Gamera: The Giant Monster
Studio: Shout! Factory
US DVD Release Date: May 18, 2010
Theatrical Release Year: 1965
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 78 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Japanese)
Movie: 3.5 out of 5
During the Cold War, a the United States shoots down a Soviet jet, leading to an atomic blast in the Arctic, which awakens Gamera, a giant, flying turtle that feeds on feeds on fire. The beast goes on a worldwide destructive rampage, but somehow befriends a young boy, Toshio, after destroying his home. Zoologist Dr. Hidaka leads a team of scientists in search of a way to rid the world of Gamera.
Daiei Studios was looking for a monster film to take on Toho's very successful Godzilla series, and writer Nisan Takahashi and director Noriaki Yuasa came up with a worthy competitor in Gamera: The Giant Monster, released in its original Japanese language version for the first time by Shout! Factory. As goofy as many of these Japanese monster movies are, after viewing this version, one must wonder if it was the Americanized dubbed versions that have given these films such a bad name over the years.
Part of the movie's charm is the obvious man in a monster suit surrounded by an equally obvious miniature set. The ability to listen to the actual dialogue adds more credibility to the actors' performance (although the original English language scenes were cast with military personnel and their families living on the local US base).
Gamera is by no means a classic in the Hollywood sense, but it is a classic by Japanese standards, and it is a delight to see it arrive on DVD.
Video: 4 out of 5
The video on this disc is outstanding. Taken from a new HD master from original elements, the 2.35:1 black and white anamorphic transfer has excellent contrast, with deep blacks and a wide range of grays. Detail is very good, sometimes too good, revealing wires in many of the effects shots.
Audio: 3 out of 5
The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono Japanese soundtrack, encoded at 192 kbps, has very good fidelity, but don't expect it to knock your socks off. Hiss, crackle, and pops are at a minimum, obviously cleaned up for this release.
Special Features: 2.5 out of 5
With the exception of the audio commentary and booklet, most of the features seem to have been ported over from a Japanese DVD release.
Audio Commentary by August Ragone: Ragone is the author Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters, and while he provides a wealth of information, his commentary is dry and not engaging, sounding as if he were simply reading an essay he wrote beforehand.
12-page Booklet: Featuring a short essay on the Gamera phenomenon by director Noriaki Yuasa in 2001, the full-color booklet also contains brief biographies of the characters, and an anatomical rendering of Gamera.
A Look Back At Gamera (23:13): This documentary, apparently produced for Japanese television, takes a look at the Gamera franchise. Presented in 1.33:1, in Japanese with English subtitles.
Original Japanese Trailer (1:57): Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen with English subtitles.
Publicity Materials: Consists of the International Sales Brochure, Presskit, and Production Stills.
Overall: 3.5 out of 5
Gamera arrives on DVD, finally getting some respect in a beautiful black and white transfer. The special features are just icing on the cake.