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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Elvira's Movie Macabre: Gamera, Super Monster/They Came from Beyond Space
Elvira's Movie Macabre: Gamera, Super Monster/They Came from Beyond Space
Shout Factory // Unrated // September 25, 2007
List Price: $14.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Kurt Dahlke | posted September 15, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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Gamera, Super Monster/ They Came From Beyond Space:
Gamera, Super Monster:
I wish I were a kid again. And not one of these 'new' kids from nowadays, kids from when I was a kid were more innocent, or stupid. But even if I could only go back to being a 13-year-old and catching it for the first time on TV, it would be preferable to watching Gamera, Super Monster from Elvira's Movie Macabre now as an adult.

You might suppose lots of conflicting emotions will cloud this review, and you'd be right. Gamera, Super Monster is a kid's movie, released in 1980 when kids were still innocent and stupid. To those stupid kids, it was a good movie, and to the innocent and stupid 13-year-olds from the early '80s when Elvira's cleavage reigned supreme, it was a good bad movie. But to the adult of today looking to recapture a bit of that magic, the package stinks like a leaky brown paper bundle of past-pull stew meat.

There was something about sitting down at 11:30pm to watch Elvira slink down the smoky TV hallway on a Saturday night, quips flying and boobs threatening to leap out of her dress. Her wink and nod Valley Girl shtick made her the last great horror host for the then-new breed of stupid and innocent fan boys, and that late-night slot made everything she presented that much more goofy and hard to comprehend.

Thus Gamera, Super Monster was a perfect Elvira fit; the English dubbed version she broadcast is still the height of Kaiju lunacy, in which Gamera battles a race of Lucasfilm copyright defying aliens and every giant monster he's ever encountered. An evil alien lady helps guide Gamera's enemies while three good alien ladies encourage Gamera and his stupid, innocent little friend.

What the kids gobbled up will stick in the elder Kaiju aficionado's craw: horrible special effects, ridiculous monsters (such as the rainbow-spewing chameleon or the one with a head like an immense steak-knife) and the three good aliens. Their command tools consist of a flying orange microbus and a synthesizer keyboard that they use to project video on the wall. They also frequently engage in a poorly choreographed disco tai chi sequence that seemingly changes both their outfits and the time of day, depending on how the jump cuts were working that day.

Anyway, the -ahem- butch pet shop owning alien and her meek counter parts look pretty good in their spacesuits as they fly around, teaching the mealy mouthed little boy to be a good kid. Too bad they didn't teach the voice-over talent to emote in any way close to human, or to get their words to remotely match lip movement.

Elvira's commercial-break comedy doesn't amuse as much as it did 25 years ago, but then we're not 13-year-old boys anymore. And Gamera, Super Monster almost reaches those notes of man-in-suit-destroying-miniature-city surrealism that make Kaiju-eiga (monster stories) so enjoyable, if only it weren't for the truly bad quality of the costumes and models used. Oh, to be stupid and innocent!

They Came From Beyond Space:

And they should stay from beyond space (wherever that is) so as not to annoy us with their whining requests and horrible noises. Yep, Elvira has dug up another film almost worthy of her charming wits. If you get my drift. But in reality, this movie isn't worthy of much, not scary, exciting, funny or interesting, and not even Elvira and her pal Breather (I forgot about him) can liven it up.

A group of meteorites have crashed in the English countryside, crashed in formation mind you, which has got all the scientists and such-like in an uproar. They all run out to investigate, except the preeminent expert on the subject, because his doctor won't let him. The plot device in his skull would put him in too much risk or something - so he's forced to send his pals.

And just as you're about to fall asleep in your chair the meteorites emit a hideous, crashingly loud noise and everything goes down the tubes. Rumor has it that those loonies from beyond space want to enslave mankind and spread a horrible plague. Way to be friendly, dudes!

All of which amounts to a starchy, very proper kitchen sink drama full of tragically poor special effects, sleep-inducing dialogue and frequent horrible high-pitched screeches to keep you awake. In truth, the aliens - who look just like pale Brits use ray-guns that are actually poorly disguised flashlights - or torches, for you from the UK. As a mild SPOILER, the aliens ultimately get their comeuppance because they were not polite enough. They Came From Beyond Space, sadly, isn't bad enough to be entertaining, just bad enough to be enervating, but it's a great sleep remedy, if you've been staying up nights against your will.

The DVD

Video:
Gamera, Super Monster in an unspecified widescreen format, looks awful, and that's the true crime. I'd give a better rating if watching a digitally remastered, struck from the negative print, but this looks like it was recorded right off of the TV to your grandma's aging VCR: really, really bad, soft, fuzzy and lacking vibrancy to the colors. It must have something to do with sourcing from the original videos as broadcast, and being able to keep the Elvira material in place. Or maybe the Shout Factory just shortchanged us. Anyway, the Elvira bits look OK, but Gamera is close to un-watchable, on top of all its other lacking-stupid-innocence faults.

They Came From Beyond Space fares better than Gamera in the video department, though the color 1.33:1 ratio presentation still leaves much to be desired. It is relatively clean and clear, if not a tad washed out and fuzzy. Let's say it's like watching it on TV instead of watching a dirty VHS cassette.

Sound: Gamera, Super Monster sounds horrible for two reasons: the dubbing destroys any intent the original movie might have had, and the source is cruddy. It's muffled and soft and even Dolby wouldn't touch it, so it's not available.

They Came From Beyond Space is also a cut above Gamera in the audio department, if it weren't for the terrifying screeches that frequently announce alien activity. But once again it's basically a non-Dolby mono audio track.

Extras: Extra features are barely nominal, chapter stops are available but navigation for them is not. Just click and pray bucko. The presence of Elvira in the original broadcast form is something of an extra, if not the raison d'etre for this double-disc presentation. If you loved her then, you'll like her now, but as you are hopefully 'getting some' at this stage in life, her appeals (nyuk) are slightly less enchanting. Lastly, you can watch both movies with or without Elvira inserts, (careful, now) but since the movies are present in a cinephile's nightmare format, why would you?

Final Thoughts:
Gamera, Super Monster needs to be seen remastered and subtitled to have any chance at getting a good review. It also needs to be understood that the target audience was a bunch of Japanese ten-year-old boys, so it's impossible for me to be objective without going back in time and getting their opinions. OK, so in this form Gamera is just completely awful. It barely merits a rent but only if you plan on getting drunk with friends, and even then you are better off either digging up your old VHS, recorded-from -TV copy, or just enjoying your memories. You ain't a kid anymore. They Came From Beyond Space is out there in a better version than this, so if you are really into British sci-fi or Amicus films, steer clear of this Elvira nostalgia item. You'd have to be a big fan, too, as this is more or less a substandard, talky snoozer. Sorry Elvira and Shout Factory, this double-feature is - at best - a rent but only for those desperate to revisit Elvira's wares, most other movie fans should just skip this package.

- Kurt Dahlke

~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com

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