The Film (4/5)
When I was a young kid, I had a hard time getting access to real hardcore horror films. The first video store I went to wouldn't rent real scary films to a kid my age, and the video store that would was still a few years up the line. What was a monster obsessed kid to do? The answer was watch anything I could catch on my local TV station before bedtime. This limited my options to the occasional old Universal horror film, and a lot of Japanese giant monster films.
It seems back then (late-80's) most TV stations saw these as a good way to fill the most Saturday Morning Cartoon weekend afternoon block, and being the obsessive freak I am I devoured them. Most of the time these were Godzilla films, he was(and still is) King of the Monsters, however, on occasion a Gamera film would be thrown on. I had always assumed at that point in time, that it was part of the same continuity as the Godzilla films, and wondered why with all the monster mash-ups there was not a single Gamera vs. Godzilla battle royale. I would be a teenager before I learned the sad truth.
Gamera, the giant monster space turtle debuted with the film Gamera: The Giant Monster in 1965, over half a decade from when Godzilla first stomped Tokyo. Gamera, is the creation of Dalei studios, who created him in response to the success of the first Godzilla. Based on this first film, it appears they were also trying to make the film more friendly for a younger audience.
Gamera: The Giant Monster opens in Antarctica, a battle in the skies between the U.S. And Japan is taking place. A Japanese cargo plane containing a nuclear payload is shot down during the firefight. The resulting crash creates an explosion so intense it awakens Gamera from his Antarctic tomb, and he is NOT a happy turtle. Gamera then splits from Anarctica and goes on a Giant Monster rampage, only stopping to make sure the occasional young child is safe from harm.
Obviously, the world's populations is none too happy with a giant space turtle destroying their cities, and they set out to stop him. Unfortunately, conventional weapons are not strong enough to stop Gamera, so 2 scientists Professor Murase and Doctor Hidaka are brought in to figure out a way to stop Gamera's rampage once and for all.
Anyone who was seen Gamera whether on TV, MST3K(I know still TV) or on home video knows that it has not been well preserved in a home video format. Well, Gamera fans, that has changed with Shout Factory's brand spanking new 2:35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Shout has done an excellent job remastering Gamera: The Giant Monster(from it's original vault elements), and while the transfer has a bit of grain, and a few lighter moments, this is the best Gamera has ever looked on home video.
Gamera is presented with it's original Japanese Mono language track. The track is good, nothing special considering it's age, but dialogue and sound effects are clear and perfectly audible.
Shout Factory! Has presented Gamera: The Giant Monster with a pretty nice, set of extras. Kicking off the set is a commentary with Japanese film expert, and Eiji Tsuburaya biographer August Ragone. The commentary is quite informative, and interesting throughout.
The other main extra is a 23 minute featurette entitled Looking Back At Gamera. This featurette features interviews with cast and crew of the Gamera films, and offers a look back at the inception of Gamera, and it's production. Finally, Shout has included a gallery of publicity stills.
Gamera: The Giant Monster is not the best film in the original Gamera series, but it is still one Hell of a good time. It is also the best Gamera has ever looked on home video up to this point. I really hope that the sales on this disc warrant it being put out on Blu-ray as well.
The extras are excellent, informative, and interesting. Shout Factory has created an all around excellent release for Gamera: The Giant Monster. It comes highly recommended to monster brats, and those looking for a good fun monster flick.