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Featured DVD Review: Gamera: Double-Feature: Gamera Vs. Zigra / Gamera: The Super Monster

March 30th, 2011

Gamera: Double-Feature: Gamera Vs. Zigra / Gamera: The Super Monster - Buy from Amazon

I would argue that the first Gamera movie, while not as good as the original Godzilla movie, was close. I would also argue that the second installment in the franchise was nearly as good as the first, perhaps even better. However, the franchise took a steep decline from there. By the time they got to Gamera Vs. Zigra / Gamera: The Super Monster, was there any quality left? Is it still entertaining for fans of the kaiju franchise? Or is this DVD only worth picking up for hardcore completists?

Gamera Vs. Zigra

In the not too distant future, mankind has built numerous bases on the moon. But at the beginning of the film a strange saucer approaches and destroys one of them. Meanwhile, back on Earth, we meet Ken and Helen, two kindergarten friend whose fathers work at the local marine park. After school, they head down to the ocean to play, and to be with their fathers, both of whom are marine biologists. They get there just in time to see the saucer crash into the ocean. The four of them head off to investigate, only to be captured. Once on board, they are told by some strange space woman about Zigra and its great advances in science and how humanity will be slaves of Zigra and raised as a food source. Fortunately, before they were captured, Gamera flew by and is there to rescue them.

Once he gets them to safety, there's a long stretch with the military trying to figure out how to stop Zigra and how to cure the space woman's hypnostare, all while the space woman tries to track down the children again. Finally, Gamera travels under the ocean to where Zigra's space ship is and beats the crap out of it. When it finally break open, it reveals Zigra's true form, a giant shark. (Or maybe it's a swordfish.) It appears Gamera has the advantage, even after Zigra grows even larger, but after Zigra uses a strange beam on Gamera, it wins round one.

Now the humans have to figure out a way to stop Zigra, or at least slow it down long enough for Gamera to regain its strength.

Of course, that's been the basic plot since the second film. Big monster attacks Japan, Gamera steps in to protect some children, Gamera is defeated, all seems lost, Gamera gets its second wind and saves the day. The design for Zigra is interesting, but it takes far too long for it to show up, while far too much of the movie is spent watching the space lady chase the two young kids.

Gamera: The Super Monster

We again start in space where a narrator explains how very big space is, and that in all that bigness, the biggest threat is from the Pirate Ship Zanon, which looks as close to an Imperial Star Destroyer as you can get without being sued. We're told their mission is to find Earth and conquer it.

Meanwhile on Earth, a trio of woman tug their ears and turn into super heroes via the power of exceptionally bad special effects. Before they can even confirm there is a threat, they are contacted and told not to resist. Resistance will only bring the destruction of the human species. They don't allow themselves to be bullied around, so its off to war. However, they've underestimated the power of these space pirates, for these pirates have the power of stock footage, I mean they have all of the monsters Gamera previously fought and they are prepared to use them in their conquest of Earth.

And if you are thinking, 'What? No new monsters, what a rip-off.' It's worse than that, as it's not just a case of reusing the old monsters, but almost all of the battles are just footage from the previous movies clumsily edited together. And when Gamera attacked the titular ship from Space Crusier Yamato, it was too much to take. It was so badly done it was embarrassing. Granted, I believe this was a dream sequence, but I can't be sure, as the boy's dreams tended to be real.

I'm not surprised this film killed the franchise for more than a decade.

The Extras

Like the previous two double-features, there are no real extras on the DVD. There are three image galleries (publicity shots for each movie, plus behind-the-scenes for Gamera Vs. Zigra). You can also choose to have the original Japanese audio or the English dub, plus there are subtitles. Of course, there are quite a few discrepancies between the English dub and the English subtitles.

The Verdict

Despite the strong start to the Gamera franchise, it ends on a really weak note. Even for kaiju fans, Gamera: The Super Monster is a huge disappointment, while Gamera Vs. Zigra is only a little better. The Double-Feature DVD is relatively inexpensive, but it is still only for hardcore completists.

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