Whatever has the Summer of Monsters led us to here? Laser shooting space sharks, that’s what.
Certifiably stupid and exhaustively boring, Gamera vs Zigra weeps itself to sleep amongst the bottom tier of international kaiju pictures. Teetering in an effort to keep their existence viable, Daiei Studios paired with Sea World – apparently to pay for this drudgery – and execute this hokey schlock fest of non-endearing cinema.
Zigra is a film on life support, crowded with ideas, educational spot checks, and occasional rubber suited chunkiness. Sapped of any support, director Noriaki Yuasa is forced into a torrent of over exerted, stalling takes with dulled actors as they hatch dialog tirades. Playing the invader from Planet Zigra, Chikako Sugawara, actress Eiko Yanami is forced to squeeze through panicked city streets in a skimpy two piece bathing suit.
The child-centric adventure is traditional for Gamera, pairing another duo of multi-national kids together to thwart an infestation begun by a talking, laser spitting space shark. Dr. Evil would love this critter.
Gamera shows up and undergoes an investigation by camera as the lens annoyingly peers in on static close-ups of a sloppily painted, slowly degrading puppet prop to the screechy treble of the monster’s theme song. It’s 20-minutes of non-excitement as the turtle splashes down to face a UFO fitted with colored, lighted gumballs (?) before budget restrictions bring an end to this pitiful warfare. Thus, it’s back to land to watch kids endlessly chased through scenic Kamogawa Sea World by a bumbling alien outsider.
Even though an additional feature was planned (Gamera vs Garasharp), writer Nisan Takahashi seems to be squeezing his final dollops of parable-based energy into this script. It’s a tragedy of animal activism, ocean pollution, earthquakes, and fruit juice – a random combination of nothingness even hardened supporters of this specialized genre struggle to compute.
When kanji spurts across this widescreen frame to mercifully end this mind-numbing spectacle of lousy… well, everything, Gamera has humiliated his shark opposition by playing his back fins like a xylophone and then cooking him with fire breat. It’s a hard life on Earth for extraterrestrial carnivorous fish, and even more so for those who have watch the stupid thing.
Mill Creek nears the end of their Gamera Four Movie Collection with Zigra, contained on a Blu-ray with the entire back-half of the Showa films in the tandem. Coming from Shout Factory’s DVD master, there are improvements. While Zigra was botched on the lower resolution format with excessive aliasing throughout, this Blu-ray corrects the problem. Now all of that stunning Zigra action can be viewed almost without fault. Whoopee.
Fading is the video’s troublesome point, including weary color which has lost its oomph through the decades. Contrast has died out and the idea of black levels are resisted. While a handful of instances will produce colorful wardrobe, even this fails to ignite.
For whatever reason, this second volume is better compressed than its brother despite film lengths and disc space being near equals. Grain, while not precisely replicated, still creates appreciable texture. Underwater, a mild bit of banding is rapidly passed, while encoding is unobtrusive to facial definition. Dare the word “sharp” be used to describe this presentation? Yes it should despite some compression bothers under heavy action.
Shout’s original work has alleviated much of the print damage, although a miniscule amount does remain. A pass is given to stock footage, partly because it’s stock footage but also because it’s the only slice of reasonable action in all of Zigra.
While this selection of Japanese language-only Dolby Digital tracks has been anything other than superior, Zigra’s is in particular a bother. Opening logos are combined with a bombastic piece of orchestration which drops out entirely before returning to life, as if it’s playing on warped media. Likewise, the Gamera theme itself is fading and dwindling with age. Fidelity is losing this fight.
Don’t believe sound effects are freed either, with a scratchy backing to explosions or monster roars which already pierce the sound barrier with their pitched nature, while dialog fails to avoid audible wear.
No bonuses here as with all of these original Gamera films, but it’s doubtful anything has ever been produced for Zigra anyway.
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.