Gamera vs. Zigra
And you know, it's not nearly as bad as I've previously thought, although at times it's hard to watch as an adult because it's pretty infantile. As far as the production is concerned, it's astep up from the previous few Gameras (except Jiger). The film's scale is larger than that of Viras or Guiron and was filmed mostly on location. There's a large cast for one of these movies, and the characters feel mostly real because they're not all reporters, scientists, and military men. The special effects sequences rely on virtually no stock footage (if not at all) and the miniatures, while limited, are acceptable. Having Gamera and Zigra fight mostly underwater allows for Yuasa's crew to continue breaking physical laws as they always did, but without those sequences now seeming so insane. (Although, of course, the climactic Gamera xylophone solo is as absurd as anything they ever did.)
Where the movie suffers though is in its pacing. This is a long movie compared to most of the others in the series, and it really feels it. This time, although I had the movie on in the background, I tried to absorb some of the film's slowest and most baffling scenes from a child's viewpoint: no, the infamous seafood ownership argument doesn't make any more sense this way, nor does it advance the narrative, but I suppose some kids might find it funny. It seems to have been a showcase for two comic-actors, although I think (as an adult) it really missed the mark. There are a lot of comic bits in the movie that fall flat, but I'm also not 6 years old anymore.
Usually fans will complain that the kids in these movies are really annoying, and they tested my patience a little here, but for the most part I think Ken and Helen's roles make sense. It's arguably unforgivable that they stowaway into harm's way twice, but at least this time there's a rationale for why they are able to outwit the alien villain (as "Lora Lee" says, children can sometimes perceive fantastic things where adults cannot). I found myself buying into the logic here simply because the film made a case for it. It doesn't have to reflect the way the world really works, it's a Gamera movie. To that point, Zigra's reason for attacking Earth is poorly conceived, but it's acceptable for children: giant monster fish wants to conquer the Earth, and by so doing, he will avenge the Earth sea creatures that have died by man's environmental mayhem.
I don't know if Yuasa deserved much credit as an artist, but I do enjoy how the introduction of Ken is juxtaposed with the dolphin show. For example, the film cuts between Ken brushing his teeth and the dolphin trainer brushing the dolphin's, etc. This is high art for a late Gamera sequel! It's a clever way to introduce the characters and the setting all at once.
I'm not sure that my appreciation of the movie today will hold, however, and I still think it's very near the bottom of the series. In the end, it's just not as entertaining as most of the other entries: it may be more competently produced than Viras but it's not as insane. Even with the lengthy stock footage montage in Viras, that film never slows down as much as this one does once the bathysphere is launched.
Also, I watched the dubbed version: I'm aware that the Zigra henchwoman is an astronaut in the Japanese version, but I like that the dubbers tried to account for her fame by making her a film star. However, I don't recall that they gave an adequate (if any) explanation as to why an actress would be manning a scientific vehicle on the moon, d'oh!
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