A Magnitude 13 Disaster

Gamera vs Zigra begins on the moon – our moon in the future, a narrator says. There, Japan established a base, which is then attacked by aliens. Down on Earth, it’s 1971. So, not the future?

No matter fandom levels, genre dedication, or appreciation for Asian rubber suit creature features, there’s a breaking point. Almost universally, that point is Gamera vs Zigra. It’s nigh impossible to take anything positive from this dismal, sluggish, desperate production, Daiei’s last gasp before bankruptcy swallowed the studio.

Gamera vs Zigra aims so young because only the Sesame Street demographic can tolerate this sagging plot

It’s a movie about pollution, kind of. The Zigran alien – just one – comes to Earth to soak in our oceans before humanity ruins them. The theme occasionally pops up in the script, soon overtaken by a promotional tie-in for Sea World. Not only is Gamera vs Zigra set in Sea World, entire action scenes drag along the child stars, stopping to give audiences a look at exhibits.

“Hey old men!” shouts Kenichi (Yasushi Sakagami) during a military meeting, then stating the obvious to call Gamera and rid Earth of Zigra. It’s par for Gamera films to appease children and speak for them, depicting them as smarter than adults. Gamera vs Zigra aims so young though, because only the Sesame Street demographic can tolerate this sagging plot.

If there’s any moment that works – and it’s a stretch – a smug hotel manager duels with an animal caretaker over a tiny fish haul. The scene encapsulates Japan’s climate priorities. What matters to the manager is keeping guests fed, even if they have other options; the animals don’t matter. The keeper holds firm, because dolphins and whales don’t have a choice. One protects Earth’s creatures, the other his quarterly reports.

Gamera does show up. He brawls with golblin shark-like Zigra on skimpy miniature sets. It’s asinine stuff, even for Gamera, leading to the grand finale where Gamera plays Zigra’s fins like a xylophone. Campy and funny, but not enough to dilute the memory from the previous 70-minutes.

Video

While a little plain and another restoration pass is in order, Gamera vs Zigra delivers passable resolution. Sharpness represents an older but acceptable master. Grain naturally bonds to the image, resolved without complaints. Texture isn’t grand, but enough to pick up on Gamera’s skin or Zigra’s curves.

Concerns pop up in wide shots where ringing appears, lessening detail while those hard-edged halos surround objects. This is marginal in less complex shots, but filming a rocky beach (showing numerous edges and ground textures) looks particularly rough.

Flattened color limits saturation, loosening density and boldness. Zigra’s ship, with the Trix cereal-like roof design, is the richest this disc gets. It’s fine, but blah. Contrast fares the same, a little listless, but staving off dimness. Black levels barely factor across this brightly lit film.

Audio

Other discs in Arrow’s Gamera Blu-ray set, for the Showa films anyway, sound fine. Unspectacular maybe, if stable and clear. Gamera vs Zigra falters. The theme song muddies, lyrics scratchy and instruments dulled. Dialog suffers from muffled output, as if the recording mic was covered with something. Or, it’s akin to hearing a movie while completely smothered by a blanket.

The English dub is minimally better, if only because the dialog runs a little brighter.

Extras

August Ragone’s excellent intros continue here, followed by an airy, appreciative commentary via Sea Rhoads and Brooke McCorkle, co-authors of Japan’s Green Monsters. English credits, trailers, and an image gallery lock this one down.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Gamera vs Zigra
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Prepare your tolerance for low budget giant monster movies before Gamera vs Zigra, but even that might not be enough.

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