From Wake Island to Gamera to Perry Mason

23 Nov

In 1942, Hollywood made WAKE ISLAND to commemorate one of the earliest battles in the Pacific War. As depicted in the film, the American marines on Wake Island, vastly outnumbered by attacking Japanese in the early months of the war, fought back valiantly for weeks before finally being overrun and killed. In the film, Brian Donlevy plays Major Geoffrey Caton, the Marine commander on the island, and Albert Dekker plays Shad McClosky, a civilian engineer heading all construction on the island. McClosky resents having to take orders from Caton, but when the fighting starts, he demands weapons for himself and his men. Caton says no. When the Japanese finally storm the beaches en masse, Caton and McClosky man a machine gun together in a foxhole and fight to the death.

24 years later, a Japanese monster movie, originally titled DAIKAIJU GAMERA (aka GAMERA: GIANT MONSTER), was released in the U.S. with a new title (and new spelling), GAMMERA THE INVINCIBLE, and with newly shot scenes featuring American actors inserted into the re-edited Japanese original. Heading the cast were the two actors from WAKE ISLAND, Brian Donlevy, now promoted to General, and Albert Dekker, now promoted to Secretary of Defense. Instead of fighting Japan, they now lead American efforts to help their former enemy combat a giant turtle which has been awakened from its prehistoric slumber by an atomic bomb test and is rampaging through Japan. This version was released in the U.S. on December 15, 1966.

Coincidentally, that same year, on May 1, 1966, Donlevy guest-starred on an episode of “Perry Mason,” “The Case of the Positive Negative” (Season 9, #28), playing a retired general who’s been asked to head a crime commission in a California town to take down a local crime boss. When the gangster is found murdered, the general is charged with murder and recruits his friend, Perry Mason, to represent him in court.

Ten years earlier, Raymond Burr, the actor who plays Mason, had starred in GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS (1956) in scenes shot in Hollywood and inserted into a re-edited Japanese monster film, GOJIRA (1954).

This Perry Mason episode, therefore, has the distinction of starring two actors who had appeared in Japanese monster movies ten years apart.

It should be added that Donlevy does his entire role in GAMMERA THE INVINCIBLE sitting down at a conference table, while Burr’s role in GODZILLA is much more proactive and takes him to a variety of settings, allowing him to personally interact with Japanese characters:

One Response to “From Wake Island to Gamera to Perry Mason”

  1. Dennis Camp November 25, 2020 at 4:00 PM #

    We’ve been watching Perry Mason every day. Retirement.
    These are 6 degrees of Raymond Burr, Denver Pyle and Dick Foran.

    Perry Mason – The Case of the Renegade Refugee (S5 E13)
    Partial cast:
    Raymond Burr (defense attorney)
    Denver Pyle (spoiler alert – murderer)
    Dick Foran (defendant)

    Please Murder Me! (1956)
    Partial cast:
    Raymond Burr (Craig Carlson)
    Denver Pyle (Lieut. Bradley)
    Dick Foran (Joe Leeds)
    Angela Lansbury (Myra Leeds) – later “Murder She Wrote” Sunday nights CBS.

    Perry Mason – The Case of the Final Fade-Out (S9 E30) LAST EPISODE
    Partial cast:
    Raymond Burr (defense attorney)
    Denver Pyle (deceased #2)
    Erle Stanley Gardner (Judge #2) – creator of Perry Mason
    Gail Patrick Jackson (Woman at Bar) – executive producer of Perry Mason TV show

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