Though the sixth Gamera film is the first to be released in the 1970s, it was still an annual entry in the then-prolific series – so it’s not as if the new decade heralded any big changes.
It opens with a great montage of Gamera in action, a trick that the previous two films pulled off to extend their incredibly short running times; here it’s used during the opening credits, which makes a lot more sense. It’s also great to see the craziest scene of the series again – Gamera surfing on Viras – though it’s a series not short on bizarre and hilarious scenes at this point.
It’s 1970 in the film too, which quickly whisks us away to the Japan Expo 1970 – and all of the futuristic exhibitions that are on show. An ancient statue is due to be moved and displayed at the Expo, but an envoy from the state’s island of origin warns that moving the statue will unleash a curse – and mentions ‘Jiger’. When the expedition team start to move the statue despite the warning, however, Gamera shows up – and it doesn’t take long before the new kaiju Jiger, mentioned in the curse, wakes up either…
The kid-friendly tone remains – and we even see a callback to the yellow submarine from Gamera vs Viras. Also reappearing are the cheesy Gamera songs, with their hilariously terrible lyrics (with one describing Gamera as the ‘rainbow of evil’…huh?).
Jiger’s quadrupedal design is excellent – he looks a bit like a more monstrous, tusked Triceratops – and his rocky awakening is great too. His stiff flying, pseudo-surfing techniques and other weird abilities, however, are incredibly ridiculous – though in a series about a rocket-powered giant turtle who protects children (for some reason), perhaps I shouldn’t be expecting anything more.
Though the plot in Gamera films are hardly the most complex or rewarding narratives, up until this film they’ve at least felt as if they can mostly sustain their often brief running times. Here, there’s a number of scenes that just go on way too long, feeling as if they’re only there as a way of padding out the wafer thin story. It does take a somewhat unique turn towards the end, however – I bet you never thought we’d take a trip inside Gamera, did you?
So, despite the padding in Gamera vs Niger, the trips into truly bonkers visuals and a few decent twists on the now familiar turtle-vs-weird monster formula mark this out as another suitably kooky entry in the series. It’s easy to see these films were so popular in their day and ran on an annual schedule for so long – kids must have absolutely lapped up the crazy kaiju action, especially as Gamera was such a wonderfully bizarre, yet friendly monster.
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