Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Shout! Factory's "The Giant Monster Gamera"

If you have any interest in giant monster movies at all, you will want to get your hands on this new release. If you have seen "Gamera" in other formats before, prepare to be astounded. That's right, I said "astounded." The picture quality, presented in widescreen, breathes new life into the film, making it almost seem brand new. Every detail is now clearly visible. Every framing shot of the main characters can be appreciated. It is eye candy for the kaiju connoisseur.

Chances are, if you're reading this blog, you know the plot of this movie, which does not depart in a significant way from the conventions of the genre. (Monster appears; military is powerless; worldwide team of scientists (led by Japan) works on various solutions; through perseverance the scientists are ultimately successful; the world is saved.) However, the whole enterprise is undertaken with such heart that it works. Gamera's ability to fly is just audacious enough to make him extra memorable--and his ambiguous rescue of Toshio from the crumbling lighthouse sows the seeds of his later "friend of children" status.

August Ragone's commentary track is immaculately researched--so much so that, at times, one's brain is numbed by the sheer amount of information being laid on the listener. Thankfully, Ragone leavens the mix with other anecdotes and flashes of observational humor that border on MST3K-style "riffing." Towards the end of the film he also is candid about his affection for the Gamera movies, encouraging the listener to "give them a chance."

The other bonus material is pretty incredible stuff. Best of the lot is a Japanese language interview-style program in which the creators of Gamera share their memories and experiences. Included in the documentary is a handcrafted pre-viz treatment of an unmade sequel, "Gamera vs. Garasharp" which must be seen to be believed. What a treat!

Word is that "Gamera vs. Barugon" is coming down the pipe this summer. Do yourself a favor and support these releases. They really are treasures for the monster fan.

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