It's a great day for MST fans. I honestly
never thought I'd see the five
Gamera episodes of Mystery Science
Theater 3000 releases on DVD, yet here they are.
The hold up, according to rumor, was due to
Sandy Frank. Apparently the crew of the
Satellite of Love were a bit too cutting when they riffed Frank and the
producer refused to re-license any of his properties to them after
original agreement expired. (In Frank's
defense they were a little harsh on the guy who was only trying to make
buck.) In any case, the US
rights to the Gamera films are now owned by Joyplex, Inc. who were
take money from Shout! Factory and Best Brains in order to get these
released. Run out and buy your copy ASAP
before someone changes their minds.
Most of you reading this are probably already familiar with Mystery
Science Theater 3000 (or MST3K
for short.) For those who might have
missed the program when it was being aired on Comedy Central or the
Channel (in its later years), here is the concept in a nutshell: some
scientists have trapped Joel on a satellite in space.
Dr. Forester (or his mother in the later
shows) tortures poor Joel by forcing him to watch bad movies. Really bad movies. To
keep his sanity, Joel has used parts from
the ship to fashion robots, Crow and Tom Servo, who watch the movies
him. While these movies are playing,
Joel, Crow and Tom are silhouetted at the bottom of the screen and
at the movie's expense. It sounds
simple, but it is one of the funniest shows to ever air on television. One of the reasons for the show's success is
the fact that the jokes come form all over. They will throw in
pop culture, ancient history, current events, movies, music (classical,
country or rock,) politics, famous people, (and not-so-famous people)
about anything else you can think of.
Some of the trivia they come up with is so obscure it is
MST took on Gamera
in their third season. They ended up
riffing five of the seven films in the original Showa Series (Gamera vs. Viras and Gamera vs. Jiger
were the two not
skewered) and those episodes are a highlight of Mystery
Science Theater. The
movies themselves are fun even without the riffing, but add Joel and
making fun of the whole thing and it's a riot.
These episodes are some of the best TV ever.
The episodes included on this volume are:
Episode 302 -
"Those kids at school -- they tease you, Kenny. Because
they've never tasted hell. Today, we turn the tables!" - Crow (speaking
Here's where it all began, in glorious black and white.
When a Russian jet is shot down in the Arctic
after invading US
air space its nuclear payload explodes, unleashing Gamera from the
The giant flying turtle wastes no time in attacking a power
plant (because he thrives on fire and heat) and nothing the army does
him. The monster rescues a young child,
Kenny, who was looking for his lost pet turtle and starts a trend in
that provides fodder for some of the best riffs - Gamera is a friend to
children. Especially gullible
children. Even when Gamera runs amok and
destroys a city, Kenny believes that the monster is fundamentally good
convinces the military of that.
Kenny: Don't shoot
Gamera! Don't shoot Gamera! He's good, he's good!
listen to what Kenny has to say!
Dr. Murase: Yes.
It might be a mistake. Maybe we shouldn't use those missiles.
General: Why not?
It's the only way to kill that monster.
Kenny said so!
A good movie with some great, great, riffing, this is a
wonderful indicator of things to come.
Episode 304 - Gamera
Joel: "Aw, I saw a wire. That wrecks everything."
Tom: "You mean this is fake?"
This second Gamera film is the low point in the series.
After the first movie was so successful the
studio gave the sequel to one of its more prominent directors who
know how to make a monster movie.
During WWII, a man discovered a huge gemstone hidden in a
cave on an island in the Pacific. Now,
years later, he sends his brother and some cronies to retrieve the
object. Once they do, and bring it back
it's discovered that the stone isn't a gem, but an egg and out pops the
half-lizard monster Barugon. With a
tongue that can be used as a battering ram, ice breath, and a
it seems that mankind has no hope. Even
Gamera gets knocked out by the freeze breath and spends most of the
laying on his back. But when he thaws,
watch out doggy, Gamera is pissed.
The problem with this movie is that Gamera is pretty much a
supporting character, so much so that at one point Joel wonders my
top billing. The riffs are funny however
and the battle at the end is fun.
This episode also has one of the very best host segments in
the history of the show. They come up
with a great commercial for a new kids toy, the "Gamera 5000-piece
and Monster Set!" A fast-talking Tom
Servo does a great voice-over to sell the set that includes Gamera "he
real fire and causes real pain." It's a
Episode 308 - Gamera
"You know, wild horses couldn't drag this plot any further."
One of my all time favorite MST episodes, and a great Gamera
movie to boot.
When a company starts to build a road through some mountains
they accidently wake up Gaos, a bat-like monster that can fly,
limbs, and shoot a cutting laser out of his mouth.
He also likes the taste of human blood, but
when he tries to eat a little butterball named Itchy Gaos gets Gamera
pissed. The turtle comes to fight and
brings a can of whoop ass.
The Gamera movies start to get wonderfully goofy with this
installment. A lot of the dialog an
situations are hilarious even without Joel and the gang riffing. For example, when a scientist is giving a
press conference about Gaos his is asked:
"Dr. Aoki, as a zoologist what would you say the beast is? Would
it's a bird, or is it a reptile?" To
which the noted scientist replies" "I
would like to say there isn't any recorded history of it...let's just
call it a
monster." The plan they have to destroy
Gaos is just as hilarious. When the
scientists realize that sunlight is deadly to the monster, and that he
blood, they create a giant rotating fountain that spews artificial
blood. The idea is that he'll drink the
dawn, but then be too dizzy to fly off in time.
As Joel comments after the plan fails "Rotating tower of blood? What was I thinking??"
Episode 312 - Gamera
"Gamera is really neat... Gamera is filled with meat... we've
been eating Gamera!" -the whole gang
This, the most bizarre entry in the series, is notable for
the introduction of the Gamera song which is sung time and time again
the rest of the Gamera movies (and the MST lyrics are funny every time.) In this new adventure a pair of kids spot a
spaceship landing in a nearby forest one night (something the rest of
seems to have missed.) The next morning
the kids sneak past the comic relief policeman (whose name sounds
like "Officer Cornjob" so Joel and the bots go with that) and discover
spaceship. Climbing aboard they're taken
off into space where the see Gamera. He
tries to get the kids to turn around, but since they're not flying the
they continue on course to the planet Terra.
It's an earth-like planet on the opposite side of the sun from
with one big difference: it's filled
with monsters who have killed off all the inhabitants expect for a pair
space-babes who plan on eating the children's brains and then invading
Earth. They didn't count on Gamera
though, who flies to the rescue and battle with the Terran monster
looks like a giant knife.
This is a wonderfully wacky film. From the
colorful sets that look like they
were designed by someone who was stoned to the bizarre monster the
is a lot of fun. One of the aliens
speaks with a fake southern drawl which just adds to the whole surreal
of the movie. Add in Joel and the bots
comments, and you've got a classic.
Episode 316 - Gamera
"Ya know its weird but even the monster is badly dubbed." -
The final Gamera film in the original series is a solid
giant monster flick. When a spaceship
that looks like a giant bowl of skittles destroys Earth's base on the
one seems to care. So the ship kidnaps
two scientists and their two kids and informs them that Zigra has
that he is going to take over the Earth.
A sea-dwelling monster, Zigra plans to keep the humans alive,
them as a source of food. His tragic
mistake is involving the kids because, as we all know by now, Gamera is
friend to children. He arrives to kick
some alien butt, but runs into a problem when the spaceship turns into
space-shark with razor-sharp fins.
This episode starts off with a party, Joel and the bots are
celebrating the fact that this is their last Gamera movie, but it's a
bit of a
sad event because the crew of the SOL really did a great job with all
films and this last one is no exception.
They reference everything from Monty Python to the Talking Heads
Elizabeth Clare Prophet. It's a wild
'experiment' filled with laughs throughout.
Each of the five episodes comes in its own slimcase, and all
five are housed in a slipcase. That, in
turn, comes in a nice tin case with five Gamera/MST postcards.
The audio on the host segments is very clean, and the riffs
coming through loud and clear. The audio during the movies are pretty
though the films soundtracks leave a little to be desired. There's some
distortion in a couple of cases but nothing major.
They actually do a very good job mixing the
audio from the movie in with the actor's comments however, adjusting
so that both the riffs and the movie can be heard. Of course there are
of times when one or the other isn't easy to discern, but that is
fairly rare. There are no subtitles.
After watching this show for years on the copies that I
taped off of Comedy Central when it was first broadcast, I was very
how clear it was. My S-VHS tapes are good but this is much better. The
segments are clear and bright, while the silhouettes during the movie
black. There is a bit of cross colorization on crow's silhouette in the
film, but it's minor. The quality of the
movies themselves leave something to be desired, but they look just as
and scratchy as when they were first shown on MST3K, which is how it
I'm pleased that Shout! is including some nice bonus
features with their MST releases. This
set includes an attractive metal case to house the discs and a set of
MST/Gamera postcards. There are some
cool video extras too. So
Happy Together: A Look Back at MST3K &
interviews Joel, Josh, Trace and others (though head writer Mike Nelson
noticeably absent) about Gamera and how MST started riffing on the
back in the KTMA days. It's an
interesting featurette and I wish it was longer. Gamera
Vs. the Chiodo Brothers was a poorly executed bonus item on the
disc. The main problem is that they
didn't explain who the Chiodo Brothers were at the beginning. Instead a couple of guys start reminiscing
about watching Gamera on TV way back when, and how much they love
movies. Okay.. great.
Eventually it's revealed that they are a special
effects team that did the work on Killer
Clowns from Outerspace and Pee Wee's
Big Adventure, and they like Gamera.
Much better was Gamera Obscura: A
History by August Ragone, where the author of a book on Japanese
about how Gamera came to be, the inspiration for the movies, behind the
anecdotes and some fun trivia.
Definitely worth watching.
There are also Japanese trailers for the movies and The
MST Hour Wraps for Gamera.
I have all of the MST3K commercial releases and this is
easily the best volume. Five wonderfully
irreverent episodes without a dud in the lot and hours worth of great
entertainment. Run out and grab this set
before it goes out of print. DVDTalk