Gamera vs. Zigra/Gamera tai Shinkai Kaiju Jigura (1971) -*
The seventh and final installment in the original series of Gamera movies (the franchise has since been revived twice, in the early 1980’s and mid-1990’s), Gamera vs. Zigra/Gamera tai Shinkai Kaiju Jigura was completed shortly before Daiei went bankrupt in the early 70’s. I want you to think about that as you watch this movie, to hold in your mind the awareness that you are looking at the film that drove the stake through the heart of Toho’s only serious competitor in the kaiju eiga field. Chances are, that won’t prove too taxing for your imagination. It may not be as dreadful, technically speaking, as Gamera vs. Guiron/Attack of the Monsters/Gamera tai Daiakuju Giron, but from an actually-sitting-through-the-movie standpoint, this film is much, much worse.
At least there’s a story this time. In the opening scene, while a voice-over slings some bullshit about the international race to colonize the solar system in the late 20th century (Gamera vs. Zigra is set in the unimaginably futuristic year 1985), a remarkably cheesy moon base is destroyed by a flying saucer that somehow manages to resemble simultaneously a shark and a gumball machine. Then, in true Gamera movie style, we cut to the homes of a couple of annoying little kids, the offspring of a pair of marine biologists (one American, one Japanese) who work for Japan’s Sea World. The two younger kids, Kenny (Yasushi Sakagami) and Helen (Gloria Zoellner), sneak out of elementary school to accompany their fathers on a field excursion whose purpose seems to be brainstorming for hackneyed environmentalist cliches. (This was made about the same time as Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster, you know.) The two scientists (Koji Fujiyama, of Destroy All Planets and Gamera vs. Barugon, and Isamu Saeki, of The Ghostly Trap) discover their stowaway kids after they find that somebody has hijacked their lunches, but their attempts to discipline the unruly brats are interrupted by the landing of that gumball-shark UFO in the sea just a few thousand yards from them. The scientists and their kids drop everything and go to check it out. Then, Gamera appears overhead for no apparent reason (he does a lot of that this time around), and the scientists’ boat is beamed aboard the alien ship, which is now sitting on the ocean floor.
The ship has a pretty small crew, it turns out. Apart from the enormous fish-head that protrudes, trophy-like, from the wall of what might loosely be called the bridge-- a fish-head that seems to be in command of the vessel-- the only inhabitant is a young woman (Eiko Yanami) whose costume includes elements recycled from the cannibal space girls’ outfits in Gamera vs. Guiron. (See, I told you they were the most expensive things in that movie; you don’t just throw something like that away!) The girl doesn’t seem to have a name, but her fish-head boss is called Zigra, as is the ship’s planet of origin. (Am I the only one that this reminds of Ro-Man from the planet Ro-Man in Robot Monster?) Zigra has come to Earth because the oceans of Zigra, where Zigra had previously lived, have been contaminated to the point of uninhabitability by “your Earth-science,” and in the spirit of fair trade, he means to take over our oceans and use us land-lubbers as food. Now, I want you to read that sentence again. Notice that it says “Earth-science” ruined Zigra’s oceans. That was not a mistake. Don’t ask me to explain to you how we polluted a planet whose existence we had never suspected until one of its residents showed up to complain about it-- if screenwriter Nisan Takahashi doesn’t feel the need to explain that, why the hell should I? Anyway, Zigra wants our oceans, and his strategy for obtaining them is to cause a series of giant earthquakes in major Japanese cities until we acquiesce to his domination. Sounds like a workable plan to me, seeing as how the Japanese are the undisputed masters of the seas, and all...
But the Earth has one thing in its favor that Zigra didn’t plan for, a huge population of annoying little kids. Case in point: Zigra’s ship is currently playing host to just two, and they are not only able to escape from Zigra’s clutches with their fathers in tow, they also somehow manage to trick Zigra’s girlfriend into hypnotizing herself the way she hypnotized the two scientists a few minutes before. The fact that Zigra’s sidekick will spend the entire rest of the movie unsuccessfully trying to recapture the kids just further emphasizes their power. And because it is well known that all annoying little kids also have the capacity to summon Gamera to do their bidding, the annoying little kid threat is one that Zigra ought to take very seriously indeed.
But that Gamera-summoning won’t happen for a while; we still need to get through the entirely fruitless attack on the Zigra ship by the world’s military forces, here represented by a squadron of J.A.S.D.F. F-104s, uselessly shooting Sidewinder air-to-air missiles at the underwater UFO! Then we need to get through the part where the army doctors try to unhypnotize the scientists, and ultimately figure out that, because they were hypnotized ultrasonically, all that is needed to cure them is for somebody to yell, “AAAHHhhhhh... Ahhhh Ahhh... AAAAHHHHHHH!” into a walky-talky.
When Gamera finally does show up, what happens is a virtual replay of the events in Gamera vs. Guiron. The first clash, in which Gamera breathes fire on the ship (underwater) and causes it to turn into a big, rubbery shark-thing, ends with the Friend of All Children lying unconscious and upside down at the bottom of the sea, with Zigra free to continue his rampage. The now unhypnotized scientists have to descend to Gamera in a bathyscaphe (which the characters insist on calling a “bathyscope”) to revive him with sonar. This, of course, fails when Zigra figures out what they are doing and attacks the bathyscaphe. What finally does revive Gamera (and don’t tell me you didn’t see this coming) is the whining of the annoying little kids. The monsters fight again (a bit less listlessly this time), Gamera wins, the Earth is saved, and one of the scientists finds time to squeeze in one last platitude about the sacredness of the oceans (“Gamera taught us that,” he says-- frankly, if one of the monsters could be said to be handing out ecological wake-up calls, it was Zigra!) before the film ends.
Well, thank God that’s over. In summation... Noteworthy stupidities: the “bathyscope”; a new version of the “Tuyohito Gamera” song, with slightly different lyrics, and sung even further off-key by even younger kids; the scene where Gamera gets so distracted playing his theme song by banging a rock on Zigra’s dorsal spines after incapacitating the latter monster (by jamming a huge boulder on the end of his nose) that the kids have to remind him to finish his vanquished opponent off; and every single line of dialogue, including and especially the speech in which Zigra (the monster who thinks he’s an evil genius) vows retaliation because the lower water pressure on Earth “has made [him] become abnormally large,” and in which he actually uses the phrase, “all the planets of the world.” Otherwise, there is absolutely no reason even to consider watching this movie.