Against all odds (and my best intentions), Galgameth is getting a two-part review. Like my previous two-part review for Gamera: Guardian of the Universe, it’s not that I have millions and millions of brilliant thoughts to share with you about the film, I just kinda… ran out of time last month. It’s a little embarrassing, but my doctor says it’s perfectly normal and it happens to plenty of virile, healthy bloggers all the time and it doesn’t make me any less of a man!
If you missed part 1 or just need to relive my brain breaking over the seemingly endless connections Galgameth has to the 3 Ninjas cinematic universe, click here!
I’m excited to knock out the rest of this review because 1. the movie gets significantly better (but still not like, awesome) from where we left off and 2. so I can hurry up and dig into more MINYA content for MINYAMAS (get your first taste here if you haven’t already!). If anything, Galgameth is a potent reminder that it’s very easy to accidentally make your “cute” mini-monster an irritating butthole. If Minya is the endearingly derpy Santa (or, uh… Jesus?) at the heart of Minyamas, little Galgameth is the horrible Krampus terrorizing us before we get there! Crack open a wine barrel and grab some iron to munch on, we’re finishing off Galgameth!
I left off with our human hero Davin escaping a prison colony (or… something like one?) on horseback along with the now toddler-sized Galgameth in a fucking potato sack where he belongs.
But of course even a weird sprawling prison… land like this can’t just let a high profile inmate escape! Boogerstache and his homies mount up to give our heroes chase through the forest. Davin lays out a groaner of a quip: “My kingdom for a race horse!” And Boogerstache replies by screaming “I love this!” which you may note is incoherent nonsense given the conversation.
The baddies nail the potato sack with arrows! But Galgameth is impervious to conventional weaponry, so the villains are really just harmlessly serving him arrow head amuse-bouche. An amuse-bouche that powers him up from toddler-size to kid-size!
Galg’s food-based growth spurt causes him and Davin to tumble off the horse, allowing the baddies to corner them. Davin yells “blackbird” (ugh) to get Galgameth to defend him, and it works! Blackbird being the code word is stupid as balls to me, but otherwise this is a neat moment.
The rest of the baddies bail immediately after this (understandably), but Boogerstache sticks around long enough to take that rock to the ol’ brain-bucket.
The rock knocks Boogerstache off his steed, which causes his horse to freak out and start dragging him. It looks horrifyingly painful. Like, not in-universe, but for real:
It takes me out of the moment because I’m legitimately worried about the stunt actor, but good on that guy for selling the shit out of and (presumably) surviving the scene. Free from their pursuers, Davin and Galg make their way to the nearest settlement… in Lovania!
They steal some clothes to disguise Galgameth and rub dirt on their faces to “look like [they’re] around from here,” which is frankly a shitty thing to say.
Our heroes duck into a tavern to continue laying low and attempt to raccoon some food off recently-vacant tables. Davin gets nervous because, being amongst Lovanians, almost all of the impassioned, inebriated conversations happening around them are about what a royal dick sandwich King Davin is. To make things even more nerve-wracking for Davin, Julia, a young, take-no-shit barmaid, notices the strange pair and kindly asks for their story.
But she’s not played by Swift, rather she is portrayed by Johna Stewart-Bowden, who you probably don’t remember from Ladybugs. That’s less a slam on Stewie-Bows and more just me being honest that 1. it’s unlikely you remember fucking Ladybugs and 2. if you do it’s gonna be for Rodney Dangerfield or Jackée or maybe even Jonathan Brandis, but not some rando kid who went on to star in Galgameth. Anyway Davin cooks up a cover story: he’s John, Galg is his terminally ill/deaf/mute/mutant sister Mary, and they’re in hiding because his parents were imprisoned by “King Davin.” This immediately buys him and Galg shit-loads of goodwill with everyone in the bar, including Julia and the barkeep! She even hooks them up with a free meal, starting with a loaf of bread that she’s going to slice ‘n’ serve with her fucking sword that she carries with her at all times. Sounds bad ass, right? I think so too! Let’s see how awesomely it’s executed!
Well it was a cool idea. Julia says “Mary” can take a nap by the wine barrels. Barrels with metal spigots. You know where this is going.
It’s interesting seeing a character get sloshed as a joke in a kids’ movie: what was once a pretty common trope (it pops up in a ton of Disney’s early animated output) has gotten pretty rare, but it hasn’t vanished completely like smoking. Galgameth’s not the most recent comedy drunk in a family movie either: the human lead in 2007’s Ratatouille gets trashed, and the male lead in Tangled off-handedly mentions not remembering an entire week of partying. When (or if) weed gets decriminalized nationwide here in the States, it’ll be fascinating to see if “oops we got hotboxed!” (or something similar) becomes a comedy trope in kids’ media.
Galg gets to party while Davin and Julia make goo-goo eyes at each other, but El El’s goons crash the festivities searching for Davin and Galg. This is around when people start calling Galgameth “Galgy” and it is gross. I know I’ve been calling him Galg, but Galgy is too cutesy and affectionate for this smarmy buttmunch monster. The barkeep hides Davin and Galg in a barrel, but Galg is constantly making fucking noise (I realize I haven’t talked much about that yet–he almost continuously is like grunting and muttering. But maybe those vocalizations saved us from an onslaught of horrible catchphrases? ) so Julia has to distract the baddies by taunting them! Does she challenge the head thug to a duel? Give a rousing speech? Nope! She launches this cutting, defiant insult!
Go blow your ass!
It saves Davin and Galg, but the villains burn the tavern to the ground and everybody else is rounded up to be publicly executed.
But we’ve got a metal eating mini-monster and his do-gooder human friend on the case! They sneak onto the scene under a shawl and watch in horror as Julia is first on the chopping block. Galg can’t let this injustice go any further! He charges up the gallows, metal-munching teeth bared!…
This leads into the freakiest, funniest visual in the movie: Galg eating the ax. We’ve already seen him eat metal and it wasn’t anything especially bizarre-looking, so what makes this sequence stand out? Animation that looks like it was done exclusively with Photoshop’s clone tool:
If you checked out the trailer in part 1 of my review you’ve had a taste (heh) of this ridiculous-looking metal mastication but you definitely want to see the whole thing in its weird “glory” below:
As wonky as it is, I kind of want to give it an A for effort. Being a mid-90s, low(ish) budget kids’ movie, that effect was probably considered one of their highlights. Especially at the time it originally released. There’s some surprisingly great miniature/suit work coming up at the end that has aged a hell of a lot better, but CGI (and any effects you could brand as CGI) was still new hotness. Galg downs the entire ax head, chucks the handle at the (grossly bloody) executioner, and a full-scale riot breaks out!
Julia kicks some ass sword style, Galg eats everybody out… of the holding cell, and Davin holds his sword by the sharp end.
After horking down all that metal, Galgameth grows, and this time the morphing animation is pretty good! The end result is certainly better than the smug dildo we’ve had to deal with up until now, but it’s still pretty creepy in it’s own way.
I think what I find off-putting about this Galgameth design is that he’s basically got a cute baby monster head on a weirdly humanoid (and kinda ripped but also kinda… shapely?!?!?!) adult body. It’s funny to me that this head is supposed to be a little scarier, a little more monstrous, but it ends up being way the fuck more endearing than the last one because it doesn’t look like a sneering, condescending douche-waffle. Our heroes flee to safety amidst the mayhem, and El El and Davin each theatrically vow to end the other on their way out.
While Galg and pals recuperate at a secret rebel encampment, El El uses the 1500s version of Google (BOOKS) to try and find some vital Galga-facts. He also sends for Periel, who was last seen gathering up the shattered Galgameth figurine and conversing with Davin.
At the camp we get some backstory for Julia: she’s a whiz with a sword because her Dad was a sword smith and her folks are the imprisoned King and Queen of Lovania and her uncle works at Nintendo and says you can play as Luigi in Super Mario 64 if you plug a controller into the fourth slot when you beat Bowser with 120 stars without ever getting hurt.
Okay so the uncle part isn’t true, but everything else is! After spilling her guts to Davin she gets real handsy with him to teach him some sword tricks and because, you know, they’re both person-shaped pressure cookers boiling over with hormones.
The rebel camp’s preparations and El El’s villainous machinations mirror each other nicely. We see El El and Davin both practice jousting: El El crushes at it wearing an insane but intimidating-as-shit steampunk/gimp suit armor:
Meanwhile Davin continues to “comically” suck at jousting. See what I meant in part 1 when I said this jousting shit would never go away? Both armies prepare their secret weapons too: El El orders his minions to rush completion of the cannon while Galgameth ruins the rebels’ soccer game by blasting the ball over the tree line!
Missing soccer balls and Davin’s constant failure aside, everybody’s having a good time in the rebel camp. Things are finally starting to feel hopeful for the Lovanians and they have a powerful, strange new ally in Galgameth. Even better, he’s an ally that just keeps getting huger and stronger with every meal. Everybody (myself included) is pretty geeked when the Galgster wanders back into camp pushing 20 feet tall!
Hahaha come on, of course not. That’s just my stupid, sophomoric sense of humor kicking in. Let’s compare it with another screengrab of that same sequence:
I’ve seen a lot of giant monster movies, guys. A lot. I like them. There have always been jokes about kaiju dongs, and they’ve always stayed just that. Jokes. I honestly can’t think of another giant monster film that stars a creature with visible, exposed genitals. Maybe the weirdest part of all this is that Galgameth is not a biological entity, he’s a magical statue golem that’s come to life: why the fuck it got reproductive organs? It’s never implied to excrete food waste either (hence why eating makes it grow so huge!), so it doesn’t even need a dingaling to help with that! It all comes down to one of Davin’s ancestors carving the statuette and thinking “You know what the majestic symbol of our royal family really needs? Know what our magical guardian beast just can’t do without? A non-functioning micro-penis.”
Then you step through the fourth wall and realize the suit designer for the movie said “Yes the heroic, friendly monster character starring in our family fantasy adventure is going to sport a teeny little cock. Just out there for the world.” I’m not offended or grossed out or wailing for someone to think of the children, I’m just…. fuckin’ baffled, man. At least in a movie like Pom Poko there are (hilariously weird but 100% accurate to real Japanese folklore) legit story-telling reasons for all the dude tanukis to sport visible ballsacks:
ANYWAY the other characters don’t seem to notice or care about Galgameth’s schlong, so I’ll try not to dwell on it. The rebels are psyched about Galg’s latest growth spurt, but they know they’re gonna need him even bigger and badder in order to take on El El’s army and storm the castle. They cook up a plot to take Galgameth to a nearby foundry for a top-secret fourth meal! The miniature effects and composite shots for this scene all look really nice, likely helped along by taking place at night with low light.
Big Galg’s body language is super expressive and in general he is roughly a trillion times more charming and charismatic than little Galg. This is partly due to the better suit (though that little peen is SUPER off-putting), but I’d chalk most of it up to suit actor Doug Jones (not the new Alabama senator, but congrats to him) brangin’ it like usual. Who is Doug Jones? More like who (OR WHAT!) isn’t Doug Jones? IMDB will show you over 160 acting credits(!!!), but here’s a quick sampling of his roles:
THOSE ARE ALL THE SAME DUDE. Doug’s a strikingly tall, thin man with a background as a mime and contortionist, so yeah, he’s the guy to portray your freaky practical effects monster. And based on the interviews I’ve seen he just seems like a genuinely sweet, eccentric, lovely, and upbeat dude. OH AND HIS BIG BREAK (pre-Hellboy) WAS PLAYING MAC TONIGHT
Doug Jones does it all, folks!
But hey, how about that foundry buffet? IT WAS A TRAP! Creepily silent enemy soldiers grab Julia and dump gasoline on Galgameth from the roof and light the whole mess on fire! Galg picks up the now-unconscious Davin, punches a hole through a wall, and gingerly places him outside while he’s still trapped in the burning building. This whole sequence looks pretty solid, particularly when it comes to positioning the mini-puppet of Davin for Galgameth to pick up.
There’s a fascinating mini-moment where one of El El’s goons spots Davin… and gives him the chance to run away and start a new life as a free, anonymous young man. THERE’S NO TIME TO THINK ABOUT THAT THOUGH BECAUSE THE WHOLE PLACE BLOWS THE FUUUUUCK UUUUUPP
That’s some good ‘splosion, folks. But what’s even better than that ‘splosion is the broiling hot Galg that comes blasting out and kicking ass!
El El’s goons bail and our heroes regroup the next day. They realize if they want to take on El El’s entire army and storm the castle, Galgameth still needs to be even bigger, which means more metal munchies for the monster. Davin (barely) convinces the rebels to throw their weapons and armor into Galga’s-mouth.
Davin did save one weapon: Julia’s sword. He presents it to her in secret so they can have a Romantic Teen Moment™. I’m sure that old creep Sigmund Freud would be all worked up about Davin sneaking off to give a sword to Julia.
Time to march on El El and his castle! We get a shockingly fantastic composite shot of big(ger) Galg leading the people into battle which directly leads to one of the best, craziest stunts in the movie.
The stunt in question is another devilish trap set by the nefarious El El! It’s a diversion that pre-occupies the rebels while Galg falls into a trap and gets his big silly ass buried. If you’ve seen Pulgasari or just read my review of it, you might recognize the whole “rolling burning boulders down a hill straight at live stunt actors” trick. Almost every really awesome moment and visual in Galgameth is lifted right out of Pulgasari. That’s less a dig on Galgameth and more like retroactive bonus praise for Pulgasari. The conditions in which it was made were unconscionable, but it’s a legit solid kaiju movie.
El El is convinced that dirt-napping Galg is deadski, so he tests out his ginormous cannon. He aims the cannon at (an adorable model of) a nearby town, and has a deliciously evil exchange with his right hand man:
That’s literally how the scene plays out. It’s such a goofy, deadpan exchange that it initially made me glaze over the fact that this “cannon” can blow up entire cities like a fucking atom bomb. Or at least, that’s what it does in this scene. Our heroes never have to deal with anything quite this devastating.
The royal scribe Zethar sneaks out of the castle and meets up with the rebels who escaped the burning boulder trap. Davin is super bummed about Galg’s burial-at-dirt, but Zethar clues him in to the fact that Galg can only be killed by what brought him life (which you’ll remember is tears, so I guess don’t let Galgameth watch Schindler’s List!). With this in mind, the rebels cook up a clever trap of their own! Davin returns to Galg’s burial site and desperately starts trying to dig the monster out. Galg’s under tons of rubble, so it’s a pointless gesture to any on-lookers. The real goal here is to feed misleading intel to El El’s forces, who report the rebels’ supposed whereabouts to their cannon-wielding master. See where this is going? I bet you do!
It’s a cool bit of intrigue, and like most things in this movie there are whack details scattered within it to make it less cool: specifically we’re treated to some wonky-looking and unnecessary CGI cannon balls and everybody having to chant “blackbird” to wake up Galgameth. I get why they do the blackbird thing, but it wasn’t charming or cute the first time, so it’s a sour note every time they invoke it. But who cares, the castle siege is back on track!
The castle location is fantastic, we get more great stunts, and the huge crowds clashing with each other are legit impressive. The special effects shots are a mixed bag, but plenty of them look rad. Our heroes advance and there are fun mini-moments sprinkled throughout to keep it from just being a bunch of extras swinging swords at each other. After two acts of failed E.T. cutesy antics and adequate but unnecessary cloak ‘n’ dagger subterfuge, Galgameth is finally firing on all cylinders as an action-packed fantasy swashbuckler/medieval monster mash. It is corny and wonderful and funny (on purpose!) when Davin yells a command to the now-ginormous Galg and he wheels around to listen.
Plus we fucking finally get Galg vs. building!
The miniature work is 👌 and it never stops being fun watching the Galgster trash ass. The movie took its sweet time establishing that El El has tons of foot soldiers, catapults to launch fiery boulders, and high-tech (for the era) cannons, so when our heroes get pinned down behind enemy lines, it must be because of those, right?
FUCK NO! El El also/suddenly has fucking missile launchers. It seems like a nutty detail to throw in this late(ish) in the game, but it jives with the movie’s other gun powder tech, gives the human heroes another threat to contend with, and also just caught me off guard and made me laugh. Speaking of making me laugh, check out El El getting plowed by an update from his number one henchman:
El El’s minion informs him that the cannons are not stopping Galgy (only now as a rampaging destruction maniac does he earn “Galgy” as a nickname), but they’ve finally got what they need to make Periel spill her guts re: Galg’s true weakness.
Periel was able to keep her trap shut until El El’s goons threatened her kid’s life. Periel breaks down and starts crying when she reveals that Davin’s tears brought Galgameth to life, and this grants El El his most grotesque bit of villainous scenery-chewing yet:
El El’s nasty-ass tear tasting notwithstanding, I love when a movie can squeeze some human drama into the middle of a monster attack. Even as El El interrogates Periel and (yuck) smears her tears on his tongue, the walls shake and dust falls from the ceiling as the ol’ Galg-a-rino gets closer and closer. Galg and our human heroes kick some more ass: Julia finds and frees her imprisoned parents and Galg does this crazy shit:
It’s another gag lifted straight from Pulgasari (and I’d argue Pulgasari did it better), but it’s still pretty damn fun. Galg just chucks the other cannon, and during the chaos El El scoops up Davin and bails. Fun and exciting as it is, the castle siege isn’t the true finale: the scene awkwardly and abruptly transitions from this triumphant mass melee to a more intimate, seaside showdown.
Julia, Galgameth and the barkeep all tail El El and Davin, but they’re not there in time to stop his sinister plan. El El strands Davin on a dinghy offshore, starts launching fiery arrows at it, and even taunts Galg into wading after him.
Tub of lead/lard is pretty clever, but I don’t get big iron rooster. Like… big iron cock? That kinda seems like a compliment? But that’s not the point here! The point is that El El tricked Galg into wading out into salt water! Tears are essentially just salty water that comes out of a sad person’s face (and tying in Galg’s metal-like properties, salt water accelerates rusting), so the ocean that Galg is powering through is also ripping him apart. Sad music swells, and Galg keeps pushing through hellish physical agony to try and save his friend. The monster literally starts coming apart, his face effectively emotes his sadness and fear, and the moment mostly works! It’s such a powerful scene that it makes you forget that the rest of the movie isn’t that great. Or maybe I’m just really soft-hearted about monsters.
Galg’s in too deep, and there’s no way he can make it to Davin in time and get back to shore alive. What can he do!? How can our heroes save the day?!
Lightning strikes outta nowhere, Galg channels it through his bod and blows the ship out of El El’s shit! Setting this during a raging thunderstorm would’ve made more sense, but whatever! Galg’s tall and has metal-ish properties, so why not! With the baddies dealt with, Galg scoops up Davin and delivers him to Julia and the barkeep, who’ve been frantically paddling out to meet them while they were fucking around with fire and lightning.
Galgameth sinks to a watery grave, Davin cries (stupidly sobbing “blackbird” and almost killing the vibe) and refuses to let go, forcing Julia and the barkeep to pull him aboard. It’s another surprisingly terrific moment, and the movie should have wrapped up shortly after. But it doesn’t.
The rest of the ending isn’t bad, but I don’t care about Davin like I did about Galgameth. This ending feels extraneous, but it does pay off Davin’s development and all that jousting shit from earlier. Basically everybody washes ashore that morning, including El El. El El and Davin have a series of fights while Julia and the barkeep watch pointlessly on the sidelines. El El fakes his death/defeat twice, until finally the ol’ Dav-arino finally puts him down a with a knife to the gut. This like smash cuts to Davvy getting king’d in an obvious attempt at aping Star Wars‘ medal ceremony finale.
THEN we get one more scene where Davin and Julia are beaching it up and they find the little Galg statue washed ashore. HOORAY
THEN IT’S FINALLY FUCKING OVER OH MY GOD. Is this my longest review? Is fucking Gargle Meth my longest review? Why. This movie isn’t fantastically good, nor is it hilariously bad. It has moments of both, but mostly sits right in the middle like a damp towel you forgot to hang up. It is, as you could probably tell from reading this long-ass review, VERY “plotty.” That’s not really a bad thing: it never gets boring, but a lot of these twists, turns, schemes, and double-crosses feel unnecessary. My review was this long and that’s with me skimming over entire characters and subplots. It’s impossible not to compare this to Pulgasari, and the Pulg-ster comes out on top in every department other than human rights violations (which is, make no mistake, fucking horrifying). I like cloak ‘n’ dagger intrigue as much as anybody, but ultimately it just gets in the way of what could have been (and has been!) a breezy, exciting, swashbuckling monster fantasy.
Most of the movies and shows I review have some kind of legacy to speak of: sequels, remakes, reboots, spiritual successors, or some level of fame or notoriety. Galgameth, middle of the road as it is, has none of that. Even The Giant Claw left a bigger impact on the pop culture landscape (not in a “good” way, but still!). Galgameth is adequate but forgettable. Even with its solid third act it can’t quite rise above its status as a footnote on Pulgasari’s weird history.