If any entry in the first Gamera series qualifies as its bastard child, it is definitely Gamera: Super Monster. This bizarre entry came long after the other films in the original series and is considered by most fans to be its nadir, a cheap cash-in that ended the series with a whimper instead of a bang. However, the end result remains as compellingly bizarre in its own cut-rate way as any of the other, better produced entries in this series.
The premise feels like a Gamera film got thrown in the blender with the plotline of a Mighty Morphin Power Rangers-type show. You have your typical cute, Gamera-worshipping little boy hero in Keiichi (Koichi Maeda) but you also have a trio of alien women heroes led by Kilara (Mahha Fumiake). The alien women disguise themselves as earthlings to lead normal lives amongst the population but their charade ends when a spaceship from the evil planet Zanon arrives on the scene. The ship’s aim is to destroy the space women and conquer earth. To get the ball rolling, they dispatch Giruge (Keiko Kudo) in earthling disguise to find the space women.
The Zanonian ship also begins to dispatch giant monsters to attack the planet. However, Earth has one last ace in the hole to use against this interstellar onslaught. Young Keiichi is a fanatical Gamera fan who seems to have some sort of psychic link with this heroic giant turtle. When he wills Gamera into fighting the monsters, the spaceship orders Giruge to get him out of the way. As Gamera fights off one monster after another, Keiichi and his alien friends must fight off Giruge’s treachery to ensure that Earth will survive.
It all sounds like fun in a typically addle-pated Gamera way but Gamera: Super Monster has two significant flaws that work against it in the eyes of most kaiju-eiga fans. The first is that the film’s multiple giant monster battles consist entirely of footage lifted from past Gamera epics: Vira, Guiron, Zigra, you name it – their career highlights are all recycled here. The other problem is that the new sequences feature stunningly shoddy effects work. Even though the majority of these scenes were shot on film, the effects were shot on video and then transferred to celluloid to save a few bucks. The end results are painfully obvious and jarring when compared to oft-decent effects used in the vintage scenes.
However, these defects can be oddly charming if viewed from the proper schlock-minded perspective. The recycling of old monster battles means this film is loaded with choice kaiju-eiga carnage: at least half the running time is taken up by killer monster-stomp battles with the kind of miniatures and monster suit effects that are manna from heaven for anyone who grew up watching these flicks on t.v. Similarly, the cheapo effects in the new scenes conjure up fond memories of the surrealistically threadbare chroma-key effects used in live-action Sid & Marty Krofft shows like Electra Woman & Dyna Girl.
To add further appeal, the storyline and directorial style of Gamera: Super Monster are even more aggressively bizarre than fans would expect. Watching this film, it’s easy to get the sense that writer Nisan Takahashi and director Noriaki Yuasa (both series regulars) knew the deck was stacked against them. Thus, they decided to pack it with all manner of bizarrely humorous touches. For instance, Keiichi plays the organ and composes a march for Gamera – which gives him something in common with the heroines, who use computer-style organs to control their various devices. Also, Keiichi’s mom never seems to notice that Japan is constantly under attack and spends most of her time shaking her head at her son and wishing he’d spend more time on his homework.
There’s a lot more weirdness that could be explored here – like the fact that Kilara resembles a butch New Wave singer with a Clark Kent haircut in her earthly guise or how the third act shifts gears towards melodrama in a way that suggests Douglas Sirk directing an episode of Ultraman. However, Your Humble Reviewer will let it rest so you can discover its oddball charms for yourself. If you can set aside any purist feelings about the kaiju eiga genre and appreciate this film for the ragged but peculiarly imaginative mutt that it is, you just might have a lot of fun with Gamera: Super Monster.