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)
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.