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"Gamera" Double Feature: One Guy in a Rubber Suit Is the Hope of All Childkind

by on April 22, 2011

One giant monster is the hope for all of Japan and the world. He’s the ally of all children, and the steadfast opponent of all aliens that would threaten them. He’s not Godzilla, he’s Gamera, the giant rocket-powered turtle, and it’s up to him to fight off the forces of Zigra, and, allied with three super heroic alien women, destroy all monsters in this two-movie set. Is it a justly forgotten legend of the seventies and eighties, or are we right in remembering the other monster that was bigger than big and taller than tall?

Gamera has always fallen by the wayside when it comes to giant monster battles. King Kong started the concept and Godzilla took it to higher scales, while the Power Rangers’ and Voltron’s weekly fights against monsters made them standard fare. Gamera took multiple trips to America, but usually at the expense of suffering at the hands of the Mystery Science Theater crew. As usually portrayed, Gamera is undeniably a hero, in comparison to the misunderstood King Kong and the anti-heroic Godzilla. Characters will constantly point out that he’s the ally of children, and that he will protect all humanity.

That’s the pattern with the two films in this double-feature release. Gamera VS. Zigra has Gamera fight off the space alien Zigra, who mind controls a woman into using his plans to turn the population of Earth into cattle for his meals. What starts off as a story of two kids being captured by the possessed woman leads to the monstrous Zigra growing uncontrollably in the ocean, which then leads to Gamera taking him out. The second movie in the set, Gamera: The Super Monster, has Gamera facing off against many enemies he’s already defeated (including Zigra), via the device of old footage interwoven with new. The ground-level plot includes three transforming super heroines attempting to fight off the evil space aliens on their own terms while Gamera fights on the larger scale.

These movies cannot be taken seriously and shouldn’t be. The fact that Mystery Science Theater covered five Gamera movies in their run says everything: This is a movie series about a guy in a giant turtle suit facing off against other guys in monster suits, using the power of rockets from his shell to fly around and attack. The Super Monster even ups the humor at times: a poster for a Godzilla movie gets knocked down in a fight, and a dream sequence places Gamera in Space Battleship Yamamoto and Galaxy Express 999. Even the poses of the three super-heroic aliens mimic Super Sentai and Kamen Rider, then taking over children’s airwaves, while their scenes of flight are inspired by Christopher Reeve’s “You will believe a man can fly” role of Superman.

The movies haven’t just been slapped onto a disc, but they don’t offer much. There’s both a Japanese language and English dub, and some publicity galleries and behind the scenes footage. And that’s it. No trailers, no Mystery Science Theater footage (despite the fact that Zigra is one of the titles they tackled), no commentaries or anything. This is a disc that you play once over the course of a bad movie night and throw on the DVD shelf, until you want to show someone the time Gamera raced the Galaxy Express 999.

Gamera is a friend to all children, and all those adult man-children who like to watch a guy in a rubber suit throw a squid monster against the ground repeatedly while little children cheer him on. There’s not much here, but the value of two different movies makes up for it. If you enjoy giant monster shenanigans, give it a go.

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