I love monster movies - kaiju eiga and super sentai - and if there was enough updates on giant monster flicks I haven't a doubt I'd be writing a blog about said topic. In fact, in less than a month I'm planning (money permit me) to hit up G-FEST in Chicago on the second week of July. Recognize the name Godzilla? If the answer is yes, G-FEST is a yearly convention dedicated to celebrating Godzilla, monster movies, and other miscellaneous beings of unnatural size and power that (typically) wreck havoc [or save] Japan. Like Gamera, a giant flying turtle created by Daiei in 1965 to cash in on the success of Toho's Godzilla, in a nutshell. Anyway, back on topic.
It's 2010, and the last 'big' giant monster release on DVD was back in 2008 when Classic Media was completing their Toho Master releases with Terror of Mechagodzilla and All Monsters Attack. So imagine my utter happiness with the news earlier this year that Shout! Factory - a company more widely known for taking up the mantle of releasing Mystery Science Theater box sets every four months - picked up the license for the first seven Showa Gamera series (1965-1980)! If you can't imagine, my mind was basically as follows: "OMG! OMG! YES! YES! YES! SUPER DUPER COOLZIE OMG!!!"
See, the Showa Gamera films have had a tough market as of late. When Alpha Video and Retromedia Entertainment were still big public domain labels a few years back, it seemed like everyone and their mother were releasing crappy $1 copies of the Gamera films. Alpha Video releases Gammera, the Invincible [aka Giant Monster Gamera], War of the Monsters [aka Gamera vs. Barugon], Destroy All Planets [aka Gamera vs. Viras], and Attack of the Monsters [aka Gamera vs. Guiron]. Retromedia released Destroy All Planets, Attack of the Monsters, Gamera vs. Monster X [aka Gamera vs. Jiger] and Return of the Giant Monsters [aka Gamera vs. Gyaos]. To summarize the quality of these discs in one word: "shitty." Scratches, hairs, grain, washed out colors, distorted audio - it was far, far from flattering, but alas, I was content because it was Gamera on DVD.
So major happiness that now a legit studio is releasing a legitimately gorgeous-looking and bonus feature-full DVD of the original series. Last month, Shout! Factory began their set with Giant Monster Gamera (pictured right), and I can honestly say that this disc is a valued prize in my collection. The picture is frakken' gorgeous. Sure, there are times where it's the darkness of the scene nearly makes features indistinguishable (e.g., I mostly mean the scene where a civilian sees the 'flying saucer' at nighttime), but the rest of the picture is so pristine in quality I'm not gonna remotely bitch about it. The fact Shout! went through the hurdle of releasing this at all makes them A+ blokes in my book, but they went a step further and recruited kaiju eiga expert August Ragone (author of Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters) to voice a audio commentary [a feature of any DVD I cherish] and also translate Japanese behind-the-scenes materials. Shout!, I love you guys.
The Gamera franchise may not be particularly the best series to introduce giant monster films to a wider audience (unless you have children 13 and under who would cherish a giant flying turtle saving the galaxy), but there is a certain admirable quality about the whole saga that forces me to recommend regardless. It may not be a goldmine of beautiful miniature scenery or special visual effects, but it's unmistakable that the creators behind the project were at least enjoying their time and having a blast producing a giant monster flick. That quality shows in the final production. At the very least, Gamera, the Giant Monster is a good way to showcase the then to the now (1995's Gamera, the Guardian of the Universe).
My giddyness factor is also now at a all-time high with the fact in less than a month, Shout! will be releasing their second Gamera title, Gamera vs. Barugon! Arguably the best of the original series, Gamera vs. Barugon will be gorgeous to look at no doubt, and more bonus material will be included as planned. This time Gamera fights another monster (a first for the fresh series) who has the ability to freeze things with its tongue. Basically, it's just a really cool movie, and Gamera looks totally badass in this one.
And then on 21 September, Shout! will go the double feature route and release Gamera vs. Gyaos/Gamera vs. Viras and Gamera vs. Guiron/Gamera vs. Jiger. I'm honestly sick to death of both Viras and Guiron, so I'm not particularly looking forward to them, but pristine prints of Gyaos and Jiger most definitely catch my attention.
The purpose of this post is basically to broaden readers knowledge of giant monster movies, and (hopefully) someone will look at this blog, be intrigued, and buy (or rent) the DVD. If sales figures remain strong, who knows what other monster series could be licensed in the future? And perhaps Shout! will come out with some mega box set to house the 5 discs in down the road? All I can say is that I support Shout! Factory and applaud them on their efforts with these releases, and I implore any curious consumer to check out this monster series (and Godzilla, for that matter). For more information on Gamera and these releases, I also implore you check out fellow Minnesotan Kyle's WTF-Film for updates as they emerge. Thank you for this time.
Shameless plug completed!