Blu-ray Review: Gamera: The Complete Collection



Back in the mid-’70s, WLVI-56 in Boston was legendary for running the Creature Double Feature on Saturday afternoons. Even decades later, it’s one of those bonding shows that gets mentioned when you run into anyone who grew up in the area. The series was perfect for those who enjoyed monster movies from America or Japan. What doesn’t get talked about as much was that WLVI also ran The Creature Feature during primetime for a few years. One night while visiting my grandmother for summer vacation, I turned on the show and there was Gamera. The giant turtle breathed fire and flew through the air when jets shot out of the leg holes in his shell. It was so bizarre. Since this was the time before the internet, I was completely clueless about the creature. Was he part of the Godzilla universe like Mothra and Rodan? This was before the internet so there was no way to get a clue. I never saw Gamera in another movie during this time. Sometimes I questioned if I real saw a film with a flying turtle. It was almost like one of those fictional “at my grandmother’s house” stories. That changed in the ’90s when Mystery Science Theater 3000 not only ran the movie I saw (Gamera vs. Gyaos), but four others of his massive battles in Tokyo. He was a full fledge series like Godzilla. And it turned out there was even more Gamera to come. When the 21st Century arrived, the final three Gamera movies from the original era arrived on DVD. America also finally received the trilogy reboot directed by Shusuke Kaneko that were produced in the ’90s. Even more astounding there was a new movie made in 2006. And now all twelve of the Kiaju movies have been joined together inside one shell in Gamera: The Complete Collection.

Gamera, The Giant Monster (1965 – 78 minutes) kicked off the Shōwa period with a tale of exploration in the Artic by filmmakers wanting to meet the locals. Their trip goes off the rails when an aircraft crashes nearby and detonates a low level atomic bomb. This blast causes a prehistoric turtle to rise from the frozen wasteland. But this is not a simple unfrozen dinosaur. Gamera can breath fire and use it’s flame power to turn his shell into a flying ship. While Gamera destroys so much, he takes time out to save a little boy. This turns him into a friend to children. But military has to figure out a way to stop Gamera without blasting him into turtle soup. Even though the film was shot in the mid-60s, Daiei Film used black and white film. This give is a bit of a serious edge like the first Godzilla. The second film was a bit more adult as it avoided a cute kid character in Gamera vs. Barugon (1966 – 100 minutes). Early in the film, Gamera escapes his fate from the first film and destroys a hydroelectric dam. But then the story turns to a more human angle. A group of semi-hoodlums plan a trip to a distant island to recover a massive opal that was left in a cave by a former Japanese soldier. The native islanders warn them against going near the caves, but they won’t listen. Thing get cutthroat when the hoodlums find their prized stone. On the trip home, one of them discovers the opal is really an egg as it hatches into a massive monster called Barugon. This huge reptile can freeze things and also project rainbows that can vaporize people and other objects. The only hope for humanity is the normally destructive Gamera. But first the turtle has to defrost. While this was one of the most engrossing of the original movies, it’s lack of a kid didn’t make it as big of a hit. This would be the only Gamera film directed by Shigeo Tanaka. The studio would bring back Noriaki Yuasa who had made a hit of the original. He worked his magic with Gamera vs. Gyaos (1967 – 86 minutes). He also brought back the kid that brought out the kindness in the massive hero in a full shell. Gyaos is the villain. He’s massive flying reptile that shoots laser beams from his mouth. He’s living near a mountain and screwing up a road project. This was the Gamera film I saw as a kid so it’s my favorite of the batch. Gamera vs. Viras (1968 – 81 minutes) has the massive turtle’s brain taken over by aliens. He’s become a destructive force. The only people who can restore Gamera to his old ways are two boy scouts that are also captured by the aliens.

Gamera vs. Guiron (1969 – 82 minutes) has Gamera fight a monster with a knife on it’s head. This film is noted for allowing the turtle to bust out a few gymnastic moves including twirling around a bar. Gamera vs. Jiger (1970 – 82 minutes) has monsters arrive at the Expo ’70 in Osaka. Jiger shows up in Japan after people remove a scared statute from an island. He wants it back. Jiger is a a worthy opponent. The kids in this film have to go inside Gamera’s body to save their friend. Gamera vs. Zigra (1971 – 87 minutes) is a bit of an ecological story as Zigra is all about stopping man polluting the ocean. The two kids get chased around an aquarium by an alien woman. Sadly this would be the last true Gamera movie since Daiei Film was going broke. The studio went bankrupt before the film could be released. Gamera Super Monster (1980 – 92 minutes) came about when Daiei Film was resurrected as New Daiei. They wanted to have a Gamera film to launch, but the new place didn’t have the budget to fund a full film. So they basically created a story that had new footage of female super heroes along with clips of Gamera’s best battles from the previous films. It’s a strange film with the only new things effect-wise being a spaceship that looks like it was borrowed from Star Wars and a new Gamera model used for non-battle shots. Even though Noriaki Yuasa directed the film, it’s not his best work with the turtle.

After nearly 15 years off the screen, Gamera returned when Shusuke Kaneko brought him back with Gamera, Guardian of the Universe (1995 – 95 minutes). This would be a more adult approach to the film series. Gyaos returns as the culprit as they terrorize Tokyo. What people discover is that Gamera is there to control these nasty bird-like creatures. But can he be effective in these modern times. The Tokyodome gets trashed in the action. Gamera 2: Attack of Legion (1996 – 100 minutes) has Kaneko pit Gamera against monsters that came from outer space. They destroy Sapporo, the home of the Japense beer. Humanity once more has to hope Gamera will save us. Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris(1999 – 108 minutes) has a girl who hates Gamera and uses her psychic energy against the turtle. She does have a valid reason since the turtle squished her parents. The film is viewed as the best of the series. And it’s a fitting way to end the ’90s trilogy. You’ll want a long night to make it a Creature Triple Feature.

Gamera the Brave (2006 – 96 minutes) brought him back with director Ryuta Tasaki. A young boy has been raising a recently hatched turtle. But he learns his new pet is special since it breathes fire. This isn’t a mere turtle, but a Gamera. And the turtle needs to grow up fast and fight a monster that’s attacking nearby ships. This is almost an art house film with the tale of a young boy and his special pet. But it’s got kaiju action to keep it from being too precious. Sadly there’s been no new Gamera sightings in the 14 years since this installment was released.

Gamera might be seen as a film that tried to cash in on an audience that was loving the Godzilla movies, but Gamera: The Complete Collection goes beyond the Criterion Collection of Godzilla films released last year. Every movie in the boxset has a Japanese and English audio track (which was sadly not true for half of the Godzilla films in that boxset). They even have American International Pictures’ recut of Gamera vs. Barugon. You can watch the films as you remember them showing on the Creature Double Feature or get to explore them in their native tongue. There’s so many great bonus features for each of the Gamera movies so you get a true sense of context. If you need an excuse to stay indoors during the Pandemic, this is it. By the time you’re done watching every disc in this collection, you’ll know everything about Gamera without having to consult internet sites.

The video is 2.35:1 anamorphic for the first seven films. Gamera Super Monster & the ’90s movies are 1.85:1 anamorphic. Gamera the Brave is 2.39:1 anamorphic. All of the films look better than previous release DVDs and Blu-rays. You can see so much detail in the giant turtle suits. The audio features both the lossless original Japanese and dubbed English mono audio. You will hear a turtle roar. The movies have English subtitles

DISC ONE – Gamera The Giant Monster

Commentary by author August Ragone gets deep into the film that launched a turtle into space.

Introduction by August Ragone (13:12) has the author talk about how Toho was having success with Godzilla, Mothra and Rodan. Rival studio Daiei Film wanted to get in on the monsters stomping Tokyo business. He speaks of other science fiction films produced by the movie studio. He explains how after a failed movie about about giant rats attacking Tokyo that went bad and led the producers into working with a turtle instead.

Gammera the Invincible (85:41) is a 1080p transfer of the American theatrical version of the film, with lossless mono audio and optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. When Don Draper saw Gamera in Mad Men, this was the version. This includes the original dub and extra scenes directed by Sandy Howard. It’s kind of like what happened to Godzilla when he worked with Raymond Burr. Included with the film is the US Theatrical Trailer (1:35) and the Theme Song (4:08) by The Moons. They found have art from when the single put out by Date records was shipped out to the radio stations. The song was written by Wes Ferrell. He’s eventually work on the Partridge Family records and marry Tina Sinatra.

Remembering the Gamera Series (23:13) is an archive featurette from 1991. Director Noriaki Yuasa, writer Nisan Takahashi and others discuss the film series. The special is in Japanese with English subtitles.

Interview with Noriaki Yuasa was by Jörg Buttgereit in 2002 for his documentary Monster Island. Yuasa states that the studio wanted to makes some Godzilla money with Gamera. He mentions how the audience from the film series changed when kids began to love the turtle. For those curious, Buttergereit is also the director of Nekromantik.

Gamera Special (58:12) was a best-of compilation supervised by Noriaki Yuasa and release on VHS in 1991

Alternate English credits (5:11) are from when Sandy Frank ran the movie on TV with his water opening credits.

Original Japanese Trailer (1:58) hits the screen immediately with a fire breathing giant turtle that will attack tanks.

US Video Promo (1:03) calls Gamera an amphibian. Turtles are reptiles.

Image Gallery (12:50) has plenty of great press photos of Gamera busting stuff up.

DISC TWO – GAMERA VS. BARUGON / GAMERA VS. GYAOS

Commentary on Gamera vs. Barugon by August Ragone & Jason Varney

Introduction by August Ragone (7:57) has him talk about the sequel that was shot pretty soon after the release of the original film.

War of the Monsters (88:45) is the edit of Gamera vs. Barugon done by American International Pictures when they released the film to TV. The action is a little tighter.The film features lossless English audio

Alternate English Credits features the versions released by AIP (1:17) and Sandy Frank (2:09). Sandy’s credits feature the watery background.

Theatrical Trailers include three version of the trailer released in Japan. The first has it being double featured with Daimajin (1:13). The second and third are just for the Gamera (2:38) & (2:31).

Image Gallery (21:41) has plenty of views of the islanders and Gamera.

Comementary on Gamera vs. Gyaos by Stuart Galbraith IV

Introduction by August Ragone on Gyaos (9:12) has him talk about getting to see the film on TV for the first time. He talks how the studio wanted more Gamera fighting from the start to make it more crowd pleaser. He also explains how Gyaos is a bit like Dracula.

Alternate English Credits include the American International version (1:17) when it was retitled Return of the Giant Monsters, alternate English footage (1:10) which is signs in English and Sandy Frank’s titles (4:34) which includes the water.

Trailers include the Japanese Trailer (2:29), the German Trailer (2:18), US TV Spot (1:08) for when it was called Return of the Giant Monsters and US Video Promo (0:52) pushes the VHS.

Image Gallery (21:31) has great action art of Gyaos destroying everything.

DISC THREE – GAMERA VS. VIRAS / GAMERA VS. GUIRON

Choice of three different versions of Gamera vs. Viras via seamless branching (72-minute Theatrical Version, 81-minute Director’s Version and 90-minute US Extended Version). This is better than The Snyder Cut.

Commentary on Gamera vs. Viras by Carl Craig and Jim Cironella

Introduction from August Ragone (11:14) talks about how this film introduces the idea of aliens and making Gamera really a friend of children. He also talks about how the Gamera also changed when American International Pictures made a deal to distribute the last two films and future films. But the US studio wanted at least one American like kid in the films. They slashed the budget on the film although they slashed the running time to make it easier.

Gamera vs. Viras – 52 Years Later (12:29) has actor actor Carl Craig showing his souvenirs and props from the film. Jim Cirronella made the short. He points out the film was also called Destroy All Planets. He grew up in Japan as a military brat. He still has the Polaroid camera.

G-FEST X convention in 2003 (60:59) featuring director Noriaki Yuasa and Carl Craig at the convention that pays tribute to big monster movies. Yuasa is fascinated and honored by the displays. It’s so wonderful when Yuasa and Craig meet on the convention floor.

The 4th Nippon Jamboree (6:18) is a promotional film for the Boy Scouts of Japan directed by Yuasa in 1966. At no point do the Boy Scouts have to fight giant monsters.

Alternate English Credits (1:28) have AIP’s renaming to Destroy All Planets for when the film ran on TV.

Theatrical Trailers include the Japanese Trailer (2:32) US TV Spot (1:04) for when AIP had it as Destroy All Planets on your TV.

Image Gallery (18:11) includes the boys waving at Gamera.

Commentary on Gamera vs. Guiron by David Kalat

Introduction by August Ragone (11:25) has him explain how Gamera vs Viras was such a hit, they ended up making two more. AIP wanted more space centered stories.

Alternate English credits for AIP’s release (2:24) when it was called Attack of the Monsters and Sandy Frank (2:44) without the water background.

Trailers include the Japanese Trailer (2:13) and US TV Spot (1:04) that calls the film Attack of the Monsters.

Image Gallery (10:30) has Gamera dealing with a shell full of trouble.

Neptune Media Archive Gallery (6:40) has the VHS art from when the company put out three of the films. They put out the films in the original Japanese language and cuts.

DISC FOUR – GAMERA VS. JIGER / GAMERA VS. ZIGRA / GAMERA SUPER MONSTER

Commentary on Gamera vs. Jiger by Edward L. Holland

Introduction by August Ragone (8:39) talks about how the film was tied into the World Exhibition being held in Japan at this time. He relates the film to The Exorcist since Jiger is awoken when an idol is removed from a site.

Alternate English Credits (1:11) is from The AIP release when it was called Gamera vs. Monster X.

Original Japanese Trailer (2:20) promises monsters attacking Expo ’70.

Original German Trailer (2:15) sounds like a Werner Herzog production.

US TV Spot (1:01) has Gamera vs. Monster X destroying everything in their path. There will be death rays!

Image Gallery (20:41) has tons of photos including the AIP press pictures.

Commentary on Gamera vs. Zigra by Sean Rhoads & Brooke McCorkle

Introduction by August Ragone (8:23) has him talk about the last real Gamera film of the original run. Money issues at the studio didn’t help the film. The lack of resources was part of the film with a minimal cast. Zygra was based on the Goblin Shark.

Alternate English Credits (3:15) is the watery Sandy Frank presentation.

US Video Promo (1:01) promises Gamera will save us.

Image Gallery (15:20) lets us see the fish monster up close.

Commentary on Gamera Super Monster by Richard Pusateri

Introduction by August Ragone (6:05) sums up how it was a highlight of Gamera’s greatest fights. It was the studio trying to get one last payday out of their turtle star.

Alternate English credits include Gamera Super Monster (4:49) from 16mm and Super Monster (5:59) in VHS.

Trailers include the original Japanese Trailer (2:36) where they make it look like Star Wars with the spaceship opening and Original English Trailer (2:37) wants us to think it’s all new Gamera action.

Image galleries (7:50) shows off the new Gamera model, the space ship and the three women in capes.

DISC FIVE – GAMERA THE GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE

High Definition (1080p) transfer of Gamera the Guardian of the Universe, from a 4K restoration by Kadokawa Pictures. Original Japanese and dubbed English DTS-HD MA 5.1 and 2.0 audio, with optional English subtitles

Commentary by Matt Frank

Introduction by August Ragone (4:34) talks about how the film took viewers by surprise with a deeper and darker Gamera. The film was a box office hit and enjoyed by adults who grew up on the earlier films. He believes this launched a trilogy that was the best of the genre.

A Testimony of 15 Years: Part 1 (115:47) is the first in an epic three-part documentary interviewing cast and crew of the Heisei Trilogy. You might want to save this until after you finish all three since they go into elements from the other two films.

Interviews with director Shusuke Kaneko and SFX director Shinji Higuchi (35:48) shows off the new Gamera suits. The interviews were filmed by Jörg Buttgereit in 2002.

Interview with Shinji Higuchi (92:42) from 2001. He focuses on the on the trilogy’s special effects. Once again, you should finish watching the films first. He talks about his approach towards making the effects look so good without having the budget to the Hollywood version of Godzilla. This is in Japanese with English subtitles.

Behind the scenes (16:01) that shows Gamera tearing up stuff and interviews with the crew.

Production Announcement (5:05) from 1994. People were excited that the turtle was back.

Backstage Clip: The Legend (4:17) is behind the scenes footage.

Yubari Film Festival (6:13) is when the film played the Fantastic Adventure Film Festival in 1995. They made a snow sculpture of Gamera.

Hibiya Theater Opening Day (2:55) is when the crowds came to the first show to see the cast and crew. They sold Gamera merch in the concession stand.

Alternate English credits includes both USA (5:17) and UK (1:57) releases.

Trailers and TV Spots has both teaser trailers, the theatrical trailer, TV Spots, the US Video Trailer and the commercial for the SNES game Gayos Destruction Strategy.

Image Galleries (1:34) includes production stills, shots of the mini-Tokyo getting stomped, posters and a program

DISC SIX – GAMERA 2: ATTACK OF LEGION
High Definition (1080p) transfer of Gamera 2: Attack of Legion, from a 4K restoration by Kadokawa Pictures. Original Japanese and dubbed English DTS-HD MA 5.1 and 2.0 audio, with optional English subtitles

Commentary by Kyle Yount

Introduction by August Ragone (4:21) has him describe how the first films success allowed them to make a sequel. He points out a past Gamera star in a new role.

A Testimony of 15 Years: Part 2 (121:45) the next part of the documentary interviewing cast and crew of the Heisei Trilogy. They talk to 95 people involved in the films.

On-set footage (59:54) from the shooting of the film’s main unit and special effects filming. It’s raw video.

Behind the Scenes: SFX Footage (39:46) is the crew making the monster footage.

Production Announcement (6:34) from 1995. Even more people are excited at a second installment.

Backstage Clip: Sky (3:11) is more production footage as they work in the snow and cold.

Promotional Events (5:16) has them building cool displays inside a dome. People were excited that Gamera was back.

Hibiya Theater Opening Day (3:58) takes us back the Tokyo cinema. It’s more crowded than the year before.

Alternate English credits (1:21) included the dub voice actors listed.

“Lake Texarkana” comedic dub track was made for the ADV Filmes DVD release in 2003. It’s strange.

Comedy Dub Outtakes (3:56) are highlights of “Lake Texarkana.”

Trailers and TV Spots includes 7 trailers and a behind the scenes trailer. There’s also the US Video trailer.

Image Galleries (2:03) has 124 images.

DISC SEVEN – GAMERA 3: REVENGE OF IRIS
High Definition (1080p) transfer of Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris, from a 4K restoration by Kadokawa Pictures. Original Japanese and dubbed English DTS-HD MA 5.1 and 2.0 audio, with optional English subtitles

Commentary by Steve Ryfle & Ed Godziszewski

Introduction by August Ragone (4:14) talks about how the third entry once more upped the story and the action. He points out the cast member that was also in Kill Bill.

A Testimony of 15 Years: Part 3 (134:31) turns out to be the final part of the documentary of the Heisei Trilogy. This is a miniseries about the films.

Interview with Kaho Tsutsumi (10:47) about the DNA Tokasatsu exhibition in Tokyo, by kaiju historian Edward L. Holland. This was a big exhibit about Gamera.

Publicity Announcement (3:50) gives us another chance to see how the final part of the the trilogy was introduced to the press.

Photo Op (0:55) has director and cast talking up the film.

Backstage Clip: I Want You to Teach Me Again (4:41) is more behind the scenes highlights.

Shibuto Cine Tower Opening Day (6:00) has a massive line to see the final film. They have even more toys in the concession stand. Cast and crew introduce the film.

Deleted Scenes (10:21) includes map close ups, girls exploring the cave and no Gamera footage.

The Awakening of Irys (Remix) (37:24) is a montage of behind-the-scenes footage and work-in-progress special effects footage.

Storyboard Animation (6:08) includes the main title and monsters attacking the city.

Special Effects Outtakes (2:19) has footage of Gamera fighting a guy out of costume on the mini-Tokyo.

Comedy Dub Outtakes (3:24) has highlights of the Hillbilly version.

Alternate English credits (1:22) has the voice actors for the English dub.

Spoof commentary by “Gamera” & “Soldier No.6”

Trailer and TV Spots has 5 Theatrical trailers and the commercial for Gamera 2000 Playstation.

Image Galleries (19:21) has 117 pictures.

DISC EIGHT – GAMERA THE BRAVE
High Definition (1080p) transfer of Gamera the Brave. Original Japanese and dubbed English DTS-HD MA 5.1 and 2.0 audio, with optional English subtitles

Commentary by Keith Aiken & Bob Johnson

How to Make a Gamera Movie (37:15) is hosted by director Ryuta Tasaki. He makes it seem like a class as he go through the stages of the film’s development.

Behind The Scenes of Gamera the Brave (63:39) is an all-access on-set documentary. There’s talk with the crew and cast as they shoot various scenes.

The Men That Made Gamera (43:16) looks back at the series from start to finish, featuring interviews with cast and crew. You see how Gamera has changed over the years.

Opening Day Premiere (5:01) has cast and crew presenting the film at its first showing in 2006. They brought a giant turtle to hype the event.

Kaho’s Summer (10:02) interviews the film’s young star. they also do a photoshoot for the book that accompanied the film’s release.

Special Effects Supercut (32:32) is a montage of effects shots overseen by FX supervisor Hajime Matsumoto. They did a lot to make this film work.

Trailers and TV Spots includes 2 Teasers, a trailer and 2 TV Spots.

Image Galleries (14:50) has 90 pictures.

Hardback 130-page comic book including a full-colour reprint of the four-issue Gamera comic series originally released by Dark Horse Comics in 1996, and the first-ever English-language printing of the prequel comic The Last Hope by Matt Frank and Joshua Bugosh

Perfect-bound 80-page book including a new retrospective on the series by Patrick Macias, an archive interview with Noriaki Yuasa by David Milner, kaiju X-ray illustrations by Jolyon Yates, Fangoria set reports on the Heisei trilogy by Norman England, and a viewers’ guide to the English-dubbed versions of the films

Double-sided four-panel poster of “Gamera’s Map of Japan” in both Japanese and English. You’ll want to hang this on the wall.

Collectors’ artcards for each film, featuring new artwork by Matt Frank. These are also suitable for framing.

Arrow Video present Gamera: The Complete Collection. Directed by: Noriaki Yuasa, Shigeo Tanaka, Shusuke Kaneko & Ryuta Tasaki. Starring: Gamera, Eiji Funakoshi, Michiko Sugata, Harumi Kiritachi, Kojiro Hongo, Toru Takatsuka, Carl Craig, Nobuhiro Kajima, Christopher Murphy, Kelly Varis, Katherine Murphy, Shinobu Nakayama, Ayako Fujitani & Yukijiro Hotaru. Rated: Unrated. Boxset Contents: 12 movies on 8 Blu-ray discs. Released August 18, 2020.

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