Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Gamera VS Deep-Sea Monster Zigra

Zigra Follies

Gamera VS
Deep-Sea Monster Zigra
aka Gamera tai Shinkai kaij├╗ Jigura
aka Gamera VS Zigra

Japan 1971 Directed by Noriaki Yuasa
Gamera Complete Collection Blu Ray Zone B

Okay... so I’ve watched the six previous films in the Gamera series so far, all twelve of which are part of the fantastic Gamera - The Complete Collection Blu Ray boxed edition from Arrow Films. And up until now I’ve been pretty impressed by them all. Well, it was bound to happen but, I have to say that Gamera VS Deep-Sea Monster Zigra is an absolutely terrible film. But, as I found out after I watched it (and pretty much suspected all the way through, since it’s pretty obvious what the main issue with this movie is), there’s a very good reason as to why this one’s so terrible and, in some ways, we should maybe be grateful that this at least finished up with a comprehensible story.

It starts off with a pre-credits sequence establishing to the audience that by now the Japanese are so advanced with their technology that they have set up a base on the moon. We then see a spaceship from another planet blow up that moonbase and ‘displace’ a moon buggy... which really just looks like it’s been disintegrated but, amazingly, this moment does make some sense in terms of the plotting much later in the picture.

So, after the credits with the main Gamera song being sung again, we meet two dads and their respective son and daughter, who have stowed away on their little fishing boat. They then see the spacecraft that does so much damage at the start of the movie and it displaces their fishing boat to bring it inside the spacecraft. They meet Zigra’s human envoy as she shows them how powerful Zigra’s ‘completely unseen throughout the entire movie apart from one big monster fish’ alien race are. They’re here to conquer the Earth because they live in the sea and have polluted their own planet. So, in a theme shared with the fashion at the time (and again now, as it happens) and reflected in the same year’s other big kaiju eiga, Godzilla Vs Hedorah (aka Godzilla VS The Smog Monster, review coming soon), they come to Earth to stop us polluting our seas and to use them for themselves, while keeping the humans alive so they can eat them to survive.

Somehow the kids manage to lead their ‘fathers in a coma’ out of there and get their boat clear in a completely implausible and ‘against any credibility or logic’ manner, so that they can warn Earth’s military defence force, who are based in the local Marineworld for the rest of the movie because... well, that’s the thing...

We are already ten or twenty minutes into the movie and still no giant monster battles or anything. This is a slow movie and I honestly thought, after a while, that the opening ‘Gerry Anderson style’ exploding miniature moon base set was purely there to put a bit of action into the film before this long lead in. However, as the movie progressed and there were very few monster battles, I realised that the budget must have been miniscule. Indeed, when the human envoy of Zigra is sent to Marineworld to kill the kids, there’s a long and drawn out, somewhat comical (not entirely sure it was supposed to be) chase scene and, it was at this point that I was absolutely sure that this had been put in merely to pad the running time because they couldn’t afford the money to get more monsters fights into the mix (nor the time, as I later found out).

And, yeah, I was right. The director was now a hired gun, no longer on the payroll of Daeie studios... and was expected to put in all the overtime that a film like this required to make deadline for free, along with the crew. The budget was slashed right down on this one and not because the last movie wasn’t a success... it absolutely was... but because the studio was out of money and time. Hundreds of people had been made redundant prior to this and a crew member had even died from the stress of working for Daeie on this film. The studio filed for bankruptcy soon after so, the next Gamera film was also cancelled but, frankly, the lack of budget and adequate resources of people and time really show on this production.

So when we do get the first of two fights, where Gamera is beaten by Zigra and left for dead (which is beginning to become a formula for the dramatic impetus of these films now), it just looks cheap and almost like the battling monsters (Zigra has turned into a Goblin-shark style metal creature after Gamera destroys the spaceship) are just standing around waving their arms about and being unnecessarily vocal. It’s just kind of dull and, frankly, although the design of Zigra looks okay and on a level with previous foes, well... I just don’t see how you can make a giant monster battle feel so uninteresting, to be honest.

The key to freeing the people left comatose in the human envoy’s path is to interfere with their sonic harmony by yelling into a microphone thingy which translates it into the exact same sound waves which had rendered them into their helpless state. The same trick is tried on the space lady and, after a guy yells ‘Ha Ha Ha’ into the mike, she drops down on the floor and reverts to a moon geologist who was apparently in the moon buggy at the start of the picture. Gosh, this begs the question of just what one verse of Little Brown Jug might have done to Zigra’s alien control.

And the special effects, which had been going downhill since the absolutely stunning work on the second movie, Great Monster Duel: Gamera VS Barugon (reviewed here), are really not of a standard I would have expected a studio to let out of the gate to be honest. I mean, these films rely on stuff like back projecting the monsters behind the characters in some shots, to wed the humans and the effects work. Here, however, the back projection screen showing the giant shark fin coming towards the boat in the water, or Gamera’s head as he carries the boat to safety, is actually made up of highly visible, vertical slats which you can clearly see breaking up the image all over the screen. I mean, what were they thinking?

The only thing in this film which is of note, is a cute moment after Gamera has defeated Zigra. The antagonist is lying on the ground with his five big shark fins standing up. Gamera hits one with a rock and notices that if he hits each one in turn they produce different tones. So he then proceeds to play the Gamera theme on Zigras back as if it was a xylophone. But, honestly, this is the only cool bit in the entire movie. And it’s a shame that, after such a successful run of really groovy, giant flying turtle movies, this last one for nine years is such a terrible swan song for the original version of the character.

And that’s me done with Gamera VS Deep-Sea Monster Zigra. Its not a movie I can recommend in any way, shape or form and, it’s not one I’d choose to go back to unless I was watching the entire series of movies again. However, as we will see... this was not the end of Gamera. And I just hope the next one is better than this because, I can’t see how it could be much worse.

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