Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

Gamera: The Giant Monster (DVD)

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
4 out of 10
Extras Rating:
7.5 out of 10
Movie Details:
View here

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Rating: Not Rated

Starring:
Eiji Funakoshi as Dr. Hidaka
Harumi Kiritachi as Kyoke Yamamoto
Junichir˘ Yamashiko as Aoyagi
Yoshiro Uchida as Toshio Sakurai
Michiko Sugata as Nobuyo Sakurai
Yoshiro Kitahara as Mr. Sakurai
Jun Hamamura as Professor Murase
Kenji Oyama as Minister of Defense
Munehiko Takada as Soviet Representative
Yoshio Yoshida as Eskimo Chief
Jun Osanai as Chidori Maru Captain
Daihachi Kita as Chidori Maru Navigator
Kazuo Mori as Chidori Maru Radioman
K˘ji Fujiyama as U.S. Arctic Base Commander
Osamu Okawa as U.S. Air Base Radar Technician

Special Features:
* A Retrospective Look at the Gamera Franchise

* Audio Commentary

* Publicity Gallery

Other Info:
Running Time: 78 Minutes

The Details:
The following is the official description of the film:

"During the height of the Cold War, East-West tensions lead to a nuclear disaster when a Soviet bomber is shot down over U.S. airspace in the Arctic! Massive radiation from the atomic explosion awakens an ancient, gargantuan creature, a long-forgotten legend of the lost continent of Atlantis: Gamera! Unleashed from its glacial tomb and proving impervious to all man-made weapons, the colossal chelonian smashes a cataclysmic swath across the globe! Can the scientists of the world, led by Dr. Hidaka (Eiji Funakoshi), find a way to stop this invincible supermonster... or is mankind doomed?

Directed by Noriaki Yuasa (who would oversee all eight of the original Gamera entries of the 1960s and 1970s) and created by the same studio that brought Zatoichi to the screen, Daieis titanic terrapin became the only true rival to Tohos King Of The Monsters. Gamera was able to hold its own at the box office and secured a place in the hearts of kaiju eiga (Japanese Monster Movie) fans around the world.

Now, for the first time on DVD, Shout! Factory presents the original Japanese version of Gamera with new English subtitles and anamorphic widescreen from an all-new HD master created from vault elements!"

"Gamera - The Giant Monster" is not rated.

Mini-Review:
I was a big Godzilla fan when I was a kid and my son has recently discovered it as well. He has become a super-fan of Godzilla and knows more of the monsters than I ever did. But I vaguely recalled a giant monster from some TV movies. I told him I remembered a monster that was a giant turtle and that it could pull in its arms and legs and fly. I was actually remembering "Gamera - The Giant Monster" which is now on DVD. In the way that "Battlestar Galactica" came along after "Star Wars," so did "Gamera" come along after "Godzilla." A competing studio wanted its own giant monster franchise and "Gamera" was the result of that. Unfortunately upon revisiting it again now, I think it's a poor substitute for "Godzilla."

While Godzilla was a cool giant dinosaur that breathed fire, this is a giant turtle. I don't care how you film it, Gamera looks pretty ridiculous walking around on two legs with a giant shell on its back. There's no way to make it look cool. And as if it didn't look silly enough walking around, in an effort to top Godzilla they made Gamera fly. When it pulls in its head and limbs and jets start shooting out, it's just mind-blowingly silly. And what does Gamera do when he starts flying? He visits all the major cities of the world before ultimately crash landing back in Tokyo. His rampage seems pretty aimless.

To make matters worse, the movie focuses on a young turtle loving kid named Toshio. Toshio inexplicably thinks that Gamera is good. As the turtle is destroying the city, roasting people alive with fire, and generally doing what giant monsters do, Toshio runs around like a madman telling people how good Gamera is and not to hurt him. It made no sense. Toshio even runs towards Gamera twice while he's rampaging and is nearly killed for his efforts. I kept expecting them to explain that Toshio had some sort of control over Gamera, but that was never shown in this movie. Maybe it is in the sequels, but it isn't here. Toshio comes across as more of a mentally impaired nuisance than a hero for children like he's supposed to be.

As for the models and special effects, they're pretty standard for that time period. They look fine for what they are, but they're not all that special. That being said, I certainly remembered Gamera from my childhood, so some aspects of it definitely stuck. Maybe that's why I can't remember birthdays and anniversaries. My memory cells are filled with Gamera trivia.

While it was fun to revisit the original Gamera, I would definitely say it was a one-off thing. I won't be watching it again anytime soon. And my son, the Godzilla fan, was appalled when he found out this movie was entirely subtitled and the soundtrack was in the original Japanese. You might want to pick up a different edition of the DVD if that's an issue for you. As for me, I'll stick with Godzilla.

As for the bonus features, you'll find an audio commentary by a Gamera expert and a retrospective featurette showing a number of the creators of the original film. This, too, is dubbed, but it is pretty interesting.

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