After being absent for fifteen years, it was thought to bring Gamera back to theaters and the results were better than ever anticipated. Here was the kaiju Gamera was always meant to be. A monster that was a monster yet one that was created by man to help man against other kaiju who would do harm. There were still the rubber suits of course, paying respect to what had come before, but also because it was likely more feasible than anything else. And really, who cares as this film was what we had been looking forward to for years. What was perhaps the most astonishing thing of all was the good script, story and dialogue by Kazunori Itō and the above average acting by the cast. Instead of being made solely for children, the movie could be enjoyed by all and the material while a little darker, was treated seriously instead of as a joke.
Every good kaiju movie whether it is Godzilla or Gamera, has to have someone for our hero to fight and for this picture they brought back Gyaos only this time, there was three of them. One cannot talk about Gamera without talking about the visual and practical effects that went into the movie and gone is the styrofoam-headed Gyaos from years past, instead replaced with a more traditional rubber suit that actually had some design to it. The creature was still recognizable as Gyaos, but much improved, with the same powers as well and using new and up-to-date effects for a little awe and spectacle. These effects would also be used to give Gamera’s flame powers a little boost and during the points of the film where it mattered, they really added to it rather than took away as this was no longer the 1960s. Here it looked like these kaiju could really cause some damage and during the money-shot moments when a fireball would explode out of Gamera, it was incredibly exciting. Gamera’s suit would also go through a bit of a redesign, still keeping it true to his look but being a bit more streamlined and not looking like the embarrassments that came before.
Again, Itō’s story was strong and it really gave the monster some credibility. No longer would he be a foil for children, appearing at their every beck and call. He would no longer be the glorified pet for the children of Japan, and instead he would be its saviour. Yes, there is still a child in the film, named Asagi and played by Ayako Fujitani, who also just happens to be the daughter of Steven Seagal. She does a great job in the role as a girl who shares an empathic bond with the creature and it is through her that we learn of what Gamera is going to do. Also starring would be Tsuyoshi Ihara as Yoshinari Yonemori, Akira Onodera as Ayako’s father, Naoya Kusanagi and Shinobu Nakayama who would be the more traditional leading lady and the ornithologist who loves the strange ‘birds.’
Missing from the film is the hokiness that seemed to plague the series over its lifespan. There was no dancing, no acrobatics and no playing the various parts of your enemies like musical instruments either. This was a movie that was meant to be a contender for Godzilla and it succeeded on every level. Godzilla will always be King of the Monsters, but with this film, Gamera came really close to overtaking the big guy. Directed by Shusuke Kaneko with some great cinematography by Junichi Tozawa and a thrilling score by Kow Otani, the film would be so good and so successful it would spawn two sequels and then another reboot some years later with Gamera the Brave. It had been a long time coming and one could go on talking about how spectacular this film is compared to the earlier efforts at Daiei Studios, but best to just watch it and judge for yourself.
First entry – Giant Monster Gamera (1965)
Second entry – The Monolith Monsters (1957)
Third entry – Gamera vs. Barugon (1966)
Fourth entry – Tarantula (1955)
Fifth Entry – Gamera vs. Gyaos (1967)
Sixth entry – Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957)
Seventh Entry – Gamera vs. Viras (1968)
Eighth entry – The Cyclops (1957)
Ninth entry – Gamera vs. Guiron (1969)
Tenth entry – Monsters (2010)
Eleventh entry – Gamera vs. Jiger (1970)
Twelth entry – The Killer Shrews (1959)
Thirteenth entry – Gamera vs. Zigra (1971)
Fourteenth Entry – The Deadly Mantis (1957)
Fifteenth Entry – Space Monster Gamera (1980)
Sixteenth entry – King Dinosaur (1955)