I recently had the privilege of watching Shout! Factory’s new double feature DVD containing ‘Gamera vs. Zigra’ (1971) and ‘Gamera: Super Monster’ (1980). I’ve watched both these movies before but being able to watch these newly remastered DVD’s was a bit nostalgic. When I was a kid I used to watch Gamera and Godzilla movies almost every weekend.
These films are the last two in the Showa series of Gamera films (a series of eight movies released between 1965 and 1980). ‘Gamera vs. Zigra’ was released in 1971 by the Daiei Motion Picture Company. 9 years later, in 1980, Daiei was bought out by Tokuma Shoten who released ‘Gamera: Super Monster’.
Starting with ‘Gamera vs. Zigra’, let’s just say it is your typical Kaiju (Japanese for “strange beast”) film and should appease anyone who is a fan of the genre and era. It was directed by Noriaki Yuasa who directed seven of the eight Showa series Gamera films (including both these films) so he is in very familiar waters.
Zigra, an alien creature who looks like a goblin shark, comes down to Earth looking for food and with the intention of destroying everyone. After mind controlling a female geologist he finds on the moon, he uses her to cause a series of earthquakes around the globe. Several attempts are made to destroy Zigra but none succeed, so Gamera is called in. However, he is quickly rendered unconscious by Zigra with some form of hypnotism ray. It is up to a group of scientists to come up with a way to free Gamera so he can finish his task and save the world.
Gamera’s xylophone playing, victory dance sequence (you’ll just have to see it for yourself) and even a mock Scooby-Doo chase sequence between two children and the hypnotized geologist make this a fun movie to watch. The improved Japanese language track, typical dubbing and standard acting in this DVD release is typical of what you would find in movies of this type. If you watch and enjoy this type of movie, you’ll have no real complaints with Zigra.
‘Gamera: Super Monster’ is a film of a slightly different animal however. With Tokuma Shoten now wanting to release a Gamera movie of their own they decide to release a recap film. They take the best fight sequences from all the previous films, add some new footage of Gamera flying and give him a brand new bad guy to battle at the end.
It all sounds great a first, you get to see Gamera battle every monster he’s ever fought before all in one nice 90 minute package. However, seven battles is quite a bit to have in a normal length movie and severe cuts were made to each battle sequence to make it fit within the time constraints. Add in three silly spacewomen who are fending off Zanon’s contact on Earth and the amount of tolerance needed to truly enjoy this movie skyrockets.
The two areas of the film improved in both remastered DVD’s, the video and the new Japanese language tracks, are excellent. It’s a shame the English dubbing wasn’t improved much if at all, there is a noticeable difference between the audio qualities of the two language tracks. Also, the synchronization between the dubbing and the subtitles is off considerably in a few scenes in both movies.
Both DVD’s include a picture gallery of publicity stills (easily navigated through with your DVD remote) and Zigra has a behind the scenes gallery as well. There is a one sheet insert with the chapter listings and an inside cover showing Gamera’s anatomy which I personally found interesting.
Overall, I loved this DVD as I assume most fans of Gamera, Kaiju, and 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s monster films will as well. ‘Gamera vs. Zigra’ is the better of the two films as far as quality goes. The recap aspect of ‘Gamera: Super Monster’ makes it a nice movie to see for those new to the Gamera franchise and/or who don’t intend on going back and seeing all seven prior Showa movies.
Gamera vs. Zigra Score: 2.5/5
Gamera: Super Monster Score: 2.0/5
Disc Score: 2.0/5