Gamera The Super Monster~ 1980, Noriaki Yuasa, Japan
Gamera The Super Monster was released in 1980; a full five years after Terror of Mechagodzilla, the final Showa era Godzilla film Toho ever released. Let that sink in; by 1980, EVEN TOHO had given up. Godzilla, for years a big green cash cow, had stopped bringing in enough money to warrant the production of additional films. That’s a pretty clear sign that the kaiju genre needed some time off, and yet, here we are, five full years late to the party with Gamera Part Eight, and it is the single most critically underfunded Gamera outing ever.
“Spare some change?”
Gamera The Super Monster takes the now well worn Daiei tradition of recycling old footage and runs with it to an unforgivable extreme. There is almost no original monster content in the entire film, and no original monsters. It’s basically a clip show, they’ve cannibalized footage from previous Gamera adventures and cobbled together a cheapo monster montage, with some bizarre and crummy original footage sandwiched between sequences in an attempt to hold some kind of narrative together. The story they bring us concerns a little boy (surprise!) with a Gamera fixation (I”m sure the feeling is mutual) who winds up in the middle of some sort of intergalactic turf war. Unable to combat the nefarious invaders on his own, our kiddo throws in with three alien ladies who occasionally wear spandex superhero outfits, complete with capes, and together they work to foil the attempted conquest of Earth by a hostile alien race, who fly around in a damn Star Destroyer. Yep. A Star Destroyer.
The original effects are worse than terrible, and even the classic monster footage had to have felt positively prehistoric to audiences in 1980. This is, in a lot of ways, the Godzilla’s Revenge of the Gamera franchise, a film which makes no claim to even trying to satisfy an adult audience, instead playing straight to children, and compensating for it’s flimsy narrative with wall to wall monster combat, mostly snatched from pre existing footage- however, where Godzilla’s Revenge was a midseries celebration of ongoing cannon meant to give kids what they really wanted, Gamera The Super Monster is a cut and dry cash in attempt by Daiei and financiers to milk what pennies still remained in Gamera’s dying husk once and for all. Gamera The Super Monster isn’t a sequel, it’s more like a liquidation sale.
That having been said, there are some important concessions that need to be made before tossing this stinker out with yesterday’s ham; we are NOT the target audience for Gamera The Super Monster. This is, first and foremost, a children’s film, and it was a children’s film made for kids who probably couldn’t have just streamed Gamera’s entire catalog off of youtube illegally anytime they wanted. It’s possible that for the children of 1980’s Japan, this movie freaking kicked ass. Gamera The Super Monster plays like a greatest hits album for kids who don’t have easy access to these films in their own right. It’s all the monsters you love, and only the good parts. Then, holding the whole thing together, you get space ladies in capes flying around. Honestly, you could do a lot worse! I actually think in some weird way Gamera The Super Monster is a better kid’s film than Godzilla’s Revenge, it’s so much less bleak and depressing, our lead kid is nowhere near as annoying, and the non-monster sequences are anything but drab. Putting yourself in the shoes of a kid who had little to no access to home video, but who loved Gamera, you can probably see how a matinee showing of Gamera The Super Monster could rock your socks off like a mutha fucker.
So, through the eyes of the adult, we have the most lamentable flop in Gamera’s tragic career. For children, we have a shitty story (But who cares?) a spaceship right out of Star Wars, the MOST monsters ever in a Gamera film, and Japanese space ladies, complete with special powers which require choreographed arm movements to activate, like all Japanese people love. I am bound by honor to grade this film academically, but it’s worth an asterisk in the record books that this piece of garbage might be a masterpiece if you’re under 11 years old.