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DVD Reviews

HTF DVD Review: Gamera Vs. Barugon

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#1 of 5 OFFLINE   Todd Erwin

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Posted July 04 2010 - 07:21 AM

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Gamera Vs. Barugon

Studio: Shout! Factory

US DVD Release Date: July 6, 2010

Theatrical Release Year: 1966

Rated: Not Rated

Running Time: 100 minutes

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen

Audio: Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono)

Subtitles: English

Movie: 3.5 out of 5

After the success of Gamera: The Giant Monster, Daiei Studios quickly commissioned a follow up, Gamera Vs. Barugon. When we last saw Gamera, he was captured in the Z Plan capsule and hurled into space. As the film opens, the capsule collides with a meteorite, freeing Gamera, who returns to Earth to destroy Kurobe Dam to replenish his energy supply. Gamera then disappears from the film, chasing volcanic eruptions and whatnot throughout the world, according to the film's narrator. The film spends the next 35 minutes preparing for the introduction of Barugon.

Although this is a Gamera film, he only appears in three set pieces: his return to Earth, his first battle with Barugon, and the eventual showdown at the end of the film. This is really Barugon's story, as well as an adventure film somewhat similar to 1933's King Kong. Hirata, Onodera, and Kawajiri set sail to New Guinea, where the natives warn them not to take the opal. Onodera double-crosses and leaves them for dead on the island, escaping with the opal. But the opal is actually an egg, and Onodera allows the egg to mutate by accidentally (or irresponsibly) subjecting it to infrared radiation while treating his feet for athlete's foot. The egg hatches and Barugon is released as Onodera arrives in Japan. Hirata recovers and returns to Japan with Karen, a New Guinea native who speaks fluent Japanese and knows about the legend of Barugon. Hirata feels responsible for Barugon's destruction of Japan, and with Karen's help, assists the Army in finding a way to kill the monster.

Working with a larger budget and shooting in color, this second entry in the franchise is a marked improvement over the original. The optical and miniature effects are as good, if not better, than what we would see some 12 years later in films like Superman: The Movie, at least until the monsters appear (obviously as men in monster suits). The destruction of Kurobe Dam rivals a similar scene in Superman, when Hoover Dam is destroyed by an earthquake. The characters in this film have more depth than in the previous film, the real standout being the villain, Onodera, played by Koji Fujiyama. Onodera is perhaps one of the most sociopathic, narcissistic villains in the history of Japanese cinema, who will do whatever it takes to get what he wants, regardless of the outcome.

Shout! Factory has provided the original Japanese language version of the film in this DVD release, which I believe is the first time it has ever been available here in the US.

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 anamorphic transfer has deep blacks, accurate flesh tones, and well-saturated colors without bleeding. Detail is very good, and compression artifacts are minimal.

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 almost non-existent, obviously cleaned up for this release.

Special Features: 3 out of 5

Audio Commentary with August Ragone and Jason Varney: Ragone, the author Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters, and Varney, a longtime fan of Japanese cinema, provide a much more engaging commentary track than Ragone's solo effort on the previous Gamera: The Giant Monster release. Although they do tend to sound like they are reading from cue cards when dispatching trivia and providing quotes from actors, the two men do break out and discuss their childhood recollections of seeing this film, which is where the commentary excels.

Photo and Publicity Galleries: A set of lobby cards, posters, and other photos from the film, my major complaint is that they were obscured somewhat by on screen titles and navigation links.

Original Movie Program: As with the galleries mentioned above, the pages from the program are obscured somewhat by on screen titles and navigation links.

12-page Booklet: The insert, an item we don't see much of anymore in DVD and Blu-ray releases, includes an essay by actor Kojiro Hongo, character biographies, an anatomical diagram of Barugon, and additional photos and posters from the film.

Although the press release listed a reversible cover for the DVD, the review copy included the same anatomical diagram of Gamera that was included on the previous Gamera: The Giant Monster release.

Overall: 3.5 out of 5

Shout! Factory does another outstanding job, releasing the second film in the Gamera series with the respect it deserves, along with a decent set of extras.

#2 of 5 OFFLINE   mdnitoil


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Posted July 05 2010 - 10:22 AM

I'm in for this.  Considering how DVD has been drying up over the last couple of years, it's been an amazing time for genre enthusiasts.  Between catching up on old titles and keeping up on the new genre titles, I haven't been wanting for things to purchase.

#3 of 5 OFFLINE   Bryan^H



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Posted July 08 2010 - 07:24 AM

Originally Posted by mdnitoil 

I'm in for this.  Considering how DVD has been drying up over the last couple of years, it's been an amazing time for genre enthusiasts.  Between catching up on old titles and keeping up on the new genre titles, I haven't been wanting for things to purchase.

I will buy every Gamera title Shout releases.  I just hope they release Gamera Super Monster from 1980.  I have been dying to see the real Japanese version for years.

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#4 of 5 OFFLINE   Nebiroth


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Posted July 09 2010 - 09:04 PM

According to the review over on DVD-Drive-In, the next releases are going to be double features and they are both due in September, quote

"With two more double feature discs, GAMERA VS. GYAOS/GAMERA VS. VIRAS and GAMERA VS. GUIRON/GAMERA VS. JIGER, both slated for a September 21, 2010 street date from Shout! Factory, you can expect all of them to be reviewed right here at DVD Drive In"

That will complete the Showa sequence, with the Hesei movies already released by ADV (our of print now I think) and Gamera the Brave individually this virtually completes the sequence. Excluding Gamera Super-Monster of course.

I am guessing that the very positive reaction to Shout! Factory's first two Gamera discs has encouraged them to release th eother faster. As I recall the original plan was to stagger them through to early 2011...maybe as singles not doubles? Who knows?

#5 of 5 OFFLINE   Jim Peavy

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Posted July 18 2010 - 04:37 AM

Watched my copy of Gamera vs. Barugan last night and was very pleased.  A beautiful disc!  And the movie, as Todd points out in his review, was a lot better than the first (no annoying kid for one thing).

Would be terrific if Shout! could license the Heisei Gamera trilogy and release it on Bluray...!

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