When King Kong first chased Fay Wray up the Empire State Building in 1933, the world embraced the big ape and the monster movie was born and its legacy continues today. But it wouldn’t be the same of course if Ishiro Honda hadn’t grabbed the ball and ran with it in 1954, with the release of the original Godzilla movie, which inadvertently gave birth to Kaiju movies (meaning strange beast.) But it wasn’t until eleven years later that Noriaki Yuasa unleashed a monster of his own on the world in the form of Gamera in his debut outing Gamera: The Giant Monster. In an attempt to cash in on the genre and provide Godzilla with a bit of competition, Gamera wasn’t as warmly received initially as its rival, but has since become a icon in Japanese pop culture.
The turtle-esque monster shares a similar back-story to its dino looking friend, in that it is awoken from its prehistoric slumber in the ice, by a nuclear explosion and is depicted as a threat to humanity initially, but after that they took very different paths. Over a period of 15 years up until 1980 Gamera slowly became the “Friend of all Children” and the “Guardian of the Universe” as he battled various threats to Earth’s existence in eight thoroughly enjoyable outings. It would be unfair to compare movies of this period to the special effect extravaganzas we experience now. It’s well documented that these movies were made with limited effects available to them, but if we use storytelling as the measuring stick, then they are at the very least on par and in some cases far surpass anything that’s put out there now.
But Gamera’s story doesn’t end there. Even this prehistoric mutant monster turtle can’t escape the reboot treatment, the first of which was delivered in 1995 with Gamera: Guardian of the Universe, with two more not long after. The nineties reboot delves more into the mythology of the creature and are rightfully considered the best of the Kaiju movies. A second reboot was green lit in 2006, giving the franchise a shot in the arm, but the child friendly approach was not the Gamera a more sophisticated audience wanted to see.
However, it doesn’t end there for our hard shelled amigo. For the first time ever, Arrow Films have brought together all twelve of the Gamera outings in one beautiful Blu-Ray boxset, for a new generation to enjoy. Those kids who didn’t get to grow up in the Creature Feature eras can now sit back with their parents who probably did and experience Gamera:The Complete Collection for themselves. There’s also the opportunity to fully immerse yourself in the Gamera legacy with a wonderfully insightful 80 page book, packed with interesting articles and a 120 page comic, all included in the set. Arrow really has thrown everything into this to make the whole package a one stop Gamera shop. Everything you need to know about a true Japanese icon in one monstrously enjoyable set... Chris Andrews