Gamera: The Giant Monster (DVD)
Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Starring Eiji Funakoshi, Harumi Kiritachi, Junichiro Yamashiko, Yoshiro Uchida
Directed by Noriaki Yuasa
Distributed by Shout! Factory
Though Godzilla usually gets all the love when it comes to the giant monster or Kaiju arena, any fan worth their salt is likely to hold Gamera right up there in the highest of regards. For many years everyone's favorite fire-breathing flying turtle has suffered through some of the single most piss poor DVD releases imaginable. Thankfully every reptile has his day, and with this release the good folks over at Shout! Factory have given Gamera his!
He appeared for the first time in 1965, a full ten years after Godzilla had wrecked Japan. We are at the height of the Cold War, and East vs. West tensions reach a fever pitch when a Soviet aircraft carrying nuclear devices is shot down over the Arctic. As if the fallout isn't enough to contend with, the blast ends up awakening the long lost legend of Atlantis -- Gamera: The Giant Monster! Yet, there's always some good that comes with the bad as the release of this destructive creature forces men from all countries all over the world to band together to try and find a way to stop the beast!
Sure, in later films Gamera ended up usually sitting on the all too kid-friendly side of the fence, but here? Here he's as evil as they come, and Gamera: The Giant Monster has just as important a message and is nearly every bit as good as the original Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
Finally we can throw away all those horrendous DVDs. Shout! Factory has done an exemplary job delivering us the best possible quality print of the film taken directly from the vault materials. We're talking a Criterion Collection level of love and care. The image is crisp and amazing, and the audio track (which is in JAPANESE ONLY with crystal clear subbies) is a true treat. If you're a fan, you are going to be blown away. There's no doubt about it.
In terms of special features this is a shining example of quality over quantity. Before you even pop the DVD in, there's a twelve-page booklet that includes an essay by director Noriaki Yuasa himself, who sadly passed away in 2004. To be able to read the man's thoughts on the creature and the franchise is brilliant. Also brilliant in the booklet is an Anatomy of Gamera chart, which explains just where all those fire jets are coming from. Mystery solved!
From there we get an engaging commentary from August Ragone, a true sage when it comes to all things related to Japanese monster movies. This guy leaves no stone unturned and does it in a fashion that's both informative and entertaining. Next we have the Retrospective: Look at the Gamera Franchise featurette. Though a bit on the short side, this made for Japan (it's subtitled for us) look at all three eras of the Gamera franchise is concise fun that even gives us a look at a Gamera flick that was never made. If that isn't worth the price of admission alone, I don't know what is! Add on a publicity gallery featuring posters, etc., and we are not only done but extremely happy.
To put it simply, if you're a fan of Gamera or just a fan of monster movies, you need this DVD like yesterday. Thank you, Shout! Factory! It truly doesn't get any better. Although if you slide this puppy onto Blu-ray ....
4 out of 5
4 out of 5