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Volume 1 Box Set
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Box Front
Includes: Gammera, The Invincible; War Of The Monsters, Attack Of The Monsters, and Destroy All Planets
Japanese Titles: Daikaiju Gamera (“Giant Monster Gamera”), Daikaiju Ketto Gamera Tai Barugon (“Giant Monster Duel:  Gamera vs. Barugon”), Gamera Tai Daiaiku Guiron (“Gamera vs. Giant Evil Beast Guillon”), and Gamera Tai Uchu Kaiju Bairusu (“Gamera vs. Space Monster Viras”)
Alternate Titles: Gammera, The Invincible is aka Giant Monster Gamera (Neptune Media title, subtitled Japanese version), Gamera (Sandy Frank title), and Gamera, The Invincible (international title).  War Of The Monsters is aka Gamera vs. Barugon (Sandy Frank title), and Gamera vs. Barugon, Chilling Monster (international title).  Attack Of The Monsters is aka Gamera vs. Guillon (Neptune Media title), Gamera vs. Guiron (Sandy Frank title), and Gamera vs. Guiron, Giant Evil Monster (international title).  Destroy All Planets is aka Gamera vs. Viras (international title).
Directors: Noriaki Yuasa (Gammera w/ Sandy Howard, AOTM, and DAP), Shigeo Tanaka (WOTM)
Original Release Years: 1965 (Gammera Japanese version), 1966 (Gammera U.S. version and WOTM), 1969 (AOTM), and 1968 (DAP)
Running Times: 85 minutes, 88 minutes, 80 minutes, and 90 minutes, respectively

DVD 2-Disk Box Set Released By: Diamond Entertainment
Video: Fullscreen
Audio: English 5.1 mono
Extras: Gamera bio, film information, facts and trivia, photo gallery
Subtitles: None
Closed Captions: None
Region: 1
Format: NTSC
Chapters: 8 per film
Packaging: 2 keepcases in a box
MSRP: $11.99
UPC #: 011891930284
Catalog #: 93028
Status: Available


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Reviewed by:  Zillamon51
The Films: This is a low-budget box set of four classic Gamera films, on two disks.  The films included on the first disk are:

Gammera, The Invincible:  An atomic explosion in the arctic releases the turtle-like monster Gamera from his ancient resting place.  While the international community debates how to deal with Gamera, the monster appears in Hokkaido and demolishes a lighthouse.  The otherwise destructive monster demonstrates a soft spot for children when he rescues a young boy 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 “Plan Z” is being prepared to rid the world of the monster.

War Of The Monsters:  This film begins six months later.  A meteor strikes the Plan Z 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, a small group of people goes to New Guinea to retrieve a huge opal that was hidden there during the war.  However, they make a terrible mistake:  The opal is not really a jewel; it is a monster’s egg!  Unwittingly incubated with an infrared lamp, it hatches just as the ship prepares to dock in Kobe.  Its growth accelerated by the lamp, Barugon emerges fully-grown from the sea.  It’s a lizard-like creature that walks on all fours.  The monster’s long tongue sprays a mist that freezes everything within its reach!  That’s not its only weapon, though.  Barugon also unleashes a rainbow-energy ray from its dorsal spines.  Gamera is attracted by the heat and energy, and the monsters do battle.  Gamera may be the only hope for ending Barugon’s chilling reign!

These are the U.S. dubbed versions of the first two Gamera films. 
Gammera, The Invincible (the American distributor added the extra “M”) is in black and white, perhaps in an attempt to capture some of the moodiness of the original Godzilla.  It’s played straight, with only a suggestion of the child-oriented approach future Gamera films would take.  The special effects are good, with plenty of explosions and some great miniature work.  It’s a solid monster film that paved the way for a long-running series of enjoyable movies.  Like the 1956 U.S. version of Godzilla, King Of The Monsters; Daikaiju Gamera was extensively edited to make room for additional scenes featuring American actors.  The new scenes are all talky sequences that slow the film down.  (They bloat the running time from 79 to 85 minutes.)  They are full of hammy overacting by the American actors.  The story isn’t really changed; the new scenes attempt to give the film an international scope as various experts, diplomats, and military authorities debate how to deal with the monster.  Grade for Gammera:  B-

War Of The Monsters doesn’t pick up with the child-friendly motif introduced in the original.  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 characters are 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.  It’s also a very tragic monster.  Removed from its natural environment by man’s greed, it’s 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, he’s not necessarily the one the audience roots for as he tries to drag the bleeding Barugon beneath the waves.  WOTM is one of the best films of the original series.  However, this version of the film is edited.  The Japanese version runs 100 minutes; WOTM runs 88.  It appears to have been cut in order to fit into a 90-minute TV time slot.  Some scenes of setting up military operations are omitted in favor of narration.  Grade for WOTM:  B

…And on to disk two:

Attack Of The Monsters:  Gamera journeys to Earth’s sister planet, Terra, on the far side of the sun.  The last inhabitants of Terra are two women, Barbella (“Sweet as a little bird”) and Flobella (“Pretty as a flower”).  They have abducted two boys, Tom and Akio, from Earth with a remote-controlled flying saucer.  They have to leave Terra because not only is the planet freezing, it’s infested with monsters!  Swarms of Gyaos (the flying reptile from the third Gamera movie) are ravaging the planet.  The Terrans’ watchdog monster is Guillon, whose head is shaped like a butcher knife and is twice as sharp.  This bizarre behemoth not only keeps the Gyaos at bay, he manages to knock out Gamera!  The boys need to stay ahead of the Terran women (who want to absorb their knowledge of Earth by eating their brains) long enough for Gamera to revive, defeat Guillon, and fly them back home.

Destroy All Planets:  Two boy scouts, Jim and Masao, are adept with both high-tech gadgets and practical jokes.  This combination may not endear them to the scoutmaster, but it comes in handy when they are taken prisoner by alien invaders.  After Gamera destroys their first spaceship, the aliens’ second ship manages to subdue the monster and probe his mind.  They discover his one exploitable weakness:  Gamera is friend to children!  The aliens take the boys as hostages, and attach a mind-control device to Gamera.  Luckily, the boys’ skills aren’t limited to what’s in the scouting manual.  They manage to escape and free Gamera, who attacks the ship.  The aliens have to shed their human skins and combine their bodies to form Viras, a giant pale squid-like monster.  With Viras adept at both land and underwater combat, Gamera may have to take to the skies to beat this foe!

Attack Of The Monsters and Destroy All Planets are the fifth and fourth Gamera films, respectively.  With these movies, the series firmly established the formula of presenting the Gamera adventures as fantasies for children.  In order to appeal to wide domestic and international audiences, both films pair a Japanese and a Caucasian boy in the lead roles.  The kids are likeable and resourceful (especially Jim and Masao from DAP).  Viras is a fairly lackluster foe, while Guillon looks like something a young child would design.  DAP is the weaker of the two films, due to its reliance on stock footage.  As the Virans probe Gamera’s mind, they (and the audience) see long scenes of Gamera battling Barugon and Gyaos from the two previous films.  When the aliens order Gamera to attack, the scenes of destruction are also recycled from earlier films (including the original 1965 Gamera, which was black & white!).  Combined with a lack of new miniature work, this makes the whole production look cheap and uninspired.  Grade for DAP:  C-

In contrast,
AOTM features some nifty set design, since most of the action takes place on another planet.  The major problem with the film is that the version on this disk is a censored TV print!  Scenes of Guillon dismembering Gyaos have been edited for violence.  While gruesome in a comical way, these scenes aren’t gratuitous.  They are basically a live-action version of Looney Tunes or Tom & Jerry cartoon violence.  The famous (or infamous) Gamera song is also missing.  A company called Neptune Media previously released this film on VHS, under the title Gamera vs. Guillon.  They managed to secure an uncut widescreen print, and still used the original AIP dubbing on the soundtrack.  The version presented here is a travesty in comparison.  Grade for AOTM:  C

Video: The back of the box claims these are “fully restored and enhanced digital masters.”  No.  They’re the same piss-poor prints that are also available from other low-budget DVD companies.  All of this public-domain garbage is presented in fullscreen, and plagued by both print damage and sloppy video compression.

Gammera is riddled with speckles, blotches, and vertical lines that stay on screen for minutes at a time.  There is a lot of digital artifacting, making the picture appear blocky and pixelated.  The black and white image is dull and faded, and lacks detail.  The Alpha Video version is a little sharper, with deeper, more solid black tones.

War Of The Monsters looks soft, dull, and extremely faded.  The colors are so washed out, that the film appears to be in black and white at times.  Absolutely pitiful.

Attack Of The Monsters is the best looking of the four films in this set.  That’s not saying much, however.  The print isn’t in terrible shape, though there are some speckles and lines.  This version is similar to the Alpha disk, but the image is less sharp and the colors are less vibrant than on Retromedia’s first Gamera double feature.

Destroy All Planets is marred with speckles and blotches.  The colors are dull and faded.  Like AOTM, this is on par with the previous Alpha release, and a little less vibrant than Retromedia’s.

All in all, Diamond’s transfers look similar to Alpha Video’s, except these Diamond disks suffer from more digital artifacting, blockiness, and pixelization.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were direct copies. 
Grade:  D-

Audio: These are the original English-dubbed versions of the Gamera films.  They are different dubs than the ones released in the 1980’s by Sandy Frank, and subsequently ridiculed by Mystery Science Theater 3000.  The audio is presented in pseudo-5.1.  There’s no true separation; the same mono signal is just sent out to multiple speakers.  Despite this “enhancement,” the audio is pretty flat.  Overall, the sound is actually a little weaker than on the films’ Alpha Video releases.  Grade:  C-

Extras / Menus: There are a few extras here, but don’t get your hopes up.  First up, there is a Gamera bio.  It’s a single brief paragraph of very obvious info.  Next up is film information.  Scrolling for 2 ½ minutes, it lists some cast and crew credits.  It also includes film synopses, which are pretty much the same ones printed on the box.  They are also rife with inaccuracies.  They refer to “Monster Virus,” call the boy in Gammera Yoshiro (his name is Toshio), and claim he’s telepathic.  They also list Carl Craig, who played Jim in DAP, as “Carl Crane.”  (It’s closer than “Kurl Crane,” as on the film print, but why even bother if it’s still not completely right?)  There are also facts and trivia.  It’s a total of four “facts,” several of which are wrong anyway.  Finally, there is a photo gallery.  Playing for less than 1 minute, it consists of 13 low-quality still images from the first two films.  Again, why even bother?  DVD player remotes have pause buttons.

The extras are identical on both disks.  The chapter select menus also have their share of inaccuracies.  Chapter 4 in
DAP is called “Gammera Encounters Gajos.”  The menus are all still images; only the main menus have background music.  Grade:  D-

Final Analysis: Some fans may get excited at the prospect of four Gamera films in a single set, but they really shouldn’t.  These are the same poor-quality, edited, fullscreen prints available elsewhere.  Diamond Entertainment included two of the Sandy Frank versions in their Volume 2 box set.  If they had used the SF versions here, they could have at least made this set different.  As is, many fans probably already have some or all of these versions, since they are widely available from Retromedia and / or Alpha Video.

Diamond sometimes puts out good disks.  For example, their
Sonny Chiba Street Fighter double features are uncut and in widescreen.  No such luck for Gamera.  This set may be cheap as dirt (only $3 per movie), but you get what you pay for:  The films look like dirt.  The region 2 sets may cost ten times as much, but they look a hundred times better.  They’re worth every penny.  Avoid this Diamond set; it’s really just a lump of coal.  Final Grade:  D-
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Box Back Disk 1 Front Disk 1 Back
Box Back Disc 1, Front (Left) and Back (Right)
Disk 2 Front Disk 2 Back
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The Total Package!
Disc 2, Front (Left) and Back (Right)
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