Validate me, watch along and let me know what you thought: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yISxIM1EJZs
My least favourite Gamera movie was Gamera vs. Barugon. The second Gamera movie ever made and the first to feature an opposing kaiju. Gamera vs. Barugon was a colossal letdown filled with racist characters, lame kaiju, flaccid action, and boring people. It was also the first Gamera movie that wasn’t directed by Noriaki Yuasa. Discovering this immediately suggested that I haven’t been giving Yuasa enough credit. Even the worst of the post-Barugon Gamera movies have at least been entertaining, and that make it seem like Yuasa is the most constant thread. This wasn’t the only way this realization coloured my reaction to the sixth Gamera movie. See, knowing this made me wonder if this wasn’t meant to be Noriaki Yuasa’s take on Barugon. Like he was showing off how it was done. And that’s maybe why he made this….movie.
This movie with eighteen million titles. The Japanese spelling of the movie’s villain is Jaiga. But the movie is known as Gamera vs. Jiger, Monsters Invade Expo ’70, War of the Monsters, Gamera vs. Monster X, and Gamera vs. Giger.
Gamera vs. Giger feels like it has some of the same DNA as Gamera vs. Barugon. The movie basically starts with workers overseas collecting a tribal relic! A tribal relic called The Devil’s Whistle. The first third of Barugon was built around the same thing. Crooks collecting a tribal relic. Noriaki Yuasa knows what we actually want to see though, and relegates the whole thing to a solitary scene. A solitary scene WITH GAMERA in it. No contest as to which movie is better. These workers are collecting an ancient statue from what my DVD’s subtitles stubbornly insisted on calling Wester Island. Easter Island is absolutely a thing they could have used without repercussions. I started to wonder if it was crappy translation or something, but I honestly still don’t know. So Wester Island it is. These workers are trying to move the statue when Gamera shows up, seemingly upset with their actions. They shoot at him until he flies off. Gamera right off the bat. You don’t know from kaiju movies Shigeo Tanaka.
He’s uh, the director of Gamera vs. Barugon. Sorry but that was a really shitty movie.
So these workers successfully start taking the statue to the Expo when Jiger emerges from under where the statue was! Gamera and her have a quick tussle. Which is actually a goody. Jaiga shoots quills into Gamera’s legs so he can’t retract them then traps him on his back. Then Giger flies off. Monster fights right off the fucking bat. Seriously that is exactly all you could want from a kaiju movie.
Let’s talk about Jiger/Giger/Jaiga/Monster X’s design. She’s not great. She feels like a reimagining of the quadrupedal, horned, reptilian Barugon. So she’s quadrupedal, horned, and reptilian. Except she goes right past chameleon and starts to look like…well I’ve been describing her to the people I accost and rant to about kaiju movies as a rocket triceratops. She has a shield like a triceratops, and whatever she’s using to propel herself is behind it. She has a plethora of scattered horns and a tail with a retractable stinger. She can shoot quills from her head and possesses a subsonic blast that basically looks like a non-rainbow version of Barugon’s blast and acts like a heat ray. She also has some sort of seemingly telekinetic ability that only extends to drawing objects to her.
Gamera eventually uses his tail to flip himself onto his back and fly Monster X. Jiger, for some reason, is looking for the statue that stood above her. Which, naturally, now resides at the World Expo. The statue seemed to be emitting some sort of sound that was causing temporary illness in the workers who were tasked with taking it to the Expo. By the way, this is the same Expo prominently featured in Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys. Which honestly shouldn’t be a surprise or anything, there’s just a certain mental whiplash that occurs when Gamera wanders in front of something that you heavily associate with 20th Century Boys, like that iconic statue. If you’ve read the comic you know which one I mean. There’s a brief fight between Jaiga and some planes. Jaiga wins handily.
Gamera shows up and they fight in front of the Expo and our two plucky child protagonists, who I haven’t really mentioned before. As always there’s a Japanese kid and an American kid. The Japanese kid’s Dad is working on assembling tiny child-sized submarines for the Expo. Why yes my canny viewers, these are the exact same props from Gamera vs. the Space Monster Viras. Would you expect anything less? Or rather more. Anyways Gamera and Jiger fight. Jiger draws Gamera towards her using her telekinesis then traps him and stabs him with her tail. Gamera stumbles to the river in pain and slowly his head and limbs sorta freeze over. It’s not actually ice, but the similarities to Gamera vs. Barugon, a movie where Gamera spends most of the runtime either absent or frozen, makes me think it was a visual reference to it.
Giger grabs the statue and tosses it into the ocean.
Scientists take some x-rays of Gamera…somehow…and discover something horrifying. Monster X laid an egg inside of Gamera. The scientists discuss this and display a video featuring the surprisingly gruesome dissection of an elephant’s trunk. It’s seriously shockingly gross. Upsetting even. More horror movie than kaiju movie. Clearly Gamera needs to be operated upon though, heaven forbid there be more than one Jiger running around.
So of course here is where the conveniently located child-sized submarines come in handy. Our plucky child protagonists go on a mission to save Gamera from the parasitic larvae inside of him. I have to say, if you’re going to knock Gamera out for a chunk of your movie, Fantastic Voyaging the fuck out of him is a pretty stellar option. I wish the movie had done more with this, playing with his surely bizarre anatomy a bit more. Still though, it’s a pretty fun turn of events.
As the children start wandering around where the larva is meant to be, they are suddenly pursued by a tiny Giger. Or rather the same suit in a differently scaled set. Slightly different power set though. The baby can sneeze sticky goo. Which is gross. The children eventually accidentally kill the baby with the feedback coming off of their walkie-talkies. The scientists scramble with this new information realizing that because Jiger uses subsonic sound supersonic sound must be her kryptonite. So that explains the statue called the Devil’s Whistle you guys. I’m not saying they should’ve figured out the sound thing before, but they should’ve figured out the sound thing before.
It’s time for the convoluted military plans!
So a collection of subsonic speakers are built and prepared and the city’s power grid is connected to the catatonic Gamera. The kids have to do this via submarine. As Monster X/Giger/Jaiga/Jiger approaches the World Fair Expo, the speakers are prepped. She shows up and the speakers blast, holding her in place. It’s messing her up, but it’s not killing her, just preventing the deathly beast from moving. They start zapping Gamera until the power goes out and he wakes up, attacking the now mobile Jaiga.
The two monsters have a fairly brutal fight intercut with all sorts of shots of the general populace believing in Gamera’s ability to keep the Expo safe. Because Gamera is nothing if not a big goofy cartoon character keeping Japan safe at the request of children at this point. I can’t decide if this level of support for Japan is crossing a line or not. Jiger tries everything she’s got. Quills and rays and fighting. Gamera shrugs it off and routinely smashes her into the ground until she starts to seem stunned. Gamera flies off to the ocean to collect the Devil’s Whistle. Gamera comes back and Jiger starts stabbing at him with her tail. Gamera smashes the statue into it until the stinger pops right out. Gamera flies off with the statue knowing that Monster X will chase him. And she does, which allows Gamera to lure her farther away.
Then the giant turtle whips around and hurls the statue at Jiger, spearing her in the head. Unsurprisingly this proves lethal. The Expo workers build a replica statue and all is well.
So I know it sounds like I absolutely loved this movie, but that’s probably a bit of an exaggeration. A superior redux of Gamera vs. Barugon is inherently something I can get behind. Gamera vs. Jiger/Monsters Invade Expo ’70/War of the Monsters/Gamera vs. Monster X/Gamera vs. Giger is fun. Probably in the top three Gamera movies I’ve seen so far, but hardly the best one. Definitely gives me some hope as I head towards the vestiges of the Toho era.