It's a double does of Gamera, the colossal jet-propelled, fire-breathing turtle. In GAMERA VS. GUIRON, Gamera tries to rescue a wayward pair of kids in a flying saucer, which lands on a mysterious planet, home to an enormous monster with a blade for a head named Guiron. And, in GAMERA VS. JIGER, the 1970 World's Fair is being held in Osaka, where one of the exhibits is the bizarre statue known as The Devil's Whistle from Wester Island. Before the statue can be removed from the island, Gamera shows up to stop the expedition, but he's ignored. However, the statue was a key that kept the monster named Jiger asleep. Needless to say, Jiger wakes up pissed, and follows the statue to Osaka to wreak havoc.
Playing second banana in North America to another lizard that breathes fire (well, atomic fire, but you know what I mean), Gamera is friend to all children and doesn't get the attention that it deserves. Sure, the character was specifically created to cash in on the Godzilla craze, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have its charms, cheesy as it might be. It's just one of those childhood things that budding film fans need. And thanks to Shout! Factory, this is the first time that either of these Gamera films has been available in Region 1 in anamorphic widescreen, and in their original language.
Obviously, if you're a fan of these Japanese monster movies, you know how it is: the lame dubs, the questionable translations, the cheesy effects, the obvious guy in a rubber suit. It's all here in these two films. Yeah, it's dumb, but for those who grew up on this stuff, it's dumb fun, and still golden. It's called nostalgia, folks. Even if you're the type to be pulling a MST3K/Rifftrax-type thing on films like these, this is good fodder for that. It's really a win-win situation. Also, with these films comes a certain amount of imagination to create these monsters and their abilities, and you have to give props for that. I mean, where else could you find a monster with a frickin' knife for a head that shoots ninja stars, or a reptile-type creature that can fire quills from its face or use suction cups on its feet to grab and throw rocks?
Probably the most surprising thing about these two films is the amount of gore involved in these monster fights. I don't recall Godzilla's films involving this much monster plasma, but coming from a guy who hasn't seen that many Godzilla films or any Gamera films, it's shocking (especially since these are intended to be films for kids). In GAMERA VS. GUIRON, we're introduced to Guiron as he battles Space Gyaos (another Gamera villian). Guiron kicks Space Gyaos' ass by first deflecting a beam from Space Gyaos which cuts off Space Gyaos' leg, then Guiron starts slicing off Space Gyaos' arms as he flies by. Then, when Space Gyaos is totally defenseless, Guiron ends the battle by cutting off Space Gyaos' head and then slices up the rest of Space Gyaos' body like a sushi roll! Did I mention the purple blood spurts and flopping limbs (and head)? Yeah, it's cheesy styrofoam and rubber, but keep in mind that this was intended as a kids' film. GAMERA VS. JIGER isn't as gory, but Gamera still bleeds green and gets skewered a few times by Jiger's quills and tail.
But yeah, the cheesy violence and destruction can't hide the fact that it's a bad movie. It also doesn't make things easier when the main protagonists in each film are little kids, which was the target audience, obviously. Gamera is friend to all children, after all. Plus there are the numerous plot devices that are just plain silly (kids traveling inside Gamera via sub, anyone?), or the plotholes that are explained away by the kids themselves. Also, if you aren't a fan of these films, or a fan of riffing on these films, there's really nothing here for you, as you probably won't be drawn in to either one of these films.
Once Gamera has saved the children, and subsequently the day, you either are going to love these films or be turned off of them, entirely. Both films have all the ingredients for classic Japanese monster movies that involve people in rubber monster suits stomping/flying around Japan, people in front of rear-projected screens acting as if they're really there in front of whatever's being projected, questionable acting/dialogue and so on. Add another beer if you love this type of stuff, take away a beer if you don't.
Video: As mentioned before, both of these films are presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfers for the first time in North America, taken from high-def masters. These are gorgeous-looking films, with deep blacks, good flesh tones, and well-saturated colors. Detail is also quite nice as well, with light grain intact.
Audio: Like the video, the Dolby Digital 2.0 mono Japanese track has also been given the workover. While you shouldn't expect it to blow you away, there's good fidelity here, with the hissing and other artifacts practically non-existent. Of course, English subtitles are provided.
The big thing about this release is that you can enjoy the original hilarious dubs with these two films. GAMERA VS. GUIRON has two Dolby Digital 2.0 English dubs by AIP Productions and Sandy Frank Entertainment, while GAMERA VS. JIGER has the Dolby Digital 2.0 English dubbing by AIP Productions. All three tracks don't sound as good as their restored Japanese counterparts in terms of quality, but it's not to the point of annoyance.
Also included are a couple of Publicity Galleries for each film, consisting of onesheets and promotional stills for both foreign and domestic releases. It would've been nice to have included a documentary of sorts, but hey.
As an extra bonus, the keepcase is transparent, and Shout! Factory has supplied a nice double sided cover for you to oogle. On the inside is a adapted illustration by Shoji Otomo and Shogo Endo from An Anatomical Guide To Monsters, featuring a cut-away view of Gamera showing his organs, muscle and skeleton. This includes Gamera's various jet sacs and Uranium, oil and fire sacs (and nut sac!). Unfortunately, my copy has the UPC punched out of it, which translated into Gamera having a third of his head taken out on the other side. STOP DOING THAT, DAMMIT!
Cheesy and reeking of classic Japanese monster B-movies, GAMERA VS. GUIRON/GAMERA VS. JIGER is a fun trip back for those who remember seeing these films as kids, and a fun excuse to get drunk and laugh at the bad dubbing for those who loved MST3K's take on another Gamera film. For the rest of you who don't fall into either category and don't care for these types of films, there's nothing here to sway you. Great job nonetheless, Shout! Factory.