Don’t be a Gamera: Pooper Monster Check Out Gamera: Super Monster! (Part 2 of 2)

hqdefaultAfter a long and unplanned hiatus, I’m back! And yes, I’m back specifically to finish my long-delayed review of Gamera: Super Monster.

Yes, that Super Monster.  Yes, I’m serious. Its purported badness draws me in like a Mothra to a flame,  but I also really like how fucking weird and doofy (but still sweet!) this flick is. There’s enough unique, charming strangeness here to merit a deep dive.

If you haven’t already, be sure to give part 1 a read here.  Or don’t?  That might be an intriguing/hilarious social experiment!  If you haven’t seen this movie and haven’t read part 1 of my review, go ahead and read this and see if anything that follows makes any fucking sense at all.  If it does, congratulations, you’re either having a nervous breakdown or you’ve achieved total consciousness.

Even if you have seen the movie and/or read the first part of my review, it can still seem like a delightful fever dream: size-shifting Space Women sleep in an invulnerable lunchbox, they operate flying vans and dimensional portals with Casios and look upon Gamera as he relives his greatest Showa-era battles…  who in turn sometimes looks upon random clips of anime… all while a Star Destroyer bombards them with threats and orbital laser strikes! Ready for more?!  TOO BAD!

When we last left our chelonian champion, he defeated (or re-defeated?) Viras and looked at an anime spaceboat.  Meanwhile the Space Women (super-powered ladies from another planet living on Earth in secret) had their hidden base/hippie van blow’d up.

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And It’ll be decades before hipsters “invent” tiny homes!

Thankfully the weird see-through cooler they sleep in survived the blast, and helpful, lovable nerd Keiichi was there to scoop up their Pokeball super-powered space chamber the next day. Giruge “confirms” with Zanon that she’s killed the Space Woman (singular? does she only know about Kilara, or is this more dub wackiness?) and gets ready for Jiger to come out swinging.

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If you’ve seen Gamera vs. Jiger and/or read my review, you already know Jiger is basically the baddest bitch on the planet.

Jiger does all her freak-nasty Jiger shit like booger-lancing jets:

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JESUS CHRIST CAN I JUST GET YOU A KLEENEX NEXT TIME?!

And skeletonizing fools:

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Okay a Kleenex probably wouldn’t have helped here.

Jiger’s rampage, like 98% of the monster action in this film, is stock footage pulled from a previous Gamera flick.  With that in mind, I guess these weird little animated snot-spears are part of that 2% of new stuff:

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In Gamera vs. Jiger, there’s no opening volley of nose-missiles–the beam just appears and devastates a few city blocks.

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The idea seems to be that Jiger fires off a round of spikes to mark her next beam target?

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The rest of the effect plays out as it did originally.

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It’s an odd, pointless addition, especially considering they were squeezing and stretching every last yen as far as humanly possible to make the movie.  Even if the effect was dirt cheap, why not put that little bit of cash elsewhere?   Oh well! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Unnecessary animated nostril-napalm or not, Jiger is absolutely amongst the very baddest of bitches.

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Back in 2012 my psychiatrist Dr. A$AP Rocky released his TED Talk about my relationship with bad bitches.

Good thing ol’ Gammer-jammer’s on the scene!

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And it’s an even better thing that Kilara and her buds have like, super space cable!…  For their wall! When this all blows over they’ll keep getting together to watch NXT every week.

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Giruge’s watching too, but she doesn’t have any friends to watch wrestling with after this all blows over. She’s also unconvincingly composited with a castle background?!

Like we talked about in the first part of this review, I’m not going to go through Jiger and Gamera’s fight in my normal extreme detail because… well, I’ve already done that!  I will contend that this is one of the Gamster’s all-time best bouts though.  Director Noriaki Yuasa has plenty of juicy gags to choose from, and seeing them re-scored with this movie’s wacky “wikkita-wikkita-wikkita” guitar is a ton of fun.

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Gamera’s dope improv skills on display once again: snatching up a smokestack mid-flight and using it to block Jiger’s booger blasts…

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…And then doming her with the now-spiky smokestack! Gamera is a genius.

Of course, Gamera’s “treat every fight like a TLC match” strategy can backfire, especially against a feisty babe like Jiger:

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SEESAW’D

Interestingly, Super Monster’s version of the Jiger fight ends with my second favorite gag from the original movie:

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God DAMN it is so good.  It’s funny, it’s bad-ass, it looks great, and for some reason it reminds me of the sleeping bag kill from Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood, or the even more amped up and ridiculous one(s) from Jason X:

Sadly, like the Part VII version of Jason’s sleeping bag kill, Gamera body-slamming Jiger is limited to one impact.  Still, it’s a hilarious high note to end the fight on, and it’s not as jarringly horrific as my number one favorite gag from Jiger:

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FUCKING YIKES!

It’s an incredible bit, but it is SUPER dark.  Ultimately I think it’s a wise choice not to include it in the middle of a feel-good romp like Super Monster.  Plus it would have been hard to explain the jump from a night-time city fight to a day-light aerial battle.

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Jason’s onboard with it anyway though.

With Jiger dead, Zanon tells her that he/they/it is going to have to take away Giruge’s Christmas bonus this year.  Just kidding, he/they/it wants to murder her ass off.

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If this were a 90s Christmas movie, the former would actually be more devastating than the latter.

Giruge basically goes “Wait wait wait boss, I got one last great idea, you’re gonna love this!” and says if Zanon spares her, she’ll stick a mind-control device on Gamera and use him to go apeshit on the forces of Earth! Zanon okays this–it’s legitimately a great idea!  Giruge should have tried this first, but whatever I guess!

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New monster/special effects scenes are so short and rare in this flick I feel obligated to pimp all of them.  Here’s the quick shot of Giruge zapping a brainwashing machine onto Gammy’s medula oblongata.

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Yep, there it is.  Radical. … It kinda looks like a little UFO.  ILLUMINATI CONFIRMED

Giving Gamera a quick heel turn is also a great idea because it allows Daiei to use as much old Gamera footage as humanly possible–even the stuff where he’s villainously/anti-heroically rampaging through civilization:

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Specifically, the spectacular dam attack from the beginning of Gamera vs Barugon.

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Fun action and some of the best miniature work in the series–they’d be crazy NOT to come up with some flimsy excuse to reuse it!

Mind controlled Gamera keeps on truckin’ after fully dismantling the dam, leading to another infamously cornball micro-scene.  The sliver of new monster footage in Super Monster includes goofy, gentle shade-throwing. Gamera’s big ol’ feet stomp past some kind of stand-up display…

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Which of course sends the ad toppling over….

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Hang on, what is it? Zoom in!

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IT WAS A GODZILLA POSTER! DUN DUN DUNNNN! SHOTS FIRED! GET SOME SALVE ON THAT BURN!

I’ve compared plenty of cheeky in-movie snubs and dunks to the famously stupid Star Wars slam in Laserblast, but this might be its closest (albeit less violent and more playful) counterpart.  In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, there’s a late 70s sci-fi exploitation garbage cheapie called Laserblast that, apropos of nothing, takes a swipe at Star Wars via a hilariously small, obviously homemade wooden sign:

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I’ve referenced this before and I know I’ll reference it again.  It is so perfect in its idiotic hubris.  Oh no wait I forgot Disney definitely paid 4 billion dollars for the rights to fucking L A S E R B L A S T

Keiichi and the Space Women (the “good name for a band” joke is as crusty and over-done as “that’s what she said,” but that is a kick-ass band name!) watch in horror (on a regular ass TV, not their radical space wall) as Gamera goes buck-nutty on humanity.  The switch from cool space wall to janky old boob tube has a penny-pinching ulterior motive: it allows the filmmakers to sneak in black and white Gamera footage without it looking too out of place!

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Kilara and Keiichi are ENTHRALLED, Marsha and Mitan look like they’re just spacing out until Local 5 Action News announces the powerball numbers.

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You’re just gonna have to wait until after sports and weather, so just fucking chill Marsha and Mitan! CHILL NOBODY EVER FUCKING WINS POWERBALL ANYWAY GOD

Gamera running roughshod over humanity is HORSESHIT and Keiichi and the Space Women (opening for Valient Thorr this Friday at the Blind Pig, be there!) know something’s up! Kilara boots up the space wall and scans our boy Gammy for the inside scoop:

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Said space wall is of course powered by a big bitchin’ synth.

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There’s something refreshingly quaint about a sci-fi special effects spectacular getting by with big detailed paintings. It’s odd and interesting, and we’ll probably never see anything like this again.

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Kilara is PISSED that somebody’s been screwing with Gammer-jammer.  Kilara’s the best.

The only way to knock that thing loose is to go full Space Woman, which of course will draw a hail of lethal laser strikes from Zanon’s ship:

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Zanon’s a little bitch.

Kilara’s almost as big of a Gamera super fan as Keiichi, so she instantly volunteers herself for this suicide mission and waves off Marsha and Mitan who vow to come with.

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Kilara’s super strength (DO THEY HAVE SUPER STRENGTH? THEIR POWERS ARE ILL-DEFINED AT BEST) isn’t enough to pry the evil mechanical hickey from Gamera’s neck…

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But she can trick Zanon into blasting the device for her!

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Better than Proactiv!

Kilara gets back safely and the whole gang cheers Gamera on as he slowly drifts off to battle the remaining monsters.  We get a LOT of wonderfully strange dialogue in rapid succession here, like how Kilara just off-handedly and correctly guesses that Gamera’s going to fight on other planets (well just one other planet, but still, insanely good and close guess considering there were NO context clues hinting at that!) or when Keiichi abruptly states “I’m happy,” and after cheering on Gamera: “I hope he brings victory.”  None of it’s as strange and hilarious as the earlier hamburgerlunch

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H A M B U R G E R L U N C H

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   H   A   M   B   U   R   G   E    R   L   U   N   C   H   

But it’s in that same realm of communicating a perfectly reasonable and mundane idea in a way that’s just off enough to become noticeable and comical. It’s an extra layer of fun quirkiness that you don’t get with subtitles.  But while the Space Women and Keiichi are all psyched up about Gamera going out to kick some space ass (spass), Giruge’s CREEPIN’!

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WITH A GUN!

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KILARA IS ONE MILLION PERCENT DONEZO WITH GIRUGE’S BULLSHIT

They fight, Giruge even manages to laser herself in the leg by accident during the ruckus, and then finally she submits.  Kilara gets a hold of the blaster and points it at Giruge for a moment, but ultimately tosses it away, rejoining her friends.  The defeated Giruge watches helplessly as they walk off, hating them for their warmth and kinship (also Keiichi spends a SUSPICIOUS amount of time brushing the dust off Kilara’s butt with a SUSPICIOUS amount of enthusiasm…). Then Giruge does something I SUPER didn’t expect:

Keiichi and co. do the right thing and stop her.

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Keiichi even tells Giruge to not give up, which is pretty buckwild considering that murdering them and taking over the Earth are among the things she’s giving up, but the movie doesn’t care about that right now!  What it does care about right now is Gamera fighting Guiron a billion light years away!

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Welcome to beautiful (?) Planet X, dingalings!

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here come dat boi!!!!!!

GUIRON IS HERE-ON! I haven’t reviewed Gamera vs. Guiron yet, but it is quite possibly my most favorite Gamera flick.  Its crazy plot, strange monster designs and wicked-ass gore left a big impression on me when I caught bits and pieces (heh, fitting) of it on cable back in like fifth or sixth grade.

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You know, for kids!

I guess it’s right in line with leaving Jiger’s headstab out: Super Monster is more of a celebratory romp than a hilariously grisly kill-fest.  And when I eventually review Gamera vs. Guiron I’ll give poor ol’ Space Gyaos his due:

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Space Gyaos is such an unfortunate sap that it’s kind of hard to find pics of him online where he’s not dismembered.  Here he is “only” missing one leg.  He’s the giant monster equivalent of lil brudder.

Space Monster keeps things focused on Gamera and Guiron going mano y mano, and there’s a lot to love.  They chase each other through the sky, Gamera blows fire right in Guiron’s face:

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Gamera high-altitude teabags Guiron:

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Gamera: “Hey physics eat a dick!”

Then he goofs around on some conveniently huge uneven bars:

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He got 10s from everybody except that stuck-up judge from Rolisica who won’t give anybody higher than an 8.

Guiron lights him up with a flurry of shurikens that he shoots out of his temples because holy shit Gamera vs. Guiron rules:

Screen Shot 2018-06-28 at 1.16.14 PM.pngIt’s just non-stop mayhem.  These dudes run each other through the ringer and it is a delight, especially in this truncated, “greatest hits” format.  They take the fight underwater (which feels a little same-y after Gammy’s Zigra fight), before blasting back ashore and ending the fight with a deliciously ludicrous (and pretty gory!) gag. I’ll break this down in detail because a lot happens in just a few moments and it’s pretty fucking amazing.  For starters, it begins with a sea-to-ground jet-suplex that leaves Guiron jabbed into the planet’s crust like a pissed-off lawn dart:

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Then a rocket is launched! I forget the original context of the rocket in vs. Guiron, and it’s not addressed here at all, so who cares! It launches and is split in half by Guiron’s very sharp face.

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GAMERA CATCHES ONE HALF WHILE THE OTHER HALF EXPLODES DRAMATICALLY BEHIND HIM BECAUSE HOT DAMN THIS SHIT IS HYPHY AS FUCK

This perplexed me for the longest time, but watching this nice, clear transfer of the movie allowed me to finally fully process all the madness here.  Thanks Shout Factory! THIS ISN’T THE END OF THE GAG OF COURSE

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Gamera whips that shit back at Guiron…

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It glorches straight through his empty shuriken holsters/vulnerable temples!

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Uh oh….

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KERBLAMMERS!  HOLY SHIT HIS WHOLE TOP HALF IS JUST GONE

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I mean it’s on the ground and fine/intact!?  It’s a weirdly PG finish to the gag, especially coming from the same movie that earlier had a long, lurid dismemberment scene (Rest In Power Space Gyaos).  HAHAHA OKAY I GUESS!

After this random but extremely entertaining detour to a completely different planet that is not being threatened by space invaders, Gamera blasts back off for Earth.

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Hate to see him go, but love to watch him leave, you know? 😉 😉 😉

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CHOO CHOO MOTHERFUCKERS, HERE COMES THE HYPE TRAIN ANIME SPACE TRAIN!

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It uh… is exactly what it sounds like.

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¯\_(ツ)_/¯

It’s a lot like Gamera’s earlier encounter with Space Battleship Yamato, with one very important and baffling difference.  Gamera’s run-in with SBY was Keiichi’s dream sequence–there is no such convenient explanation for this trans-galactic locomotive (it’s the Galaxy Express 999 from a manga and anime series of the same name).  This means that in the world of Gamera: Super Monster, there canonically is a cartoon choo-choo train flying around somewhere in or near our solar system. THAT IS INSANE

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Gamera, like all of us, still loves to watch cartoons. #relatable

We get no time to unpack sharing outer space with Thomas the Dank Engine up there, because here’s something else crazy:

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G I R U G E   W A K E S   U P   N E X T   T O   K E I C H I

Obviously we’re not meant to think Keiichi and Giruge knocked boots, but waking up in the same bed is movie code for “just doinked” so it’s hard not to have that horrifying thought for a split second. Keiichi being konked out could also imply that the space train was a dream, but frankly we have more pressing matters to unpack.  Thankfully Mom comes in before long and explains to Giruge that Keiichi and his friends brought her home.  Why she didn’t sleep on the couch or something is way the fuck beyond me–I guess Mom doesn’t know that Giruge’s been creeping around Keiichi’s school, bribing him with hamburgerlunches and occasionally kidnapping him.

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Maybe helicopter parents aren’t so bad if this is the alternative.

Mom says that Giruge the complete stranger is welcome to live with them while she gets “better.”  It’s extremely kind but also pretty irresponsible and maybe an eensy bit insane. BUT WHATEVER BARUGON IS HERE!

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“Y’all got any more of them skyscrapers?”

After years of blurry, sludgy VHS rips, it’s still fun to revisit a decent transfer of the effects scenes from Gamera vs. Barugon. We get a greatest hits reel of Barugon’s rampage and his climactic battle with the Gamster.  Barry goes apeshit tongue-punching buildings and (literally) icing tanks and fighter jets:

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This whole sequence is a fucking banger, full-stop.

It’s a banger even before Barry Sanders fires up his radioactive rainbow:

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Barugon nuking a missile array with a weaponized rainbow is Gamera’s cue to light this motherfucker up!

Their fight isn’t quite as impressive as Barugon’s hissy fit, but it has a couple of rad gags.

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Plus I always love a nice, wide “squaring off” shot.

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One of the gags I really dig is Gamera shell-checking Barugon…

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…right through a fucking bridge!

This being a nighttime scene is both good and bad.  The downside is that it’s a little murky and we can’t always make out fine details or actions–that’s also the upside though, because the lack of clarity can hide wires and imperfections in the suits and miniatures.  The other main gag is Gamera dragging Barugon into the lake and drowning him.

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It’s not as gruesome as Guiron’s rocket-through-the-head, but it’s also not as cartoonish and wacky.

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Either way, it pleases Marsha, Mitan, and Keiichi, those shameless gorehounds.

So with all of Gamera’s old opponents six feet under once more, what the fuck is left for this movie to do?  A BUNCH OF HEAVY SHIT ACTUALLY. Zanon calls Giruge and wants to know if she finally offed the Space Women–the ship is going to start directly attacking the Earth.  She says they’re not dead, and gives Zanon some coordinates to nuke their glittery buttcheeks off.

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Wait what?

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PSYCHE! HEROIC SACRIFICE! HEROIC PSYCHE-RIFICE!

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Also, big, big ups to Giurge for tanking an orbital positronic cannon strike like a fucking boss.

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I mean she still crumples to the ground and dies a minute or so later, but she took a sustained interplanetary laser blast to the solar plexus and stayed on her feet through 99% of it.  That’s baller as hell.

Keiichi and the Space Women are by Giruge’s side as she slips from the mortal coil–her dying wish is to be reincarnated as an Earthling.

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It’s like if the original Hans Christian Andersen version of The Little Mermaid was about an intergalactic warlord. And a giant turtle monster battling space squids and knife-faced dinobeasts and stuff.  So like a much much cooler version of The Little Mermaid.

So Giruge paid for the Space Women’s freedom with her own life, but there’s still, you know, a huge warship bearing down on Earth.  I mean Gamera’s still around, maybe he’ll fly up and battle it! That would rule!

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There he goes, off to kick some more ass!  Huh, I wonder why this send-off is so much more downbeat and somber?  I’m sure it’s nothing out of the ordinary!

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Hell yeah dawg, trash these fools! I can’t wait to see Gamera fly by the Zanon model and blast it with fireballs and stuff while he dodges laser blasts.  This is gonna rule!

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…Why did we pan so far out?  …NO THIS CANNOT BE AN IRON GIANT SCENARIO

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GOD DAMN IT!!!! 😭😭😭😭

It is an Iron Giant scenario. Gamera, like Giruge, sacrifices himself to save humanity.

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Okay so if this is why you hate this movie, I understand.

Gamera dying is sad as balls, especially in a low rent cheapie like Super Monster. That said, a heroic sacrifice is very in line with Gamera’s whole character.  Over the course of the films he’s exhibited a sort of grim selflessness: putting it all on the line for humanity, always taking on monsters that are bigger and tougher than him, and shedding plenty of his own blood in the process of saving the day.  Iron Giant-ing an evil planet-busting warship makes perfect sense for Gamera’s death… but having it occur practically off-screen in a clip-show movie is not great.

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He didn’t even get to say “SU-PER-MAN” and close his eyes and smile wistfully.

Kilara and the Space Women space out one last time.  Kilara tells Keiichi “You’re a space man now, okay?… Now I’ll show you the world,” and they take Keiichi for a magical flight over the nighttime cityscape.  It’s a desperate attempt to distract Keiichi from the fact that Gamera, his favorite thing in the whole world, just horribly died in icy vacuum of deep space. For us in the audience, it’s a desperate attempt to squeeze some kind of happy ending into this oddly bleak resolution.

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At least it seems to work for Keiichi!

So that’s it, that’s Gamera: Super Monster!  It took me a perfectly average/reasonable amount of time to review! 😉 It is by far the weirdest entry in the Gamera series, which is saying a lot because some of his movies are batshit crazy.  It has a unique charm to it, I love it as a cultural artifact and as a slice of showbiz history, and of course I was drawn to its notoriety.  It’s a cynical cash grab from a studio on life support, but it has at least a smidgeon of heart, Kilara fucking rules (I want to visit the parallel universe where Captain Marvel got made in the early 80s and stars Mach Fumiake), and it’s fun to see SOME sort of Gamera action in the 80s.  If you’re a diehard Gam-fan like me it’s worth seeing at least once.  If you’re also like me and have funny friends who like charmingly bizarre and/or trashy films, this will probably be a big hit at your next movie night.

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“I’LL BRING THE DORITOS”

This might come as an extreme shock, but Gamera: Super Monster didn’t save Daiei. In fact, Gamera didn’t stomp through theaters for another 15 years afterward (in 1995’s excellent Gamera: Guardian of the Universe).  Super Monster is generally unloved by fans, though riffers/horror hosts like Elvira and Cinema Insomnia have gobbled it up–you can even buy DVDs of their joked-up versions. I was surprised to see Mystery Science Theater 3000 (or their off-shoot Rifftrax) never tackled Super Monster… now that MST3k is making new seasons for Netflix maybe they’ll get to it eventually?

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I mean, they’ve covered so many Gamera movies that they were able to put out an entire DVD box set of nothing but their Gamera episodes!  Why let Super Monster off the hook?

Gamera might have died at the end of Super Monster and he might have stayed buried for a decade and a half afterward, but his following four movies prove that you can’t keep a good turtle down (or flipped over on his back?) forever.  With Gamera’s current hibernation approaching the 15 year mark, I still have hope that Gamera the Friend To All Children, the Guardian of the Universe, The Brave, and yes, even the Super Monster will storm the silver screen once more. Keep believing with me, fellow Keiichis of the world!

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4 thoughts on “Don’t be a Gamera: Pooper Monster Check Out Gamera: Super Monster! (Part 2 of 2)

  1. Matt, I just checked “Gamera vs. Jiger” and those animated saliva spears are in the shot you mentioned. I was taken aback when you said that because I had never noticed “Super Monster” inserted the animated spears, but I put in my DVD of “Jiger” and there they are.

    Giruge is matted into that shot with a castle because Jiger is attacking Osaka and that’s Osaka Castle.

    That Godzilla poster says in Japanese “Sayonara Dojira”, which could be translated as “Goodbye Dogzilla.”

    Wait, hold on… Did Disney really buy the rights to “Laserblast”!??!? And if so, WHY?

    I win 4 bucks from Powerball every so often…

    Oh man, I completely forgot about Hamburgerlunch. How could I???

    Wait, are we seriously not gonna talk about Giruge’s killer legs that show up out of nowhere? No? Alright.

    Did you notice that the Guiron battle edited in some brand new reaction shots from Gamera for editing’s sake (cause the real footage cut away to boys that aren’t there now)?

    In “Guiron”, the context of the rocket was Akio and Tom fired it off. It has no damned business in this movie.

    The anime “Galaxy Express 999” has a train that travels across dimensions, so in the context of the film, 999 could be going through Gamera’s universe to adventures elsewhere. It’s not that 999 shares a universe with Gamera.

    What I want to know is why does Gamera give a rat’s ass about Giruge? Because he seems incensed when she dies, flying around in angry circles and crying out.

    This is the greatest review of “Gamera, Super Monster” I’ve ever seen. Thank you, Matt.

    • Thanks Ted! This was a blast to write. I’ll have to rewatch Gamera vs. Jiger, I’ve somehow never noticed the little animated spears before. HOW WEIRD. Oh well, watching Jiger is my kinda “homework”!

      Disney definitely didn’t buy the rights to Laserblast. Even if they wanted too, there’s no way in sweet sunny hell they cost ANY billion dollars, let alone 4 (which is a reference to the king’s ransom they paid for S-Dubs). Fuck, *I* could probably buy the rights to Laserblast. Hmmmmm……

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