|Gamera vs. Barugon (Region 2)|
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|Japanese Title: Daikaiju Ketto: Gamera tai Barugon (ďGiant Monster Duel: Gamera vs. BarugonĒ)
Original U.S. Release Title: War of the Monsters
Alternate Titles: Gamera vs. Barugon, Chilling Monster (international title)
Director: Shigeo Tanaka
Original Release Year: 1966
Running Time: 100 minutes
DVD Released By: Toshiba / Daiei Video (Japan)
Video: Anamorphic widescreen
Audio: Japanese mono
Extras: Interview, filmographies, trailers, monster anatomy
Closed Captions: None
MSRP: 4,700 yen
UPC #: 4988008039788
Catalog #: TKBU-5072
Status: Out of print. (Was also available as part of the Gamera: The Box 1965-1968 Box Set.)
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|The Film: At the end of the original Gamera, the giant turtle was trapped in a huge rocket and launched towards Mars. This film begins six months later. A meteor strikes the rocket, freeing Gamera, who flies back to Earth. Low on energy, Gamera destroys Kurobe Dam and then retreats to the fiery warmth of an equatorial volcano.
Meanwhile, WWII vet Mr. Hirata assembles a small group of people to go to New Guinea. Their goal: Retrieve a huge opal that Hirata hid there during the war. The group includes his younger brother Keisuke, the good-natured Kawajiri, and the greedy Onodera. After the jewel is found, Onodera wastes no time in betraying his partners and leaving them for dead. However, he has made a terrible mistake. The opal is not really a jewel; it is a monsterís egg! Onodera unwittingly incubates it with an infrared lamp, and it hatches just as the ship prepares to dock in Kobe.
Its growth accelerated by the lamp, Barugon emerges fully-grown from the sea. Itís a lizard-like creature that walks on all fours. The monsterís long tongue sprays a mist that freezes everything within its reach! Thatís not its only weapon, though. As the military prepares a long-distance missile strike, Barugon unleashes a rainbow-energy ray from its dorsal spines. Gamera is attracted by the heat and energy, and the monsters do battle. Barugon freezes Gamera and continues its rampage unabated.
Keisuke has survived Onoderaís treachery, however. He returns to Japan accompanied by Karen, a woman from the island where the opal was found. The beautiful and alluring native has brought a large diamond with her. Her people have traditionally used it to lure Barugon-like monsters to their deaths, but the military operation to use it against the new monster goes awry. They do succeed in turning Barugonís own rainbow against it, and while severely wounded, it still survives. The thawed-out Gamera may be the only hope for ending Barugonís chilling reign!
Gamera vs. Barugon is interesting in that it doesnít pick up with the child-friendly motif introduced in the original. (It wouldnít be until the third film, Gamera vs. Gyaos, that Gamera would be firmly established as the ďfriend to children.Ē) It is also the only Showa Gamera film not directed by Noriaki Yuasa (Mr. Yuasa did serve as special effects director). Its high production values and adult cast show that Daiei originally wanted the series to follow the path laid out by the earlier Godzilla films before veering off into kiddie territory. The two leads, Daiei regular Kojiro Hongo (as Keisuke) and Kyoko Enami (as Karen) are appealing and have good chemistry together. The other characters are also well developed, and the special effects are excellent. The pyrotechnics are bright and colorful. While quadrupedal monsters are difficult to portray with suitmation, Barugon is a well-realized creature. Itís also a very tragic monster. It is removed from its natural environment by manís greed, through no fault of its own. Itís sad to see the gruesome burns it suffers from having its own ray turned back upon it. Since Gamera is not established as a benevolent monster, heís not necessarily the one the audience roots for as he tries to drag the bleeding Barugon beneath the waves. Despite the relatively darker, more mature tone of this film, there are a few scenes that earn (unintentional) laughs. The "grass skirts" worn by the islanders are of the red plastic variety. Onodera manages to hijack an important military operation single-handedly, armed only with a pistol. Still, in the realm of kaiju eiga in general (and the Showa Gamera series in particular), these are minor complaints. Gamera vs. Barugon is one of the best films of the original series. Grade: B+
Video: The anamorphic widescreen image is crisp and clear. It has bright colors, is free of grain, and there is extremely little print damage. Gamera vs. Barugon has never (and unfortunately, probably will never) look this good on region 1 video. Grade: A
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. The actorsí natural voices are a big improvement over the Sandy Frank dub that was previously available in the U.S. on VHS and subsequently ridiculed by Mystery Science Theater 3000. 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 canít read Japanese, so I canít tell for sure. They can be cycled through back-to-back, or selected individually from their own submenu. Next is an anatomical detail of Barugon. It includes a cut-away view of the monster, with eight 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. Two trailers are included, both in anamorphic widescreen. First is the original Japanese theatrical trailer. There is more print damage in the trailer than in the feature itself. The second trailer is for a double feature of Daimajin and Gamera vs. Barugon. Itís not as exciting as it sounds; the trailer only runs for a little over one minute, and has no music. Finally, there is a brief (1 Ĺ minute) interview with the filmís director of special effects, Noriaki Yuasa. This appears to be part of a larger interview that is spread across all eight Showa Gamera DVDs. 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: Excellent presentation of one of the best films in the Showa Gamera series. Highly recommended. Final Grade: A
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