Shout Factory has been doing some great releases of MST3K episodes of late, but with this latest release of MST3K XXI, the Gamera episodes, they’ve really done it up right. It’s a box set of five episodes that comes in a metal collector’s box and includes an MST3K lobby card for each episode and tons of special features. I think pretty much everyone knows what Mystery Science Theater 3000 is, so I’ll spare you the description of how Joel was shot into space and forced to watch cheesy movies with his robot friends, and get straight to the descriptions of the films.
Disc 1 – Gamera:
The original Gamera film, which Shout Factory has also released on its own. Mysterious jets are flying over the arctic while an expedition is up there investigating something or other and talking to Japanese Eskimos. The jets are intercepted, and during the fight, one crashes into the ice, releasing Gamera. For those that don’t know, Gamera is a giant turtle that not only eats fire, but can blow it out at his enemies as well. He can also pull in his head and arms and turn the ports into jets that shoot out flame and allow him to fly around like a UFO. Awesome huh? Anyway, he’s not too happy about being woken up, and not only that, but he’s hungry. As such he goes around breaking stuff and eating flames. How will the humans stop Gamera before everything is destroyed? Well, they have a plan, but you’ll have to watch the film to find out what it is. There’s also a kid named Kenny who loves turtles and is a total pain in the butt who thinks that Gamera is related to the turtle that he was obsessed with that his parents made him release back into the wild. This is far and away the best film in the box.
Disc 2 – Gamera vs. Barugon:
In this one, Gamera is now a friend to all children, a moniker which he maintained throughout the rest of the films in this box, and he has to fight a monster that Joel and the robots like to refer to as a dog monster, but it’s actually a cheesy looking lizard monster that has a tongue like a battering ram that can shoot some kind of frost spray that freezes everything. This film wasn’t bad at all. The worst is yet to come…believe me.
Disc 3 – Gamera vs. Gaos:
They keep calling this monster a shovel head. Basically, Gaos lives underground and can’t be exposed to light, so he only comes out at night. He shoots this sonic ray of destruction out of his mouth that basically slices right through whatever it hits. He can’t turn his head at all though because of how the ray is generated. His spine splits in two like a tuning fork, and it’s the vibrations he can create with the spine that generate the sonic destructo ray he shoots from his mouth. He also has wings and is able to flap them hard enough to blow crap all over the place. He actually reminds me a lot of Rodan, except Rodan can turn his head and doesn’t have a head shaped like a shovel. This film also features a doofy little kid that’s in love with Gamera. His name is Ichi, but Joel and the robots keep calling him Kenny (in reference to the kid in the first film), which is rather amusing. Again, this film isn’t bad at all. But now we come to…
Disc 4 – Gamera vs. Gurion:
Two kids (you knew there’d be kids, didn’t you?) spot a spaceship and climb aboard. They’re then whisked away to Mars or wherever and find this space city. Gaos is there for whatever reason, and he don’t look none too pleased. The two space girls, who are apparently the only ones in the city and run everything, release Guiron to fight him off. Now let me say, this film is REALLY kiddie. It’s like the Santa Claus vs. The Martians version of a Gamera movie. That’s why the fight between Guiron and Gaos is so shocking. See, Guiron is this monster with a head shaped like a big…well, like one of those big Chinese cleavers. Plus he can open up a hole on each side and shoot throwing stars out of it, but we won’t even go there. So the two of them are about to rumble, and Gaos shoots out his sonic destructo beam. It literally bounces off of Guiron’s blade head and shoots back at Gaos…AND TAKES OFF HIS LEG!!! Here we have a very kiddie looking film, and the first thing that happens in the first monster battle is that Gaos gets his leg sliced off! That ain’t the end of it though. Gaos takes off and tries to circle around to catch Guiron from behind, but Guiron is too quick for him and takes him down…and then uses his head to SLICE OFF GAOS’ ARM AND WING!!! Then he slices off the other one! Then while Gaos is laying there helpless, Guiron moves around to the side and CUTS OFF HIS HEAD!!! Then, just to add insult to injury, he slices up the rest of the body as well! I was like, "Holy crap!" You don’t expect to see stuff like that in a movie that literally looks like some utterly cheesy kids show. Anyway, Gamera had followed the kids to the planet, trying to help them, but the ship was too fast and they lost him. Eventually Gamera does show up and has a nasty fight with Guiron. I bet you can guess who won. To top off the nastiness of this film though, I would be shirking my duties if I failed to mention that the two space chicks that run the place are also cannibals and want to eat the brains of the two kids. What the hell??? I’m still baffled why they made this one seem like such a kiddie film if they were going to pull out all the stops with the brutality and cannibalism.
Disc 5 – Gamera vs. Zigra
Ok, they saved the worst for last. This film was just horribly stupid. Zigra starts off as a spaceship who beams up a girl who was working on a moon base and controls her mind so he can use her to orchestrate his takeover of planet Earth. Later, we find out that Zigra is actually this deep sea monster, and he turns from a spaceship into this under sea beast. So Gamera has to fight him underwater, which leads to probably the lamest, most pathetic fight I’ve ever seen in a daikaiju film. I mean seriously, Gamera was shooting flames…underwater, and at one point picked up a rock and was hitting Zigra on his back spines with it and was playing Zigra like a xylophone. Don’t even get me started on the annoying kids in this one. The girl kept asking for a Coke for whatever reason. This one was just painful to sit through.
Throughout the films in this box, we get the usual riffs and silly skits we’ve come to expect from Joel and the bots. There’s definitely some funny stuff now and then, but most of it just falls flat.
The special features include:
So Happy Together: A Look Back at MST3K & Gamera
Gamera Obscura: A History by August Ragone
Gamera vs. The Chiodo Brothers
The MST Hour Wraps
Original Japanese Trailers
Five Exclusive Mini-Posters by Artist Steve Vance
The total running time for the whole set is almost ten hours. So if you love MST3K and you love Gamera, there’s almost ten hours of goodness for you in a really sweet metal box set. Also, if you buy the set from the Shout Factory website, you’ll also receive a free Gamera postcard pack and an MST3K stress ball! You can’t beat that with a stick! While once again I’m forced to say that I would have loved to have seen the actual films included with the set, for fans of MST3K, this one is a must have for your collection.