Gamera does gymanstics in Gamera vs. Guiron. It’s hard to put that into words, and it’s even harder to process upon viewing, a massive turtle swinging from some small bridge between two buildings. Oh, and he actually dismounts with a perfect landing. That’s the end for this franchise in most viewer’s minds.
By 1969, Daiei Studios financial woes are apparent on screen. The rear projection screen has an awful obvious tear near the top, not to mention streaks of dirt and wear. The suit for Guiron, goofy as it is, falls apart as the movie heads towards its climax, his (her?) red stripes peeling away and his back covering bowing and bending while he moves. It’s a truly outlandish monster, not that Viras wasn’t in the previous movie. What evolutionary by product states that a creature needs to shoot giant throwing stars at objects? Better yet, evolution seems to love playing tricks on its creatures, sticking Guiron with a massive head that is nothing more than a knife. How the suit actor was able to support that girth is a mystery.
The planet Tera houses most of this film, a confined miniature set with a few full-sized interiors. Despite aiming this at children who would openly accept that Gamera can fly through space without any assistance, Tera is a violent place. A variety of Gyaos creatures, a previous Gamera foe, reside here, and one of them is completely wiped out by Guiron. Not only does the creature take off a foot, both wings, and Gyaos’ head, he then proceeds to disassemble the corpse piece by piece, a sequence cut in US edits. Who can blame the censors? It’s not worth traumatizing a kid over this type of material.
The follow-up is Gamera vs Jiger, a kitchen sink of goofiness, but a last gasp for this franchise as it is. The budget has been increased, finally bringing back a series of city attacks, and a mini military brawl as the giant Jiger ravages the city. Jiger’s design is actually well controlled, a bipedal island legend, the creature shoots arrows from its horns, a heat beam from its nose, has jet propulsion from its neck, can suck objects into his feet, and impregnates Gamera with his own young. Where else will you find such variety?
Never fear though. Despite the funding boost, Gamera is still for children, the turtle sticking telephone poles inside his ears to protect them from an high-pitched sound. The two lead children, again one of them American for the international audience, take a mini-sub into a downed Gamera to defeat Jiger’s little hell spawn who has taken up residence inside the massive reptile. Full-size Jiger leaps hilariously through the air, planks of wood less stiff than the model utilized in these brief shots.
This is a lively and consistent film, the only stock footage shoved behind the opening credits where it won’t harm anybody, and gets the kids attention from the start. Part of the film acts as an extended advertisement for World Expo ’70, a now “slightly” dated promo, but it’s important to establish the eventual backdrop for the finale. Despite a wild ending, nothing matches the superlative master shot earlier in the film, where Gamera is speared by Jiger and begins walking down the street to the harbor. An expansive miniature set is incredible, and shot from a low angle. The sideways pan lasts at least for a minute, the real send-off to the original series, unfortunately marred by two more sequels.
Gamera vs Guiron marks a shift into even brighter territory for this series, the Eastman color film stock quite vibrant here. Flesh tones are especially vivid and warm. Primaries are bold and rich, the typically orange look of Tera preserved nicely by this DVD. One of the shockers for those who have lived with faded, ugly 16 mm prints of this film on DVD will be Guiron’s color. Older prints, usually from AIP, cast the creature in a flat gray. Here, his light green skin is in full view, and the red stripes are distinct.
Compression is a little rougher here than it was on the previous Shout Factory Gamera double feature, not enough to be a bother, but enough to be noticeable. The light film grain takes on a slightly more digital quality than it did before. Guiron’s brighter color scheme probably doesn’t help either. Fine detail on the monster suits is exceptional, close-ups of both Gamera and Guiron superb. Black levels are still on the weak side, although the brighter contrast makes them appear slightly richer than they have been previously by default.
Jiger has a few scenes that take place at night, re-establishing the darker tone the series left behind. The monster action looks quite good, black levels rich and full with maintained texture. Oddly, the cuts back to the human characters looking on (around 37:30) are washed out and faded.
Flesh tones carry that same warmer tint of Guiron, adding some fine color depth to the image. Jiger’s deep shade of red is quite vibrant. Compression never seems overbearing, although it is noticeable. Fine detail takes a bit of dip here, close-ups not as prevalent, and the Jiger suit smoothly designed (at least in terms of the face). The image is clear enough to reveal the flatness of the miniatures, revealing their thin and frail nature, while the better ones showcase their minute detail.
A 2.0 mono mix is sufficient for the content, Guiron twice breaking down into a classic theme song about the giant turtle. What is lacks in terms of fidelity it compensates for with no distortion, hissing, or popping. It’s surprisingly clean all things considered, and the chipper musical score, purely playing on the comedic aspects, never hits much in the way of high notes. While flat and sitting in a mid-range, it is a bit crisp, and balanced well when it needs to be. Gamera’s trademark screech is equal to the other films in these releases, meaning it naturally sounds a bit distorted, and this mix doing nothing to further cause problems.
Oddly, the same theme song is utilized in Jiger, yet it sounds especially rough in this follow-up. The opening credits are rough to say the least, the music behind the lyrics so strained as to be barely identifiable. Dialogue reveals no noticeable difference. A few explosions are flat and hollow, although the classic Daiei sound effects are still identifiable. The ear-piercing sound used to finish off Jiger is as irritating as you can imagine.
Extras include a publicity gallery for both films, and a single English dub for each.