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Gappa, The Triphibian Monsters
(Tokyo Shock / Media Blasters)
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Japanese Title: Daikyoju Gappa (“Giant Animal Monster Gappa”)
Original U.S. Release Title: Monster From A Prehistoric Planet
Director: Haruyasu Noguchi
Original Release Year: 1967
Running Time: 84 minutes

DVD Released By: Tokyo Shock / Media Blasters
Video: Widescreen
Audio: English mono, Japanese mono
Extras: Liner notes
Subtitles: English (dubtitles; available with the Japanese version only, and non-removable for that version)
Closed Captions: None
Region: 1
Format: NTSC
Chapters: 8
Packaging: Keepcase
MSRP: $19.95
UPC #: 631595018028
Catalog #: TSDVD-0180
Status: Available


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Reviewed by:  Zillamon51
The Film: A magazine tycoon plans to set up a faux tropical resort on the Japanese mainland.  He sends an expedition to the South Seas island of Obelisk to collect rare plants and animals for the resort.  They discover something rare and special indeed:  A prehistoric egg!  Hidden in a cave where the natives fear to venture, the egg has (supposedly) been lying dormant for millions of years until an active volcano completes its incubation.  A reptilian creature hatches from the egg.  Confident that this discovery will bring great publicity to the resort project, they decide to bring the newborn creature back to Japan.  The natives warn that doing so will anger their god, Gappa.  However, the warnings fall on deaf ears.

The expedition has made a grievous error, though.  The egg is not a prehistoric relic; its parents are alive and well, and they 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 (hence the title).  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.

Gappa is an interesting entry in the 1960’s Japanese monster boom.  It’s the only kaiju eiga produced by Nikkatsu, one of Japan’s major studios at the time.  The special effects were directed by Akira Watanabe, an assistant to Eiji Tsuburaya.  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.  Gappa both imitates and pokes fun at the Japanese kaiju eiga formula.  Grade:  B

Video: Gappa, The Triphibian Monsters is presented in non-anamorphic widescreen.  The film print is in very good shape, with only minor speckles.  However, the transfer is a mixed bag.  While some scenes are clear, sharp, and colorful, others are faded, murky, and dull.  Especially in the darker scenes, it can be hard to see what’s going on.  All in all, this disk is only a marginal improvement over Tokyo Shock's previous VHS edition.  However, it's light-years ahead of any of the cheap public domain versions (under the title Monster From A Prehistoric Planet) available from low-budget companies like Alpha Video, Retromedia, and DiamondGrade:  C

Audio: Both the original mono Japanese language track, and the mono English dub track, are good quality.  The dialogue, music and sound effects are all reproduced faithfully.  Curiously enough, instead of encoding one version of the movie on the disk with two language tracks, Tokyo Shock has duplicated the movie twice.  The English subtitles are only available on the Japanese version.  The Japanese version also includes a theme song that is played over the opening and closing credits.  The English version has no subtitles, and no theme song.  Grade:  B

Extras / Menus: The only extra is four pages (screens?) of liner notes by Guy Mariner Tucker.  Topics covered include the popularity of kaiju in the late 1960’s, which prompted studios like Nikkatsu (with no prior or subsequent experience in the genre) to try their hand at kaiju eiga, and some background on Akira Watanabe.  It is also pointed out that Gappa was intended as a parody, and that one Nikkatsu alumni (Shusuke Kaneko, director of the Heisei Gamera trilogy and GMK) would go on to have a great impact on the kaiju genre.  An interesting read.

Curiously enough, Tokyo Shock has not included any trailers.  Trailers for
Gappa and several other movies were on their previous VHS release.  The menus are still and basic, with the only sound being a clip of the theme song played when the main menu boots up for the first time.  Grade:  B-

Final Analysis: Gappa was the first kaiju eiga released on region 1 DVD that includes both the original Japanese language track and the English dub.  Since then, cheap dubbed, fullscreen versions have multiplied on store shelves like bunny rabbits.  The old AIP version of Gappa has become the most duplicated title since Night Of The Living Dead.  Despite its shortcomings (sparse extras, dubtitles, and mediocre video quality), this disk is far superior to any other version available in the U.S.  Recommended.
Final Grade:  B
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