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Japanese Monster Movies Collector's Edition
Volume 2 Box Set
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Box Front
Includes: Gamera vs. Zigra, Gamera vs. Monster X, Gamera vs. Gaos, and Monster From A Prehistoric Planet
Japanese Titles: Gamera Tai Shinkai Kaiju Jigura (“Gamera vs. Deep Sea Monster Zigra”), Gamera Tai Daimaju Jaiga (“Gamera vs. Giant Demon Beast Jiger”), Daikaiju Kuchusen Gamera Tai Gyaosu (“Giant Monster Air Battle:  Gamera vs. Gyaos”), and Daikyoju Gappa (“Giant Animal Monster Gappa”)
Alternate Titles: Gamera vs. Zigra is aka Gamera vs. Zigra, Deep Sea Monster (international title).  Gamera vs. Monster X is aka Gamera vs. Jiger:  Monster Invade Expo 70 (international title).  Gamera vs. Gaos is aka Return Of The Giant Monsters (original U.S. title) and Gamera vs. Gaos:  Boy Eiichi And The Super Monsters (international title).  Monster From A Prehistoric Planet is aka Gappa, The Triphibian Monsters (international title).
Directors: Noriaki Yuasa (GvZ, GvMX, and GvG), Haruyasu Noguchi (MFAPP)
Original Release Years: 1971 (GvZ), 1970 (GvMX), 1967 (GvG), and 1967 (MFAPP)
Running Times: 89 minutes, 75 minutes, 87 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 #: 011891930307
Catalog #: 93030
Status: Available


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

Gamera vs. Zigra:  A spaceship lands in the ocean, carrying a woman who claims to be from the planet Zigra.  If the Earth doesn’t surrender to her, she threatens to destroy the major cities of the world with powerful earthquakes.  The woman’s master is the shark-like alien Zigra (is he named after the planet, or vice versa?).  When the benevolent Gamera destroys the Zigran craft, Zigra quickly grows to daikaiju proportions.  Gamera manages to bring the hostile alien ashore, but is knocked out by Zigra’s ray.  Earth’s scientists and the military hunker down in their HQ at nearby Sea World to figure out how to revive Gamera and deal with Zigra.

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!

Gamera vs. Zigra and Gamera vs. Monster X are the seventh and sixth Gamera movies, respectively.  GvZ is one of the weaker entries in the series.  It takes a while for the monster action to get started (almost 50 minutes), and the two lead children are annoying.  On the plus side, the underwater action looks good, and Zigra is a cool monster.  The music is also improved over the previous few entries, which tended to re-use the simplistic and annoying musical cues introduced in Gamera vs. Viras.  (The “chase theme” for the woman pursing the kids around Sea World is particularly groovy.)  All in all, GvZ has its problems, but remains enjoyable for Gamera fans.  Grade for GvZ:  C

Gamera vs. Monster X is one of the stranger films in the series, 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 and 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.  It should be noted, however, that Diamond’s version of the film is edited.  Several “people scenes” are cut or trimmed.  It runs about six minutes shorter than Retromedia’s versionGrade for GvMX:  B-

…And on to disk two:

Gamera vs. Gaos:  There is a rash of seismic and volcanic activity in the area of Mt. Fuji.  Gamera is drawn to the flames and disappears into a volcano.  The situation becomes even tenser when it is discovered that another monster is living nearby!  The flying monster Gyaos stays concealed in a subterranean cavern that gives off an ominous green glow.  It emerges at night to feed on humans.  Gyaos resembles a prehistoric flying reptile, and it emits a supersonic ray that can slice through almost anything.  Scientists determine that Gyaos isn’t just nocturnal by choice; it is damaged by ultraviolet light.  If Gyaos could be kept out in the open past dawn, sunlight would kill it.  A plan is hatched, and even by kaiju eiga standards, it’s a doozy:  Artificial blood will be used to lure Gyaos atop a revolving platform.  By spinning the platform faster and faster, the monster will be kept in place.  Of course, it takes too much electric power to do this, and amid a shower of sparks the plan fails.  Now it is up to Gamera to exploit his foe’s weakness and triumph.

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.

Gamera vs. Gaos (Sandy Frank dropped the “y”) is Gamera film number three.  It is perhaps the best film in the original series.  It benefits from exciting monster battles and good special effects.  Gyaos would prove to be Gamera’s most popular and enduring foe.  Despite the simplicity of its design and some stiff movement, the creature manages to “come alive” on film quite well.  Its sonic beam is a unique weapon that is well realized.  The miniature work is also excellent.  Eiich is the most authentic of the many young boys to co-star with Gamera.  He’s neither an introverted outcast nor a child prodigy.  In fact, he’s kind of a brat.  There is also some beautiful mountain forest scenery.  All of these elements combine to make GvG an appealing and entertaining monster movie.
Grade for GvG:  A-

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: The back of the box claims these are “fully restored and enhanced digital masters.”  No.  These are piss-poor prints presented in fullscreen, and plagued by both print damage and sloppy video compression.

Gamera vs. Zigra has a very soft picture that is lacking in detail.  The colors are dull and faded, except for red tones that are strangely over-saturated.  The combination is headache inducing.  Needless to say, Neptune Media’s widescreen VHS special editions looked far, far superior.

Gamera vs. Monster X is faded, grainy, and riddled with print damage.  It looks quite a bit worse than the version on Retromedia’s second Gamera double feature, which was hardly reference quality.  Very poor.

Gamera vs. Gaos suffers from dull colors and poor detail.  Celebrity’s “Just For Kids” EP-mode VHS from the 1980’s looks better!  It has a sharper image and more vibrant colors.  This DVD is outperformed by a budget VHS tape that’s over 15 years old.  Pathetic.

Although the box lists the final movie as
Gappa, The Triphibian Monsters; it’s an AIP dubbed print entitled Monster From A Prehistoric Planet.  Diamond really shows how careless / brainless they are with this one:  It’s the same as the Alpha Video version, which earned a video grade and a final grade of “F” here at DMI.  It’s a worn old print that suffers from grain and faded colors.  There is color bleeding and digital artifacting.  It’s so dark at times that you can’t even see what’s happening on screen.  Grade:  D-

Audio: Gamera vs. Zigra and Gamera vs. Gaos are the Sandy Frank versions of the films.  They were released in the 1980’s on VHS and syndicated to TV, and subsequently ridiculed by Mystery Science Theater 3000Gamera vs. Monster X and Monster From A Prehistoric Planet are the original English-dubbed versions from AIP.  The older AIP dubs are generally considered superior to those done later.

The audio is presented in pseudo-5.1.  There’s no true separation; the same mono signal is just sent out to multiple speakers.  The AIP titles sound pretty flat. 
GvMX is noticeably weak.  It pales in comparison to the Retromedia version.  The screechy voices in the SF dubs are pretty grating.  The U.S. version of GvZ uses the “chase theme” as the main title theme.  Lacking the quality remastered audio of the region 2 disk, it sounds downright painful here.  Grade:  D

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 4 minutes, it lists some cast and crew credits.  It also includes film synopses, which are the same ones printed on the box.  There are also facts and trivia.  It’s a total of four “facts,” several of which are wrong anyway.

Most of the extras are identical on both disks.  The photo gallery is the only extra with any variation.  Playing for a little over 1 minute, it consists of 18 or 19 low-quality still images from the two films on the disk.  Considering the clear freeze-frame capabilities of DVD, photo galleries of movie stills are pretty useless.  The menus are all still images; only the main menus have background music. 
Grade:  D-

Final Analysis: Diamond’s second volume of Japanese monster movies is notable only for the inclusion of two of the Sandy Frank Gamera films, none of which have been released on DVD before.  However, they’re presented so poorly that it hardly even matters.  Skip this forgettable set.

Looking at both of the Diamond collections:  It would have been better if they included all of the Sandy Frank versions, instead of the same old AIP dubs that companies like Retromedia and Alpha Video have been peddling.  Instead of
MFAPP, they should have dug up the English dubbed version of Gamera, Super Monster.  (There are at least five other versions of Gappa / MFAPP available in region 1 already.  Tokyo Shock’s widescreen, dual-language version is by far the best.)  It’s obvious that little care or effort went into making these two boxes, and the production team knew little or nothing about kaiju films.  Note to other low-budget DVD companies:  There are more than enough crappy versions of the Gamera films available already.  Unless you’re going to release the uncut Sandy Frank versions, and significantly improve the video and audio presentations, PLEASE DON’T EVEN BOTHER.
Final Grade:  D
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Box Back Disk 1 Front Disk 1 Back
Box Back Disc 1, Front (Left) and Back (Right)
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The Total Package!
Disc 2, Front (Left) and Back (Right)
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