DVD Review – Gamera vs. Zigra / Gamera: Super Monster

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DVD Review – Gamera vs. Zigra / Gamera: Super Monster

Released By: Shout Factory

Release Date: March 15, 2011

Number of Discs: 1

Approximate Running Time: 179 Minutes

Special Features: Promotional materials, behind the scenes photos

Suggested Price: $19.93

The upright shark Zigra uses his ray beam on the upright turtle Gamera!

The Source: The final two films in the Daiei Studios’ original Gamera series were far from the best of the lot but still have something to offer fans of the giant flying turtle.

The Fanboy Factor: Gamera vs. Zigra is the last official Daiei Gamera film and was released in 1971 shortly before the studio went bankrupt. Unlike the earlier entries in the series (all of which except the first, Gammera the Invincible, went straight to television) it was passed over by American International Pictures and sat in limbo until the 1980’s when Sandy Frank, best known stateside for the Battle of the Planets cartoon show, purchased the rights to most of the Gamera films and gave them lackluster re-dubbings in English.

A cobweb drapped Zigra perched inside his spaceship

It is fairly obvious just a few minutes into Zigra why the usually indiscriminant AIP passed on the film. It is the weakest link in a chain that was never extremely sturdy to begin with. An alien shark like creature destroys a moon base, kidnaps an Earth woman to use as an emissary, and demands the complete surrender of Earth. Gamera comes to the rescue of both the planet and a couple of annoying children who always seem to turn up in his films. After Gamera is temporarily incapacitated by Zigra’s ray beam, he revives and saves the day. There wasn’t much new here and everything that had been done before had been done better.

I never saw women like this on the playground at my school!

Almost a decade after Daiei’s bankruptcy, the company was purchased and the Gamera film library was used for stock footage to cobble together a “new” movie titled, rather smugly, Gamera: Super Monster. In the new portions of the film, a space pirate with a ship that looks suspiciously like a left over Star Wars prop threatens Earth with a variety of monsters (queue the stock footage). A trio of leotard clad space women who are supposed to protect the Earth aren’t a whole lot of use against them until they find a young boy who can communicate with Gamera. Together they manage to defeat the monsters and destroy the alien’s ship.

The space pirate's ship looks an aweful lot like an Imperial Star Destroyer!

The Gamera film series was founded on the idea of copying Toho’s Godzilla and cashing in on some of his box office success. Why anyone would want to imitate the single least successful film in the series that almost ended it prematurely, Godzilla’s Revenge, is questionable but to do it over a decade later and poorly is just mind boggling. It would have been more entertaining if they had just edited all the old fight scenes together with some narration and called the film Gamera’s Greatest Hits! Needless to say, this blatant cash in did not sit well with fans or US distributors. It was sold directly to television in the 80’s and quietly made the rounds for a few years before disappearing.

Don't worry Gamera, I won't forget to feed you or change the water in your bowl!

The Product: Neither Gamera vs. Zigra or Gamera: Super Monster has ever been available on home video before in anything better than marginal transfers. Shout Factory improves on this with excellent looking prints and the option of listening to the original Japanese soundtrack or an English dub. Beyond that the extras, which have always been a week point with this DVD series, don’t offer much beyond a few publicity photos and behind the scenes stills.

The Bottom Line: This final two Gamera films are for completists and the curious only. Casual fans of the series can easily skip these films without missing much. For diehard fans and braver souls however, this Shout Factory DVD is the one to get if you just have to see these two entries.