Tuesday, November 11, 2014


PHENOMENALITY: *marvelous*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *cosmological, sociological*

Gamera once more seesaws downward in quality with GAMERA VS. JIGER. Like 1966's Barugon the great turtle's opponent is a quadruped, and in fairness Jiger is a little better designed than the lizard-critter.  However, though Jiger-- a rare female monster-- packs some odd weapons in her biological arsenal, this is a case where the parts do not add up to more than the whole.

One of the film's bland protagonists seems to encourage a return to the folkloric content of the early films, for this character, apparently an anthropologist, advocates learning from the cultures of the past. However, there's no depth to this sentiment: it's only a justification for a crucial plot-point. The 1970 World's Fair is being held in Osaka, so the anthropologist journeys to "Wester Island" to obtain a mysterious stone statue, intending to exhibit it at the Expo. Even though this is referenced as being somewhere in the Pacific, a representative from the island-- portrayed by what looks like a Black African in a daishiki-- objects to the statue's removal, shouting that it will bring down something called "Jiger" on all of them. 

That character never appears again, but Gamera shows up on Wester Island and tries to block the Japanese crew from removing the statue. The adults fire their guns at Gamera, who isn't harmed but withdraws to avoid a fight. Two precocious kids immediately know that Gamera had sensed some danger in the statue's removal, but could not communicate said danger.

As it turns out, the statue-- called "the Devil's Whistle"-- was erected to keep a fearsome monster confined beneath the earth, by virtue of the whistling sound the statue could make when the wind blows through it. Once the statue is gone, the baleful Jiger comes forth. Gamera attacks the evil beast but Jiger wins the first round, temporarily immobilizing the chelonian.

Because the statue continues to make its annoying sounds in transit to Japan, Jiger swims to Japan, intent on destroying her nemesis. Gamera follows and again gets trounced, this time because Jiger manages to inject Gamera with its own eggs-- sort of a wasp-and-spider parasitic relationship.  Gamera suffers greatly until the two kids journey into Gamera's gullet, find the implanted egg, and destroy it.  This is the film's only noteworthy sequence, only for the curiosity value of seeing the big monster saved by two of his little acolytes.  However, the concluding battle between Gamera and the mom-monster is poorly choreographed, ending rather sappily when Gamera stabs Jiger through the head with the length of the statue.

GAMERA VS. ZIGRA-- technically the last in the original series--benefits from a better looking bad monster, the shark-like Zigra, making his debut four years before Spielberg's JAWS became the defining cinematic image of the killer shark.  The film recapitulates elements of earlier films: again a spaceship comes to Earth seeking conquest, as in VIRAS, but in addition Zigra want to reverse the food-chain by feeding on human beings, as seen in GUIRON.  Whereas two inhabitants of GUIRON's evil alien-world Tera survived some planetary catastrophe, here Zigra seems to be the only one aboard the ship, aside from a Japanese woman. She's later revealed to be not a Zigran but an Earth-woman abducted by Zigra and forced to serve him.  

The kids, being held captive along with some adults on Zigra's ship, call upon their hero Gamera, and the turtle-creature obediently shows up to attack the spacecraft.  Zigra, originally not much bigger than a regular shark, emerges from the ship, instantly grows king-size, and paralyzes Gamera with a ray-attack.  Slightly later Zigra-- one of the genre's few talking monsters-- meditates that he's changed because of the different "pressure" in earth's oceans, as opposed to those on his destroyed native planet.  He initially tells his human slave that he doesn't want to kill all the humans, since he plans to use them as a food-resource, but he evidently changes his mind and starts creating havoc.

Since the paralyzed Gamera is sunk beneath the sea, the adult protagonists employ a bathyscaph in order to attempt awakening the beneficent monster, and their kids sneak along for the ride. Zigra sees them and threatens to destroy the humans. Fortunately for them, a bolt of lightning revives Gamera and the turtle returns to the fray. Happily, the big concluding battle is much better staged than the Jiger fight. Zigra's sword-like nose gets in a few cuts on Gamera's shell, but in the end Gamera not only defeats Zigra, he humiliates him by playing a tune on the shark-monster's back, as if his dorsal fins were a big xylophone. This may be the best single fight-image in the series, making the actual destruction of Zigra a little anti-climactic.

There's not much to say about the studio's lame attempt to give Gamera another shot at stardom nine years later. It's the cinematic equivalent of a television "clip show," since almost all of Gamera's scenes are borrowed from earlier films. The framing-device here is that aliens called the Zanon-- never seen, except for a ship that looks like a swipe from STAR WARS-- are conjuring up these monsters to attack Earth and reduce its defenses before the Zanon ship arrives to destroy them. 

Young Keichi knows nothing of this, but he idolizes Gamera-- who is, however, only a character in comic books. But he accidentally stumbles across a trio of "space women," who have taken refuge on Earth after Zanon destroyed their world. Somehow the Zanons know that the space women are there, for they send a human-looking agent, Girugi, to find them as well as paving the way for the monsters' acts of destruction.  Whenever the space women transform from ordinary women to ladies in superhero costumes, the Zanons can target them from afar with destructive rays. But they find a way to strike back by creating Gamera from an ordinary turtle, and setting him against Zanon's creatures.

The space-women sequences in themselves aren't that bad for juvenile entertainment: the three women have a good rapport with Keicihi, who seems to have been the only Gamera-kid with real acting talent.  Girugi finally throws down with the leader of the space women, but after she's spared, Girugi redeems herself for 
her evil acts. At last Gamera charges the massive spaceship, and sacrifices his life to end the Zanon menace.  

Even if a clip-movie was a terrible idea, I must admit that SUPER MONSTER gives the big turtle a better than average fade-out-- at least until his revival in 1995.

No comments:

Post a Comment