• Gamera: The Complete Collection (Arrow Video) Blu-ray Review Part One

    Released by: Arrow Video
    Released on: August 18th, 2020.
    Director: Noriaki Yuasa, Sandy Howard, Shigeo Tanaka, Shusuke Kaneko, Ryuta Tasaki
    Cast: Eiji Funakoshi, Albert Dekker, Kojiro Hongo, Nobuhiro Kashima, Tsutomu Takakuwa, Eiko Yanami, Mach Fumiake, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Toshiyuki Nagashima, Shinobu Nakayama, Ryo Tomioka
    Year: 1965/1966/1967/1968/1969/1970/1971/1980
    Purchase From Amazon

    Gamera: The Complete Collection – Movie Review:

    Arrow Video puts together an eight disc Blu-ray collection that compiles every single one of the popular Gamera film serious, complete with their fondly remember (in some circles, at least) compromised U.S. editions in a set loaded with extras.

    Here’s a look at the first four discs in this mammoth collection.

    Disc One – Gamera The Giant Monster:

    When this classic black and white Japanese monster mash begins, we see the United States shoot down a Russian airplane over the Arctic sea. The plane’s nuclear cargo goes down with it and the ensuing explosion awakens a giant space turtle named Gamera, who had been in a deep sleep for untold years. Unfortunately for the citizens of Japan, Gamera wakes up on the wrong side of the bed and decides to lay waste to the island nation by trashing buildings, breathing fire, and spinning around in a circle very quickly! The Japanese also soon learn that their weapons don’t seem to have any chance of stopping this massive turtle – doom seems almost certain!

    Thankfully, Japan finds hope in the form of a scientist named Doctor Eiji Hidaka (Eiji Funakoshi) and his fellow scientist, Professor Murase (Jun Humamura), who deduces that, since their weapons cannot harm this beast, that they should try to capture him and halt his rampage. To do this, they hope to lure him into the head of a trap and send him hurtling into space – a plot which they dub Plan Z. Gamera, however, will not be as easy to capture as our heroes would hope, much to the chagrin of an obnoxious kid named Toshio (Yoshiro Uchida), who is really way too into turtles for his own good.

    While this isn’t the best of the original run of Gamera films (he’d be brought back decades later for a new audience in a trilogy of films in the second half of the nineties, also included in this set) it deserves credit for introducing audiences to one of the most iconic of giant monsters. Like Godzilla before it, Gamera’s movies would be re-edited and dubbed into English (and quite poorly at that – if you’ve seen the MST3K skewering you’ll know that it was completely deserved!) for American audiences but in its pure and uncut form here, the first of the Gamera movies proves to be a fairly dark film that, much like that other monster just mentioned, plays off of Cold War era fears of nuclear destruction. Obviously inspired by Toho’s success, Daiei’s Kaiju numero uno may owe a debt to the big green thunder lizard but would eventually go on to establish its own cool mythology and carve out its own deserved place in monster movie history.

    The film’s biggest flaw is that it tries to attract a children’s audience by bringing Toshio into the storyline. He adds very little of interest to the plot and is, instead, a rather irritating character who hurts the picture far more than he could have ever possibly hoped to have helped it. What the movie does have going for it, however, is some great atmosphere and some fantastic monster attack sequences. The black and white cinematography gives the picture an eerie and almost surreal feeling in spots, and the film’s use of shadows and darkness is quite effective. The miniature work may look dated to an audience raised on CGI effects work, but for those with an appreciation for old fashioned effects work it doesn’t take much to notice how detailed and just plain cool the work done on this picture is. Gamera itself, portrayed by a guy in a rubber suit, is surprisingly fierce at times and a pretty formidable creature. And hey, we even get a sixties-ear Japanese garage band performing in one scene – somehow it all works incredibly well.

    The American version, retitled Gamera The Invincible, is also included here. This version includes additional scenes directed by Sandy Howard and it adds footage that takes place at an Alaskan military base, features an English title card and opening credits, includes a lengthy discussion between three men in a studio and some scenes with military planners and with the UN that aren’t in the Japanese original. This version runs 1:25:41 versus the Japanese original at 1:18:34.

    Disc Two - Gamera Vs. Barugon / Gamera Vs. Gyaos:

    Bigger, bolder, braver and brasher than the first black and white Gamera film, the first of many sequels, Gamera Vs. Barugon, is one of the best of the series and the first appearance of everyone’s favorite giant flying space turtle to be shot in full color. When the film begins, Gamera has been freed from the Z Plan Capsule that it was trapped in at the end of the first film. Gamera is not really too happy about what happened, so it takes out its anger on a dam that it finds when it returns to Earth. Destruction on an epic scale ensues in a fantastic opening sequence and we’re off and running.

    Meanwhile, miles and miles away, an expedition of explorer types obtain a magical opal hidden away deep in a cave in New Guinea which, when exposed to radiation, brings about the birth of the giant monster Barugon. Anyone who knows anything about giant monsters knows that they always wake up on the wrong side of bed and Barugon is no exception as he wastes no time in laying waste to a seaside installation and the surrounding town, leaving a trail of destroyed buildings and chaos in his path. From there, Barugon decides to use his ice breath to freeze a bunch of buildings and cities. When Gamera shows up, the monsters must battle it out but when Barugon freezes Gamera, it’ll be up to some of our heroes from the New Guinea expedition – namely, Keisuke Hirata (Kojiro Honga – who would turn up in future installments in the series and also prove his monster movie metal by popping up in a Daimajin film) and Karen (Kyoko Enami) – to figure out how to send Barugon back to whence he came before the monster brings about a new ice age.

    Faster paced than its predecessor and featuring considerably more monster on monster action and scenes of total destruction, Gamera Vs. Barugon is pretty great stuff. The first film hit it big at the box office and so more money and more studio resources were thrown at this sequel to ensure that lightning would in fact strike twice. It worked. The picture really benefits from the color photography and improved (and more plentiful) effects and miniature work. Barugon himself is a pretty creative beast, with a bizarre tongue that protrudes from his mouth and emits the aforementioned ice ray, not to mention his equally unusual penchant for shooting a rainbow laser out of his back. Gamera, as we already know, can spin really fast, fly, and shoot fire out of its mouth. The effects work on the film was handled by the director of the original film, Noriaki Yuasa, so they ‘fit’ really well with what was established in the regard by the first film, while the directorial efforts on this second picture were handled by Shigeo Tanaka.

    The film was recut and dubbed for American television audiences by AIP under the alternate title of War Of The Monsters. That version of the film is included on this disc as well and it runs 1:38:45 versus the 1:40:15 running time of the Japanese version. It features an American International TV card before the War Of The Monsters title, features English language opening credits and excises twelve-minutes from the Japanese cut.

    When this third film, also known as Return Of The Giant Monsters, begins in the mountains of Japan a construction company foreman named Shiro Tsutsumi (Kojiro Hongo) and his crew are in the middle of trying to build a new highway. The townsfolk who live in the area aren’t really too happy about this, though some see the opportunity to profit from selling off their land. Here we meet an older man named Kanamura (Kichijiro Ueda) and his grandson Eiichi (Naoyuki Abe). When members of the United Nations show up to check things out and discover a giant laser coming from… somewhere, Eiichi teams up with a photographer named Okabe (Shin Minatsu) to try to figure out the source. Unfortunately for Okabe, they do just that, and discover a giant flying monster dubbed Gyaos (who promptly eats the poor camera man).

    Of course, with a bad guy monster in the area, it doesn’t take long for Gamera to show up. Gamera and Gyaos throw down and take their rampage cross-country. Eiichi, on the other hand, teams up with Shiro to rally the Japanese troops in hopes of stopping both monsters from laying waste to cities and cars and trains and other assorted miniatures just begging for a good stomping!

    One of the best Gamera movies when it comes to appealing to adults and kids alike, Gamera Vs. Gyaos offers up plenty of action and set pieces of monster related destruction but also manages to tell a reasonably interesting story on top of that. Granted, the script isn’t going to wow anyone and it tends to lean towards clichés more than it doesn’t, but it creates some likeable characters and offers up some memorable situations. On top of that, while the production values don’t always shine, the rubber suit action is a kick to watch and those miniatures just begging for a good stomping? They get stomped in grand style.

    Gyaos makes for a pretty cool foe for everyone’s favorite spinning space turtle. He kind of looks like Rodan a bit too much for his own good but he’s a fun monster to watch and the fights that take place between the two beasties in this picture are definite highlights of the original Gamera film series.

    Disc Three - Gamera Vs. Viras / Gamera Vs. Guiron:

    The next feature on the disc begins by introducing us to two boy scouts, Masao (Toru Takatsuka) and his American pal Jim (Carl Craig), and their troop leader Shimada (once again played by Kojiro Hongo). The three of them are zipping around an aquarium one afternoon when the two boys somehow manage to co-opt a submarine and cruise down to the depths of the ocean. Here they discover both Gamera and a bunch of sinister space aliens who kidnap the kids and trap the space turtle in their high powered force field.

    The boys try to make their escape but there are a few different aliens to contend with first, not the least of which is Viras, a monster that looks like a giant squid with weird creepy human style eyeballs. The aliens wind up forcing Gamera into taking out Japan in trade for keeping the boys safe, but we all know you can’t keep a good turtle down – especially one who is a friend to children everywhere!

    This one is pretty ridiculous but damn if it isn’t a whole lot of fun. The aliens are pretty wacky looking, even by Japanese monster movie standards, and their base of operations appear to be giant toy balls painted in yellow and black stripes just sort of haphazardly glued together in a circle. It doesn’t really scream ‘space aliens’ but it looks neat in its own silly way. The costumes that the humanoid aliens wear are also pretty flashy and once again we get some pretty solid monster battles to add plenty of visual flair. Miniatures are trashed, Gamera flies and spins around, and plenty of people flee in terror - all the standards are here!

    There’s a few too many clips from the earlier films recycled here and at eighty-one minutes in length, including those clips, this is definitely on the short side but there’s still plenty of fun to be had with the movie. The child actors in the movie are pretty good for the most part and while it’s odd seeing a little American kid speaking Japanese, somehow it works. Outside of the aliens there are actually very few adult characters in this entry at all and here you can really see how Daiei was shifting the series towards younger viewers.

    Arrow offers viewers the choice of three different versions of Gamera Vs. Viras via seamless branching – the Japanese Theatrical Version (1:12:14), the Director's Version (1:21:17) and US Extended Version (1:30:24).

    Also known as Attack Of The Monsters, this next movie begins when a mysterious unidentified flying object lands in a field outside of Tokyo. Two curious young boys, Akio (Nobuhiro Kajima) and Tom (Christopher Murphy), set out to check out the crash site and see what exactly happened. They enter the ship and wind up taking control of the ship and piloting it on a joyride of sorts. Unfortunately, most twelve year old boys suck at driving and these two are no exception - they crash the ship on a foreign planet where they see Gyaos doing battle with a creature with a giant knife for a head named Guiron. Making matters worse for our heroes is the presence of two female aliens, Barbella and Flobella, who intend to eat their brains, steal their spaceship, and head to Earth to make all kinds of trouble.

    What Gyaos, Barbella and Flobella don't count on is the fact that Gamera is on watch and it’s not going to take any of their shit. Once again, Gamera spins around really fast, breaths some space fire, and goes on an ass kicking rampage of epic proportions!

    Okay, ignore the obnoxious kids or pretend that you live in the perfect world where the alien chicks really would have eaten their brains and enjoy the plethora of rubber suited chaos that this movie offers up in spades. Sure, the plot is dopey and ropey but what matters here are the battles and on that level this is a pretty great entry in the Gamera series. Where else in the series are you going to see a strange creature with a knife-head use that knife-head to saw off his opponent's noggin? Nowhere! While the writers seem to have gone on vacation this time around, the effects technicians and monster suited powers that be have more than made up for that, stock footage inserts be damned.

    Disc Four - Gamera Vs. Jiger / Gamera Vs. Zigra / Gamera Super Monster:

    Released in North America as Gamera Vs. Monster X, our next feature begins on a strange island somewhere in the South Pacific where the natives are irritated by the presence of a strange, noisy statue. Thankfully for them, Expo 70 is going on in Japan and some exhibitors seem keen on displaying it there for the world to see. Moving the statue proves to be a bad idea, however, as it awakens a giant lizard named Jiger who follows the exhibition crew to Tokyo to wreak death and destruction. Gamera shows up but the first round of their battle goes to Jiger when he stabs it with his tail which somehow manages to make Gamera a host for its creepy insect larva hatchlings!

    This time around, it's up to Hiroshi (Tsutomu Tawkawa) and Tommy (Cary Varis), two boys not at all unlike those seen in the last film, to pilot a mini submarine through Gamera's body (no, really!) and eliminate the parasites so that Gamera can get back to full strength and send Jiger back where he belongs.

    Not quite as insane as the last feature, this is still a movie ripe with quality monster battles and miniatures being trashed by guys in rubber suits. This entry also has the added bonus of not recycling so many clips from earlier films, though there are a few early on in the picture. Some interesting, almost documentary style footage of the actual Expo 70 occurring for real in Tokyo will interest those with an interest in for such things, though again, the child actors hired to play in this picture are pretty irritating.

    Jiger isn't quite as cool an opponent for everyone's favorite space turtle as a knife-headed beastie, but he's still a fun bad guy thanks to his unique insemination skills. This isn't the best entry in the series but it's still a fun time at the movies even if the formula was getting a bit old by this point.

    Made on a noticeably smaller budget than the Gamera movies that came before it, the next film starts off when a giant space monster named Zigra lays waste to a moon base on his way to Japan where he intends to wreak havoc on Tokyo. At a theme park called Kamogawa Sea World, a kid named Kenichi (Yasushi Sakagami) and his friend Helen (Arlene Zoellner) live with their fathers, Dr. Yosuke Ishikawa (Isamu Saeki) and Dr. Tom Wallace (Koji Fujiyama), who are employed there as scientists. When Zigra lands in the ocean near where they live, the scientists rush out to investigate where they meet Woman X (Eiko Yanami), a stone cold fox who is basically Zigra’s mouth piece. They learn that the nefarious space monster instead to take over the planet and eat people.

    After Zigra causes an earthquake, the kids decide it’s up to them to stop the monster and so they get Gamera to help and a bunch of rad monster battles ensue.

    About as goofy as they come, Gamera Vs. Zigra was obviously intended for a children’s audience and director Noriaki Yuasa plays to what kids want out of a film – light action, lots of monsters and rubber suit stomp outs, corny comedic moments and heroes their own age who they can relate to. On that level, the movie works just fine and when watched with a few younger viewers around it becomes obvious that kids will have no problem enjoying this picture. As far as adult viewers go, well, there are moments where the whole thing comes off as a glorified commercial for Kamogawa Sea World and it’s probably not a coincidence that the park is featured so prominently in the movie. The effects, however, are just as cool here as they are in Gamera movies past and if it feels toned down a bit, it’s still entertaining if you’re in the right mood for it.

    Made nine years later, 1980’s Gamera: Super Monster was once again directed by Noriaki Yuasa. Daiei had gone out of business at this point but the company that owned the rights to the Gamera series wasn’t going to let a good thing go to waste so easily. And so this film, essentially a greatest hits reel, was put together to cash in on the series’ fan base. They did, however, at least write a new story on which to hang all the recycled footage.

    Giruge (Keiko Kudo) leads a group of his fellow aliens towards Earth in a spaceship. He is intent on conquering the planet with some help from a group of evil monsters made up of Barugon, Gyaos, Viras, Giron, Jiger, and Zigra. What they don’t count on is the presence of Kilara (Mahha Fumiake – a wrestler who appeared alongside Etsuko Shiomi in The Great Chase), an alien woman who runs a pet shop and keeps her true origins a secret. She’s not alone, either – she’s got two alien lady pals around to help her: Marsha (Yaeko Kojima) and Mitan (Yoko Komatsu).

    When the monsters attack, Kilara will have to enlist the aid of a kid named Keiichi (Koichi Maeda) to get Gamera back in action – just in time to save the planet from certain doom!

    With all of the actual footage of the monsters duking it out culled from other Gamera movies, there aren’t a whole lot of surprises here. At least the story aspect of the film is original and some new effects bits show up in the form of footage of spaceships flying around and what not. That said, the whole thing is put together rather poorly, however, and while the new story is obviously a good thing at this point the writers were simply going through the motions. It’s all very predictable and hokey to a fault but at least the alien ladies are interesting and stocky Fumiake is a blast to watch, stealing pretty much every scene that she appears in.

    Gamera: The Complete Collection – Blu-ray Review:

    Arrow Video brings Gamera: The Complete Collection to Blu-ray on eight separate 50GB discs.

    Here’s the deal with the first four, with each of the movies noted below presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition:

    Gamera The Giant Monster: 17.7 GBs of space framed at 2.35.1 widescreen
    Gamera The Invincible: 18.4GBs of space framed at 2.35.1 widescreen

    Gamera Vs. Barugon: 17.3GBs of space framed at 2.35.1 widescreen
    War Of The Monsters: 12.7GBs of space framed at 2.35.1 widescreen
    Gamera Vs. Gyaos: 15GBs of space framed at 2.35.1 widescreen

    Gamera Vs. Viras: 15.7GBs of space framed at 2.35.1 widescreen
    Gamera Vs. Guiron: 18.7GBs of space framed at 2.35.1 widescreen

    Gamera Vs. Jiger: 13.3GBs of space framed at 2.35.1 widescreen
    Gamera Vs. Zigra: 14.3GBs of space framed at 2.35.1 widescreen
    Gamera Super Monster: 14.8GBs of space framed at 1.85.1 widescreen

    The original Japanese versions of the first seven movies look very nice. There’s very little print damage here at all, though grain remains visible as you’d expect it to be. The black and white first movie shows pretty solid contrast with good black levels, clean whites and a nice grey scape. The colors are handled very nicely in the follow ups, some of the bolder hues really popping at times. Detail is generally quite strong as well, and there’s a good amount of depth and texture evident here. There’s no evidence of any noise reduction or edge enhancement at all, and compression artifacts are rarely a problem.

    The US versions that are included here still look good, but do show more print damage and look a bit softer, but they’re still very respectable presentations of movies that haven’t been available in high definition before this set came along. Colors are a bit flatter and black levels less inky, but these still look more than decent.

    Gamera The Super Monster is the weakest looking of the Japanese versions, which makes sense given its origins and patchwork nature. It’s soft by nature, it looked that way on DVD and the earlier Blu-ray release as well, but if you know that going in it isn’t such a big deal, and this is still a pretty solid transfer even if some of the optical effects don’t exactly shine when under the microscope of a 1080p presentation.

    Audio options are provided for the first four discs in the set as follows:

    Gamera The Giant Monster: 24-bit DTS-HD 1.0 audio options in Japanese and English language with optional English subtitles for the Japanese version
    Gamera The Invincible: 24-bit DTS-HD English with optional English SDH

    Gamera Vs. Barugon: 24-bit DTS-HD 1.0 audio options in Japanese and English language with optional English subtitles for the both versions
    War Of The Monsters: 24-bit DTS-HD 1.0 audio in English, no subtitles.
    Gamera Vs. Gyaos: 24-bit DTS-HD 1.0 audio options in Japanese and both AIP TV and Daiei English language version with optional English subtitles for the Japanese version

    Gamera Vs. Viras: 24-bit DTS-HD 1.0 audio options in Japanese and English language with optional English subtitles for the Japanese version
    Gamera Vs. Guiron: 24-bit DTS-HD 1.0 audio options in Japanese and two different English language options (the AIP TV version and the Sandy Frank version) with optional English subtitles for the Japanese version.

    Gamera Vs. Jiger: 24-bit DTS-HD 1.0 audio options in Japanese and English language with optional English subtitles for the Japanese version
    Gamera Vs. Zigra: 24-bit DTS-HD 1.0 audio options in Japanese and English language with optional English subtitles for the Japanese version
    Gamera Super Monster: 24-bit DTS-HD 1.0 audio options in Japanese and English language with optional English subtitles for the Japanese version

    The Japanese tracks sound a little cleaner and a little clearer than the English tracks due but overall the audio here is fine. The Japanese tracks are nicely balanced and crystal clear, the English options a little less so but clearly rife with nostalgia for a lot of viewers who first saw these movies by way of one of the AIP or Sandy Frank imports.

    Disc One – Gamera The Giant Monster:

    The Japanese version of the movie includes an audio commentary by August Ragone. This is a super detailed and very information-packed talk that opens by tying the movie into the Cold War and nuclear panic political scene of the era in which it was made. He then details the different cast members that appear throughout the movie, the possible influence of the Sidney Lumet film Fail Safe, the use of American Air Force planes in the movie, the use of miniatures in the film and details about the different effects set pieces created for the movie, what scenes in the Japanese cut were removed from the U.S. version and why, the significance of Gamera being a turtle, who really came up with the idea of Gamera and the inspiration for the character, having to suspend your belief to believe that a turtle could fly, changes that were made between the screenplay and the finished film and loads, loads more.

    The disc also contains a newly filmed introduction by August Ragone that runs thirteen-minutes. Here, Ragone speaks about catching the original film in the theater as a kid before then talking about Daiei's creation on the creature in 1965 and how that came about, how Daiei decided to compete head to head with the Godzilla films with the series, who did what behind the scenes, the importance of the film to the studio, the effects work, the importance of a random flight to the decision to make a 'giant flying turtle,' creating a treatment over lunch, the contributions of the cast and crew, why he thinks Toshio is a sociopath and more!

    Remembering the Gamera Series, a twenty-three-minute archival featurette from 1991, is made up of interviews with director Noriaki Yuasa, writer Nisan Takahashi and others. It also features a look at the unmade film, Gamera Vs. Garasharp by way of storyboards and what looks like some test footage. We learn here why Gamera is a turtle, where the name came from, getting the green light from the studio, finding the director for the film, the design work that went into creating the creature, creating the suit used to bring him to life, talk of what it was like on set, problems that arose during the shoot, how the success of the film led to more films in the series, why Gamera quickly became a friend to children, coming up with various foes for Gamera to fight across the run of the series, the formula the filmmakers followed when making the movies, attempts to make the films more enjoyable for adults, why Garasharp never made it to production and details on that film that never was. Along the way, we also get some great archival clips, a look at some storyboards, a load of behind the scenes photographs and more.

    Up next is an interview with Noriaki Yuasa, filmed by Jörg Buttgereit in 2002, that runs thirteen-minutes. This talk covers his work directing the first Gamera film, competing with the Godzilla movies, the differences between the two popular series, trying to target a younger audience with the Gamera sequels, why he thinks kids love monsters so much, the messages that he tried to relay in this films, how he feels about the movies from a modern viewpoint, his thoughts on the Hesei trilogy and on Ultraman, the influence of religion on certain projects and how he feels about whether or not foreign audiences properly understand some of these films.

    The first disc also includes the Gamera Special, a two-part hour-long best-of compilation supervised by Noriaki Yuasa that was released on VHS in 1991 that is essentially a highlight reel made up of fight scenes and trailers from the first eight movies. The first part runs a half hour and opens with some text explaining how the Daiei Museum video series will quench your thirst for nostalgia before then showing off clips from the movies. The second part runs twenty-eight-minutes and follows the same formula, just showing clips from the later films in the series.

    Finishing up the extras for Gamera The Giant Monster are a five-minute alternate English credits sequence for the Sandy Frank version (in full frame) that simply uses the title Gamera, the film's original Japanese theatrical trailer, a US video promo spot and a pretty extensive still gallery.
    The disc also includes some extras for Gamera The Invincible in the form of a theatrical trailer and an option to enjoy the catchy theme song created for the movie!

    Disc Two - Gamera Vs. Barugon / Gamera Vs. Gyaos:

    Gamera Vs. Barugon gets a new audio commentary from August Ragone and Jason Varney that details the rushed production schedule put into place to take advantage of the monster boom happening in Japan at the time, the possible influence of The Pit And The Pendulum or maybe Ultra Q on the opening credits sequence, changes that were made from the screenplay to the finished picture, the different actors that populate the cast of the film, the importance of Chûji Kinoshita's score and details of his life and career, the quality of the production design featured in the picture, why humor was added to some of the monster scenes as well as why Gamera's connection to children was accentuated in the sequels despite the over the top carnage evident in some of the battle scenes and plenty more. Again, it's packed with information and quite interesting.

    Once again, we get a newly filmed introduction to the film by August Ragone that runs for eight-minutes and sees him speaking about how and why Daiei brought Gamera back for a second movie five months after the original film, the introduction of the giant lizard Barugon, the early development of the film and changes that were made on the way to the finished movie, where the inspiration for some of the ideas scene here came from, how Daiei threw more resources at this picture, notable cast members, how the kaiju boom was in full force during this period with Ultra Q and Ultraman becoming hits and kids' attraction to many of these characters.

    Arrow has also included two alternate English title sequences here, the from the minute and a half full frame AIP TV version and the two-minute Gamera Vs. Barugon sequence from the full frame Sandy Frank version.

    There are also three different Japanese trailers included for the film here, as well as an extensive image gallery.

    Extras on Gamera Vs. Gyaos start off with an audio commentary by Stuart Galbraith IV that begins by talking up the studio's decision to go all in on catering the film to kids and how they went about doing that. He also talks about where some of the exterior shots were captured, how the film sets things up very quickly, the use of cross cutting to keep the pacing tight, a singular reference in the film that goes nowhere, his visit to the set of Gamera 2 in the nineties, the way to tell when Gamera's opponents are dead when their eyes 'go out,' who did what on the effects and the use of pumped blood and matched animation in the film, effects of Japanese society of the sixties on this and some of the other movies, the contributions of the cast and crew and how some of them wound up working for the studio, budget and production details and plenty of other related topics. Galbraith does a great job here, this is a very solid track.

    August Ragone provides another newly shot introduction, this one running nine-minutes. In this talk, he goes over the American version Return Of The Giant Monsters and how he saw it on late night television as a kid. He talks about how the movie really struck a chord with him, how Daiei got the director of the original film back for this picture, the importance of Japan's kaiju boom on the series, how the film was originally going to involve a vampire, the mix of melodrama and action in the movie, how the pace of the film is geared to holds kids' attention, the morals that are snuck into the story, casting the picture and lots more.

    Also worth checking out are the full frame minute-and-a-half alternate AIP version credits sequence using the Return Of The Giant Monsters title, the seventy-seconds' worth of alternate shots of road signs created for the AIP version (presented in both 1.33.1 and 2.35.1 aspect ratio), and the five-minute full frame opening credits sequence and alternate snippets from the Sandy Frank version of the movie suing the Gamera Vs. Gaos title.

    Finishing up the extras is a Japanese trailer, a German trailer, a US TV spot, a US video promo and a still gallery.

    Disc Three - Gamera Vs. Viras / Gamera Vs. Guiron:

    A commentary on Gamera Vs. Viras by Carl Craig and Jim Cironella graces Gamera Vs. Viras that plays over the longer US Extended version that discusses how he got the role of Jim Morgan, what it was like acting alongside some of the bigger studio stars, what was shot on a set versus on location, how long it took to film, what the schedule was like, how they had to really work to keep the set warm enough to work on, the use of a real submarine in the movie, how Craig kept a scrapbook to document his experiences on the production, how the films have gone on to be very influential, budgetary restraints evident in the movie and quite a bit more.

    Once again, we get a newly filmed introduction for Viras by August Ragone, this one running eleven-minutes. There’s emphasis here on how the series had become a children’s adventure at this point, how this was the first in the series to feature Gamera fighting an alien, why Daiei decided to slash the budget on the picture despite the success of the movies that came before it, the lack of overseas sales on some of the features and how American International Pictures came to the rescue, how the film was allotted less film to be completed with, efforts of the director and producer to get as much as they could out of the budget and lots more.

    Gamera Vs. Viras – 52 Year Later is a featurette with actor Carl Craig, who played Jim Morgan in the feature, showing off his extensive collection of souvenirs and props from Gamera Vs. Viras that runs twelve-minutes. It’s pretty interesting in that you get to see some of the stuff he’s hold onto over the years including the Polaroid featured in the film, his Jet Launcher gun, a script book, a soundtrack record and a bunch of behind the scenes photographs from his archive.

    The Highlights from the G-FEST X Convention that took place in Arlington, Virginia in 2003 featurette, is an hour long piece featuring Gamera creator Noriaki Yuasa and actor Carl Craig, who were the guests of honor at the convention, that shows Yuasa exploring the convention and checking out some of the exhibits, interview clips with Craig, footage of Yuasa and Craig interacting with fans and then a good, lengthy bit that documents a few Q&A sessions that they both participated in.

    The 4th Nippon Jamboree is an amusing promotional film for the Boy Scouts of Japan directed by Yuasa in 1966 that runs just over six-minutes. Presented in Japanese with English subtitles, it’s an interesting little movie that lets western audiences see both the differences and similarities between Asian and western Boy Scout troops with plenty of footage of camping and other activities as well as clips from the Jamboree itself.

    Gamera Vs. Viras also gets a Japanese theatrical trailer, a US TV spot and a pretty large still gallery.

    Moving right along, we get a new commentary on Gamera Vs. Guiron by David Kalat that details his credentials before going on to discuss how he first saw the movie as a six-year-old kid at the drive-in, and how it changed his life. He then goes on to talk about the cast and crew and their respective contributions, the fandom that has arose around Kaiju films over the years, how the movie does and doesn't always work as a kid's movie, some of the effects work and the suits that are used in the picture, the use of call backs in the narrative, the film's budget, the debate about subtitles versus dubbed versions, how Daiei merged with Kadokawa and eventually Gamera came back in the nineties and plenty more.

    Additionally, Ragone provides an eleven-minute introduction that goes over the state of Daiei at the time the movie was made, budgetary restraints that were implemented, the involvement of AIP, how the success of Viras led to more of the same, the idea of a tenth planet and how it is used in the movie, the head shaving scene and how much extra the actor made for it, the contributions of the cast and crew involved in the picture, the dubbing that was required for the different markets the film was planned for, the importance of the film’s soundtrack and more.

    Alternate English credits are also provided for the American International version and the Sandy Frank version of the movie, as are a Japanese theatrical trailer, a US TV spot, a still gallery and a selection of images from the Neptune Media Archive Gallery (Neptune Media being the company to first distribute in the United States the original widescreen Japanese versions of the original Gamera films on home video).

    Disc Four - Gamera Vs. Jiger / Gamera Vs. Zigra / Gamera Super Monster:

    Extras for Gamera Vs. Jiger start off with a commentary from Edward L. Holland that covers how the film is often dismissed as one of the lesser films from the Gamera series of this era, the use of scenes from Gamera Vs. Gyaos in the film, the use of world famous architectural landmarks in the film, the state of Daiei films, the quality of the miniature and matte work featured in the film, how the film offered jobs to a lot of people at a time when jobs were scarce, some of the effects used in the fight scenes and the 'extensive use of gore in Gamera films' of the day and more. There’s some good information in here but so too are there stretches where Holland just sort of narrates what is happening on the screen, as well as some stretches of dead air.

    Again, August Ragone provides an introduction, this one running nine-minute and detailing the use of the Expo '70 buildings as the backdrop for the feature and the limitations that were put on the production in order to make that happen, whether or not the movie foreshadowed The Exorcist, the differences between the Daiei monsters and the Toho monsters, how the film gives us a look inside Gamera for the first time, what the cast and crew got up to on this one and more.

    We also get the alternate English credits using the Gamera Vs. Monster X title, original Japanese and German trailers, a US TV spot and a still gallery.

    Gamera Vs. Zigra gets a commentary from Sean Rhoads and Brooke McCorkle that covers the scope of the film and the state of sixties sci-fi, the use of cross-cuts between the human characters and the sea creatures in the movie and how it aligns the children with the animals, the environmental message that runs throughout the movie, how the filmmakers were able to pull off a really ambitious film on a pretty limited budget with this entry but how his is reflected in some of the sets, the use of stock footage in some areas, how the movie compares to Godzilla Vs. Hedorah, how the film came up short and needed to be padded out a bit (hence the use of the Sea World footage) and more. This is more observational than trivia/fact based, but they make some interesting points as the movie plays out even if there’s a bit of dead air towards the end of the track.

    The August Ragone introduction on this film runs just over eight-minutes and it covers the movie’s take on ecological pollution which was topical at the time, how the success of the last film was welcome at the studio that was still having financial problems, how the budget kept getting slashed and the production schedule tightened, how no one at Daiei knew how long they’d be employed for, the sets and locations used in the film and the Sea World setting and more.

    The alternate US Sandy Frank credits footage is here as well, as is a Japanese theatrical trailer, a US TV spot and a still gallery.

    The commentary on Gamera Super Monster is by Richard Pusateri who talks about how he got into Kaiju films after seeing Godzilla (the Burr version) as a kid, how he came to appreciate the hard work and craftmanship that went into the films, the difference in quality and scale between the Gamera and Godzilla movies, how he came to appreciate the Gamera series over time and how the history of Daiei played a big part in the very existence of this odd movie, the use of product placement in the film and the major role it plays in the film, what the cast and crew did in the film and how many of the cast members don't seem to have done anything else, where the different footage seen in the movie was sourced from, the ridiculousness of the plot, the strange technology put forth in the movie and lots more.

    An introduction by August Ragone running six-minutes is also here, detailing how this is basically a highlight reel of Gamera’s greatest fights, how the film was marketed at home and overseas, how the movie was marketed to children but burrows ideas from Jaws and Star Wars as well as Shane and how the movie is basically a snooze, despite having musical elements and a female pro-wrestler in it!

    Alternate English credits are included for the Gamera Super Monster 16mm version as well as the Super Monster VHS release, as well as English and Japanese theatrical trailers and a still gallery.

    Gamera: The Complete Collection – The Final Word Review:

    The first half of Arrow Video’s release of Gamera: The Complete Collection is impressive, presenting all of the original Daiei films in very nice shape and with a ridiculous amount of extra features included that do a great job of documenting their history. The inclusion of the alternate U.S. versions in nice high definition presentations is also a plus. It’s hard to imagine anyone who enjoys the older Gamera films not having a complete blast going through this ridiculously comprehensive set!

    Click on the images below for full sized Gamera Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Derrick King's Avatar
      Derrick King -
      It'll be nice to toss my almost completely unwatched Mill Creek Showa discs into the trash.