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Friday, September 15, 2006

Review: Super Monster (aka Gamera Super Monster)

Note: this is a new review. I think I'm done porting old blog entries for a while.

aka Super Monster Gamera aka...well, you get the idea.

This was the last of the Showa Gamera films and one that's fairly difficult to see in the US. In fact, this film is pretty much the redheaded stepchild of the entire Gamera series. It came nine years after the previous Gamera film, four after the last of rival Godzilla's, and was released during a time when kaiju films were clearly out of fashion. Like the previous installments, Supermonster was released straight to US television (MTV, in fact) but, unlike all the other Showa films which are a dime a dozen on allegedly public domain DVDs, never made it to US video.

The plot, as it is, goes something like this: there's these aliens who fly around in a ship from Empire Strikes Back that want to destroy the world by sending out a bunch of giant monsters and then there are these three space women who are somehow going to prevent that. Other than their ability to change clothes via a bad pause edit effect and shrink down to fit in a purse, we never see what special means the good space women have for protecting the Earth. In fact, every time they transform into space women, they get shot at from outer space, rendering whatever special powers they had completely useless. They all have magic Casio keyboards that can make their cars vanish, so maybe those were the secret weapon.

There's also one of the evil aliens on Earth and anytime the good space women change, her "radar watch" goes berserk and she can track them. Why they need her on Earth to track these women, I really don't know as the space ship seems to do a fine job of finding them on it's own. Somehow this evil space woman is responsible for the monsters attacking the Earth, but that's never really explained either.

We also have a Kenny here who is obsessed with turtles. He's forced to turn his pet turtle loose and then when Gamera shows up is convinced it's really his turtle. Sound familiar? It's ripped straight from the first Gamera movie.

Speaking of ripping things from other Gamera movies, all the monster battles are taken from the previous movies. You can either look at that as Gamera's greatest hits or the ultimate in lazy film making. There are a few new squences of Gamera flying, but the suit is very shabby looking and the blue screen effects are laughably bad. Even Toho would throw in at least one new monster battle when they were recycling Godzilla clips.

Considering the Showa Gamera films have always been goofy and a bit hard to follow, it's really saying something to state that this film is by far the loopiest, most confusing entry in the series. If I didn't know better, I'd almost think a reel of film was missing somewhere explaining just what the hell is going on. The old monster battles are still fun to watch, but the new parts tying them together are nearly a fever dream.

I spent most of the film's running time trying to figure out why this movie existed. It was created and released in a time when no one was making kaiju films, it's at least 50% recycled footage and the new scenes are absolutely threadbare. I read somewhere that this was a contractual obligation film which is the only possible explanation for Supermonster existing, though I never found out who was owed what and how they felt about this being delivered as the fulfillment.

As I mentioned earlier, this isn't technically available on video in the US. Going to import sources won't help much either as the Japanese DVD does not contain English subtitles. There are, however, alternate means to acquiring a version of this film an English speaker can understand.

The copy I have came from WTF-flim, who have a small but interesting catalog of movies available. I hesitate to use the word bootleg because there's a lot more going on for this disc than the average person on eBay just selling a DVD-R of the Japanese release.

First off, the packaging is nicely done. There are animated menus and the whole thing looks very professional. I'm guessing the movie is the same transfer as the region 2 DVD, but it's been subtitled with clear, easy to read subs. You also get the English dub (and you can compare and note the subtitles aren't dubtitles) as well as a music only track and what appears to be the soundtrack album. There are extras in the form of a couple of trailers, the alternate English credits (obviously taken from video and pretty severely windowboxed) and a photo gallery.

It's obvious a lot of time and care was put into this. I'm really happy to have the English dub as an option and I'm guessing some time was put into this as it sounds like a reconstruction. It's in stereo and the dialog is of a slightly lower quality than the music and effects, but I'm guessing that's due to the best avaliable source for the English track being an old VHS. It sounds pretty good though, you just notice the difference when you switch to the Japanese track (which is also stereo and I don't even think the official DVD has a stereo track.)

Serious kaiju fans are probably going to hate this film. Because it is essentially the best parts of the previous Gamera films (except the first, which was black and white and Gamera doesn't fight other monsters in it anyway) I don't think it's nearly as bad as people say. I wouldn't shell out the big dollars for the import version, but I can't recommend the WTF-film version highly enough.

(Note about the English dub. One thing that really annoyed me was the way the kept changing how they pronounced Gamera. For most of the movie, they used the incorrect ga-MAHER-ah but somewhere along the way they switched to the correct GAM-ah-rah. Then they switched back again!)

1 comment:

Butchie said...

That is fucking sweet as hell.