Kaijū Menagerie

Maguma (マグマ) Maguma

Gorath, 1962

– walrus tusks
– flippers
– haunting emerald eyes
– a pretty obvious zipper

– interrupting a film’s narrative
– not-so-impervious to attacks
– being the cheap ploy of Toho’s money men


The year is 1980! People still talk on telephones! Only now they have shitty little black and white televisions that show a video feed of who they’re talking to! Magic! A star, Gorath, is hurdling towards Planet Earth! It’s smaller than Earth, but its gravity is overwhelming and threatens to destroy ALL OF HUMANITY! So… uh… what does this have to do with a giant monster?


Pretty much fuck all. Ishirō Honda’s Gorath is not a kaijū film, despite what its gloriously misleading poster might suggest. Maguma was a late, panicky addition to an unremarkable though enjoyable sci-fi romp. The legendary Tomoyuki Tanaka was disappointed by the box office results of Honda’s monsterless efforts, The Mysterians (1957) and Battle in Outer Space (1959), and forced a giant walrus onto the set of Gorath.


Maguma’s pathetic six minutes of screen time has zero impact on the film’s story. He quite literally bursts out of nowhere, a monster released from the melting of the South Pole. Though he appears late in the proceedings, you would expect him to at least have some bearing on the narrative. But no, he is quickly dispatched barely putting up a fight. The human characters even feel a little guilty gunning him down.


In terms of his design, I quite like the look of Maguma. Though he’s essentially just an enormous walrus, his terrifying facial expression and floppy movements are entertaining. Maguma was never to be seen on the big screen again, but the monster suit would be put to use again under the name Todora in Ultra Q, the first of the Ultra series. The suit was apparently destroyed during the production, which might explain why he never made a return appearance. Showing even more initiative in cheap recycling, Maguma’s roar became the roar of Ultraman 80 monster Salamandora.


Maguma is possibly the most gratuitous monster in kaijū cinema history. He was so gratuitous that he didn’t even make the cut of the American re-edit of Gorath. His appearance is unnecessary and certainly doesn’t add anything to the film — in fact it’s somewhat damaging to the overall flow — but his paltry six minutes are enjoyable as a standalone sequence of monster madness.