Gamera Vs. Barugon
R1 - America - Shout! Factory
Review written by and copyright: Jeremiah Chin (14th September 2010).
The Film

Though big sprawling frachises often get their fair share of flack from critics, (especially in the horror genre where I never miss a chance to comment on how massively underrated the “Saw” franchise (2004-2010) has been) the sheer load of Japanese monster movies never fails to impress. After seeing a giant monster rampage a city, the next logical step is to see it rampage again, but even this time battle a whole new monster. For the follow up to “Gamera” (1965) Daiei studios makes the logical step of adding the monster Barugon for “Gamera Vs. Barugon” (1966).

Although Gamera was launched into space in the Z plan rocket at the end of the previous film, an unfortunate collision with a meteor released Gamera from the rocket and sent the giant turtle flying back to Earth where he lands at a Dam and destroys it before disappearing again. In other news, Keisuke (Kojiro Hongo), Kawajiri (Yuzo Hayakawa) and Dr. Sato (Takuya Fujiioka) make their way to a cave in New Guinea in order to rediscover an opal hidden by Ichiro (Akira Natsuki), Keisuke’s brother, during World War II. They find are warned by the island natives that the opal should not be sought or taken, but they find it anyways and Onondara steals the opal for himself leaving Kawajiri and Keisuke to die, though Keisuke escapes and returns to Japan with New Guinea, Japanese fluent, native Karen (Kyôko Enami) to get the opal back to the island. Unfortunately Onondara left the opal under an infra red light on the ship, releasing the Monster Barugon who starts rampaging around Japan.

What’s easily appreciated in this fresh looking transfer is the affinity for model work shown in Japanese monster movies, there are some great looking matte paintings thrown into the film. All the man-in-suit monster rampages are classic and enjoyable to watch, especially the climactic battle of Gamera and Barugon. Barugon’s rainbow lazer of death and ice breath make for great visual effects and good explosions on the model work. Gamera returns just as awesome as ever, flame breath rampaging, love of power sources that draws him to different parts of Japan to destroy.

What’s especially intriguing about the film is the length which seems abnormal for an older monster movie at an hour and fourty minutes, oweing to this new transfer that brings back the original Japanese cut that brings large character elements into the story that focuses as much on the character issues of greed and technological problems as the two battling monsters. It’s a whole different look almost since there’s a larger story of how greed nearly destroys society since it’s Onondara’s greed that brings the wrath of Barugon to Japan. While the monster battles are amazing the extra story adds a little more something to the movie.

In terms of the acting it’s interesting to see the different styles present in Japan at the time, looking as much like American style of the 60’s in film with the way characters are dressed, especially with Keisuke originally looking like a greaser or Onondera’s shady door to door salesmen look in the original opal planning scene. All the actors do their jobs properly as monster movie actors spending as much of their time as aware of something offscreen as they are planning on saving themselves on screen.

Overall "Gamera Vs. Barugon" is a great representation of the Japanese monster movie genre, while not necessarily as classic as the more signature titles of the day, it’s a great looking film that has some great model work and beautiful colors that are really worth watching. The extra story elements bring together another feel to the film, adding a narrative against greed along with traditional monster movie narratives about nuclear weaponry and pacific islands. Though the island natives in the film are just Japanese people in browner paint rather than New Guinea natives, it seems characteristic of the time and doesn’t seem as ludicrous as some of the U.S. brown face problems of the same era since the movie’s about a giant turtle fighting a giant lizard. Still, if you want some great monster movie action, “Gamera Vs. Barugon” is more than worth your time.

Video

Presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic aspect ratio Shout! Factor’s transfer looks fantastic. From an obviously well preserved print of the film, the contrast and colors of the 60’s seem vibrant and without any sort of artifacts or dirt that would get in the way of the film or any major problems with grain that would override the scenes. Each piece of miniature that either gets destroyed or walked on by a giant monster can be seen and the clarity has increased to the point that you can even see the scorpion on Kawajiri’s leg. With no blu-ray release currently available, an upconverted version of the dvd transfer is so nicely clear that it is worth picking up on DVD and later on Blu-ray if Shout! Factory does the release later.

Audio

Similarly the audio has a clean transfer that keeps a good feel to it with the Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 mono transfer that keeps the feel of the original film. All the odd sound effects and roars created for the monsters sound great and there’s no mesh or fuzz that would ruin the dialogue, rather everything stays crisp and overall adds to the monster movie experience. There is no English dub track, for better or for worse, but the only real problem is the fact that there are only English subtitles on the release.

Extras

Shout! Factory typically does a good job of loading up their releases, though with how old this film is I would expect a little more difficulty in creating special features, as shown in only an audio commentary and a few galleries present on the disc.

The real special feature here is the audio commentary with August Ragone and Jason Varney who obviously know their stuff when it comes to monster movies in general and especially gamera. Though the dialogue is a little stilted, they are fairly obviously reading off of a pre-set script, that is chocked full of information but the fact that it sounds so completely read from a script and unnatural it takes down the enjoyability of the commentary from where it could have been. Still it’s a well composed and informative commentary and since you can keep the Japanese subtitles running and enjoy the movie itself while the commentators bring together the little bits of information that make it more like an oral IMDB/Wikipedia fusion with some bad pre-written jokes. When they get off of their jokes they make attempts to joke with the movie, but it all falls really flat.

The photo gallery contains 20 images, the publicity gallery contains 12 images and the oiginal movie program is presented as a gallery with 27 images.

This disc is packaged with a 12-page booklet featuring art and interviews.

Overall

The Film: B+ Video: A- Audio: A- Extras: B- Overall: B+

 


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