Gamera backs down and splices into his own feature sequel for mere minutes, allowing the pokey, rainbow spitting Barugon to enact a cinematic take over. Barugon’s credentials are wholly Daiei, embracing the outward goofiness inherent in the studio’s typically playful monster bashes, only now seated in a viciously adult narrative of contempt, hatred, wife beating, and betrayal.
Koji Fujiyama heads a jungle based opal excavation as Onodera, a seething and dirty thief who thrashes his own family, their friends, and their brothers in an exchange for potential riches. Onodera is a character whom ignores the guarded casting of Toho’s corrupted exploiters from King Kong vs Godzilla, Mothra, and others, instead existing in a realm of comic book villainy. Writer Nisan Takahashi is at the helm of his sole adult-specific Showa series entry, and seems allured by the conceptual possibility. Restraints were few.
Of course, Daiei was in the midst of a drastic audience miscalculation. Most in the attendance by 1965 locked on to the screechy sub-10 year old Toshio in Gamera rather than the cruelty of Onodera or Daiei’s exotic feminine counter to Mie Hama, Kyoko Enami. Instead, they wanted Gamera and his friend to all children persona. They received Barugon.
Gamera vs. Barugon is the outright oddity of the first series, daringly adept with its effects if shabby with its script. Intersecting city wide brawls are instances of head smacking foreshadowing and unnecessary narration from a disembodied voice. Pacing is left in shambles with a sluggish introductory period superfluously tacking on Gamera to blast a water power facility before the feature descends into Malaria-ridden island exploration.
Barugon pops from an egg 40-minutes in and ignites this sequel run with needed energy, including an accomplished military bombardment which showcases director Noriaki Yuasa’s special effects acumen. Often derided for his budget strapped Gamera nonsense to follow, Daiei’s financial touch-up brings about a feature as visually enticing and daring as anything Toho was dropping into theaters. In comparison to Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster, also in ’66, Daiei trounced their competition.
Failed military practice leaves Gamera frosted in Osaka for much of the picture. Barguon’s offensive adeptness is overwhelming, and a shame considering the malicious looking Gamera suit deserves heightened involvement. Thus, mental muscles are pulled to find a solution to Barugon’s impressively animal-like downtown rummaging, invoking the absurd as often as it does missiles and tank assaults. For a creature who shoots rainbows (!) from his spikes, Yuasa and company treat it with a specialized care in the lens.
Like Godzilla, this edition of Gamera does not peg the titled turtle for his heroics; this is a conveniently frustrated nuclear menace who thaws himself as the human roster extinguishes themselves of ideas. One year later, the theatrics turned goofy (if not without some alarming imagery) and Gamera’s film series would begin an appropriate run into self-mockery territory. Barugon is an unexpected showcase of talent amidst a financial windfall.
Mill Creek shoves this kaiju sequel onto a Blu-ray with three others of its contemporaries and the end result is a mess of compression. While the move to color cinematography hides chunks of the issue, the restrained palette is a secondary bother. Hues show distinct separation between gradients instead of a natural color curve, instantaneously notable when Kojiro Hongo makes his first appearance.
Gamera vs. Barguon is a hazy feature, often saturated with fog, smoke, or mist. This creates an impenetrable wall of artifacts, drooping into the otherwise superior visual effect footage. At times, blocks turn so thick – even in their fraction of a second frames – it resembles an encoding error. It’s not, sadly. Any screen busy with plentiful material to dissect is ruined under the command of this AVC offering.
Resolution helps, even if imagery is battered by smearing when in motion. Subtle details on the monster suits are discernible and some stray wire work is unfortunately visible. Facial definition is striking when performances show stability. Like the rest of this series, film stocks appear faded and a touch pale, if miles ahead of the frail 16mm TV prints which cycled through public domain packs for decades.
Instances of skipped frames are shared with the Shout DVD editions, as is some damage which barely warrants mention. Barugon has been cleaned to impeccable levels, and what remains is a wonderful print which would have remained a kaiju dream ten years ago. Shame then it’s crumbling under the weight of Blu-ray cost cutting.
Dolby Digital is all this disc is afforded in terms of space, matching the previous DVD editions without upgrade. Accomplished composer Chuji Kinoshita’s trumpeting score depicts wear to its drums and highs, with a touch of rot pushing into the piece. A handful of pops confirm the degradation process. Fading dialog is passable. Note that no dub is available.
Stock audio effects and explosions are clearly tired from their decades of play, presented here with some restoration work. Again, when the competition is comprised of decades old prints meant for television, any touch up work is going to alleviate some issues.
A commentary and bonus featurette are cut from the DVD, either due to space or licensing issues.
Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.