Gamera: Super Monster (1980)


Gamera: Super Monster (1980) is the Robot Monster (1953) of kaiju films. Both movies feature a child’s dreams and, if you look at them as products of juvenile dream logic instead of straightforward storytelling, they’re a lot of fun. What if Gamera: Super Monster is entirely a dream with the boy reliving the giant flying turtle’s greatest adventures, peppered with more recent pop culture references like Star Wars, Superman, and Wonder Woman/Charlie’s Angels?

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It's not an outrageous concept considering the boy, Keiichi (Koichi Maeda), reads Gamera comic books throughout the movie, drawing a fuzzy line between fantasy and reality. We see him wake up in bed after dreaming of Gamera in space, but what if we don’t see him waking from a dream within a dream and the entire movie takes place within his head?

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I hate “clip shows” of even my favorite television series, so championing my theory is about the only way I can accept that a clip show is what Gamera: Super Monster really is. In general, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, and nearly a decade after Daiei produced the last Gamera film (Gamera vs. Zigra, 1971) it’s a clever way to honor the Showa era for one last time before moving forward into the Heisei era.

So, I can like Gamera: Super Monster, just as I like Robot Monster, but I cannot in good conscience tell you that it’s a good movie. The original segments look like they were shot on videotape, with the accompanying 1970’s-quality television special effects. What I think is the one new shot of Gamera flying looks like a vintage Saturday morning show.

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That reminds me, some of this film’s scenes are literally animated, sprinkled into its live action shots. A low budget must be the culprit, although in the past, Daiei made much better use of it. I’m also certain the budget explains all the clips instead of new sequences. At least the story used to tie them together is clever. The latest alien threat to Earth, Zanon, releases each of Gamera’s foes, one by one, to try to stop him from interfering with his nefarious plan.

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The way the monsters are introduced, there’s even a bit of revisionist history in which, when Guiron is released, narration says it’s from “the planet where the monsters are kept.” That suggests another theory. What if the Gamera saga is 12-hours long and Super Monster is the framing story for each movie, instead of a retrospective?

 

Original Japanese Version Uchu kaiju Gamera

Released March 20, 1980 (Japan), May 7, 1980 (US)

RT 92min.

Written by Niisan Takahashi

Directed by Noriaki Yuasa

Starring Mach Fumiake, Yaeko Kojima, Yoko Komatsu, Keiko Kudo, Koichi Maeda, Toshie Takada

Rating 4 slashers (out of 10)

Home Video Blu-ray (Arrow Video, Gamera: The Complete Collection)


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