Gamera Vs. Zigra
Gamera: The Super Monster
Studio: Shout! Factory
US DVD Release Date: March 15, 2011
Theatrical Release Year: 1971/1980
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 87 minutes/92 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen/1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (Japanese, English)
Gamera vs. Zigra: 2.5 out of 5
Gamera: The Super Monster: 2 out of 5
The last two Gamera films from Daiei Studios arrive from Shout! Factory as part of their collaboration with Joyplex. The timing of this DVD release came just days after the disastrous earthquake and tsunami ravaged Japan, and a review of these films, I feel, would have been in poor taste at that time.
In Gamera Vs. Zigra, a moonbase is destroyed by a spaceship resembling the Burger King crown, and heads for Earth’s oceans. Peru and Arabia are hit by magnitude 12 earthquakes, and shortly thereafter, two scientists from Japan Sea World and their two children are kidnapped by Zigra, who has been causing the earthquakes, and sends a magnitude 13 earthquake on Tokyo. The two scientists are put into a trance, but the children manage to escape with their fathers back to dry land, where they are met by a hermit (looking suspiciously like Micheal Palin’s hermit from Monty Python’s Flying Circus) in a subplot that goes nowhere fast. Apparently, Zigra (who looks like Bruce the mechanical shark from Jaws, minus the skin) is looking for a new ocean home now that his race has destroyed their own oceans on his home planet. Before Zigra is able to wreck more havoc on Earth, Gamera comes to the rescue, destroying Zigra’s spaceship and ultimately having a fish fry on the beach by incinerating Zigra with his fiery bad breath. Of all the previous Gamera films, the titular character has the least amount of screen time in this last, “original” story, and the pacing is dreadfully slow. The production values, however, are quite good, and the effects hold up to some extent, even by today’s standards.
As a last ditch effort to not only revive the Gamera franchise, but to pull the ailing Daiei Studios out of debt, Gamera: The Super Monster was released nine years later in 1980. Unfortunately, there is absolutely nothing original in this movie. The opening sequence is a direct rip-off of the opening shot from Star Wars, as the evil Zanon arrives to conquer Earth, although we never really learn why. Three space women are undercover in Japan as a pet shop owner, a teacher, and a car salesman, and they are here to protect the planet from Zanon. They befriend a young boy, Keiichi, who is a fan of the Gamera comic books, and (again never explained) has a “connection” with Gamera. Zanon then sends, one by one, monsters to attack Japan and try to defeat Gamera. This is all just filler to recycle many of the battle sequences from previous films from the series, and sadly, it never gels together. Gamera: The Super Monster often feels like a cross between a Gamera film and a bad episode of Charlie’s Angels. The film ultimately failed to connect with Japanese audiences, and forced Daiei Studios into bankruptcy months after the film was released.
Shout! Factory has provided the original Japanese language version of these films in this DVD release, which I believe is the first time they have ever been available here in the US.
Video: 3 out of 5
Gamera Vs. Zigra is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and Gamera: The Super Monster in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Although taken from new HD masters from original elements, both films have a general softness to them. Colors are also a bit soft, but compression artifacts are minimal and black levels are decent.
Audio: 3 out of 5
The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono Japanese soundtracks, encoded at 192 kbps, have very good fidelity, but don't expect them to knock your socks off. Hiss, crackle, and pops are almost non-existent, obviously cleaned up for this release.
Special Features: 2 out of 5
Since both films have been included on one disc, the special features are very minimal compared to the first Gamera DVD release from Shout! Factory. Both films include a brief Publicity Stills, consisting of international posters, lobby cards, and promotional stills, and an Behind The Scenes gallery of still photographs taken during production. Both films also include an English-dubbed soundtrack as a bonus feature. The dubs have not been restored, so I’m also assuming they have been included here at the request of fans for archival purposes. Sadly, there are no commentary tracks or liner notes to accompany the films.
Overall: 3 out of 5
Shout! Factory concludes its restored, uncut versions of the Gamera films, thanks to their licensing deal with Joyplex. The special features, though, are slim, and the films themselves are for die-hard fans only.