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Gamera (Region 2)
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Box Front Japanese Title: Daikaiju Gamera (“Giant Monster Gamera”)
Original U.S. Release Title: Gammera the Invincible
Alternate Titles: Giant Monster Gamera (Neptune Media video title), Gamera the Invincible (international title)
Director: Noriaki Yuasa (Gamera vs. Gyaos)
Original Release Year: 1965
Running Time: 79 minutes

DVD Released By:
Toshiba / Daiei Video (Japan)
Video: Anamorphic widescreen
Audio: Japanese 2.0 mono
Extras: Interviews, filmographies (?), anatomy of Gamera, theatrical trailer
Subtitles: English
Closed Captions: None
Region: 2
Format: NTSC
Chapters: 18
Packaging: Keepcase
MSRP: 4,700 yen
UPC #: 4988008039689
Catalog #: TKBU-5071
Status: Out of print.  (Was also available as part of the Gamera:  The Box 1965 - 1968 Box Set.)


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The Film: In the Arctic, an unidentified military airplane is shot down by the U.S. Air Force.  The plane was carrying an atomic bomb, which detonates.  The explosion releases a giant turtle-like monster from its ancient resting place.  The Japanese research ship Chidori Maru is sunk by the creature.  The only survivors are Dr. Hidaka (a scientist), Kyoko (his assistant), and Aoyagi (a cameraman).  They had gone ashore to an Eskimo village.  The Eskimo Chief presents the researchers with an ancient stone tablet carved with enigmatic images of a turtle.  He refers to the monster as “The Devil’s envoy:  Gamera!”

Meanwhile in Hokkaido, a young boy, Toshio, is scolded by his father and older sister for his obsession with turtles.  His father (the keeper of the lighthouse) makes Toshio release his pet turtle Chibi back into the wild.  Despite Dr. Hidaka’s prediction that Gamera would soon perish from radioactivity, the monster appears in Hokkaido and demolishes the lighthouse.  However, the otherwise destructive monster demonstrates a soft spot for children when he rescues Toshio from falling off of the collapsing structure.

Gamera is less considerate towards the residents of Tokyo, however, when he attacks the city.  Military firepower proves useless against the strange creature.  Gamera not only breathes flames, he consumes them too!  Gamera’s affinity for fire is used to lure him to an island, where the ambitious Z-Plan is being prepared to rid the world of the monster.

This is the film that introduced the world to Gamera, a monster created by Daiei Studios to compete with Toho’s highly successful Godzilla series.  It was originally released in the U.S. under the title
Gammera the Invincible.  That version was re-edited to include additional scenes featuring American actors, a’la the 1956 version of Godzilla:  King of the Monsters.  A version that was uncut (except for the credits) and with a different English dub was later released on VHS and syndicated to TV by Sandy Frank.  That version was simply titled Gamera, and would also be shown on Mystery Science Theater 3000.  This DVD features the original, uncut Japanese version.

The titular monster Gamera is a giant fire-breathing turtle that can also fly via jet propulsion!  As strange as this seems, even more bizarre monster foes would be introduced as the series progressed.  The original film is in black and white, perhaps in an attempt to capture some of the moodiness of the original
Gojira.  It’s played straight, with only Toshio’s bond with Gamera suggesting the child-oriented approach future Gamera films would take.  The special effects are good, with plenty of explosions and some great miniature work.  Gamera is a solid monster film that paved the way for a long-running series of enjoyable movies.  Grade:  B

Video: Gamera is presented in anamorphic widescreen.  There is very little print damage.  The black and white image is slightly grainy, but not at all bad for a film this old.  The biggest problem is the brightness and contrast.  Lighter scenes look good; they’re crisp and clear.  However, darker scenes are very murky and lacking in detail.  Much of the visual information is lost in monotonous tones of dark gray.  Grade:  C

Audio: Audio quality is good throughout.  Japanese mono is the sole option, and all of the dialogue, music, and sound effects are reproduced faithfully.  There is no noticeable hissing, popping, or background noise.

There are several scenes with English dialogue, which isn’t subtitled.  Most of it sounds fine, except for the Eskimo Chief, who speaks low, slurred English.  It’s hard to understand what he’s saying.  (This really isn’t a fault of the audio mix.)  In general, subtitled foreign-language films that include occasional English dialogue should subtitle
all dialogue, since the English spoken in these films often leaves a lot to be desired.  Grade:  A

Extras / Menus: All of the extras are in Japanese, with no subtitles, and are consistent with other discs in the series.  First up, there are seven screens of text that appear to be cast and crew filmographies.  I can’t read Japanese, so I can’t tell for sure.  They can be cycled through back-to-back, or selected individually from their own submenu.  Next is an anatomical detail of Gamera.  It includes a cut-away view of the monster, with six text selections that highlight the corresponding organs in the picture.  There is some additional text on the screen which may be statistical data such as height / weight measurements.  The original Japanese theatrical trailer is included, in anamorphic widescreen.  Finally, there are two interview segments.  First, there is a brief (1 ˝ minute) interview with director Noriaki Yuasa.  This appears to be part of a larger interview that is spread across all eight Showa Gamera DVDs.  Finally, there is a 2 ˝ minute interview with special effects director Yonesaburo Tsukiji.  All of the menus are still images with no music or sound.  Despite being entirely in Japanese, they are fairly easy to navigate.  Grade:  B (Higher if you can understand Japanese.)

Final Analysis: Except for some video issues, this disc is a good presentation of the very first Gamera movie.  Final Grade:  B
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