We seem to be heading into the future with Gamera vs Zigra, which opens with an attack on a Japanese Moon Base by an unidentified alien spacecraft. Yet we’re soon on Earth and in the then-present day (of 1971), to the now familiar, still bizarre, strains of the Gamera March.
We’re introduced to a group of kids, all children of Kamogawa Sea World employees, intercut with footage of the playful Orcas putting on a show in captivity at the resort. Soon enough, we see the spacecraft from the prologue landing in the ocean; true to form for the series, the alien vessel has a wonderfully bizarre and colourful design – and a green-and-silver clad female inhabitant whose intentions are clearly nefarious. She’s soon causing earthquakes around the world in order to demonstrate the scientific superiority of her people and demand the surrender of Earth’s people – but guess who turns up to deal with the destructive extra-terrestrial visitor? That’s right, rocket-powered friend to all children: Gamera!
There’s an admirably ecological message in Gamera vs Zigra, which is pretty much a first for the series – the films are usually fairly unconcerned with the destruction that is wrought by Gamera, his enemies and even the humans. Here, however, the motivations of the ocean-dwelling aliens and footage of fish being sold at markets give this film a lot more subtext than is normally expected from the incredibly silly and bizarre Gamera series. That’s not to say that the film isn’t daft in this instance – it absolutely is very silly indeed – but it’s refreshing that it does at least try to have a message this time. It’s heavy-handedly delivered by the end of the film though, for all intents and purposes delivered explicitly at the audience – as if we hadn’t already worked out the not-exactly-underlying message for ourselves by that point.
There seems to be a lot of stock footage, which sadly sits awkwardly alongside the charmingly quaint and endearing model work. Gamera seems notably absent for much of the proceedings, oddly – at times it doesn’t even feel like a kaiju movie at all. We don’t even get another kaiju until around 50 minutes in – but it’s a good one! Gamera faves off against a creature that looks like a beaker, armour plated shark – and they have a characteristically daft tussle that starts underwater, but somehow leads to the creature becoming a biped on land; even by Gamera movie standards, it’s a weird one. By the climactic fight – which sees Gamera playing a tune on his enemy’s fins and then dancing – it’s become even more so.
Still, despite its utterly bizarre moments, the ecological message and goblin shark-esque design of the antagonist marks this entry out as one of the most unusual (yep, unusual even by the standards of the Gamera films). By this stage in the series, it’s odd that the film makers suddenly decided to grow an ecological conscience – but the attempt at injecting a message into the trademark silly monster wrestling is an admirable one at least.
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