Gamera may be a friend to all children, but Judge Roman Martel is a friend to all grape popsicles.
Our review of Gamera: Ultimate Collection, Volume 2 (Blu-ray), published June 8th, 2014, is also available.
Our city is about to be destroyed by a rogue monster over 40 stories tall. Quick! Call the ginormous, jet propelled, fire-breathing turtle for help!
My first exposure to Gamera came via Mystery Science Theater 3000 and their take on Gamera vs. Barugon. It was great fun to have Joel and the bots along as a giant flying turtle and whatever-Barugon-was-supposed-to-be battled it out. Over the years, I've become more familiar with Gamera because of my favorite movie riffing show, but how would I fare against the unedited and unriffed turtle?
Facts of the Case
You might think the titles would give away the entire plot, but there is always a little more to the story than two monsters beating each other up. You have to get them together first.
In Gamera vs. Guiron, Akio (Nobuhiro Kajima) and Tom (Christopher Murphy) discover a flying saucer in a field. They board it, start messing around and then blast off. Gamera (friend to all children) pursues trying to rescue the wayward pair, but the ship speeds away guided by remote control. Landing on a mysterious planet where many adventures await, we meet the two space lovelies who seem a little too eager to help. Then there's the little problem of Guiron, an enormous monster with a blade for a head. Gamera finally achieves planetfall, but can he save the lost kiddies, or will Guiron turn him into turtle cutlets?
In Gamer vs. Jiger, the 1970 World's Fair is being held in Osaka. One of the exhibits is the bizarre statue known as The Devil's Whistle from Wester Island (as opposed to Easter Island, you see). Gamera (still friend to all children and ancient artifacts) tries to lodge a formal complaint about removing the statue, by attacking the expedition, but the humans ignore him and shuffle it off. Within moments, Jiger—a huge, vaguely prehistoric creature—erupts from the island. Gamera does his best to take him on, but this foe is powerful. Knocking our hero on his back, Jiger takes off in hot pursuit of the statue! Will Gamera be able to stop him, before the serious Ceratopsian brings the smackdown on the Fair?
When it comes to Japanese giant monster movies, the plots are all pretty much the same. Some baddie arrives, sets his sights on a big city and trashes it. The military shows up powerless to stop the threat, but your hero—in this case Gamera (friend to all children and major metropolises)—arrives to engage the beast in battle. Defeating Gamera, the villain destroys more stuff and the principal human characters are endangered. Just then, Gamera comes back for a rematch and saves the day. The real fun comes in seeing how cool the little model cities are, and what kinds of special powers the enemy possesses.
So imagine my surprise when Gamera vs. Guiron breaks from the routine and presents a totally new story. This one turns into something so bizarre that it shows Gamera truly taking his place as a daydream for little boys. That's the major difference Gamera and the Godzilla films. Gamera is aimed squarely at small children. Godzilla seems aimed at anyone who wants to enjoy a good popcorn flick with rubber monster suits.
Tom and Akio are living a dream come true. They ditch their parents and Akio's kid sister in a flying saucer, travel into space, run into Gamera (friend to all children and DVD reviewers), and then outrun him. You read that right, the boys outrun the jet propelled turtle, discover an unknown planet, tamper with alien technology, and meet hot looking alien babes…who want to eat their brains. (Hey, at that age, girls are scary!) The boys also eat doughnuts, watch Guiron dice up another monster named Gaos, and help Gamera win the day.
If I were 8 years old, watched a Gamera movie with my friend, and then went outside to play, that's pretty much the story we'd come up with. The boys are the focal point, not only for Gamera but for the aliens as well. Back on Earth, little sis is worried and tries to tell the grownups what happened, but they don't believe her. Only the clownish cop named Kon-chan (that Joel and bots refer to as CornJob because of a bad dub) is convinced that little sis saw an actual flying saucer and that Gamera will save the boys. So the only adult to be clued in to the crisis is a man who acts like a kid himself.
Then there's Guiron, the kind of monster a kid would come up with after he watched a commercial for Ginsu Knives. "He's like this lizard, but he's got a knife on his head and can shoot ninja stars! Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh!" Guiron is one tough customer. The scene where he slices the Gaos monster up is graphic, with purple blood shooting everywhere. After he kills the monster, he then proceeds to slice him like a sushi roll. It's horrific and fascinating at the same time.
Anyway, this movie was a blast. Because the story was atypical of the other Gamera movies I've seen, I found myself more interested in the outcome. Sure, I knew the boys would make it back safe, and little sis and CornJob would be vindicated for believing in Gamera, but it was fun to get there.
Gamera vs. Jiger isn't as good, because it goes back to the standard formula. What I did like was the more active role the boys—Tommy (Kelly Varis) and Hiroshi (Tsutomu Takakuwa)—play in the action. Usually, the kids are there to be saved by Gamera, and cheer him on. But in this film the boys save Gamera's life.
Jiger has some nasty powers; one of them being a deadly stinger that plants a parasite into Gamera. In a long sequence, Gamera makes his death march to the edge of a bay and then falls in. His head and forearms turn white to show his death. The boys don't give up hope. They jump into a mini-sub that Hiroshi's father (played by Kon Omura; CornJob in the last film) made for the expo. They journey inside Gamera and suddenly it's Fantastic Voyage complete with lungs and stomach acid. The boys find the parasite and destroy it, learning Jiger's weakness in the process.
Often times the kids in these movies discover the way to defeat the monster, but this one is worked into the script much cleaner than others I've seen. I also appreciate that Jiger is tough, with lots of special moves and weapons at his disposal. Gamera takes a real beating here and, even though we know he's gonna make it, there was lots of green rocket turtle blood shooting all over the screen.
I got a kick out of seeing vintage footage of the 1970 World's Fair. The buildings were so mod. There is a real sense of pride in the fair, and the story revolves around keeping Jiger from destroying the fairgrounds, thus ruining Japan's reputation, and the fun for all the people planning on attending. Stupid giant monsters ruin everything!
Shout! Factory has done a great job with these flicks. Both are presented in their original Daieiscope 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio. The images are clear and sharp, allowing the colors to pop right off the screen. Sound is Dolby 2.0 stereo for both, but its nice and clear, enabling you to sing-along with the Gamera theme song. Gamera vs. Guiron offers with three dubs: the original Japanese, a more modern English dub, and the older English dub MST3K had to work with. Gamera vs. Jiger provides two dubs, the original Japanese and English. For extras, you get a series of photo galleries for each film, showcasing movie posters and promotional stills for both foreign and domestic releases. I swear I eve saw a poster in German.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
If you enjoy Japanese monster flicks with model cities being destroyed by guys in rubber suits, than you know who you are.
Everyone else, these movies are dumb. Seriously dumb. Not a lick of reality to be found, and what passes for a story in these films is laughable. It's all kiddy stuff made for people who wanna see fake blood gush from fake looking monsters while badly dubbed people gasp in horror. That's how it breaks down. If you hate these types of films, neither of them are going to change that. My advice: stay far away from anything with Gamera in the title.
I had a good time with these movies, and so did my wife, who usually falls asleep as a defense against them. Gamera fans are going to love what they get here. For newcomers intrigued by the character, I recommend you start with Gamera, The Giant Monster; then, if you like what you see, feel free to jump into these.
Gamera is free to go, as long as he stays friends to all children. Guiron is
sentenced to 30 years working as the Ginsu knife spokes-monster. Jiger is
sentenced to portray Dodongo in The Legand of Zelda.
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Scales of Justice, Gamera Vs. Guiron
Perp Profile, Gamera Vs. Guiron
Studio: Shout! Factory
Distinguishing Marks, Gamera Vs. Guiron
• Photo Gallery
Scales of Justice, Gamera Vs. Jiger
Perp Profile, Gamera Vs. Jiger
Studio: Shout! Factory
Distinguishing Marks, Gamera Vs. Jiger
• Photo Gallery
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