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Gamera: The Showa Era Blu-ray Review

“Gamera: The Showa Era” is hit-and-miss.

We all know Gamera is a glorified Godzilla rip-off, but so what? The jet power shelled creature has a great design and has become an iconic character in his own right. Strangely though, the early Gamera Showa is the polar opposite of the Godzilla Showa era. The Godzilla Showa era is filled with classics including the brilliant original. Gamera actually improved after the Showa era with the Heisei era, but that’s for another review to come. So, what all is in this set? Read on fellow Kaiju fans.

“Gamera: The Giant Monster” is the first film in the ongoing franchise. Usually the first film in the series tends to be the best but  that is not the case here. Story wise, it feels a lot like “Gojira” and has a similar tone as an atomic blast awakens Gamera (a destructive turtle seeking energy). There’s also a subplot with an annoying child named Toshio. While I appreciate the more serious tone that explores the misunderstood nature of Gamera, it all feels too much like “Gojira.” The story and plot also lack depth. Basically, it’s just a so-so Kaiju movie at best.

“Gamera Vs. Barugon” concerns an opal expedition that goes awry when the opal turns out to be an egg that hatches Barugon (a giant tongue rhino dog creature that shoots rainbows). Only Gamera can defeat this new Kaiju. This is a rather refreshing departure compared to the other films in this set as there are no kid characters. The story might not be the best and the movie does severely lack Gamera, but the titular battle does make up for the shortcomings to an extent. 

In “Gamera Vs. Gyaos,” Gamera goes head to head with arguably his most well known foe- a bird-bat creature that shoots lasers. The action is exciting, but the subplots involving a land dispute and a Toshio esque character named Eichi take the movie down a notch.

Aliens with glowing eyes! Mind controlled Gamera! Boy Scouts! A Squidward like alien! Oh my! “Gamera Vs. Viras” is an odd one that suffers from far too much stock footage clips from past movies, but the movie has camp value and some memorable moments (ala mind controlled Gamera and the tentacle head scene).

“Gamera Vs. Guiron” is easily my favorite movie on this set. The story finds 2 kidnapped kids on a spaceship bound for the planet Tera where brain hungry aliens and a knife head monster who shoots ninja stars (Guiron) reside. Can Gamera save the children and save the day? You probably know the answer to that. Anytime a Kaiju movie is not set on Earth, it’s a cause for celebration. Not only do you get more creativity with sets, models, and character designs, but you get a breather from all the Earth based stories. What appeals to me about this title so much is Guiron himself. I just love the design and the fights with Gamera. It’s pure Kaiju bliss.

“Gamera Vs. Jiger” plot: After a totem is removed, the goofy looking dinosaur esque Jiger emerges to terrorize Japan. This is a wild one. Jiger can basically levitate rocks like he’s using the force. The child characters go inside Gamera to fix his lungs “Fantastic Voyage” style. Yes, you read all that right. ‘Jiger’ certainly deserves points for deviating from the norm, but this is certainly one ridiculous movie that suffers from a poor foe in Jiger (probably the worst villain in the series).

“Gamera Vs. Zigra” is the most derivative Gamera film. It’s another story with aliens, kidnappings, and a Kaiju foe that looks like a mixture of past villains (this one resembling a shark/fish). It did make for a good “Mystery Science Theater 3000” episode though.

“Gamera: Super Monster” is always ranked as the worst Gamera and for good reason. It’s a glorified clip show movie about a group of Superwomen who need Gamera’s help to defeat Zanon. Zanon calls upon all of Gamera’s old foes to stop him. That sounds awesome, right? It’s not. All of the battles are stock footage from the past films! Add in the blatant “Star Wars” and “Wonder Woman” rip-offs and you have one big waste of potential.

Overall, these Gamera movies may not be Kaiju classics, but fans of the turtle Kaiju will be singing the theme song with glee as this set is loaded with commentaries, bonus features, and various cuts of the films along with the 8 films in hi-def. 

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 2.35:1 1080p for all except ‘Super’ which is in 1.85:1 1080p. How do they look? Some of the earlier entries are a bit on the fuzzy side although they are nice upgrades. The later sequels like ‘Jiger,’ ‘Zigra,” and ‘Super’ are a lot sharper looking.

Audio Track: Lossless Original Japanese and Dubbed English Mono. How do they sound? Whichever track you decide to go with, they are all satisfactory. 


Extras:
* Intros by August Ragone on all 8 films.
* “Gammera: The Invincible” (The American version of “Gamera: The Giant Monster”).
* “Gamera Special”- An hour best of compilation.
* Commentary on “Gamera: The Giant Monster” by August Ragone,
* Original Japanese trailer, US video promo, alternate English credits, and image gallery for “Gamera: The Giant Monster.”
* An interview with the late director Noriaki Yuasa from 2002
* “Remembering The Gamera Series”- A 1991 featurette
* Commentary by August Ragone on “Gamera: The Giant Monster,” commentary on “Gamera Vs. Barugon” by August Ragone and Jason Varney, commentary on “Gamera Vs. Gyaos” by Stuart Galbraith, commentary by Carl Craig and Jim Cirronella on “Gamera Vs. Viras,” commentary by David Kalat on “Gamera Vs. Guiron,” commentary by Edward L. Holland on “Gamera Vs. Jiger,” commentary by Sean Rhoads and Brooke McCorkle on “Gamera Vs. Zigra” and commentary on “Gamera Super Monster” by Richard Pusateri. All tracks are filled with factoids that will strengthen your knowledge about the Gamera franchise in every respect.
* “War of The Monsters”- The American cut of “Gamera Vs. Barugon.”
* Alternate english credits for ‘Barugon’ and ‘Gyaos,’ image galleries, and theatrical trailers.
* “G-Fest 2003 Highlights”- Convention footage
* “The 4th Nippon Jamboree”- A promo movie for the Boy Scouts of Japan  by Noriaki Yuasa.
* Alternate english credits for ‘Viras’ and ‘Guiron,’ theatrical trailers and image gallery.
* “Gamera Vs. Viras- 52 Years Later”- Actor Carl Craig shows off props from “Gamera Vs. Viras.”
* 3 cuts of “Gamera Vs. Viras”- theatrical, director’s and US extended
* Alternate English credits for ‘Jiger,’ ‘Zigra,’ and ‘Super,’ trailers, TV spot and image gallery

April 14, 2021 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , , , , , , ,

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