Fulvue Drive-In.com
Current Reviews
In Stores Soon
In Stores Now
DVD Reviews, SACD Reviews Essays Interviews Contact Us Meet the Staff
An Explanation of Our Rating System Search  
Category:    Home > Reviews > Giant Monster Cycle > Japan > Gamera vs. Zigra & Gamera: The Super Monster Double Feature/Gamera Trilogy (1971/80/Shout! Factory Double Feature DVD/1995/96/99/Mill Creek Blu-rays)

Gamera vs. Zigra & Gamera: The Super Monster Double Feature/Gamera Trilogy (1971/80/Shout! Factory Double Feature DVD/1995/96/99/Mill Creek Blu-rays)


Picture: C/C+/B-/B-/B-     Sound: C+     Extras: C/C/D/D/B-     Films: C/C-/C+/B-/B-



Gamera - the giant turtle who can rocket himself through the sky and often does battle with other monsters whose only intent is to destroy.  Whereas Godzilla has gone back and forth between being a menace to mankind or its protector as it suits him, once Gamera aligned with right, he's tended to the gentler side and is considered a friend to children everywhere.


The character first appeared in 1965, and was created by the Daiei Company in order to capitalize on the success of Toho's Godzilla.  Though occasionally regarded as a second tier character, Gamera has gained a level of popularity the world over that is evidenced by the heaps of merchandise emblazoned with the character's likeness and profitable reissues of the films.


Shout! Factory has gone above and beyond in their efforts to release the best versions of these films to DVD, and have even secured the rights to get the Americanized Sandy Frank episodes clear the way on an MST3K release of the Sandy Frank episodes – something many thought would never happen.  Here we'll take a look at the last two films in the original Showa series, as well as Mill Creek's Blu-rays covering the Heisei era trilogy.


Gamera vs. Zigra was the last true film to be made in the Gamera series, and as the title suggests, here our turtle hero fights the aquatic monster Zigra.  Gamera: The Super Monster is more like a “best-of” compilation that's been cut together around a new storyline, and features all of the big guy's most famous battles from the other films.  It's incredible that Shout! was able to snag these movies for release here, and though these might not be the finest examples of the series, Zigra is an especially interesting entry and makes this set worthwhile.


Both of these were directed by Noriaki Yuasa, who also directed most of the others in the original series as well.  Watching them in Japanese with subtitles is preferred, and is beneficial to the experience as a whole, as they take on a much less jokey tone without the English dubs.


Gamera vs. Zigra was shot in DaieiScope and is anamorphically enhanced with a 2.35:1 frame, while Gamera: The Super Monster is in 1.85:1, both maintaining their original aspect ratios.  Although restoration has been done here, these DVDs look a little soft, with color that ranges from striking to dull.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 English mono dub and original Japanese mono are good for their age, though you can spot limitations throughout.  The only extras are publicity stills galleries for both films.


Mill Creek have decided on making the three newer Gamera films available as both a trilogy boxed set and also separate, with the first two on a double feature disc and the third being released by itself.  For those hoping that the boxed set might have matching artwork, that isn't the case, as it is merely a slipcase that houses both individual releases.  The Mill Creek logo is even different on each, as the double feature came out just before the old one was retired.


These are actually legitimately good movies, and get improve with each installment – meaning a satisfying end to the series rather than just fizzling out the way one might expect.  Trilogy director Shusuke Kaneko has done an excellent job here, and these are giant monster movies that should stand the test of time rather well.


The picture quality for the trilogy is top-notch, and marks quite the change for Mill Creek, as they used to be considered among the worst companies in this regard.  Each movie is in 1080p High Definition and shown in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, maintaining the original aspect ratios.


Each of the films here are presented with three audio options – Japanese 5.1 DTS-HD, Japanese 5.1 Dolby Digital and an English dub in 5.1 Dolby Digital.  The biggest problem is the lack of sufficient subtitles, with no translation provided for much of the Japanese text that appears on-screen in some form or another, and even certain spots of dialog.  Mill Creek has provided picture and sound that is pretty damn good, but this is the one glaring problem with these releases that should have been taken care of, though I still found the movies to be watchable.



-   David Milchick


 Copyright © MMIII through MMX fulvuedrive-in.com