Friday, February 5, 2021

Gamera vs. Jiger

Gamera vs. Jiger (aka Gamera vs. Monster X)
Noriaki Yuasa

Gamera vs. Jiger is the sixth Gamera film in the series. By 1970 the Gamera movies had completely devoted themselves to being children’s films. Not there is anything wrong with that, it does helps give these films a distinct voice in comparison to Gamera’s most notable adversary, Godzilla. Angling for a younger audience also allowed the Gamera films to engage in some bizarre leaps of logic. If you are the kind of person who needs your kaiju deadly serious Gamera is not a good choice, but if you like things weird and cheap, Gamera is your turtle.

Gamera vs. Jiger operates as a mash-up of your traditional kaiju movie with two monsters kicking each other in the teeth and Fantastic Voyage (1966). In this case, two kids in a submarine (Showa era Gamera movies are obsessed with underwater vehicles) must venture inside Gamera to cure him of a parasite before he can live again to fight Jiger. There’s a whole semi-useless background detail of Expo ’70 in Osaka which does set the plot in motion but does little beyond that.

Jiger looks like a half-assed dinosaur-dog.

In the Gamera rogue’s gallery, Jiger is often forgotten. She’s not the most interesting looking monster. She’s a brown quadruped with a big beak-like snout. She does shoot quills and if you’re lucky she puts a baby version of herself in her victim via a stinger in her tail. That alone makes her notable. Her strange origin (or lack of it) is also interesting. She is summoned by the removal of a large statue that begins to whistle.

It wouldn’t be a Gamera film without a little bloodletting and body horror and we get plenty of that with not only a tour of Gamera’s guts, but we also get to witness him turn transparent from his illness. It also wouldn’t be a Gamera movie without him doing something truly ludicrous, in this case, he jams telephone poles into his ears to stop a disabling sound. As is tradition Gamera gets a final kill that is beyond anything Godzilla would usually get away with.

"I'm feeling a little light-headed."

You will notice that I have so far skipped over the humans of this film, while the human elements of kaiju films are often the weakest part, that is doubly so for many Gamera films. Children are the main characters and often come across as entitled and far too smart for the dopey adults. The point is to elevate the child characters in the eyes of the child audience, but it comes at the cost of making them into actual relatable characters. Screeching know-it-all kids are the bane of this film and several others. If you are this deep into the Gamera series this may be less of an issue for you but proceed at your own risk.

Gamera vs. Jiger isn’t a well-remembered Gamera film but it does have plenty to recommend for kaiju fans and people into very silly movies that have giant turtles with bloody telephone polls in their ears.

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