Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Gamera Ultimate Collection vol 1 blu-ray

When it comes to giant monsters, if it's really neat and full of turtle meat you've got yourself Gamera. The other big G. A flying fire breathing (and eating) turtle who's starred in a dozen films so far. A couple years ago I watched the 90's trilogy which are actually some pretty solid kaiju fun. They also feature Steven Seagal's daughter who I never even knew about until watching them. Maybe that shouldn't matter but every time I saw the girl, the image of her father hiding his fat gut under a trench coat kept creeping into my consciousness. While those may be decent flicks, what about the older franchise entries? Sure I'd seen em on Mystery Science Theater and TV back when you could find stuff other than reality nonsense, but those were the horrid U.S. Edits with shit dubbing, However; a few weeks ago I picked up the first volume of his classic movies in their original edits. Let's give a quick look.

Note: screen shots are just pictures of the TV while the movies play. Until I can afford a blu-ray drive for this thing, that's just the way it's gotta be.

Gamera the Giant Monster
Not unlike the first Godzilla, this doesn't quite feel like a normal Gamera flick. His role isn't fully developed just yet and there are no other monsters for him to smash. Instead we get a fairly standard issue big monster yarn with a side helping of annoying kid loves giant turtle. Really there isn't too much of a story here. Gamera is awakened by bomb tests and goes on a rampage while scientists and military try to stop him. Over multiple engagements we learn that our beast can fly, loves to eat fire, and is weak to icy temperatures. After repeated failures to slay the creature, the world works together to trap him in a rocket and send his ass to Mars.

Gamer vs. Barugon
A stray comet busts open Gamera's rocket before he makes it to Mars. Upon his swift return to Earth he stars causing trouble and eating fire. Meanwhile a few gents travel to a mystical island in search of immense jewels. One of the dudes is a majorly murderous asshole though who gets one of his teamates killed and leaves the other for dead. Little does he know that his treasured jewel is actually an egg from which we get Barugon, a giant lizard with ice breath and rainbow beams.
The guy who was left for dead returns to Japan alone with a fine native girl who hopes to stop Barugon. Of course we get plenty of monster vs monster/military action along with some people on people action since the dickhead can't quite stop himself from murdering everyone around him.
All said and done, this is actually a pretty fun kaiju tale with it's only big issue being that it's just a little too long for what it is. Still a decent time to be had.

Gamera vs. Gayos
This is where things start to take a turn for the crazy, which can be a good or bad thing depending on who you are but seeing as you're reading my site it's definitely a good thing.
Once again there's very little in the way of story. A construction company is trying to build a highway through the mountains but the local villagers are holding out on selling their land for more money. Little do they know the mountain is home to a nocturnal, laser spewing, flying beast.
Gamera actually gets his butt handed to him in this one until he mans up for the final showdown involving a sit & spin blood fountain. If those details fail to perk your interest than this is not the movie for you.

Gamera vs. Viras
Oh god is this one a trip. We're introduced to Maseo and Jim, two boy scouts who are just the fucking worst. Their whole troop only thinks of them as rotten pranksters which is about right though Maseo has some skills when it comes to electronics.
Some aliens traveling around in a ship that resembles a collection of bee butts are intent on conquering the Earth. First they have to deal with Gamera. Knowing his fondness for children, they kidnap the bratty boy scouts and soon brainwash the giant turtle into doing their evil bidding. It's important to note that part of the brainwashing procedure involves a memory scan which is close to 20 minutes of footage from the previous movies. If you're hungry, behind on some chores, or just need a trip to the can, there's plenty of time to do it. I personally pissed, finished the dishes, and ate a bowl of crispix just in time to return to the actual movie.
Most of the film is just the two kids runing around the space ship trying to thwart the aliens schemes. Monster footage is in short supply and most of the shots where Gamera is destroying cities under alien control are just shots from the first movie which is painfully obvious since everything suddenly becomes black and white.
Only in the last ten minutes do we actually get some new kaiju action when a mind probe free Gamera faces off against a giant space squid. It's an ok battle that along with a few crazy bits of the movie almost make it bearable. Gonna have to put a warning label on this one as it's only for a hardcore Gamera viewer.

So if the temptation ever strikes and you're thinking of picking up this blu-ray, I'd say go ahead so long as you're getting it for ten bucks or less. I've seen people complain about the video quality but considering how cheap both the movies and the release is, they're not too bad, still a nice step up from older releases. Audio is likewise acceptable. Some folks may not be very happy with the lack of dubbed versions so if you care about that sort of thing keep in mind that there's just Japanese with subtitles. That's where my only real issue lies as there are a few instances of the subtitle timing being a bit off. It's not a major flaw as it only happens once or twice but it warrants a mention. On a scale of “oh god no” to “absolutely” this disc earns a simple “why not?”

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