Nezura 1964 Review
Ever since its announcement back in 2019, Nezura 1964 was one of my most anticipated new “kaiju” films of the last few years. Despite it really being a biopic, the idea of a film based on the production of Daiei’s first attempt at the kaiju genre and legends surrounding the disaster its production sounded ripe for a film adaptation. Essentially, this was The Disaster Artist for the kaiju genre and I am all for that!
Fast forward to 2022 and with indie physical media distributors SRS Cinema giving us a western release for the indie flick, does Nezura 1964 fulfill the potential of its premise? Sadly, while the film has a lot of heart and charm from the cast, the film is very bare-bones and feels like a prototype short film to pitch a feature-length version of itself. Despite that, I won’t say it is an awful film at all! With no delay, let us look at Nezura 1964!
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The Rats of History
First a little backstory, Nezura 1964 is a film recounting the doomed production of then major Japanese film studio Daiei Films (which is now Kadokawa Daiei Studio who helped co-produce Nezura 1964) first attempt at a kaiju film in 1963 and 1964 with the planned film Giant Horde Beast Nezura. Inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, Giant Horde Beast Nezura was going to be a film featuring giant rats that would be brought to life via filming actual live rats on miniatures.
The problem was the production would be both metaphorically and literally plagued as the production team used wild-caught rats for the special effects team, which were filled with fleas and diseases. This disastrous decision led to complaints from the neighboring towns. The film was shot and left Daiei no choice but to cancel the production because of these health concerns.
However, one of the production members would be future director Noriaki Yuasa. Daiei, not ready to give up on making a kaiju film, would approach Yuasa and from there Daiei would make the kaiju series rival to Toho’s Godzilla with Gamera The Giant Monster in 1965. Now, with that film history out of the way, time to dive into the film itself!
Of Rats and Men
As said earlier, the biggest praise I can give to Nezura 1964 is the acting and cast. Director Hiroto Yokokawa clearly wanted to make this film a fun time for his actors and you can definitely see that through the performances! The biggest standout is veteran character actor Yukijiro Hotaru as the then president of Daiei Masaichi Nagata (named in Nagato in the film).
Those familiar with the kaiju genre would immediately recognize Hotaru as Inspector Osako from the Heisei Gamera Trilogy (which is another clever incorporation of this film’s history) and that manic energy he gave to those films is present in his portrayal of Daiei’s president as an over-the-top producer you’d expect to green-light a production like this. The rest of the cast is also fun to watch and replicate the doomed optimism that mostly was part of the original staff making Giant Horde Beast Nezura.
Production-wise while clearly a low-budget film (it was a crowdfunded film after all), there are some standout moments. The scenes of the special effect crew both in-film and behind-the-scenes are impressive in recreating 1960s style tokusatsu (Japanese special effects). There are even some inspired shots of the Nezura rats, including what was supposed to be the starring monster that is Mammoth Nezura.
Sadly, this is where my praises end as the biggest thing holding this film back into fulfilling its potential is just the length and pacing. The film is only 53 minutes, including the credits, and the film has to rush A LOT of the history of Giant Horde Beast Nezura and sadly focuses on the wrong parts of that history. A large chunk of the film is focusing on the creation of the film in terms of pre-production, which while great, robs us of seeing how much of a disaster the actual production was.
Aside from a few brief scenes and the protest of neighbors, the film never really showed just how much of a mess working with the wild rats were. It honestly felt like whiplash that the film mentions the flea and ticks and boom Daiei canceled the production. This I feel really hurts the film as it cannot show us just how harsh the actual working conditions were. This makes the latter half of the film feel like the abridged version of these events and really needed to be feature-length to give us the film this story deserves. Though the ending on what would inspire Gamera’s creation was a nice way to conclude the film at least.
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Those Damn Dirty Rats
Despite being paper-thin of the plot recounting the production of Giant Horde Beast Nezura, I oddly still enjoyed my time with Nezura 1964. Hiroto Yokokawa clearly wanted to make an absurd biopic on this legendary film disaster and despite really needing to make the film was an enjoyable time. This really felt like a fan short film and while those films are also shallow in content, they always have a lot of heart.
In this film’s case, we got some great acting and inspired recreations of what would’ve been the tokusatsu work for Giant Horde Beast Nezura. This is definitely a film only for hardcore kaiju fans wanting to know more about the history of this genre.
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