The 70’s was an infamous time for kaiju movies. It marked when time those films were marketed toward kids as opposed to in the 50’s and 60’s. Why don’t we turn our heads to the giant flying fire-breathing turtle? It was mainly because of Gamara that Godzilla films turned noticeably lighter in tone to compete for the audience. In 1971 he went on to battle a giant fish alien by the name of Zigra. This film is no all-star, just as with pretty much any Showa Gamera flick, but it’s still a lot of fun. This one has some of the greatest dubbing (cheese wise) I have ever seen in a kaiju film.
The plot is typical Showa Gamera fare. An alien monster from a distant plant has come to Earth in hopes of conquest. Somehow two little kids get involved in all this. After they find some crazy way to escape Zigra’s spaceship, (I’m still trying to figure out how they did that) the monster sends his servant, a spacewoman, to capture and kill them. (He makes it clear he wants them killed, he states that several tines.) Of course, it’ll come down to a showdown between Gamera, the Friend to all Children, and Deep Sea Monster Zigra. From the beginning until about the third act is definitely a lot of fun. Sadly, the monster fights fall flat and you’ll be scratching your head at Zigra’s contradiction to his own scheme and why Gamera didn’t go attack the spaceship in the first place.
As with all post Vs. Barugon films, there are kids that serve as the protagonists. We have Kenny and his friend Helen. The writing is pretty interesting with these two at a lot of points. Here we have Kenny who for some reason seems to know everything about spaceships and how to work a motorboat. These kids also somehow manage to outsmart the Spacewoman throughout town in a Scooby-Doo-like chase sequence. They aren’t technically well-written characters but with the writing/dubbing, are a lot of fun to laugh at. The Spacewoman however is a fantastic character. She might be the greatest humanoid character in the entire Gamera series. Right from the start we see she’s passionate about the cause and doesn’t hesitate to use any means necessary to get to those kids. Her superpower of making people go brain-dead is pretty neat to see. She was definitely a highlight, despite the plot twist at the end where it turned out she was just a human assimilated by Zigra.
So how about Zigra? The main thing that stands him out from other monsters is that he actually talks. This is a really cool change of pace, and his dialogue is easily the best. Though the writing certainly needed help in one regard. He explicitly makes it clear to his Spacewoman not to kill all the people on the Earth, but later he decides to forget that and actually says the Spacewoman has already begun doing that, despite what he told her earlier. Besides that, his dialogue is great. The design is very unique, looking like some kind of skeletal fish. It definitely looks good, the problem is that it really can’t fight well. The battles in this movie were very lackluster, Zigra never once used his fins to slap Gamera around. It’s a disappointment. Hopefully he will be brought back one day, there’s a lot of potential with him.
As stated earlier, to fully appreciate this movie you really gotta watch the dub. One of my personal favorite scenes is when a reporter asks the general something like, “So there’s nothing we use to stop Zigra?” Then the general responds something like, “Sorry, but there’s nothing we can do.” The ‘sorry’ part was just so amazingly funny. Gamera isn’t much different than in other Showa films, he’s there to save the day with his incredibly cheesy theme song. The soundtrack is pretty standard. It’s not bad, but not particular great either.
Overall, Gamera vs. Zigra isn’t a very high tier kaiju movie. But, none of the Showa ones really are. It is enjoyable enough however to avoid a negative rating. Because, the biggest crime a kaiju movie -or any movie- can make is be boring. (Looks at Godzilla Raids Again.) The dialogue doesn’t get old and the Spacewoman is a pretty cool character. The fights lack pizzazz, but at least Zigra is a unique monster. You will never get tired of hearing him speak. Gamera vs. Zigra is another technically not so great but very enjoyable Showa Gamera film.
Daniel has been a Gamera fan as far back as he could remember. His favorite monster is Legion and you can follow him on Twitter: @Destroyer_199