All around extra-terrestrial bad egg Zigra shoots up the moon in his rinky-dink spaceship before heading for Earth. Two marine scientists and their kids are captured, but escape with vital information about his plan to enslave the human race. And then eat it. Luckily, Gamera turns up.
The last of the original series of five films about Gamera, the giant, flying outer space turtle. That’s unless you count ‘Gamera: Super Monster’ (1980) but that was almost entirely old footage from the previous films. Here, our heroic reptile (a ‘friend to children everywhere’) lock horns with mankind’s latest nemesis beneath the murky waves off the coast of Japan. Yes, to begin with Zigra appears to be just a stuffed shark’s head on the wall of his spaceship but, when Gamera destroys the vehicle, he transforms into a huge, tin fish with glowing red eyes and a ray that comes out of his mouth. It’s something to do with the pressure on our world, apparently, and perfectly feasible if you examine the science.
Clogging up the works from an entertainment perspective are our two pre-pubescent heroes who generally get in the way of the action as they tangle with Zigra’s right-hand girl, who looks quite fetching in a tight green number and can hypnotise people with a click of her fingers. Unfortunately, she can’t handle bombardment by cuddly toys and being shouted at through a radio.
Meanwhile, back at the movie, the Big Z is getting the better of our scaly hero, and being attacked by stock footage of jet fighters is just water off his shiny back. There’s an entertaining five minutes about two blokes arguing over buying some fish before a convenient lightning strike gives our last, best hope a new lease of life. Children sing a sterling chorus on the soundtrack and Gamera plays a nifty tune on Zigra’s backbone as their final confrontation reaches a thrilling climax. It’s a truly epic struggle.
A lot of the human drama is set at the local ‘Sea World’ and, years before current concerns about such institutions, it’s unsurprisingly presented in a remorselessly positive light with a fair bit of semi-documentary footage of the creatures in its care. There’s also an environmental message, which is worthy, but sledgehammered home in a less than subtle fashion.
All in all, it’s probably the best of Gamera’s films with the exception of the unhinged classic ‘Attack of the Monsters/Gamera Vs Guiron’ (1969), but what could possibly be as good as that? At times our heroic space turtle does seem like a guest in his own movie here, just showing up conveniently when he’s required. That’s not too bad a result, mind, as it’s really Zigra who is the star of the show. Simply put, he’s bloody awesome, and a string of Zigra movies should have followed. Perhaps it’s not too late.
Gamera is still one cool dude, though, and was revived for a new series of films in the 1990s and a reboot was announced in 2015. The more famous heroes in a half shell are no comparison. They can’t even defeat the less than lethal combination of Megan Fox and Michael Bay.