Gamera Vs Zigra (1971)

Gamera Vs Zigra (1971)

Space aliens arrive on Earth with their giant shark-like monster Zigra and intend to take over the planet with it. But first they must destroy Earth’s protector, Gamera.

 

By the 70s, Japan was suffering from a recession and the studio behind the Gamera films, Daiei, was in big financial trouble. Seeing their popular child-friendly monster Gamera as the only way out of the black hole they were in, Daiei hope that their newest instalment in the franchise would ease their woes. I’m guessing none of the big wigs on the top floor executive suite actually saw this film because resting hopes on the success of Gamera Vs Zigra would be like praying that a chocolate spaceship would make it out of the Earth’s atmosphere.

Basically the last ‘creative’ Gamera film of the original run of films (since the following sequel Super Monster Gamera was simply a highlight reel of the previous films with brief new footage to link it all together), Gamera Vs Zigra personifies just why this franchise never hit the lofty peaks of the Godzilla series and has been the source of movie mockery for years. The words goofy, campy and nonsensical would not really do this film justice. The target audience of children (and as a bonus, anyone doing illegal drugs) are the only people who could make any sense of this mess. The film panders to the sort of elements that kids would no doubt love about this type of film: simplistic action scenes, characters they can relate to (i.e. more children in the lead roles), cheesy and campy comedy moments and of course, giant monsters smashing each other to bits. The last couple of films were bad but this one tries to outdo the stupidity of the rest by including even more silliness.

The film is largely set at a sea world in Japan and thus the film acts as a marketing tool to attract visitors, showing off plenty of stock footage of whales entertaining guests at the park. This is also a nice ploy to pad out the running time with unrelated material. This is a kaiju film after all and the monsters are sorely lacking in screen time.

Gamera is hardly anywhere to be seen throughout the film and only makes the odd cameo role to duke it out with Zigra. The fights look atrocious as Gamera never really got into his fights in the physical manner that Godzilla did. There was never the rough and tumble style of fighting that Godzilla used to have with Gigan, Megalon and King Ghidorah where all parties would roll around on the floor, punching and kicking the crap out of each other. For a start, the Gamera costume looks like it would drop to pieces if anything remotely physical happened to it. And the suit just never had the mobility that the Godzilla suit did. I mean turtles aren’t known for their agility, are they? Zigra could well be the worst movie monster since the Giant Claw ran rough shed over the skies of America in the 50s. He’s got a couple of beam weapons which only highlight that the ‘special’ effects were not the highest priority for the crew. Even the miniature sets and model planes look like papier-mâché remnants from a Saturday morning kids TV show.

The eventual battle between the monsters is nothing to write home about and definitely not worth sitting through the rest of the film to catch. Yet again the focus of the film is on two children who hold the key to saving the day. Good for kids watching but no so good for the grown-up scientist and military characters in the film who come off looking like complete retards by having to rely on these children to help them.

 

Gamera Vs Zigra is the worst Gamera film from the original run and that takes some beating considering the quality of some of the previous instalments. At least when he was brought back in the 90s, he was given the money and production skills he needed to be a major success. Gamera should not be putting this on his résumé any time soon – possibly the ultimate rock bottom of kaiju films.

 

 ☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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