A small infusion of marketing cash almost saves this chintzy Gamera flick
Daiei offers a fleeting modicum of dignity to Gamera vs Jiger after self-destructing this series with two prior films. A touch of behind-the-scenes finances give Jiger a budgetary blast, restoring sequences of miniature city smashing as Gamera introduced Japan’s then futuristic Expo ’70.
Expect a colorful, wacky commercial for the exhibit as characters introduce all of the wonders in this worldwide festival of peace and harmony. What Expo ’70 failed to do was celebrate intelligence as an excavation crew unhinges an ancient statue from its mountainous home – and wouldn’t you know it – said statue served as a burial site for the mythic Jiger.
Jiger is the resurgence of design logic to the series, a four legged lizard who by appearance is a suitable enough foe. Bizarre (even desperate) decisions have the beast slinging spears, firing circular beams, and igniting jets which allow her to fly – stiffly. Jiger is infinitely peculiar and unusual, if at home within Gamera’s often freakish roster of mutant alien squids and talking razor sharks.
Yes, this entry is showing weariness within sequences of balsa wood devastation, while writer Nisan Takahashi shows some elaborate thinking by turning Jiger feminine, complete with impregnating tail. Director Noriaki Yuasa runs with it, even crafting a striking sequence of monster marching with the now infected Gamera taking a two minute, uncut march to the safety of beach side, all in one tracking shot.
An international duo of kids, Hiroshi (Tsutomo Takakuwa) and Tommy (Kelly Varis) slink inside of Gamera’s open maw Fantastic Voyage style, becoming heroes to the adults who shrug off the kid’s ideas. Often coined, “Friend of all children,” Gamera as a series embraced the ideology by Jiger. Hiroshi and Tommy not only suggest and act on their childhood logic, it’s a savior to society as a whole. Outside of the commercialization, Jiger’s strength is simple but substantive chatter aimed toward the younger set.
Of course, Jiger is the feature wherein Gamera must stab his ears with telephone poles in order to keep out a piercing noise in a genuine moment of satisfying camp. Unlike the draining boredom of prior sequels and barren follow-ups, Jiger is charmingly comfortable nonsense.
Mill Creek distributes this sixth outing of the Showa Gamera series on Volume 2 of their Blu-ray collection with three other features, and thus Jiger takes a compression hit, if not with the vicious consequences of the films before it, especially Barugon.
In fact, behind the AVC work and punishing bitrates sits visible resolution. Details of cities (miniature or otherwise) are pleasingly rendered with monster suits showcasing small design touches. Even human characters are flushed with facial detail in spots.
Age is the detractor, although this master from Shout Factory (previously done for their DVD sets before Mill Creek picked them up) mitigates print damage. Colors have lost their sheen and fading has devastated a level contrast. Instead, Jiger is inflicted with pale grays and definite yellowing with inconsistent hits of primaries.
Film grain which isn’t lost and replaced by noise is admirable, showing a consistent attempt to preserve rather than dump Jiger to the format as with prior 16mm, cropped offerings. While some mosquito noise and a few bouts of smearing will spread across the frame, actual impact in motion is meager.
Space saving Dolby Digital is used to deliver the peppy Gamera theme song, capable enough to deliver this mono audio mixture. Age is heard in dialog and action with some straining in the highs. Explosions are dull and destruction carries no weight. Everything hosts a sense of being mildly faded and slowly slipping away into non-existence, although mastering work has ensured it will be around a while longer.
Note there is no dub as it’s Japanese dialog only.
No bonuses to be found here as the single disc barely contains the films themselves.
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.