12/14/06

316 Gamera vs. Zigra

(1971, Children-Rubber Monster, color)

Gamera is the friend to all children.

Rating: ***

In a nutshell:

Gamera saves the earth from an evil spaceship/mecha-swordfish named Zigra.

Summary:

He will destroy the Power Rangers once and for all.An officious voiceover narrates an embarrassingly bad miniature moon set. A spiky spaceship shaped like a glowing candy hat shows up and blurs a moon rover model out of existence. It blows up the moon base and flies to earth.

On earth, a pair of marine biologists swap stories about their naughty kids. The aforementioned naughty kids (Kenny and Helen) stow away on their fathers’ boat while they go out looking for dolphins. When the dads discover them, the kids complain about the lack of food, and Helen demands a coke. They see the candy spaceship land in the water and get teleported inside when they try to investigate.

Inside, they meet woman clad in a steel mesh body suit. She rants and raves and then destroys Tokyo by remote control. When the fathers try to stop her, she hypnotizes them both into a deep sleep. Kenny and Helen trick the steel-clad woman into hypnotizing herself (I think she looks into a mirror, but the editing doesn’t make that very clear) and then teleport themselves and their fathers back into the boat outside.

The sentient spaceship wakes up the steel clad woman and then tries to sink the boat, but Gamera happens to by flying by and rescues them. Helen gushes about how much loves Gamera and they take their semi-comatose fathers back to the marine laboratory. Back at the lab, the desperate military has lost countless thousands of troops fighting the candied spaceship in an unseen battle. They question the youngsters intensely but the kids can only make fun of adults and demand coke.

The spaceship (named Zigra) sends the woman to the surface to hunt down and kill the youngsters because they know too much about his “secret plans,” even though they don’t know anything that she hasn’t already announced to the world on international television. She changes into an inconspicuous bikini and treks across town.

Gamera heads down to the depths of the sea to do battle with Zigra. After getting roasted with some underwater flames, Zigra turns into a giant metal swordfish and tries to skewer his opponent. Gamera grabs Zigra and lifts him out of the water, leaving him on the beach. I think some footage is missing here, since the next thing we know Gamera’s unconscious, face down at the bottom of the ocean.

Meanwhile, the marine lab caretaker and a hotel manager argue over some fish. They do this for a long, long, long, long (to the tenth power) time. The lab caretaker finally wins and takes off with the fish. The formerly steel clad lady flags him down and he gives her a ride to the laboratory. Once there, she hypnotizes another woman and steals her clothes, then hypnotizes a guard and a bunch of reporters while chasing Kenny and Helen around the lab, trying to strangle them. The adults look on and chuckle over the youngster’s curious hijinks.

The lab caretaker figures out that he can break the fathers’ hypnotic spell by yelling AAAUUUGGGHHH really loudly. They wake up and recognize the evil spaceship lady. She’s finally caught the obnoxious children and stands by a pool, threatening to feed them to the dolphins. They take her threat seriously, despite the facts that a) dolphins don’t eat people, b) the tank is full of Orcas, not dolphins, and c) domesticated Orcas don’t eat people either. One of the fathers gets a loudspeaker and yells AAAUUUGGGHHH a couple of times. This not only frees the children, but also awakes the spaceship lady from her evil trance. It turns out that she too was hypnotized into doing Zigra’s will; she’s actually an astronaut from the moon rover in the first scene. (See how it all fits together? See? See!?)

The now-conscious fathers go down in a bathysphere to try and wake up Gamera, and of course their ill-behaved children stow away. A Zigra attack traps them down there and then puts them into suspended animation. A lucky lightning strike wakes up Gamera, who brings the bathysphere to safety. Even though their oxygen ran out hours ago, they’re okay. Some electric shocks bring them back to consciousness, and Helen demands a coke.

Gamera goes mano a flipper with Zigra again, essentially repeating their last battle up to the beaching. Once he gets Zigra beached again, he corks the swordfish’s pointed nose with a boulder, and then plays his back scales like a xylophone. Gamera torches the helpless monster with his fiery breath, burning Zigra away to nothing. One of the marine biologists scolds his son for trying to throw a coke bottle into the sea, and then delivers a long moral about treating the ocean with respect.

Introduction:

The best part of any Gamera film, rendered in playdough.Joel and the ‘Bots throw a Gamera root beer keg party. Tom’s the keg, but he’s dry. Magic Voice gets really drunk.

Host Segment One:

Joel and the ‘Bots smash a Gamera piƱata. Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank have invented Three Stooges guns. One gun shoots a pair of eye-gouging fingers, while the other holds up a hand to block. Joel has invented the Crow-kabob, which is just Crow with shish kabobs in place of arms. Dr. Forrester demands to know how they know it’s a Gamera film this week. Quoth everyone, “Frank told us.” Dr. Forrester hurts Frank.

Host Segment Two:

Tom and Crow have built a scale model of Gamera, hypothesizing what it might be like inside his shell. They’ve got a drawing of a spiral staircase down his spine, a recreation room, and a bunch of guest rooms for Kenny. Joel lifts the drawing and finds Gamera’s gooey guts.

Host Segment Three:

Everyone in the satellite has to make their favorite moments from Gamera films out of play dough. Tom makes a model of Barugon and his wrecking ball tongue. Crow makes a model of Gaos. Gypsy has three can-shaped chunks of play dough that she calls Richard Basehart. Joel has made himself and the ‘Bots after the movie is over.

Host Segment Four:

Adult versions of Kenny and Helen (played by Mike Nelson and Bridget Jones) visit the Satellite of Love. They refuse to answer any questions; instead, they praise Gamera in squeaky, badly dubbed voices. Helen claims that Gamera is now her boyfriend.

Host Segment Five:

Joel and the ‘Bots sing the Gamera theme song in a variety of styles. Joel does reggae, Tom does beatnik, and Crow does rap. Gypsy dons a huge metal brassiere and sings opera. They do a barbershop quartet version all together. Down in Deep 13, the Mads do the Gamera song as a hard rock anthem. Dr. Forrester pushes the button by smashing his guitar into the control panel.

Stinger:

The goofy marine lab caretaker mutters about his extended fish argument.

Thoughts:

Someone needs a whuppin',  Two someones, in fact.I think that significant footage is missing from this cut of the film. The Internet Movie Database lists the original running time at 87 minutes, so the people at Best Brains couldn’t have cut very much of it. Maybe one of Sandy Frank’s editors randomly removed sections of film without looking to see what they were.

Continuity-wise, the film’s a mess. Events happen one after the other with little or no connection to each other (Gamera just shows up out of nowhere), bizarre, purposeless subplots weave in and out of the action (did we have to spend so much time arguing about fish?), and frequent references are made to events that simply do not appear in the film (Gamera’s first defeat, the destruction of the military, the spaceship lady’s self-hypnosis, the list goes on and on). As for the dubbing, at one point Joel notes that, “even the monster’s badly dubbed.” And what’s with Gamera’s weird phallic tongue? He didn’t have that in any of his previous movies.

The host segments are well written and well paced, especially the multiple versions of the Gamera song at the end. Helen and Kenny were rather lame, but I think that was the point. The Gamera monster models in segment three are really good, especially considering that they’re made out of play dough. Magic Voice’s drunken tribute to Joel made me laugh very hard.

The film segments are alternately tedious and hilarious. Joel and the ‘Bots sing Monty Python’s Spam song during the Gamera theme song. When the candy spaceship appears Joel says that it “looks like something a shriner would wear when he’s drunk.” Tom says that it’s an “electric bowl of Lucky Charms; they’re tediously delicious.” They also make squeaking noises while the spaceship lady walks around in her chainmail body suit and say “I know,” whenever she proclaims that she’s from “celestial body 105.” Unfortunately, for every hot space girl and ridiculous monster fight, there are tedious fish arguments and shrill, annoying children. This episode’s worth watching for the funny bits, but the tedious bits are rather painful.