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

    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
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    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 second half of the collection, comprised of the beloved nineties Heisei Trilogy and the not so beloved 2006 entry.

    Disc Five - Gamera - The Guardian Of The Universe:

    The first of the three films in Shusuke Kaneko’s trilogy, 1995’s Gamera: Guardian of the Universe finds the giant turtle back in Japan. This time around, he’s been resting under the ocean off the coast of The Philippines and is only really discovered when a Japanese ship runs into what they initially believe to be an atoll, something that shouldn’t be in an area of the ocean that they know to be almost two miles deep. A few intrepid souls make landfall and start poking about and find a few odd things – tooth-shaped avatars and a strange sign that seems to have been partially buried.

    While this is going on, Japan falls prey to an attack from a trio of Gyaos monsters that wreak havoc across the country, eventually snapping Tokyo Tower in half and setting up a nest there. We’re told that Gyaos is able to reproduce asexually, which does not bode well for Japan or even the world at large. A team of scientists and some military types trick Gyaos into swooping down into a baseball stadium where they try and blind it with bright lights, but this provides only a temporary reprieve. Thankfully for all of us, what the scientists thought was an atoll was, in fact, Gamera, who has developed a psychic connection to teenaged empath Asagi (Ayako Fujitani – Steven Seagal’s daughter!), all along. Now awoken from a deep slumber, the giant, toothy, flying turtle takes flight and while the military initially attack, understandably fearing that he’s out to destroy whatever it can destroy, Gamera’s main reason for popping back into society is to take out Gyaos and save the day.

    This is a kaiju movie done right, a picture that offers us just enough in terms of what the human characters go through to provide a decent enough story, without taking the focus away from the monster battles that are obviously going to be the highlight of any giant monster movie such as this. Kaneko paces the film perfectly, building a sense of mystery early in the picture that hooks viewers pretty easily, and exploring the link between Asagi and Gamera in interesting ways as the film progresses.

    The effects work in the picture is top notch. Yeah, fine, there are some mid-nineties digital effects in here that don’t look amazing but they look decent enough to work, but it is the rubber suit action and the miniature work here that really impresses. With this film geared towards a more adult audiences than a lot of the later original run, Gamera is meaner and leaner looking than he has been in the past, and not quite the friend to small children everywhere that he morphed into as the sixties turned into the seventies. The design work here is fantastic, both Gamera and the different Gyaos monsters all look really good (never mind the fact that the Gyaos’ don’t really move their wings that much), and once they start rumbling, the movie really does fire on all cylinders.

    Disc Six - Gamera 2 - Attack Of Legion:

    In the second film, made a year later in 1996, a giant meteorite lands in the middle of Japan, wreaking havoc with a school trip. Soon enough, we and the good people of Japan come to learn that this was more than just a simple space rock, it was, in fact an alien invasions of sorts! A horde of bug-like extraterrestrials soon emerge and start causing all sorts of problems all over Japan, taking over the subways and setting up a ‘pod’ inside a building in downtown Tokyo.

    The leader of that aforementioned school trip is a science center worker named Midori Honami (Miki Mizuno). She figures out what the aliens are up to before everyone else, noting that they act like insects and operate on a sort of ‘hive mind’ mentality. Dubbed ‘Legion’ after a Biblical reference from the Book Of Matthew, there seems to be one giant monster working in conjunction with thousands of smaller ones, which, of course, means that the military is going to have a hard time getting all of this under control.

    Thankfully, Gamera is around and ready to rumble. Asagi (Ayako Fujitani, reprising her role), is still able to communicate with the giant turtle and plays her part in having him rally to the defense of both Japan and the world – but with the hordes of smaller ‘bug’ monsters working in tandem with the giant ‘bug’ monster, Gamera is going to have more than its share of work to do in order to defeat its latest foe.

    Once again teaming up director Shûsuke Kaneko and writer Kazunori Itô, this second film works on much the same level as the 1995 picture, meaning it doesn’t play down to a children’s audience and treats its subject matter pretty seriously. The movie starts off with a bang, the initial arrival of the meteorite doing a great job of setting things up, and the creature attack on the subway proving to be pretty intense, and then it slows down for a bit, focusing more on the human element (which is almost always less interesting than the monster element) for maybe a little bit longer than it needs to before then ramping things back up in a big way for the finish.

    The acting from the human cast in the movie is fine. Not remarkable, but fine. It gets the job done. There are, as in the first film, some digital effects that don’t hold up particularly well, more of them in this movie than in Guardian Of The Universe, actually, but this doesn’t take away from the greatness of the rubber suit monster battles and the fantastic miniature work used in the picture. When Gamera and big Legion go at it, it’s pretty intense and while we know the big old turtle is going to come out on top because there is another movie in the trilogy yet to go, had we not been armed with that foresight we might actually believe that Legion might come out on top. The fights are pretty intense and they don’t always go as you’d expect them to do, which goes a long way towards making this one exciting and enjoyable to watch.

    Disc Seven - Gamera 3 - Revenge Of Iris:

    Picking up pretty much right after the end of the second film, Revenge Of Iris finds Gamera sparring off against the Gyaos again. While Gamera proved in the first film that normally this wouldn’t be a problem, he finds a monkey wrench thrown into the works when he finds that they’ve teamed up with a flying giant squid with a temper problem named Iris who would love nothing more than to kick the crap out of everyone’s favorite space turtle.

    It turns out that not too long ago, Gamera accidentally squished the parents of a young girl named Ayana (Ai Maeda). Ayana then found an egg in a cave that may or may not have been haunted by demons. She believed that his egg contained a protector, and this protector turned inti Iris. Around this same time, some scientists discover some Gamera skeletons off the coast of Japan deep on the ocean floor. Ayana also found that she could focus her anger for Gamera through Iris and exact her revenge, and we’re off. Ornithologist Mayumi Nagamine (Shinobu Nakayama reprising her role) returns from the second film to help out, but the focus of this story is Ayana and her bizarre, but genuinely interesting, mission of revenge.

    It’s interesting to compare how Ayana sees Gamera in this film to how Asagi did in the last two, as he’s much more fearsome here in a lot of ways. That ties into what sets this third film apart, and that’s the stronger characterization and plot development. The story comes together very nicely and you actually begin to care about the characters as the film progresses, which is more than you can say about most Kaiju films, which are more concerned with the action and the battle scenes. This film doesn’t disappoint in those areas either and has some of the most intense fight scenes filmed, but they matter a bit more when you’re interested in the characters. Ayana is an interesting character, and as such, we want to see how this all plays out.

    Like the first two movies in the trilogy, the production values are top notch. Again, some of the digital effects do show their age but the attention to detail put into the creature design and the miniature work is fantastic and the monster battles truly epic in scope. The sound design, in this and the two earlier pictures, is also very strong, with Gamera’s shriek and the other monster noises really resonating nicely at times.

    Disc Eight - Gamera The Brave:

    Last up is 2006’s Gamera The Brave, directed by Ryuta Tasaki. This picture is a reboot, essentially doing away with Kadeko’s fantastic storytelling and starting over. We begin with a prologue in 1973 where a boy named Kousuke witnesses Gamera’s demise at the end of a particularly intense battle with its arch-foe, Gyaos.

    From here, we jump into the future thirty-years, and Kousuke (Kanji Tsuda) has become both a man and a father to young Toru (Ryo Tomioka). Together, they grieve the recent loss of Toru’s mother but the kid still retains a childlike sense of wonder. When he spots a red light flashing from a nearby island off the coastal town they live in, he winds up discovering a turtle egg on a strange glowing rock. Of course, it hatches and out pops a cute little turtle that Toru names Toto. The boy and his turtle become fast friends, lifting the kid’s spirits and eventually showing him that he can not only fly, but breathe fire as well. Toru doesn’t tell many people about this but it does let it slip to his sickly female neighbor friend, Mai (Kaho), just before she’s admitted to the hospital.

    While Toru can’t help but notice that Toto is growing at a remarkably fast pace, when a giant monster named Zedus descends upon the town, the turtle’s true identity is revealed as it turns into Gamera to hopefully save the day.

    Make no mistake, this a much kinder and gentler Gamera than we saw in the nineties movies and where Kaneko played his films towards a more mature audience, Tasaki certainly gears his picture to a more family-friendly demographic. Those looking for the darker tones of the three films that came before this one could wind up disappointed, but Gamera The Brave, despite making its titular kaiju way cuter than it needed to, is not a movie without its own certain sense of quirky charm.

    The movie is decent in the pacing department and it is very nicely shot. It’s a picture that should play well to younger kids, despite the opening prologue being maybe a bit more intense than your average family picture. The kaiju battles are well done and quite exciting but the movie does spend a good bit of its running time focusing on the bond that forms between the boy and his reptilian friend, raising tensions when young Toto is almost run over by a van in the street but upping the cute factor when we first learn that it can fly. The effects are pretty decent here and the movie benefits from some excellent cinematography and a good score.

    This one doesn’t deliver the tense action that Kaneko’s pictures did, but as a family-oriented slice of monster action, Gamera The Brave is a decent enough endeavor.

    Gamera: The Complete Collection – Blu-ray Review:

    Arrow Video brings Gamera: The Complete Collection to Blu-ray on eight separate 50GB discs. Here’s how discs five through eight shape up, with each features presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition.

    Gamera - Guardian Of The Universe: 32.3Gbs of space, framed at 1.85.1

    Gamera 2 – Attack Of Legion: 32.2Gbs of space, framed at 1.85.1

    Gamera 3 – Revenge Of Iris: 36.8GBs of space, framed at 1.85.1

    Gamera The Brave: 33.5GBs of space, framed at 2.35.1

    As to the picture quality, Arrow leaves little room for complaint here. Eagle-eyed viewers might some extremely minor compression artifacts in a couple of spots but otherwise the transfers are top notch across the board for these four films. Detail is very strong, though there are some spots where the digital effects work looks a bit soft (not due to the transfer but just the nature of the digital effects work itself). The colors in particular look fantastic here, be it the orange glow of Gamera’s ray or just a simple sunset in the background, the hues are all reproduced really nicely. We also very strong black levels in each of the four movies, all while avoiding any obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement issues.

    Audio options are provided for the films in the set as follows:

    Gamera - Guardian Of The Universe: 24-bit DTS-HD 5.1 tracks in Japanese and US dubbed English, 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo tracks in Japanese, US dubbed English and UK dubbed English. Subtitles provided in English.

    Gamera 2 – Attack Of Legion: 24-bit DTS-HD 5.1 tracks in Japanese and English, 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo tracks in Japanese and English. Subtitles provided in English.

    Gamera 3 – Revenge Of Iris: 24-bit DTS-HD 5.1 tracks in Japanese and English, 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo tracks in Japanese and English. Subtitles provided in English.

    Gamera The Brave: 24-bit DTS-HD 5.1 tracks in Japanese and English, 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo tracks in Japanese and English. Subtitles provided in English.

    If you’ve got the home theater system to handle it, the DTS-HD 5.1 tracks are the way to go here, ideally in Japanese as while the audio quality of the English dubs is just fine, they are clearly just that – dubs – and the films play better in their native language. The 5.1 mixes do an excellent job of really bringing you into the action and fight scenes, using the rear channels very effectively to relay the sounds of explosions, crumbling buildings and other effects to create a genuinely immersive listening experience. There’s also a lot of really impressive depth to each one of the film’s scores. The levels remain properly balanced throughout and there are no issues with any hiss or distortion at all. All four of these movies sound excellent/

    Disc Five - Gamera - The Guardian Of The Universe:

    Extras start off with a new audio commentary by comic book artist/writer Matt Frank (who did the IDW Godzilla comics as well as the artwork for this boxed set) that goes into all sorts of detail about why there’s a Toho logo the opens the film, what sets this film apart from the other Gamera films and how the reboot came to happen, how the Dark Horse comic book series and G-Fan magazines alerted him to the movie, who did what behind the scenes, the contributions of the cast and crew, the trickiness of Daiei’s history, Shusuke Kaneko’s background and his own love of horror and monster movies and how he wanted to make a monster movie that was scary, the film’s connection to some of the Kamen Rider projects, the significance of the original Japanese title for the film, the effects featured in the picture and what was involved in making the ‘dismembered baby Gyaos’ props, some of the genre clichés that the movie embraces, the biology of the Gyaos’ laser beam, translation specifics, the use of violence in the film, thoughts on the score used in the film and more. This is a very enthusiastic commentary with a lot of information in it, a mix of trivia and detail as well as opinion and personal feelings on the project and it’s quite a bit of fun.

    A newly filmed introduction by August Ragone runs for five-minutes and talks about how this film took things in a completely different direction, raised the bar for kaiju films and 'beat Godzilla at his own game.' He covers how Toho had no competition until Gamera came back, the marketing of the film at home and overseas, and how it proved to be a commercial and critical success after originally being conceived as a sixty-minute children's film until it was tweaked into what it is now.

    This disc also includes part one of A Testimony Of 15 Years, the first segment of a three-part documentary interviewing cast and crew of the Heisei Trilogy. This segment runs and hour and fifty-six-minutes and, as you can imagine given that running time, it’s insanely comprehensive. They interview ninety-five people over the course of the three parts, this segment including talks with actors stuntmen, animatronics technicians, designers, model makers, line producers, art directors, the SFX cinematographer, video effects technician, a script supervisor, a lighting technician, writers, producers, the composer, the first recording assistant, the first assistant director, a matte artist and, of course, director Shusuke Kaneko.

    We learn about the difficulties of getting the suit right and making sure the actor could breath, what went into creating the miniature sets, the stunts that were required on the shoot, how eager the staff was to bring their A-game to this project, how helpful local residents were during filming, filming the effects work, the uniqueness of the storylines in the three films, analogue versus digital effects work, storyboarding the film, the involvement of the different studios, scoring the film and loads more. There's also a ton of fantastic behind the scenes footage included here as well, in addition to archival clips, test footage and animatronic footage included here that's very interesting to see.

    Up next are thirty-five-minutes’ worth of Interviews with director Shusuke Kaneko and SFX director Shinji Higuchi, filmed by Jörg Buttgereit in 2002. These talks cover Kaneko's thoughts on the character of Gamera, how his female friends reacted to monster movies over the years as well as how his son and daughter have, how Japan's geography and history affects these movies and the Japanese peoples' feelings towards the military, differences between what Japanese audiences want versus American audiences, attempts to make the films as realistic as possible, the human drama in the movies, working on Gamera and Godzilla projects, using the film medium as a source of expression and more. Higuchi talks about the tradition behind the costumes, how some of the suits differ and why, what some of the creatures created for the movies actually do, how uncomfortable it can be wearing the suits, how hard it is to get a perfect take when using rubber suits, the advent of digital technology and its effect on monster movies, cultural specifics that effect the work he does, making the monsters cute in a specific sort of way, working within the studio system and more.

    The disc also contains an extended ninety-two-minute interview with Shinji Higuchi from 2001, focusing on the trilogy's special effects. He talks about working with Hirokatsu Kihara (who also shows up in this piece - they basically interview each other here) and how he analyzes things in a different way than he does, wanting to understand how a monster feels before a fight, what it was like on set, the techniques that the two men use in their work on these films, the schedules they had to deal with, practical vs. CGI effects work, what made the costumes different this time around, the use of explosions in the film, the decision to use Tokyo Tower as a location, camera placement and its role in all of this and plenty more. There's a lot of great behind the scenes footage in this piece as well that's quite interesting.

    The aptly titled Behind The Scenes featurette is a sixteen-minute piece shot during the film's production that start off by showing Gamera attacking the stadium and how that scene was done. There's a lot of great footage in here as well as interviews with the effects crew, director and cast members. It's interesting in this piece to see how the rubber suit actors are trained and directed to act like monsters, rather than just people in suits.

    Production Announcement is a five-minute clip shot on April 25th, 1994 documenting Daiei Studios' official announcement that Gamera - Guardian Of The Universe was happening. Here we see what is, essentially, a quick press conference with studio executives talking about the history of the character and the new direction they intend to take the series in with this film.

    Backstage Clip: The Legend is simply a compilation of behind the scenes footage set to music that runs four-minutes, most of which is set around shooting the school girls at the aquarium, the scene that takes place on the wooden rope bridge, some of the scenes with the army and the military higher ups and the film's finale.

    The Yubari Film Festival segment is is six-minute clip from the February, 1995 installment of the Fantastic Adventure Film Festival where the filmmakers travel by train to the event and 'unveil' the film to a very enthusiastic audience and engage in a quick Q&A session.

    Hibiya Theater Opening Day is a three-minute segment that documents the cast and crew presenting the film on its opening day at the Hibiya Theater in Tokyo on March 11th, 1995, giving a quick speech before the movie plays.

    Rounding out the extra are alternate US and UK end credits sequences, two teaser trailers, a theatrical trailer, a few TV spots, a US video trailer, an awesome Gyaos Destruction Strategy SNES game commercial and a still gallery.

    Disc Six - Gamera 2 - Attack Of Legion:

    A commentary by Kyle Yount, the host of a podcast called The Kaijucast and webmaster for The Shrine Of Gamera, kicks off the extras for this disc. He talks about how this particular film was the one that got him motivated to start a website about the Gamera series, what kaiju actually mean, the alternate titles for the film, the picture’s budget and release history, the use of dramatic reveals in the film, connections to the Gamera – Guardian Of The Universe, whether or not Kaneko was directing for children or not, the movie’s connection to Nikkatsu’s pink movies, how and why Kaneko decided to come back for two more Gamera films, the locations featured in the movie, details on the different cast and crew members that worked on the picture, the effects work showcased in the picture, the home video releases of the Gamera films that have happened by way of companies like ADV and some of the marketing tactics they used and a whole lot of other topics related to the movie and Gamera in general. Again, this is a very enthusiastic talk packed with information and very much worth taking the time to listen to.

    The "Lake Texarkana" comedic dub track is a 'tongue-in-cheek "hillbilly" redub of the film recorded by ADV and included on the 2003 DVD release of the movie. With this option enabled you get to watch the movie using Arrow’s video presentation but with that older, and very goofy, joke track overtop of it. It’s funny for about thirty-seconds and then it starts to get pretty old, pretty fast but better to have it included here for those who want than to not.

    The newly filmed introduction by August Ragone for this entry in the set runs four-minutes and it covers how the producers wanted to cash in on the success of the first movie and gave the filmmakers a bigger budget to work with this time around. He covers the monster design work, ties the film into Mad Max: Fury Road, covers the characters that return from the first film, gives us some info on the leads and more.

    A Testimony of 15 Years: Part 2 is, as you’d likely have guess, the next part of the documentary trilogy that interviews the cast and crew of the Heisei Trilogy. This, over the span of two-hours-and-two-minutes, we hear from the action scripter, a digital FX animator, assistant FX director, an SFX photographer, a story photographer, an assistant editor, the head prop-maker, the sound effects assistant, the film promoter, an SFX photography assistant, the SFX art assistant, the Gyaos 3-D animator, the giant Legion rear monster assistant, the CGI director, the producer, the assistant story editor, the giant Legion and Iris modeler, the SFX equipment handler, the story scripter, the digital effects technical coordinator, a 3-D animator, the assistant modeler, the story props and set designer, the head story photography assistant, the monster modelling assistant, the story lighting assistant, the Giant Legion rear actor, the photographic effects creator, another producer, a special effects equipment crew member, the assistant action director and the story and action practical effects assistant.

    This piece covers the action sequences, changes in technology allowing them to do more ambitious set pieces than those that were seen in the first movie, how the films were a milestone in the career of many who worked on it, how hard the art department worked on the pictures, editing the pictures, the sets and locations used in the movies, selling the film to the public and how Toho wound up involved, what it's like to be inside a rubber suit, what it was like on set, giving the monsters their own unique look, competing with the Godzilla pictures of the time, lighting specific sequences, working with Kaneko and loads more. Like with the first part, this second part also includes a bunch of behind the scenes footage, archival clips, footage from promotional events, press conference clips, green screen footage and clips from the features.

    The Behind The Scenes: Production Footage segment is an hour long piece that looks at the ‘main unit’ footage being shot. It’s done pretty much entirely fly-on-the-wall style but it gives us a look at the use of tanks and military vehicles in the film, Kaneko’s directing style, how the cast and crew responded on set, the trickiness of shooting a large scale evacuation scene, how the subway sequence was put together, how the weather affected the crew, how makeup was applied on set, how some of the stunts were shot, how onlookers were occasionally disappointed not to see Gamera show up and how some of the bigger set pieces from the movie were constructed. We also get to see the cast and crew celebrate with a drink when it’s all over!

    In the forty-minute Behind The Scenes: SFX Footage featurette we get to see the special effects unit crew shooting footage after the main part of the production had wrapped. In this piece we get a look at the suit actors getting into their costumes and testing them out before photography begins, some green screen work, some of the animatronic work required, shooting and staging some of the battle scenes in and around the miniature sets, the trickiness of using real fire on set, how they create the illusion of wind and smoke during key scenes and more.

    The Production Announcement featurette is a selection of seven-minutes’ of footage from press conference from November 27th, 1995 where the Daiei Studios executives announce that start of production on the second film in the trilogy, touting how this isn’t just about Gamera but about Japanese theaters taking another look at showing more Japanese films with more talk about the imagination required to bring these movies to life and more, with a red carpet photo op taking place afterwards.

    Backstage Clip: Sky is a collection of behind the scenes footage set to music that runs three-minutes and shows off a random assemblage of footage from the shoot that shows the cast and crew trying to keep warm, occasionally goofing off and having fun, getting suited up to play different monsters, staging the subway attack and putting together a few key scenes from the movie. Finished clips from the feature are edited into this to give a bit of a 'before and after' look at the making of the movie.

    The Promotional Events section offers up five-minutes of footage from the Toshi Expo Dome from July 20th through August 18th, 1996 and from the Science Museum from July 24th through August 1st, 1996 that shows a miniature city being built to show off the Gamera effects work and a Gamera World exhibit. There's also footage from August 6th through the 19th, 1996 that shows off the Great Gamera Exhibit that was set up at the Tenmaya, Fukuyama Branch.

    Hibiya Theater Opening Day is a four-minute clip shot on July 13th, 1996 at the Hibiya Theater, in Tokyo, where the fiml had its opening day. There are quick speeches before the premiere with the cast and crew, all of whom speak about the importance of the film.

    Finishing up the extras on this disc are some additional English language closing credits, four-minutes of comedy dub outtakes, a behind the scenes trailer, two 'special' trailers, five theatrical trailers, a few TV spots and a US video trailer and a still gallery

    Disc Seven - Gamera 3 - Revenge Of Iris:

    Supplements for Revenge Of Iris begin with a new audio commentary by Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski, who talk about the three year gap between this film and the last, how this picture got started, Kazunori Itô's memories of writing the picture and teaming up with Shûsuke Kaneko for a third time, the use of Gyaos to start off the trilogy, how the stories evolved over the years as the productions got underway, casting the film and where we might recognize some of the actors from as well as Kaneko’s eye for choosing the right actors for these movies, the visual approach to the cinematography in the movie, how this movie like the first one toys with Gamera’s origins, how impressive the effects and miniature work are in the movie, the specific way in which tentacles are used in the movie to keep things safe, the way that these movies differ in their portrayal of the military compared to the Godzilla films of the nineties as well as the military technology shown in the picture and pretty much everything else you would expect them to. It’s a very detailed and interesting track.

    The disc also contains a ‘spoof commentary’ that is done Cameron Beecham III (who speaks with a distinguished British accent), the actor who has ‘played Gamera for thirty-seven-years,’ European actress Iris Vanderwall and a guy named Ralph, moderated by Kyle Jones, recorded for and carried over from the ADV DVD release of the movie. It’s moderately amusing for about five-minutes but try and make it through just under two-hours of this, it isn’t easy.

    The newly filmed introduction from Ragone on this disc runs four-minutes and it covers the film's release history, bringing the saga to a new level, what sets it apart from the two films that came before it, the different creatures that populate this movie and the family-aspect of the story, the casting of the film and more.

    A Testimony Of 15 Years: Part 3 is the two-hour-and-fifteen-minute conclusion that interviews, a practical effects technician, the visual effects supervisor, the location bus driver, the audio recording technician, the set decorator, the second assistant director, the prop master, the special effects lighting engineer, the assistant editor, the monster modeler, the SFX puppetry assistant, the actor who played Gamera in the suit, the SFX editor, the assistant director, the kaiju designer, the CGI animator, the VFX supervisor, another one of the Gamera suit actors, a few more SFX technicians and assistants, the lighting assistant, the third assistant directors, the head SFX photographer, the Iris modeler, the line producer, the second assistant director and quite a few others.

    The talks cover working on Gamera and properties like Ultraman , the effects work, working with the cast, locations, creating sound effects, writing the film, working with Kaneko, what various people have gone on to do since working on these movies, lighting the film, the flow of the movie, the use of storyboards, aiming for realism when possible, the influence of some specific Hollywood productions like Titanic, finding motivation when inside a rubber suit trying to act as a monster, what they feel they got right about the movies, working with extras who can't see the monster they're supposed to be terrorized by, digital effects work and animation techniques, the use of rotoscoping and more.

    As with the first two parts we get a whole lot of behind the scenes footage and what not. Combined, these three segments run over six-hours and provide an exhaustively comprehensive look at all aspects of the making of this trilogy, the only noticeable gap being we don't really get much from the actors that played the human characters in the movies.

    The eleven-minute DNA Tokusatsu Exhibition featurette is a newly filmed interview with Kaho Tsutsumi from the DNA Tokusatsu Exhibition in Tokyo by kaiju historian Edward L. Holland that covers the importance of the Gamera character, why the character still resonates and why various people opted to save all of the relics from Gamera's movie past that they could, which went into creating the exhibition. We also get a look at some of the best parts of the exhibit, and really get an appreciation for the artistry required in making them.

    Publicity Announcement is a four-minute record of the announcement that took place in Tokyo in 1998 where the producers of the third film announce its arrival before discussing the marketing and importance of the picture.

    Photo Op is a minute-long piece from August of 1998 where Kaneko and Ayako Fujitani pose for pictures and field a few softball questions from the press. It is, quite literally, a quick little photo op.

    With the five-minute Backstage Clip: I Want You To Teach Me Again featurette we get a quick look behind the scenes of the third film that simply presents a bunch of material shot on set without a whole lot of context, but occasionally contrasted with finished scenes from the movie. Most of this material involves the human actors rather than the rubber suit monster creations but it's still interesting to see.

    The Shibuto Cine Tower Opening Day featurette takes us to the tower in Tokyo for a six-minute piece that shows off the March 6th, 1999 premiere of the movie. It's interesting to see how big the crowds are and how the theater not only sold tickets to the show but a lot of tie-in merchandise as well. Kaneko and some of the cast members speak to the crowd before the film shows, expressing their appreciation quite graciously. They also speak to the press when the event is over.

    The disc also contains just over ten-minutes’ worth of deleted scenes, presented in non-anamorphic standard definition. There's a bit more character development here, some bits with the girls exploring the cave, a scene with the street vendor, a lenghty phone conversation, talk of Gyaos, a bit with the older woman and more. There's no new monster footage in here at all but it's still great that it was included.

    The Awakening Of Irys (Remix) is a montage of behind the scenes and SFX work in progress footage that runs for thirty-eight-minutes. The higlights of this material is definitely the effects bit, we really get a good look at what went into staging some of the monster battles, the miniatures and the suits. We also get a look at the unfinished digital effects, some of the puppetry seen in the movie, set design work and what the cast members had to work with during some key scenes.

    Storyboard Animation is a six-minute piece that, as you'd probably expect, shows off some of the storyboard art in partially animated form, often contrasted with footage from the movie itself showing how the visuals for the movie wind up taking shape.

    The Special Effects Outtakes featurette offers up two-minutes of outtake footage showing a man standing in for a monster wrestling Gamera, which is quite amusing to see as it looks like they’re dancing.

    The Comedy Dub Outtakes section is three-minutes of leftover material from the terrible ADV comedy dub that was included on their DVD release, preserved here presumably for posterity’s sake.

    Finishing up the disc are the English closing credits sequence, five separate theatrical trailers, a few TV spots, a US video trailer, an ad for the Gamera 2000 Playstation Game and a still gallery.

    Disc Eight - Gamera The Brave:

    Extras on the eighth and final disc in the set start off with an audio commentary by Keith Aiken and Bob Johnson. They talk about how the studio opted not to make a direct follow up to Gamera 3 but instead bring in a new creative team to take things in a different direction, creating the Gyaos characters completely in CGI for this version, how there was a novel released based on the movie and some of the additional details that it had that aren't in the movie, the character arcs that the main human characters go through in the movie, how this is geared to a younger audience but differs very much from the Showa films, the theme of sacrifice in the film, the film's reliance on younger cast members, using a real turtle in certain scenes, who did what behind the scenes on this picture, the work that the suit actors did in the movie, how the locals in the town where the movie was shot were very cooperative, the film's connection to The Great Yokai War and scores of other facts and trivia. There’s a bit of dead air but not enough to ruin the track, which is, for the most part, quite informative and easy to listen to.

    The first of the featurettes on this disc is How To Make A Gamera Movie, which is hosted by director Ryuta Tasaki and which runs thirty-seven-minutes. In this piece, he basically guides us through the entire process, from coming up with the concept to writing to putting together your cast and crew to principal photography, post production work and more. It's amusing in that it's laid out like he's giving a school lecture, complete with a whiteboard, but it also includes quite a bit of behind the scenes footage from the shoot. As he goes through the talk, he tells stories from the shoot, introduces us to some of the crew members and lets them explain what it is that they do, how the physical effects are created and how to keep things safe on set, the importance of the cinematography, the sound recording used in the picture, the set design and conceptual art, hair and makeup, how the actors operate and more. It's geared to a younger audience but fairly well done.

    Behind The Scenes of Gamera The Brave is a sixty-three-minute “all-access on-set documentary” that really does cover a whole lot of ground. We see here what the seaside town locations were like and learn why they were chosen, we see the cast members bonding and preparing to work together, we get to see Tasaki's directing style in action, see how some of the effects were put together for the movie, see some of the sets being worked on, overcoming hurdles that arose during the shoot and other production related details. It's pretty clip heavy and at times feels more like an EPK than an actual documentary but there's enough good stuff in here to make it worth checking out if you're into behind the scenes featurettes.

    The Men That Made Gamera, is an archival documentary that serves as a retrospective of the entire Gamera film series that runs for forty-three-minutes. It’s comprised of clips from the various movies as well as interviews with plenty of the people who were involved in all of the films. Along the way we hear stories about how the movies were originally created and the involvement of rats, naming the film and why the character became a turtle, how the series evolved over the years, the now iconic theme song, the importance of Gamera's roar, coming up with different foes for Gamera to deal with throughout the series, directing the pictures, using real fire on set, how the more recent entries in the series helped bring people into theaters after a lull, the success of the Kaneko films and what makes the 2006 film different from the other entries.

    The Opening Day Premiere featurette is five-minutes of footage showing off the cast and crew presenting the film at its first public screening, which took place at Marunouchi Piccadilly, Tokyo on April 29th, 2006. The cast and crew speak to the crowd and the press for a few minutes before the movie plays and pose for a few pictures.

    Kaho's Summer is featurette with the film's leading actress that lasts ten-minutes. It features her commuting via train for a photoshoot, filming at the local school, trying on glasses and different outfits, looking for a cat, playing with an umbrella, visiting some of the spots in the town where the movie was shot and generally just hanging out and being photographed a lot. It isn’t very informative and is pretty superfluous, but it does document this era of her career (she’s gone on to do tons of TV work in Japan).

    The so-called Special Effects Supercut is a montage of effects shots, some very much unfinished, put together by FX supervisor Hajime Matsumoto that clocks in at thirty-three-minutes. There's talk here about compositing different bits of footage to get the effects right, how to create a flying turtle, using digital and practical effects in the picture as well as matte paintings, how the Zedus monster was created, the new look of Gamera featured in the film, how the bridge battle was created and how some of the other major effects set pieces were built. He never appears on camera, instead he narrates over the different clips.

    Finishing up the extras on this last disc are two theatrical teasers, a theatrical trailer, two TV spots and a still gallery.

    As to the packaging? We were only sent test discs to review, so we can’t comment on that. If that changes, we’ll update this review accordingly.

    Gamera: The Complete Collection – The Final Word Review:

    The second half of the Gamera: The Complete Collection is just as impressive, if not more so, than the first half. There’s an exhaustive amount of supplemental material included here, enough to keep Gamera fans busy for days, and each film receives a very nice high definition presentation. As to the movies themselves, the nineties films are fantastic, even if the 2006 picture isn’t. Overall, however, this is an amazing set and one of the best releases of the year so far.

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

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Clive Smith's Avatar
      Clive Smith -
      Awesome and enormous review; this must have taken AGES!!
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      Ha, yes it did.
    1. Alison Jane's Avatar
      Alison Jane -