When I watched Gamera vs. Guiron (1969) 11 months ago and paused my exploration of the Arrow Video box set, Gamera: The Complete Collection, I would have thought we were at the peak of the series. I remember rating it highly and commenting that the crazier the movies got, the more entertaining they were. Imagine my surprise when I watched Gamera vs. Jiger (1970) to launch this year’s “GaMAYra” series and discovered it reached an equally high level.
However, this is due to different reasons that may contradict my previous conclusions. Gamera vs. Jiger is a darker and more grounded story than its predecessors in that it returns the characters to Earth and focuses on terrific kaiju battles with a more “realistic” foe. It’s still from the children’s point of view, but not as childish. Honestly, it reminded me of a good old-fashioned Godzilla movie in which the monsters go on destructive rampages.
Here, it’s the site of Japan’s “World Exposition” that’s threatened, bringing a hint of 1970’s cynicism into the plot when people begin cancelling their travel plans to attend the event. The experts can’t allow that to happen! The film never goes as far as to state the economic threat this could create, but, five years before Jaws, I couldn’t help but reach that conclusion. (FYI, the movie was filmed during construction of the actual Expo ’70 in Osaka.)
The villain, Jiger (“terribe as a demon”), is released from his underground prison when the statue covering him is removed to be taken to the Exposition. First, the department of “Jiger Countermeasures” believes there’s poison in the statue that kept the monster in place. But, as the noise emanating from it, “the Devil’s Whistle,” begins sickening anyone who’s near, they realize it’s deep sound that incapacitates Jiger.
Easy-peasy, then: circle Jiger with speakers while he’s sleeping and generate the sound. The problem is that Gamera is currently lying dead in the harbor from his initial battle with Jiger and when large amounts of electricity are used to jump-start his heart, the power goes out, the speakers silence, and Jiger awakens. He’s thrown the statue into the water like a javelin, so there’s nothing to prevent his advance toward the Expo.
Jiger is a terrific foe. He most closely resembles a rhinoceros with one big horn on his forehead that shoots a “Super Ultra Ray” that can instantly turn buildings into rubble and men into skeletons. (In a surprising scene, we actually see the latter happen before our eyes.) He also has two other horns beneath his eyes that shoot deadly darts or spears and a tail that sometimes releases a spike that, when plunged into Gamera’s neck, impregnates him.
Yeah, I was a little surprised that when the kids boarded the tiny submarine and took a fantastic voyage inside Gamera’s body, they discovered a baby Jiger inside his lungs. I guess I didn’t mean to indicate Gamera vs. Jiger isn’t as “crazy” as previous films in the series. The crazy is just delivered in a different matter. I can’t say I like it more than Gamera performing gymnastics, but I like it just as much.
Original Japanese Version Gamera tai Daimaju Jaiga
Released March 21, 1970
RT 83 min.
Written by Niisan Takahashi
Directed by Noriaki Yuasa
Starring Tsutomu Takakuwa, Kelly Varis, Katherine Murphy, Kon Omura, Junko Yashiro
Home Video Blu-ray (Arrow Video, Gamera: The Complete Collection)