Sunday, June 1, 2008

Turtle Soup: Memories Of Gamera

Gamera. Mention that word to any self respecting fan of giant monster movies and you're likely to get a smile...or a roll of the eyes. Some of the first giant monster movies I watched on television as a kid were AIP Gamera films.
In 1965 Daiei released Giant Monster Gamera, a B&W film that featured a 200 foot tall flying and fire breathing turtle. This film was also "Americanized" and released under an alternate title, Gammera The Invincible, with the inclusion of American actors Albert Dekker and Brian Donlevy.

Gamera would go on to star in more of these films, including Gamera Vs Barugon(1966), Gamera Vs Gyaos(1967), Gamera Vs Viras(1968), Gamera Vs Guiron(1969), Gamera Vs Zigra(1971), & Gamera Super Monster(1980). I like these older Gamera movies. Admittedly there are many of them floating around in retailers and on the internet on DVD in pan ' scan and grainy prints. Some of these movies have been featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000. These classic Gamera films should be seen in their original aspect ratio(2:35.1 letterbox) in order to be fully appreciated.

Gamera has also starred in a trio of movies in the 90's: Gamera Guardian Of The Universe(1995), Gamera 2: Advent Of Legion(1996) & Gamera 3: The Incomplete Struggle(aka Gamera 3: The Revenge Of Irys)(1999). These "Gamera Trilogy" films are all marvelous and employ updated special effects. They are definitely worth checking out for any fan of giant monster movies who hasn't seen them.

In 2006 Gamera returned once more to the big screen in Gamera The Brave. This film prominently features children in the storyline and is, I think, a "children's" movie. That said the special effects are very good and the movie itself entertains fairly well.

I can't say I like Gamera as much as I do Godzilla but I do think the giant turtle has established his own place in the kaiju pantheon of movie monsters. I hope one day in the not too distant future we'll see quality R1 DVD releases of the older Gamera films.

The trailer for Gamera Vs Zigra(1971):