Gamera the Giant Monster appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Given the movie’s age and roots, this seemed like an erratic but adequate image.
Sharpness usually worked fine, but exceptions occurred, so more than a few soft shots materialized. However, the majority of the flick brought fairly accurate and concise elements.
No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I saw no edge haloes. The film came with a strong layer of grain, so I suspected no noise reduction issues.
Print flaws remained minor, as I saw only an occasional speck or mark. The film could seem a bit flickery at times, though.
Blacks were generally good, though they could feel a bit heavy at times. Shadows were decent, with nighttime shots that tended to become pretty dense.
Those seemed to result from problematic use of day-for-night filters, and they meant evening scenes could become nearly impenetrable at times. Ultimately, this was a watchable image.
Though not memorable, the film’s DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack held up fine given its age. Speech felt slightly edgy at times, but the lines usually delivered acceptable clarity and natural qualities.
While music felt a bit thin, the score lacked roughness and replicated those components in a reasonable manner. The same went for effects. Those elements never brought much range or impact, but they also didn’t show much distortion. This became a more than decent track for its era.
The disc includes a good array of extras, and we begin with an Introduction from Film Historian August Ragone. In this 13-minute, 12-second reel, Ragone gives us background for the Gamera series as well as the first flick’s development and aspects of the subsequent movies. Ragone offers good notes, though this feels more like a retrospective than a standard intro.
We hear more from the film historian in an audio commentary from Ragone. During this running, screen-specific chat, Ragone discusses the project’s origins and development, story/character areas, cast/crew biographies, production details and aspects of the franchise.
In other words, Ragone brings us a pretty well-rounded historical commentary. He maintains a good level of involvement and energy as he provides a nice look at the film.
Like Godzilla, Gamera earned an altered version in the States. The disc includes Gammera the Invincible, that 1966 US reworking of the material.
Whereas the original goes for 1:18:34, Invincible runs 1:25:41. Like the US cut of Godzilla. Invincible brings unique footage and changes other aspects of the Japanese edition.
We lose the awkward scenes with Americans from the original, replaced by… different awkward scenes with Americans. Actually, that’s not really fair, as Invincible subs real actors for the amateurs from the Japanese version.
The most direct replacement shows the military agents who detect and respond to the UFOs at the film’s start. We get much more from the US Arctic base in this edition.
Invincible adds meetings among the US Joint Chiefs as well as the United Nations. Also, when we go to “New York News Studio”, we get a new scene that offers an overwrought debate about whether or not Gammera exists.
Though much of the footage with Japanese characters remains, Invincible makes some changes there. In particular, it knocks down the time we spend with Toshio to a degree.
Does any of this improve the film? No – the added footage makes Invincible longer than Gamera but not better, as the American material seems overly expository and unnecessary.
The loss of some Toshio material feels like it should make Invincible superior, but honestly, it doesn’t create a major difference. He’s slightly less annoying here and that’s it.
Of course, Invincible dubs all the Japanese actors in English, and that becomes another drawback, as the American performers offer bad vocal work. Invincible becomes an interesting curiosity but it doesn’t turn into a good film.
From 1991, Remembering the Gamera Series spans 23 minutes, 13 seconds and brings notes from director Noriaki Yuasa, writer Nisan Takahashi, effects artist Akira Inoue, costume designer Masao Yagi and effects technician Harou Sekitani.
“Remembering” looks at the film’s roots and development, creature-related choices, aspects of the production, sequels and a Gamera flick that never got made. Despite its relatively brief running time, “Remembering” gives us a pretty tight little overview.
We hear more from the director in a 2002 Interview with Noriaki Yuasa. It fills 13 minutes, 11 seconds and remarks about the project’s path to the screen, comparisons with Godzilla, subsequent Gamera programs, the series’ prolonged appeal, his intentions for his films, and related areas.
While we get some decent insights, not a lot of real substance appears here. The chat feels a little fluffy, though it still delivers enough content to make it worth a look.
Also from 1991, a two-part Gamera Special takes up a total of 58 minutes, 12 seconds. For most of the first 43 minutes, it offers a “clip show”, one that presents shots from seven movies.
These elements start with the original 1965 movie – logically – and proceed through 1971’s Gamera vs. Zigra. After that, we get comments from Yuasa and see some behind the scenes footage for a brief period.
“Special” also includes trailers. The ad for the first film shows up at the end of the program’s first part, while the rest materialize after our short sequence with Yuasa. We also find a promo for 1980’s Gamera: Super Monster, which looks insane even by the franchise’s standards.
The movie clips become stale pretty quickly, especially for fans who already know the movies. I like the addition of the trailers, though, and though brief, Yuasa’s segment adds value.
The package also includes the film’s original Japanese trailer and the US theatrical trailer for Gammera the Invincible. A campy US promo touts the movie’s VHS release and we find Alternate English credits as well.
An audio-only feature delivers the entire theme song for Invincible. I’m sure it’s pure coincidence that it resembles the theme for the Batman TV series!
Finally, an Image Gallery includes 78 images that mix production photos, publicity still, and advertising/video art. Though some of them show iffy quality, this nonetheless becomes a nice compilation.
Even as a rehash of Godzilla, I hoped Gamera the Giant Monster might offer chaotic fun. Unfortunately, the film seems poorly made and without excitement or impact. The Blu-ray brings adequate picture and audio along with a pretty good collection of bonus features. Perhaps some of the Gamera sequels work better, but the original flick lacks charm or drama.
Note that as of August 2020, this Blu-ray version only appears as part of a “Gamera Complete Collection”. This packages 12 Gamera adventures.
The “Complete Collection” also features a 120-page reproduction of a 1996 Gamera comic book and an 80-page retrospective book. My review copy didn’t include these components so I can’t formally discuss them.