|Gamera vs. Monster X / Monster from a
Prehistoric Planet Double Feature
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|Japanese Titles: Gamera Tai Daimaju Jaiga (“Gamera vs. Giant Demon Beast Jiger”) and Daikyoju Gappa (“Giant Animal Monster Gappa”)
Alternate Titles: Gamera vs. Monster X is aka Gamera vs. Jiger: Monster Invade Expo 70 (international title); Monster from a Prehistoric Planet is aka Gappa: The Triphibian Monsters (international title)
Directors: Noriaki Yuasa (GvMX) and Haruyasu Noguchi (MFAPP)
Original Release Years: 1970 (GvMX) and 1967 (MFAPP)
Running Times: 81 minutes and 90 minutes, respectively
DVD Released By: Retromedia Entertainment
Audio: English mono
Closed Captions: None
Chapters: 6 per film
UPC #: 014381213522
Catalog #: RET2135DVD
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|The Films: Retromedia strikes back with two more kaiju classics, featuring the benevolent flying turtle Gamera, and the triphibian monster Gappa.
Gamera vs. Monster X: On a South Pacific island, an excavation team unearths a 30-foot tall statue, the Devil’s Whistle. Despite warnings of a curse, and interference by Gamera, the statue is shipped to Japan for display at Expo ’70. Jiger, a quadrupedal monster resembling a horned dinosaur, emerges from underground. After incapacitating Gamera, she rockets off towards Japan after the Devil’s Whistle. When the two monsters again clash in Osaka, a worse fate befalls Gamera: Via a stinger in her tail, Jiger impregnates the giant turtle with a parasitic larva! Gamera collapses in the ocean, and Jiger’s destruction continues unabated. In order to save the “friend to children,” and Expo ’70, two young boys commandeer a small submarine. They take it on a Fantastic Voyage-like journey inside Gamera’s body. If they can cure and revive Gamera, then the Expo may yet be saved!
Monster from a Prehistoric Planet: A magazine tycoon plans to set up a faux tropical resort on the Japanese mainland. He sends an expedition to a South Seas island to collect rare plants and animals for the resort. They discover something rare and special indeed: A prehistoric egg! A reptilian creature soon hatches. Confident that this discovery will bring great publicity to the resort project, they decide to bring the newborn back to Japan. However, the monstrous parents (dubbed “Gappa” by the natives) want their baby back! The Gappa are winged dinosaur-like creatures of Godzilla proportions. They breathe deadly flames, and are equally at home on land, in the sea, and in the air. The military is unable to stop the creatures as they rampage through Japan in search of their offspring. A lot of Japanese real estate is trampled before the publisher and researchers release the baby Gappa. Reunited at an airport, mama and papa Gappa give the youngster a quick flying lesson before returning to their island home.
Both films are strong entries in the 1960s Japanese kaiju eiga cycle. Gamera vs. Monster X is the sixth film in the Gamera series. It’s also one of the stranger ones, and that’s saying something. Jiger has the most diverse and bizarre arsenal of any of Gamera’s opponents. The film has high production values. There is no stock footage, and plenty of urban destruction. The adult characters are dumbfounded by the events, so it’s up to the children to take the initiative and save the day. (Hiroshi’s father is the one adult who does not dismiss the youngster’s ideas. He has as much faith in Gamera as the kids do!) This strange movie is enjoyable enough to be considered the last really good film in the original series. Grade for GvMX: B
Monster from a Prehistoric Planet was the only kaiju eiga produced by Nikkatsu, one of Japan’s major studios. Akira Watanabe, an assistant to Eiji Tsuburaya, directed the special effects. While obviously low budget, they show great attention to detail (for example, when the adult Gappa pair first appear in Japan, the female carries an octopus in her mouth to feed her young). The Gappa are an interesting combination of bird and dinosaur, and the miniature work is quite good. Oddly enough, only one of the adult characters, a female photographer, is sympathetic to the baby Gappa. Of course, the two children (a native boy and the publisher’s daughter) have a rapport with the creature. MFAPP both imitates and pokes fun at the Japanese kaiju eiga formula. Grade for MFAPP: B
Video: “Please note: Every possible effort has been made to create the highest quality presentation available. Due to the age of the original materials some audio and video imperfections exist.”
Each film is preceded by the above disclaimer, which is unfortunately well deserved. (They also open with a vintage 1970s “Our Feature Presentation” title card, which is a mainstay at midnight revivals and was also included before Kill Bill Volume 1.) Both films are presented in fullscreen, greatly cutting down on the scope and spectacle of the original widescreen images. The prints show their age with plenty of speckles, splotches, and lines. The colors are faded and the picture is grainy.
GvMX is frequently plagued by a row of squiggly horizontal lines on the right side of the screen. The flesh tones are sometimes off, with unnatural yellow or reddish tints (though thankfully not as bad as on the cover art!). The beautiful region 2 version is far, far superior to this.
The beginning and ending of MFAPP suffer from heavy grain and a lot of scratches. The body of the film is in better shape. Darker scenes are very murky and lacking in detail, while the white safari hats worn on the island appear to glow! While the Gappa disc from Tokyo Shock is hardly pristine, it looks a lot better than this (and is widescreen to boot). Grade: D
Audio: The English mono audio is sufficient, if unspectacular. The dialogue is easily understandable. The music and sound effects are well represented. The soundtracks are thankfully not marred by very much of the hissing and popping common with old movies. GvMX benefits from an excellent dub. The voices are appropriate and well acted, and the lip synch is fine. MFAPP is a bit goofier, but still acceptable. The boss’s rants about a “burnt lizard” are classic. Grade: B
Extras / Menus: There are no extras on the disc, unless you count a single screen featuring a scantily clad woman hawking the Retromedia website (I don’t). The menus are simple and easy to navigate. The main menu has some smoke / fire animation while the Gamera March plays. The scene selection menus have dialogue samples and background animation, while film clips play in the selection windows. Grade: D-
Final Analysis: Two beat-up old public domain prints on one disc. Gamera vs. Monster X had never been released on video in the U.S. before. Too bad it didn’t debut in better fashion. Any edition of MFAPP / Gappa which isn’t an improvement over the Tokyo Shock version is just superfluous. In their true, original forms, these films are colorful widescreen spectacles. It’s too bad that low-budget video companies (and even some so-called “fans”) are content to see them reduced to cheap PD fodder. Final Grade: D+
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