With the mega-sized Godzilla reboot less than three months away, it’s no surprise to see some classic King of the Monsters flicks getting Blu-ray releases. Zilla’s big screen return can no doubt be the inspiration for all of Gamera’s classic adventures getting their first-ever US Blu-ray releases.
The films of Daiei Studios’ monster series Gamera are unleashed and available on Blu-ray for the first time! Your favorite giant turtle returns to Earth, leaving no fire-spitting scene behind.
Beautifully captured to their lavish original cuts, viewers can experience four times the thrills of these legendary sci-fi classics like they have never seen before!
Mill Creek Entertainment is releasing what they’re billing as the Gamera: Ultimate Collection on April 29th. The good news is that this is the first time ever any of the eight Showa-era Gamera movies have been released on Region 1 Blu-ray. The bad news is that since this is Mill Creek Entertainment, it remains to be seen what the actual quality of the prints are, and even if they are HD pristine, they’re still cramming four films onto a single one-sided Blu-ray. Depending on how you feel about this next bit, it could be good or bad news; all reports indicate these will be original Japanese language version with English subtitles only – no dub jobs. Volumes One and Two will retail for $19.98 each.
Gamera: Ultimate Collection – Volume One obviously begins with Daei’s original 1965 black & white Gamera that successfully piggybacked off the popularity of Toho’s Godzilla series by introducing the world to the giant flying, fire-breathing turtle and a diluted little boy that believes this destructive prehistoric, radiation-unleashed, city-stomping daikaiju is really his best friend in the whole wide world.
With Gamera vs. Barugon (1966) the turtle-shelled titan got a Technicolor makeover as he protects Japan from a lethal quadruped creature with a battering ram tongue that shoots freezing rays and back spines that launch doomsday rainbows. Seriously, Barugon’s spines can generate an incinerating rainbow of mass destruction.
Gamera would fully take on the mantle of being the friend of children everywhere with his third outing, Gamera vs. Gyaos (1967), in which he contends with his bat-like arch-nemesis for the very first time in order to save Japan and settle a labor dispute all at the same time.
A race of evil alien squids conquering the universe in a UFO that looks like colorful beach balls strung together are the threat to beachcombing children everywhere in Gamera vs. Viras AKA Destroy All Planets (1968). This is the sequel that marked both the beginning of Daei’s cheapness (nearly half the running time is a recap of the previous films) and the beginning of what would become the go-to plotline for almost all of the this era’s remaining Gamera films (aliens disguised as humans along with a giant monster terrorize American and Japanese children until Gamera arrives to save the day).
Gamera: Ultimate Collection – Volume Two begins with my personal favorite, Gamera vs. Guiron (1969). This time Turtlezilla had to travel to an alien planet to save nosy kids abducted by brain-eating alien babes by flambéing their monstrous watchdog: an audacious looking knife-headed behemoth whose knife-head also fires ninja stars. Many consider Guiron to have been the inspiration for the kaiju “Knifehead” in Pacific Rim.
The Osaka World Expo is the battleground for Gamera vs. Jiger AKA Gamera vs. Monster X (1970). This entry marked another rarity for the kaiju genre as the four-legged dart-shooting Jiger is a female adversary. How else to explain it parasitically impregnating Gamera with a little Jiger, forcing children in a yellow submarine to take a fantastic voyage inside their favorite monster’s body?
The Showa era of Gamera movies would come to end, along with a financially bankrupt Daei, with 1971’s Gamera vs. Zigra. Japan’s answer to SeaWorld becomes the hunting grounds for bodysnatching aliens led by a colossal goblin shark plotting the enslavement of mankind. They would have gotten away with it, too, if hadn’t been for those meddling kids and their dumb fire-breathing turtle.
Rounding out the disc is the rarest of Gamera flicks (and with good reason): the deplorable 1980 Gamera: Super Monster. Primarily a lame clip show featuring only a few seconds of new Gamera footage, if you like seeing alien invaders being thwarted by kids assisted by sexy Japanese women in Superman-style costumes, then you might find something to like about it.
If you don’t have Blu-ray technology, then Mill Creek still has something for you in the form of the Gamera Legacy Collection, also streeting April 29th. All eight of the original movies being released to Blu, along with the 1990’s “Heisei” Gamera trilogy (Gamera: Guardian of the Universe, Gamera 2: Attack of the Legion, Gamera 3: Revenge of Irys), are being released together in a four-disc DVD set. That’s every Gamera flick sans 2006’s failed juvenile reboot Gamera the Brave all in one collection for $14.98.
Here’s a question to ponder: If the new Godzilla is a mega hit, will some US company try to get in on the daikaiju genre with their mega-sized Americanized reboot of Gamera? I’m fairly certain Disney owns the company that currently owns the rights to Gamera. Just sayin’.
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