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Gamera 3:  Revenge of Iris
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Box Front Japanese Title: Gamera 3:  Irysu Kakusei (“Gamera 3:  Awakening of Iris”)
Director: Shusuke Kaneko (Gamera:  Guardian of the Universe, Azumi 2:  Death or Love)
Original Release Year: 1999
Running Time: 109 minutes

DVD Released By: ADV Films
Video: Anamorphic widescreen
Audio: Japanese 5.1, English 5.1
Extras: Interview with the director of special effects, press conference, original Japanese theatrical trailers and TV spots; behind-the-scenes, promotional event, and opening day footage; humorous outtakes, “commentary by Gamera,” ADV previews
Subtitles: English
Closed Captions: None
Region: 1
Format: NTSC
Chapters: 24
Packaging: Keepcase
MSRP: $19.98
UPC #: 702727038921
Catalog #: DGM/003
Status: Out of print.  It also fit nicely into ADV’s Gamera:  GOTU Custom Art Box, and was included in the Gamera Complete DVD Collection Limited Edition Box Set.


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The Film: In 1995, Ayana Hirasaka was orphaned.  She lost her parents, and her pet cat Iris, when Gamera demolished their apartment building during his battle with Gyaos.  Fast forward to 1999.  Ayana and her younger brother are living in a country village with some relatives.  They are picked on by bullies, and Ayana’s relationship with her adopted family is distant at best.  In her heart, she has tremendous anger and resentment towards Gamera.

On a dare, Ayana ventures into a cave near the village.  The cave is rumored to be the resting place of a legendary monster called “Ryuseicho.”  Ayana succeeds in moving the sacred stone that is said to restrain the monster.

Meanwhile, Gyaos have been reappearing around the world.  The busy nightlife of Shibuya is shattered when Gamera confronts two Gyaos there.  In the most incredible scene of urban destruction in any kaiju eiga, Gamera destroys the Gyaos…at a tremendous cost to the human population.  When the battle is over, the smoke from the raging inferno left in the monsters’ wake obscures the stars in the once clear night sky.

Returning to the cave, Ayana finds that a strange tentacled creature has hatched.  She also uncovers a crescent-shaped stone (similar to the one that allowed Asagi to communicate with Gamera in
GOTU).  The creature and Ayana share a common bond:  A seething hatred for Gamera.  Ayana names the creature "Iris," and decides to raise it as her own.

As the government desperately tries to come up with a plan to deal with the giant monsters, Iris increases both its size and its connection to Ayana.  It feeds on forest animals, and then moves on to the people of the village, draining their life with its tentacles.  Upon reaching true daikaiju proportions, Iris takes to the sky and heads toward Kyoto for a showdown with Gamera.

Gamera 3:  Revenge of Iris is the culmination of both the Gamera trilogy, and modern kaiju eiga as a whole.  This somber, serious, multi-layered film is considered by many fans to be the greatest work in the genre since the original 1954 GojiraG3 seamlessly combines the human drama with the monster action, so that one cannot proceed without affecting the other.  The human characters are likeable and interesting.  Dr. Nagamine, former police inspector Osako, and Asagi are reunited from the previous Gamera films.  It’s great to see how these characters have grown and developed since GOTU in 1995.  The character of Ayana is played and presented so sincerely that the audience can sympathize with her, while still realizing that her path of revenge is misguided.  There are several new characters:  Asakura Mito sees herself as the rightful human guide for Iris and thus tries to manipulate Ayana for her own purposes.  Her companion is Kurata Shinya, an eccentric computer programmer whose simulations predict the interrelations of humankind, giant monsters, and Mana (the Earth’s life-force).  Moribe is a young man whose family has guarded the secret of the Ryuseicho for generations, and who tries to protect Ayana from herself.

On the monster side of things, Gamera is looking and acting a whole dimension meaner than before.  The flying Gyaos are leaner and more convincing than ever.  Iris is an odd creation.  When flying, it’s hauntingly beautiful as it propels itself through the skies with translucent membranes stretched between its tentacles.  It looks like a deep-sea creature swimming through the night, and the sounds it makes are melancholy and mysterious, like the song of a whale.  On land though, it is largely immobile (except for its flailing tentacles) and doesn’t look organic enough to be believable.  Otherwise, the special effects are excellent. 
G3 is by far the most successful integration of suitmation and CGI to come out of Japan.  The CGI elements, such as the flying monsters, raging fires, and Iris’ tentacles, are effective and convincing.  The destruction of Shibuya is the best FX sequence in kaiju history.  It brings the long-absent element of horror back to the genre by convincingly showing what happens to human bystanders when giant monsters fight to the death in the heart of a populated city.  The final battle between Gamera and Iris takes place in a Kyoto that has been drenched by a typhoon.  The monsters face off amidst the misleading calm and quiet of the eye of the storm.  The last stage of the battle takes place indoors (a first in daikaiju history!) at the cavernous Kyoto railway station.  Without giving anything away, the ending of the film is somber and poetic.  It leaves the audience with a true sense of respect for Gamera as he marches toward what could be the Earth’s final chapter.  Also deserving of our respect is director Shusuke Kaneko, FX director Shinji Higuchi, writer Kazunori Ito, and composer Ko Otani.  Their Gamera 3, and the trilogy as a whole, is a masterpiece.  Grade:  A

Video: Gamera 3:  Revenge of Iris is presented in widescreen, and is anamorphically enhanced for widescreen TVs.  There is no visible print damage and little grain.  The transfer is clear and sharp throughout.  Color reproduction is good, which shows off the many explosions and raging fires quite well.  While the movie includes many dark / night scenes, the level of sharpness and detail remains high.  Overall, this is the best transfer of ADV’s three Gamera DVDs.  Grade:  A (Note:  A number of people have complained that the G3 image is fullscreen.  If it appears fullscreen on your standard TV, go to your DVD player setup menu and make sure the TV type option is set to “normal” or “normal letterbox,” NOT “16:9.”  This should correct the problem.)

Audio: Both the film’s original Japanese language track, and ADV’s new English dub, are presented in 5.1.  Both sound very good.  All of the dialogue, sound effects, and Ko Otani's haunting and melodic score are well reproduced.

The English dubbing is much improved from the previous film,
Gamera 2:  Attack of Legion.  The voices and lip-synch are well done, and the dialogue is a straight and serious translation of the Japanese.  The character of Kurata is over-the-top, but he was always a bit fruity.  Whether you watch the film dubbed or subtitled first is strictly a matter of personal preference.  Definitely give each audio track a spin, though.  Grade:  A

Extras / Menus: Once again, ADV includes quite a few extras.  Except for the “Outtakes,” “commentary by Gamera,” and some of the ADV trailers, the extras are presented in Japanese with optional English subtitles.  First up is a 30-minute interview with Shinji Higuchi, the film’s director of special effects.  This is actually the third and final part of a very extensive interview.  (The first two parts are on the Gamera:  GOTU and Gamera 2 DVDs.)  The interview is conducted by Hirokatsu Kihara, a writer and former production manager for Studio Ghibli.  The interview covers all three films in the series, and ADV thoughtfully prefaces it with a spoiler warning.  The main topics covered are the depiction of human death in the Gamera films, the extensive “destruction of Shibuya” sequence, and integrating the human story with the monster plot.  Higuchi also talks about working with such an established character with a spotty reputation as Gamera.  The interview wraps up with some final thoughts from the two participants.  Kihara says he could tell Higuchi was holding back; Higuchi says the marathon interview was trying and stressful, and brought back many memories.

The press conference runs for almost 4 minutes.  It is not an announcement of production like the conferences included on previous discs.  Instead, it gives a progress report on the shooting of the film, as well as the official announcement of the film’s title and the name of the enemy monster.  (Interestingly enough, the monster’s name, at least in the title, is written as “demon” but pronounced as “Irysu.”)  A promotional logo is also unveiled.

The “Japanese Theatrical Trailer Collection” includes 5 trailers.  Some of them use the promotional titles
Gamera 3:  Incomplete Struggle and The Absolute Guardian of the Universe.  It’s amusing that several use music which very obviously imitates James Horner’s score for Aliens, which has been used in many American sci-fi, action, and horror trailers over the years!  The trailers run for 5 minutes.  There is also a collection of 20 (yes, 20!) Japanese TV spots.  They run for 5 1/2 minutes.

Next comes a 5-minute montage of behind-the-scenes footage, set to the song “Gamera Always Wins.”  “Gamera Promotional Events” is a mere 1 minute of footage.  It’s a photo-op for the press held at Daiei studios with director Shusuke Kaneko and the actresses from the movie.  Kaneko alludes to Godzilla’s makeover for
the U.S. movie the previous year, and says he would like for Gamera to achieve international success.

Also included is footage of the film’s opening day in Japanese theaters.  The film’s premiere is preceded by onstage appearances by Shusuke Kaneko, Shinji Higuchi, and several actresses.  There is an appearance by Gamera himself (via a promotional suit), and the cast & crew sign autographs for the fans after the show.  This clip runs for 6 minutes.

While all of these extras are taken from the region 2 Japanese DVDs, there are two comedic additions produced by ADV themselves.  “Outtakes” runs 4 minutes.  It consists of film clips with humorous dubbing.  The clips are fewer in number, but longer, than those included on the
G2 DVD.  This selection is also funnier than the G2 outtakes.  “Commentary by Gamera” is a mock audio commentary on an alternate audio track.  It’s moderated by Kyle Jones (who is listed in the DVD credits as producer, writer, and director of the English version of G3, as well as a voice actor for several minor roles).  The “participants” are Gamera (who speaks with the same British accent as in the G2 outtakes), Iris (a woman’s voice with a Russian accent) and Soldier #6.  He’s a “fake shemp” (uncredited stand-in) who claims to have played “background” roles in every Gamera film.  He has a hillbilly accent familiar from several of ADV’s humorous supplements.  As the movie runs, these players answer questions and comment on the on-screen action.  This commentary is a minor diversion; it’s worth watching once for a few chuckles.

Finally, there are the requisite ADV previews.  This batch includes
Noir, Farscape Season 3, The Princess Blade, Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda Season 2, RahXephon, and Gamera:  Guardian of the Universe.

Though still solid, this batch of supplements is the weakest of the trilogy.  While this disc has the same categories of “real” extras as the first two, the number and variety of clips included is lesser.  Most of the menus are still images with background music.  The chapter select and ADV preview screens have animated film clips in the selection windows. 
Grade:  A-

Final Analysis: Gamera 3 may be the greatest modern kaiju film.  It looks and sounds great on this DVD.  Every kaiju fan will want to complete their Gamera collection with this fine disc.  Thanks again, ADV!  Final Grade:  A
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