MST3K Vs. Gamera: Mystery Science Theater 3000, Vol. XXI

THE PLOT THUS FAR

Mystery Science Theater 3000‘s verbal brawls with the much-maligned Japanese monster Gamera–you know, the flying turtle–are included in this limited-edition boxed set, which buffets the riffing with some impressive and informative extras. The Gamera films were a staple of MST3K from its humble beginnings as Minneapolis UHF programming, and when the Satellite of Love moved to Comedy Central in the early ’90s, the American re-edits released by distributor Sandy Frank were among the show’s most popular episodes. All five of the MST3K Gamera episodes, culled from the show’s third season in 1991 and featuring series creator Joel Hodgson alongside robots Tom Servo and Crow, are included in the set, as are some of the show’s most memorable skits: in Gamera, Tom croons a heartfelt tribute to the film’s lost pet, Tibby the Turtle, and head writer/future host Mike Nelson turns up as the giant monster himself to reveal the true nature of his relationship with boy hero Kenny, while Gamera vs. Gaos features the cast’s aborted presentation of their opera “Gameradammerung,” and Gamera vs. Guiron and Gamera vs. Zigra offer the SOL’s rousing “Gamera Song” and several berserk variations. None of the MST3K Gamera experiments have been available on home video prior to this release, so longtime fans can finally retire their worn pre-records and enjoy the episodes in glorious, uncut form.

 

WHAT WE THOUGHT

Gamera is one of those classic Japanese horror films that contains awful acting, worse English dubbing, and sometimes laughable special effects, but is still great fun to watch. A skirmish between American and Soviet jets over the arctic results in one of the Soviet bombers crashing and its nuclear bomb load detonating, which causes Gamera to be melted out of the ice and wreck havoc on the world (particularly Japan). As usual, a little kid who is sympathetic to the monster is thrown in, and probably as a result Gamera is not killed at the end.
“Gamera vs. Barugon” was the first color sequel to the original black and white GAMERA, and it’s pretty good though you have to be patient in waiting to see much of our favorite fire-breathing, flying turtle. A new monster named Barugon, not to be confused with the similarly-named creature from the Toho series of Japanese giant monster movies is born and has the ability to freeze people and cities. The monster suits in this series were never quite up to the ones in the Godzilla films, but the effects in general are not too bad.

The Gamera production team never did figure out how to develop a plot that wove the monsters and the humans together in any interesting way – or any way at all. The back-story – a small village trying to work out a deal with a highway development company – is related to the Gamera-Gaos conflict by pure coincidence; that the road company supervisor would then become a central player in the Japanese Self-Defense Force effort to combat Gaos is ridiculous.

Besides being annoyingly smug, the leading scientist is equally ridiculous – his plans for trapping Gaos include hiring a small army of chemists to come up with a vat of synthetic human blood as bait – even though Gaos has already demonstrated that he us perfectly happy with horse and cow blood; the Japanese government would rather pay chemists hundreds of thousands when they could hire a few decent butchers on daily wage? The chemists lobby works wonders with the Japanese government.

The DVD comes with trailers, featurettes and tons of genre goodness. I like how involved the Chiodo Brothers were with the Gamera material, plus the vintage TV bumpers were nice. If that’s not enough, they also managed to get the original Japanese trailers. What an age we live in where every niche Asian junk cinema staple can get full coverage on Home Entertainment. The A/V Quality is pretty clean, but it lacks the clarity that a HD master could bring. In the end, I’d recommend a purchase.

RELEASE DATE: 08/02/2011

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