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Case Number 27458: Small Claims Court

Buy Gamera: Ultimate Collection, Volume 2 (Blu-ray) at Amazon

Gamera: Ultimate Collection, Volume 2 (Blu-ray)

Gamera Vs. Guiron
1969 // 82 Minutes // Not Rated
Gamera Vs. Jiger
1970 // 82 Minutes // Not Rated
Gamera Vs. Zigra
1971 // 88 Minutes // Not Rated
Gamera: Super Monster
1980 // 91 Minutes // Not Rated
Released by Mill Creek Entertainment
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // June 8th, 2014

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All Rise...

Judge Patrick Bromley is guardian of the universe, except on Tuesdays.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Gamera Vs. Guiron / Gamera Vs. Jiger (published September 24th, 2010) and Gamera Vs. Zigra / Gamera: Super Monster (published February 25th, 2011) are also available.

The Charge

Still guardian of the universe! Still friend of all children!

The Case

After having a ton of fun tearing through Gamera: Ultimate Collection, Volume 1, Mill Creek's excellent Blu-ray release of the first four films in the Showa Gamera cycle, I was excited to keep the party going and watch whatever came next. Good news! The remaining four Showa-produced Gamera films have been collected in Mill Creek's Gamera: Ultimate Collection, Volume 2 (Blu-ray), released the same day as Volume One. With the same low price point, all eight of the original Gamera movies can now be picked up uncut and in the correct language and aspect ratio in high def for around twenty bucks. You can't afford not to own them.

Kicking off Volume 2 is 1969's Gamera vs. Guiron (also known as Attack of the Monsters), a deliriously crazy movie that might be my favorite of the eight Gamera movies I've watched in a matter of weeks. Two boys steal a spaceship (yes) and are taken to a distant planet, where they witness an insanely bloody (of course) giant monster battle between Space Gaos and knife-headed Guiron, have their minds probed by alien women (mmm hmmm) who are also cannibals and plan to eat them (yes yes) before Gamera lands on the planet to rescue the boys (sweet) and beat some kaiju ass (YES).

By now you've stopped reading so you can run off and immediately watch Gamera vs. Guiron. I do not blame you. The movie combines the youthful sweetness of several Gamera movies (I love how often his soft spot for kids comes up in these movies and is used against him) with alien craziness and hardcore monster violence. Seriously, I got to feel like a kid watching a Saturday afternoon monster movie AND a grownup who enjoys a good, bloody horror movie (some scenes were actually cut out of broadcast TV versions for being too violent but are restored for this Blu-ray release). The movie is a blast. There is nowhere for the series to go but down from here.

Thankfully, the drop off in quality isn't too precipitous, as 1970's Gamera vs. Jiger is still a fun and satisfying giant monster throwdown. Harkening back somewhat to some of the early installments, the sixth Gamera movie finds the Japanese preparing to host the World's Fair and running into trouble with they remove an ancient statue that summons the enormous Jiger, a stegosaurus-like monster with the ability to shoot spiky quills from its body as projectile weapons. While a horrible screaming noise created by the statue's removal is driving people insane, Gamera shows up to fight Jiger, who proves to be the flying turtle's greatest challenge yet.

It's not as bull-goose-looney as Gamera vs. Guiron, but there's still a lot of fun to be had with Gamera vs. Jiger (aka Gamera vs. Monster X). The movie offers a few surprise twists (baby monsters!) and really puts Gamera through the ringer, putting the Guardian of the Universe out of commission for a stretch and forcing the usual band of stock scientists to try to devise a solution even while their ranks are being driven mad. What makes the movie most enjoyable, though, are the brawls between Gamera and Guiron, who meet on more than one occasion (as opposed to just the climactic battle that characterizes many kaiju movies). The film also boasts one of my favorite finishing moves in the series, both because it's awesome and because it carries a kind of poetic justice. Is that a spoiler? Sorry. Spoiler: Gamera wins.

Third is Gamera vs. Zigra, which returns to outer space as a race of aliens called the Zigra arrive on Earth and announce they will be taking it as their new planet, using the human population as food (making this two of the last three Gamera movies that involve cannibalism as a character motivation). When the alien ship transforms into a giant shark-like monster named Zigra (for those keeping score, the planet, the aliens and the monster are all called "Zigra"), it's up to Gamera to fly in and save the day—or, more accurately, swim in. They fight underwater is what I'm saying.

While it combines some of the elements I've enjoyed so much from the past Gamera movies, Gamera vs. Zigra shows some major signs of fatigue. Even the crazy stuff is a rehash from other movies, and the monster fights feel stiff and disappointing. I like that they take place underwater, which provides a new environment to show Gamera doing his thing, but that novelty alone isn't enough to rescue the movie from feeling slightly uninspired. The aliens and mind control stuff keep things enjoyably silly, but this was probably my least favorite of all the movies found on both Volume 1 and Volume 2.

That is, until I got to movie number eight. Closing out the set—and, with it, the Showa run of Gamera movies—is Gamera: Super Monster, which is essentially a clip reel that's been cobbled together into a feature film. Using footage of Gamera's greatest fights from the past six movies (they can't use anything from the first film, both because the turtle didn't fight any other monsters and because the black and white photography would have been a dead giveaway) shoehorned into a story in which Earth is once again under attack by aliens (this time the Zanon) and must be protected by the Spacewomen, a young boy (of course) and Gamera. Most of the movie plays out in recycled footage.

On the one hand, Gamera: Space Monster is probably the movie my five-year-old son would enjoy the most because it offers the largest amount of giant monster fighting. If he hasn't seen the last six Gamera films and has no idea that this one is just a highlight reel, why shouldn't he? It's a lot like Godzilla's Revenge in that respect (which, for the record, is my five-year old son's current favorite Godzilla movie). But if you've watched every movie on Mill Creek's two volumes of Gamera movies, this movie is a waste of time. It's a bummer that the Showa series ends on such a low note; what was once a fun and imaginative series has, by its finale, become a cheap and cynical money grab. When people mock the gaudy cheapness of these movies (and Mystery Science Theater 3000 has made something of a cottage industry out of it, devoting five separate episodes to making fun of Gamera), I suspect it's because of something like Gamera: Space Monster. It gives the Guardian of the Universe a bad name.

Now for the technical stuff. Though listed on the Blu-ray case as having 1080p transfers on all four films, a small amount of research online suggests that the transfers are actually interlaced 1080i transfers that date back a few years. Coupled with the fact that four films have been compressed onto one disc, there are some flaws in the video presentation. None of it really bothered me, though, with the exception of some terrible-looking repurposed footage on Gamera: Super Monster. Still, after years of cropped or pan-and-scan presentations, having all four movies presented in the correct widescreen aspect ratio and with very solid—though not perfect—video transfers for around $10 should leave Gamera fans with little to complain about. Like on the first set, the only audio option is a lossy mono track, but at least it's in the original Japanese (with English subtitles). No extra features have been included.

The quality of Gamera: Ultimate Collection, Volume 2 (Blu-ray) is a step down from Volume 1, but that's really the fault of the films themselves. Yes, it contains what might be my favorite film of the whole Showa run, but it also contains one mild disappointment and one full-on bummer. As a completist, I'm thankful that Mill Creek has put out all of the movies instead of just cherry-picking titles. But that means having Gamera: Super Monster as part of the set, too.

The Verdict

For pure kaiju fun on a budget, it's still worth adding to your collection.

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Scales of Justice, Gamera Vs. Guiron

Judgment: 88

Perp Profile, Gamera Vs. Guiron

Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080i)
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 82 Minutes
Release Year: 1969
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Gamera Vs. Guiron

• None

Scales of Justice, Gamera Vs. Jiger

Judgment: 80

Perp Profile, Gamera Vs. Jiger

Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080i)
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 82 Minutes
Release Year: 1970
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Gamera Vs. Jiger

• None

Scales of Justice, Gamera Vs. Zigra

Judgment: 76

Perp Profile, Gamera Vs. Zigra

Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080i)
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 1971
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Gamera Vs. Zigra

• None

Scales of Justice, Gamera: Super Monster

Judgment: 62

Perp Profile, Gamera: Super Monster

Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080i)
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 1980
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Gamera: Super Monster

• None








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