace’s absence is felt once again, and you know they’re desperate when they start riffing on their own end credits, but at least they have fun with the voice mails. I agree that the caller from the “coalition of friends of giant mutant turtles” and the caller from the “coalition of friends of giant slimy lizards with long nasty tongues” is obviously the same guy. Joel said in the Q&A that callers would sometimes leave funny messages as possible submissions for the show. It obviously worked for this caller, since Host Segment #3 was pretty much written around them. I liked that they used “breathe fire and ship” in the on-screen transcript, and also “Yeachh!” when the caller cleared his throat. I also liked their rendition of “O Tannenbot” in the end segment.

    My copy also has promos for “Alphabet City” and “Charlie’s Balloon” over the end credits. “Charlie’s Balloon” (aka “Charlie and the Great Balloon Chase”) actually sounds kind of interesting; judging only from the promo, it sounds a bit like a precursor to Pixar’s “Up”, with Grandpa Joe from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” as the old man. Too bad it doesn’t seem to have ever been released on home video.


  20. Cornjob says:

    Wow, that’s a lot of thought jaybird3rd. This is a special episode. Compared to the later seasons the riffing is sparse, but compared to other horror/sci-fi hosts, even ones that would insert themselves into the movie a bit, Joel’s presence here is an embarrassment of riches. And what a movie. A giant enraged radioactive monster deliberately squishes and incinerates thousands while a seriously disturbed and persistent pre-schooler runs after it yelling that, “He’s really good! He’s good, I know he is!!” Yell a bit louder kid, maybe you’ll convince yourself.


  21. jaybird3rd says:

    I wonder if “Kenny” was deliberately intended to be that disturbed, or if that was somehow added to the character through the dubbing. The speculation given in the earlier posts is interesting. It may simply be that we’re seeing it decades later and from the point of view of another culture (those of us who are not Japanese, anyway).

    I also noticed a clumsy bit of redundancy in the movie: after Gamera wrecks the research ship, Dr. Hidaka gives the TV interview explaining what happened as his assistant Catherine listens. Then, in the airplane a few minutes later, she asks:

    Catherine: “You really mean everyone on the Chidori Maru was killed, and that the three of us are the only survivors?”
    Dr. Hidaka: “Yes, my dear … it happened when we were at the Eskimo village, studying the ancient carvings on that stone.”

    Shouldn’t she already know that, from having been there herself and having sat through the interview? Maybe she really was as fast asleep as she looked.

    Dr. Hidaka also refers to her as “his daughter” in the interview, but nothing more is made of that supposed connection between them (again, maybe it was just the dubbing). If he really was her father, then it makes his vouching for the creepy reporter even stranger: not only is he letting the reporter stalk her through the whole movie, but he actually lies in order to keep them together, and at the end of the movie he even suggests that she should “give up science” and be the reporter’s “inspiration”. As Joel says, “That was a mistake!”

    By the way … is the actor dubbing the reporter the same one who dubbed Ken in the Fugitive Alien movies? They certainly sound very similar.


  22. Mnenoch says:

    A really unique episode for sure. I remember seeing this the first time because my brother bought the whole KTMA season from a VHS tape trader and it had notes on the episodes about Joel appearing by himself and other “strange” things like that. It was definitely a curiosity to my brother and myself so much that we watched all the KTMA episodes in a weekend when we got the tapes in. This episode helps show that the one man team just isn’t enough. It reminds me of early Mike Rifftrax episodes in that regard. The human element of bouncing jokes off your friend(s) is such a defining aspect of the riffing genre that it feels like something special is lost with just a single riffer.


  23. SATURN2 says:

    I can’t understand why anyone criticizes these KTMA episodes-They haven’t been officially released because they’re not up to standards of the folks that created them-They’re historically important to those of us that love the show and we’re lucky to be able to see them at all!-This one is particularly unique,with Joel alone in the theatre,so it’s worth seeing on that basis alone-If you can’t believe a giant mutated turtle can fly,what can you believe in?Relax,enjoy,it’s just a show in its formative years-


  24. SATURN2 says:

    Oh,and the scientist’s THREE THINGS WE KNOW ABOUT GAMERA at the 57 minute mark:”And thirdly,he has certain organs that function nearly like a hydroelectric plant..”and Joel loses it-laughing like he’s going to fall out of his seat-That’s worth the price of admission on this one!


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