What is the Showa era? That’s a perfectly proper question for the non-geeked out fans of giant monster movies. The word gets used a lot on hardcore film freak websites. Turns out it doesn’t quite link up with the Showa period that covered the reign of Japan’s Emperor Hirohito (1926-89). The Showa era started in Japanese cinema with the arrival of Godzilla in 1954 and ends with the demise of Gamera. Gamera Vs. Zigra and Gamera: The Super Monster – Double Feature marks not only the final release of the DVD series, but the end of an era.
Gamera Vs. Zigra (1971 – 88 minutes) is essentially the last of the classic Gamera movies. A spaceship that looks like gumball machine swoops by the moon and kidnaps a female astronaut. She becomes an evil spokesperson when the UFO arrives on Earth ready to takeover the planet. For some reason the UFO abducts a small boat with Kenny, Helen and their dads. Why didn’t the alien kidnap the president of the USA or Oprah? The kids and their dads return to the aquarium to debrief the United Nations troops about Zigra. Sure the military wants to attack the alien vessel, but it’s fruitless. There’s only one hope – the mutant turtle Gamera. Luckily he arrives to protect the kids and the Earth. The battle between turtle and UFO gets interesting when the spaceship transforms into a mega-shark. The turtle’s shell gets sliced up by the shark’s dorsal fin. Will he survive? Is Earth doomed? How will two cute kids save the day? The film varies from the classical Gamera structure since it features a boy named Kenny that lacks headgear.
After producing a turtle movie every year, Gamera Vs. Zigra appeared to be the finale. What brought the end of Gamera at this point was not another intergalactic critter. The Daiei Motion Picture Company went broke. This is a shame since Gamera became a favorite of the Saturday afternoon TV fixture in America. Creature Features in the mid-70s mixed Gamera and Godzilla movies so kids could get both radioactive turtles and lizards. His legacy grew. When a solvent company bought Daiei’s holdings, they revived Gamera for another go around.
Gamera: The Super Monster (1980 – 92 minutes) wasn’t quite the comeback kids across the globe were expecting. Turns out the new owners of Daiei couldn’t spend a fortune on the turtle. Their biggest budget saver was a story that allowed them to use monster footage from the previous seven films. This is not an original idea in the genre. Godzilla’s Revenge had used this Hamburger Helper technique in 1969. There were a few minutes of Gamera footage created for the flick. The new special effects were captured on video and transferred onto film so it looks like a Krofft production. There’s animation borrowed from Star Blazers and what looks like the opening from the Japanese Soul Train. This is a joyful patch job of a movie.
A little boy gets a turtle that throws him into the middle of a major conflict. A space ship that looks like a Star Wars‘ Star Destroyer heads toward Earth. It’s coming to blow us up. Three woman known as the Spacewomen can’t save us. They need the boy so that he can connect with Gamera. He’s a friend of all children and wouldn’t turn down a plea for help. The turtle must battle his old foes such as Gyaos, Zigra, Viras, Jiger, Guiron and Barugon. Will that be enough? This is an intriguing finale to the Showa series with an unexpected ending. Do not weep since this is not the end of Showa Gamera since he’ll return in Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXI with all five of his MST3K episodes.
The video for Zigra is 2.35:1 anamorphic. Super Monster is 1.78:1 anamorphic which is odd since the old clips are shot in 2.35:1. Both transfers look exceptional. Super Monster is a major step up from the version used on the Elvira’s Movie Macabre DVD. Each movie has both the original Japanese soundtrack and the English dub. There’s English subtitles. The English dub on Super Monster doesn’t sound as good as the one for Zigra. You might consider watching this in the native tongue.
Publicity Stills includes dozens of lobby cards and posters highlighting the action of the battle with Zigra.
Behind the Scenes are four photographs of how the effects crew set up a fight scene.
Publicity Gallery are collages created to promote the film. One picture has Gamera with the battleship from Star Blazers.
Gamera Vs. Zigra and Gamera: The Super Monster – Double Feature brings to an end the Showa era of Gamera. The mutant turtle has received the ultimate tribute by having all of his original films released in their original Japanese cuts instead of pan and scan butchered TV transfers. While these final two entries are kiddie oriented, they’re still good goofy rubber monster fun. Gamera Vs. Zigra is an intense battle. Gamera: The Super Monster is a retrospective with a fresh frame for old action.
Shout! Factory presents Gamera Vs. Zigra and Gamera: The Super Monster – Double Feature. Starring: Gamera, Gyaos, Zigra, Viras, Jiger, Guiron and Barugon. DVD contents: 2 Movies on 1 DVD. Released on DVD: March 15, 2011.
Tags: Gamera, Mystery Science Theater 3000