MST3K Vs. Gamera
Cast: Joel Hodgson, Kevin Murphy, Trace Beaulieu, and others
Review by Brian M. Sammons
Gamera, the giant, flying, fire-breathing, child-loving (not that way, you pervert), red-headed step-child to King of the Monsters Godzilla. Yeah I grew up watching him battle a variety of odd giant creatures on the Saturday afternoon Creature Feature, but truth be told; they’re not great movies. Maybe that’s because they were first and foremost made for children. Maybe that’s because the foes in Godzilla were mostly badass, like the awesome three-headed dragon, King Ghidorah, and Gamera was stuck facing off with the likes of Guiron, a doggy like dinosaur with a knife for a head. Or maybe it’s because the idea of a jet powered giant turtle is just so silly? So yeah, the original Gamera films (yes, there were some more giant turtle flicks made in the ’90s) are not good monster movies. In fact they are cheese-tastic.
But it’s because of that that they make for great, and I mean GREAT, fodder for the original snarky movie-riffers: Mystery Science Theater 3000. Well if you are a Mistie like me (that being a fan of MST3K) then put on your party hats and go woo-hoo because we’ve got a new DVD collection featuring Joel, the bots, and five, yes count them: five of the original Gamera flicks. That totals almost 10 hours of entertainment, not including extras, but is this big chunk of Gamera goodness worth the price of admission? Well I think it is, but to try to prove it to you, let me count the ways.
First of all, the DVDs come in a handsome tin collector’s box. In addition to the five individually packaged DVDs inside the tin, it also contains five cardboard mini-posters featuring the movie monsters and the bots of MST3K. Cool looks and trinkets aside, the start of the show are the actual shows. Five full length episodes, thankfully minus commercials, featuring the movies; Gamera, Gamera vs. Barugon, Gamera vs. Gaos, Gamera vs. Guiron, and Gamera vs. Zigra. If you’ve never seen these giant turtle flicks and you’re a fan of Japanese monster movies, then you’re in for a treat. If you’ve never seen these episodes of MST3K then you’re in for a huge treat, as the famous movie riffers were never better than when they were giving these movies the business. Ok, maybe their Manos: The Hand Of Fate episode was better, but that’s about it.
Wait, just hold on a second, could it be that you’ve never seen Mystery Science Theater 3000 before? Could you not have the slightest idea of what I’m talking about? If so, then wow, my heart truly bleeds for you, as you’ve missed out on some of the best TV ever.
Anyway, here’s the Cliff Notes version. Joel was a regular guy shot into space aboard the Satellite of Love by two mad scientist and forced to watch really bad, Z-grade movies until it drove him mad. In an effort to hang on to his sanity for as long as possible, Joel made some robot buddies to pal around with and make fun of the movies he had to sit through. This very simple formula was hilarious as hell and a huge success. In fact, even though the show, MST3K is sadly no more, the writers and stars continue to do their thing with the famous Riftrax, and the lesser known, but equally as awesome, Cinematic Titanic. Google either of these if you hunger for some more movie riffing. And if you never saw the original Mystery Science Theater 3000, then this is a great place to start.
Lastly, in addition to the five flicks, the tin, and the posters, there are some cool extras on the DVDs. There are three sizable featurettes to be found here. The first has interviews with the creators, writers, and stars of MST3K about their extended run on the Gamera films. Another featurette is an in-depth interview with three special effects guys on the technical side of the Gamera movies. The third and final featurette is an interview with a historian and expert on all sorts of “guy in a rubber suit” monster movies. All three of these special features were fun and informative and not just your usual talking head blather.
If you’re a fan of Gamera, Mystery Science Theater 3000, and especially of both of them, then this collection was tailor made for you. For hours and hours of hilarious giant turtle fun, I can easily and highly recommend this new five DVD set from Shout! Factory.