James Reviews MST3K Vs. Gamera: Mystery Science Theater 3000, Vol. XXI [DVD Review]

The gang from the Satellite of Love are back, and this time their tackling the first five Gamera films. When being sent the new set (in a glorious tin, to boot!) I really couldn’t believe my eyes. Some of the crown jewels in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 line were the Gamera films, which were the Sandy Frank produced dubs of the films that he sold to American cinemas. Considering he sued them, there was little to no chance we fans thought we’d ever get these films on DVD unless we were at a convention of some sort and had to buy the bootlegs. But not anymore, thanks to Shout! Factory. And they hold up as fresh as when they first aired.

It all began in season three of the show, when they took on the black and white classic Gamera in the season’s second episode. The first film in the series is actually a fantastic film in general (if you want to see what I thought about it back when Shout! Factory released it, check that out here, and with the Joel and the gang riffing on it heavily, it makes for some of the funniest television you’ve ever seen.

They returned to the big turtle only 2 episodes later with Gamera Vs. Barugon. After the success of the first film, they decided to give the sequel to a more popular director who had never directed a monster movie before, which is why the film is a bit disjointed. I still enjoyed it (you can check that original review here) but with the poor dubbing and less Gamera on screen, it still made for a funny episode, with Joel, Tom Servo and Crow joking about the lack of the big turtle. It was also the first in color.

The third season meant Gamera fever, because only 4 episodes later they covered the third film, Gamera Vs. Gyaos (which you can check out right here), which is a fun film and an even better episode for the wonderful Mystery Science Theater gang. Gamera is there to protect the children, especially the chubby kid Itchy, and Gaos is a great monster competitor. The riffs are fast and plenty, with the plot getting torn asunder in only the way they know how. As Tom Servo says, “You know, wild horses couldn’t drag this plot any further.”

Joel and his crew continue their riffing of the Gamera line another 4 episodes later with one of my favorites, Gamera Vs. Guiron (old review here). One of my favorites because in the series it was the first to start that bizarre song about Gamera, which then in turn has the trio singing their own version of the song which makes me laugh every time. It’s a strange film, especially with the dubbing and even has a voice actor doing a horrible southern drawl. Guiron is a fun monster, primarily because he just has a knife for a head, which seemed like the production crew were getting a bit lazy with their designs at this time. Another classic episode.

And finally we round out this fantastic set with the fifth and final Gamera film they tackled, Gamera Vs. Zigra (original review located here). It’s bittersweet, because they are celebrating in a mock party because it is the last film in the series they have to cover, but sad for all of us fans because these are just priceless episodes, mainly for the terrible dubbing, even joking about the fact that the monster itself is badly dubbed. As usual, MST3K is best looked at in an individual’s eyes, but I couldn’t stop laughing at the bizarre references throughout this episode, especially some Talking Heads ones.

Shout! Factory has outdone themselves again with a fantastic 5 film set, encased in a very cool and sturdy tin. We get each film housed in their own thin slip case, all within a paper box. And as usual, we get replica mini-posters of the covers of the films included as well. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, because they’ve included a great array of extras, which make these releases fantastic in any collection. First up we have So Happy Together: A Look Back at MST3K & Gamera, which is a great collection of present day interviews with Joel and others talking about how Gamera and MST3K were a wonderful match and how they were dealing with the flying turtle since their KTMA days. Next up was Gamera Vs. the Chiodo Brothers, who recall growing up with monster movies in general and how it shaped their lives and future careers in the special effects business (if you’re not familiar with the Chiodo Brothers, I’ll just point to Killer Klowns From Outer Space and the Large Marge segment in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure). It’s a fun and lighthearted recollection with the three brothers. We also get Gamera Obscura: A History by August Ragone, who is the author of the fantastic book Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters (and who also does fantastic commentaries on the first two DVD’s in the Gamera line Shout! Factory has put out. One wishes they let him do more). He speaks about the origins of Gamera and lots of insider stuff most wouldn’t know. We round out the set with the MST3K hour wraps with Mike Nelson and the Japanese trailers for the films.

As I said earlier, this is a gem of a collection. Considering Shout! Factory has been on a role with their Mystery Science Theater 3000 collections, one hopes they stick with the 4 film or more idea and not single sets, which seem to be a waste of sorts. This is a stellar set, worth the price by far and with 5 films, the best bang for the buck they’ve put out yet. It is essential MST3K, and you never know if these might disappear again in the near future. Someone might get greedy again and want the rights back to the horrible dubs of the films. If you’re a collector of the sets, you’ll be buying this right away. If you need a place to start with the Satellite of Love, this is a perfect place to do so. And the more I see of Joel years later, the more I fall in love with his dryness.

9.5/10

Order the DVD set from Amazon.com

2 Comments

  • A bit of a correction for the podcast; The Mystery Science Theater crew did 10 Gamera episodes, but they did the same five films twice. Once during the KTMA TV23 public access season and once during season three. They actually remade quite a few Sandy Frank episodes from the KTMA season during season three, including Mighty Jack, Fugitive Alien and TIme of the Apes. I think the only two they didn’t end up re-riffing were an Eastern European film called Humanoid Woman, which was awful, and a Japanese import called Legend of Dinosaurs which I wish they’d done again because it was their strongest (and final) “season zero” episode, in my opinion. 

  • After recording it, I listened to it a week later and was like, “Ah shit! How’d I say that!?!” I worded it the wrong way entirely and I’m glad you pointed that out. Thanks a ton for listening and reading. 

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