Review: Gamera The Giant Monster DVD

STUDIO: Shout! Factory | DIRECTOR: Noriaki Yuasa | CAST: Eiji Funakoshi, Harumi Kiritachi, Junichiro Yamashiko, Yoshiro Uchida
RELEASE DATE: 5/4/2010 | PRICE: DVD $19.93
BONUSES: commentary, featurettes, publicity materials, 12-page booklet
SPECS: NR | 78 min. | Science-fiction | 2.35:1 widescreen | stereo | English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Daiei Studios of Japan’s answer to the Godzilla phenomenon started by rival Toho Studios a decade earlier, Gamera, The Giant Monster introduced us to a giant fire-breathing turtle that wreaked havoc across Japan–and brought in some significant cash–in a series of monster movies produced from 1965 to 1971. A long-time Saturday afternoon staple on U.S. television, the 1965 debut film remains the best in the series—and it looks as good as it ever has in Shout! Factory’s new special edition.

Clocking in at a lean and fun 78 minutes, Gamera finds the titular titanic tortoise freed from his Arctic hibernation five minutes into the flick after a nuclear “incident” brought on by a Russian/American skirmish (figures….). He then makes his way down to Japan to decimate countless well-detailed miniatures, high-tension wires and military hardware until his defeat by by “Plan Z,” which is engineered by a small boy who has formed an odd connection with the hard-shelled hulk.

Along with being presented in shimmering black-and-white (it’s the only B&W entry in the series) in anamorphic widescreen from a new HD master, the film is seen here in its original Japanese version with English subtitles.

The DVD’s supplemental package is a generous one, kicking off with a respectful, informative commentary by Japanese monster movie expert August Ragone. Even better is a newly produced half-hour featurette that documents the making of Gamera and the subsequent films in the series. The piece includes contributions from all of Gamera’s top production personnel and in addition to charting the film’s creation and answering questions such as “How did the idea of a giant flying turtle come about?” (Answer: The studio head thought it up when he was looking out the window during a trans-Atlantic flight), it also serves as a fascinating primer on low-budget studio filmmaking in Japan.

 

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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.