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GAMERA VS. ZIGRA / GAMERA: THE...
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Reviewed by: Ammon Gilbert

Directed by: Noriaki Yuasa

Starring:
Mach Fumiake
Yaeko Kojima
Yoko Komatsu

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about
A giant, flying, fire-breathing turtle (Gamera) helps Japan fight off the biggest of monsters, including a giant alien shark thingy Zigra and a variety of other monsters from the turtleís past. All the while, Gamera is the biggest hero to 8-year-old kids everywhere and he does what it takes to save them, the environment, and the rest of Japan.
Is it good movie?
The Japanese monster movie craze started way back with GODZILLA and has been a staple genre to the countryís film industry ever since. But a giant fire-breathing lizard was just the beginning, as filmmakers saw a chance to mutate and bring any type of amphibious / reptilious creature to life for the sole purpose of stomping through and destroying cities every chance they got. Which is where Gamera was born, a larger-than-life turtle that has two reverse-saber teeth, the ability to fly, shoot fire out of his mouth, and turn into a lean, mean, spinning turtle machine! And if that alone doesnít sound awesome to you, then this double-feature from the Shout! Factory probably isnít your bag.

First up, GAMERA VS. ZIGRA (1971). A flying saucer, looking more like a flying gumball machine wearing a hat, begins wreaking havoc all over Japan. Two little kids and their dadís are abducted by the aliens then escape, warning the city of their plan. Nobody really believes them until the aliens release Zigra, a giant alien/shark hybrid that only Gamera can fight, all the while the aliens send one of their own down (in disguise as a hot chick) to kill the two kids in question.

The sequences with Gamera and Zigra fighting each other, both on land and under water, were quite entertaining and practically the definition of fun. Blow after blow the monsters fight until only one is standing and thereís something about this type of cinema that canít be beatóespecially since the monsters are quite obviously men in giant rubber suits. Iíve never seen a Gamera movie before this one and found the turtle to be one badass mofo, though where he came from or what his motivation is (besides fighting other monsters) is totally lost on me. The effects are pretty solid and thereís enough monster madness throughout to keep you entertained (rather than just one big battle at the end). When Gamera gets his groove back, thereís hell to pay!

On the negative side, the only people that seem to really care that Gamera is fighting for all of mankind and the only ones who believe in him are kids, and the kids are sort of annoying. In fact, these two kids are the filmís only real protagonists, on the run from an alien who wants them dead, and for what reasonÖ Iím not sure. Cause they know too much, I guess. I checked out this flick with English subtitles and I think a lot of the script was lost in translation as the dialog was downright silly half the timeóbut then again, that also contributed to the fun.

Then thereís GAMERA: THE SUPER MONSTER (1980), which is essentially every GAMERA movie cut together with a silly subplot involving another alien race wanting to take over the planet. This time thereís a trio of good flying aliens (disguise as hot chicks) out to protect the planet, but thereís still a little kid who a) believes in Gamera and who b) the aliens want dead.

THE SUPER MONSTER is, on some levels anyway, a more entertaining movie than ZIGRA, as every battle Gamera has ever had (including Zigra) is in THE SUPER MONSTER, meaning thereís never a dull moment, and you get to see Gamera fight a giant squid, shark, and other monsters, while also dodging the destructive nature of the aliens, whose spaceship, by the way, is shot exactly like the opening shot of STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE. In fact, itís a blatant rip-off. But I guess that adds the charm of it all, right? On the flip side, itís a sloppier film, with dumber characters, dumber sub-plots, and the dialog (this time I checked it out dubbed without subtitles) was horrendous. Could be another case of lost in translation, but Iím starting to see a pattern hereÖ But as a monster movie with lots of monsters, then THE SUPER MONSTER easily fits the bill and satisfies.

Video / Audio
Video: Gamera vs. Zigra is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen while Gamera: The Super Monster is presented in a more matted 1.85:1 widescreen. Zigra has a crisper look, but both films are as good as shape as youíd expect from the era.

Audio: Both flicks have a remastered audio in 2.0 mono with the option for an English dub or original Japanese. The dubbing is a bit muffled while the original audio track offers a crisper soundóbut you gotta read subtitles to get whatís going on.

The Extras
The only bonus material found for both movies is a Stills Gallery, featuring images from behind the scenes (doing the Gamera effects, etc.), but mostly featuring publicity stills: poster art, theater lobby art, and the like.
Last Call
You're either a fan of the Japanese monster movie--or you're not. If you dig on the likes of classic Godzilla movies or any other type of old-school monster movie where the creature is obviously a man in a rubber suite stomping around a miniature city, then you'll no-doubt be into Gamera. And the fact that Gamera is a giant flying, fire-breathing turtle makes it all the more entertaining (or downright silly, you're call). GAMERA VS. ZIGRA is a more solid film as a whole, but GAMERA: THE SUPER MONSTER offers more monster bang for your buck. The end result? A solid double-feature that offers a little bit of everything... or at least everything you could be looking for in a giant monster movie.
ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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