It might be hard to believe, but the third and final installment in Shusuke Kaneko’s Gamera trilogy might just be the best of the bunch. This film has it all from breakneck action scenes to self-sacrifice to an absolutely epic conclusion. It takes everything from the previous two films and magnifies it three times over with many of the same people who were involved in the production of the first two returning for the third including music by Kow Otani and a great script by Kazunori Itō and Kaneko. The drama is high and quite tense, and the threat Gamera faces is not just limited to Japan, but is felt around the world. What is most interesting is that while Gamera must face the usual, and unusual, giant creatures, he also confronts a risk from humanity as well, specifically one little girl named Ayani. Never before has revenge made its way into one of these movies yet it fits right into the darker tone of the film, a tone that has become more prevalent with each passing picture.
One might question the darker path that the films have taken, especially this third picture, but the darker the movie, the greater the feeling of hope when the good guys win. And to be sure, one thing you can always count on is Gamera winning in the end. So yes, the film is quite dark as thematically it deals with love, loss, life, death and even rebirth. While the other movies touched upon a few of these themes to greater or lesser extents, this film would tackle them all to create a moving and powerful picture. One of the more arresting scenes in the entire film was the graveyard of Gamera’s under the ocean. It was striking in its coldness and was somber to say the least, yet it showed that Gamera would always return to defend the planet no matter how many times he died. In one simple scene, the life, death and the return to the living of our hero would be represented and while the rest of the film would touch upon these themes again, Kaneko and company sum up the concept of Gamera in one of its most cheerless images and reinforce the movie’s darker tone.
The special effects which were great in the previous two films were even better in this one with Iris being an incredibly well-designed creature in all the stages of her growth. There is a mid-air battle that is just breathtaking as well, something Daiei has never really featured in a Gamera film up until this point and it is one of the real highlights to be found in the movie. Of course, these are still rubber-suit monsters and out of all the effects, that is still the weakest to be found, but the costumes are so well made that it really matters very little. There is also a moment when Gamera is stuck in a situation which could end up with him dying and to escape that fate he uses his own flame to sever his hand from his arm. It is one of the most insane things to ever make its way into a Gamera film and you can hardly believe that it is happening even as you watch it. Again, it is a good use of both special and practical effects and it not only proves that the budget for these films were bigger, but how far along Gamera has come from his humble beginnings with those terrible styrofoam and paper mache costumes.
One of the main plot points of the film had to do with hatred felt by Ayani towards Gamera at the death of her parents. Played by Ai Maeda, she does a terrific job as she replaces Ayako Fujitani as the main character, though Fujitani would also return for this film albeit in a slightly smaller role. Shinobu Nakayama would also star as a scientist looking to figure out why the world is suddenly being overrun with Gyaos and just what Fujitani’s character Asagi might do to help, even though her connection with Gamera is severed. All three of our players would finally come together at the stunning conclusion to the film where Ayani realizes that her hatred was misplaced and we see Gamera battling Iris in a duel which is one of the best kaiju fights to ever make it to film.
It is a bit of a shame that this movie was the end to the revived Gamera and that Daiei did not continue with more. Godzilla is great and all, but these three films proved that Gamera could own a piece of the market as well if done right. The conclusion to the movie is satisfying, yet at the same time, it begs for another film and it feels like an opportunity lost. What remains when all is said and done, are three of the best kaiju films ever made, and really, you could not ask for a better reputation than that.
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)
Seventeenth entry – Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995)
Eighteenth entry – The Black Scorpion (1957)
Nineteenth entry – Gamera 2: Attack of Legion (1996)
Twentieth Entry – Them! (1954)