Wednesday, 11 August 2021

Gamera VS Jiger

Gamtastic Voyage

Gamera VS Giant
Demon Beast Jiger
aka Gamera tai Daimaju Jaiga

Japan 1970
Directed by
Noriaki Yuasa & Shigeo Tanaka
Daiei/Arrow Blu Ray Zone B

The next film in the wonderful Gamera - The Complete Collection Blu Ray boxed edition from Arrow films was inspired by two big things happening in Japan at the time. Due to a TV documentary, there was renewed interest in the mysterious statues of Easter Island in the country. Coupled with this, Osaka (where this film is set) was hosting a huge show called Expo 1970 (think of something like the famous New York World’s Fair or even the Millennium Dome celebrations of a couple of decades ago). Footage of the actual Expo 1970 buildings from when they were being constructed were used for this film (just like the Millennium Dome was used before it opened, by EON productions for the opening sequence of The World Is Not Enough, reviewed here) and there’s a couple of minutes of footage at the front end of this movie where it looks like one huge advert for the various countries and companies taking part, as various buildings are highlighted. As it happens, Expo 1970 opened just one week before this movie, Gamera Vs Giant Demon Beast Jiger, was unleashed in Japanese cinemas.

And so those two elements kickstarted a story idea which had a bunch of archaeologists, working for the Expo 1970 exhibitors, pulling up a mysterious statue discovered at the fictional ‘Wester Island’ (look, I don’t write these scripts, don’t blame me), ignoring an island representative’s warning that the famous curse will endanger them all if this task is accomplished.

Well, it is accomplished and Gamera, everybody’s favourite giant flying turtle and friend to children everywhere, tries to stop the pesky humans from uprooting the long statue and moving it. Regardless, the statue is pulled up and this acts as a kind of uncorking, as the statue and the shrill Devil’s Whistle sound it makes both a) reacts with the poisonous debris and so makes all the people who handle the statue sick and b) unleashes the dodgy looking monster Jiger to terrorise the Earth once more.

And it’s not a bad film, in all honesty... giving us some new spins on what you can do with a giant turtle drama and also having the requisite amount of fights occurring between the pseudo science and the comic relief. The first fight between Gamera and Jiger ends up with Jiger beating the turtle and leaving it for dead. This is because, asides form a big, sonic disintegrating ray which decays whole areas and leaves fleeing humans as standing skeletons (apparently, this weapon is called the Super Ultra Ray), she can also shoot solidified saliva harpoons out of her nose tusks. She uses said harpoons to pin Gamera’s arms and legs so he can’t retract them into his shell and he’s left helpless on his back while Jiger travels to Osaka in pursuit of the statue, so it can throw it in the sea before the annoying humans catch on it can be used against it.

In a surprisingly extended scene akin to a secret agent in a spy movie slowly escaping his bonds to head towards the next scene, we see Gamera use a nearby rock to help bash some of the harpoons out of him and then just tear the others out with his hands mid flight (which, honestly, if he could do that now then why didn’t he do that in the first place?) to pursue Jiger to Osaka. He then gets beaten again as Jiger uses her tail harpoon to impregnate him with her larvae and it’s an almost touching scene when the gummed up and dying Gamera makes it to the water front before the cancerous thing inside him turns his head and leg white and keeps him unconscious. We see him dragging himself to water where he manages to submerge some of his head and body before freezing up completely. So, yes, this is pretty much Gamera meets an inter-species version of The Joy Of Sex right here, with a kind of gender switch as Jiger’s tail is the object of penetration to perpetuate her family line.

Meanwhile, the human stars of the show, who are a bunch of kids (in keeping with most of the previous installments), use one of their dad’s new mini subs to enter Gamera’s body in an extended sequence obviously inspired by the movie version of Fantastic Voyage. Sadly, there’s no Raquel Welch in a skin tight suit to help them but they do manage to kill the small Jiger inside Gamera accidentally, with low frequency sound waves and this gives them a clue as to how to hold off adult Jiger until the sub can return with electric cables to restart Gamera’s life vitality, so he can finally take care of the opposing monster by blocking her harpoon nose tusks with a big barrel and retrieving the statue with its Devil’s Whistle from the sea.

And it’s a fun and lively film which holds the attention and, although it looks pedestrian for a lot of the time with, for example, a bad matte glass shot of the statue in front of the camera at the foreground of a scene (not because it’s particularly badly executed but because the painting actually does look more like an illustration rather than the actual thing itself), there are still some nice shots in the last twenty minutes of the film where the director uses the verticals of the windows in the headquarters of the Anti Jiger Taskforce to section off parts of the frame. Alas, though, even those shots can’t disguise that the windows behind the actors are just a slightly faded back projection. There’s also some scale issues with the mini sub which appears to be only half the size of Gamera’s head when it goes in but, presumably, is somehow a lot smaller once it’s inside and roaming about the giant turtle’s innards.

Mostly, though, Gamera VS Giant Demon Beast Jiger is pretty much entertaining, fast moving kaiju fun and, as you would expect from Arrow’s wonderful work on the set, it looks fantastic. Incidentally, although it never happened on screen ever, the two companies Toho and Daiei teamed up for a nightly show taking place at the real Expo 70, where the two star monsters of their respective studio, Godzilla and Gamera, finally fought each other. What a shame those two companies never worked together to have this happen in the movies. Still, the films are all we’ve got and this one is as entertaining as the previous entries, as far as I’m concerned. Looking forward to exploring the next one in the set.

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