Dossier Fantastique Volume 5, Number 17.2 opens to reveal capsule comments for IN YOUR EYES and DEADBEAT. The former is a Direct-to-Video film written and produced by Joss Whedon, about a man and a woman on opposite sides of the country who share a psychic link; the latter is a new Hulu original television series, about a sorry excuse for a human being who “helps ghosts” but “can’t help himself.” After that, the Cinefantastique Podcasting crew of Lawrence French, Dan Persons, and Steve Biodrowski delve into the details of this week’s home video release, for Tuesday, April 30 – including THE LEGEND OF HERCULES, DEVIL’S DUE, and several collectors sets of GAMERA titles. Finally, there is a 50th anniversary look back at DEVIL DOLL, a 1964 black-and-white British thriller the mixes the old ventriloquist dummy scenario with elements of Svengali.
Dedicated Dossier Fanatics are advised to continue listening in after the closing credits for meandering comments on everything from TORCHWOOD to THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES to Tashen Books’ “The Making of 2001: A Space Odyssey” to TOKAIDO YOTSUYA KAIDAN (GHOST STORY OF YOTSUYA) – a colorful 1959 Japanese classic, rarely seen in the U.S. until it became available on Hulu plus.
What can we say? There were no new genre films being released to theaters this week, and Steve and Larry had schedules that prevented them from syncing up for a planned discussion of TWILIGHT ZONE episodes (we’ll try to do that at some other point).
So, instead, Dan sat down with his trusty microphone and a stack o’ news, and brings you up-to-date on what happened in genre in the past week and what’s coming to theaters and home video in the coming week.
Everything will be back to normal next week (relatively speaking). Until then, click on the player, and enjoy!
There were no new genre films in theaters this weekend, but there was one old one in a shiny new, 3D coat: THE LION KING 3D, which just so happened to top this week’s box-office. With a prescience befitting a Cinefantastique editor, Steve Biodrowski recognized the film for the hit it was going to be, and attended a screening. In this episode of the Spotlight, he gives his impression of the newly dimensional musical fantasy, after which Dan Persons joins in for a discussion of MST3K VS. GAMERA, the new home video box set that collects all of MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000’s episodes devoted to Japan’s beloved, mammoth flying turtle.
Also in this episode: discussions of Harlan Ellison’s IN TIME lawsuit and of the impending Hannibal Lecter TV series.
Plus: Gamera is friend to all children!
Finally released on DVD, this 2006 film one breaks continuity and abandons the adult tone of the well received 1990s GAMERA trilogy directed by Shusuke Kaneko (GAMERA, GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE, GAMERA VS. LEGION, GAMERA 3: REVENGE OF IRYS), in favor of returning to the childish tone of the campy 1960s movies. As bad as that sounds, the result is not as bad as it sounds. GAMERA THE BRAVE is actually a pretty decent kids movie that has special effects and production values on par with its immediate predecessors, even as the script shifts the emphasize onto younger characters.
The film starts with the Gamera made familiar in the previous films self-destructing in order to defeat a pack of the flying Gayos monsters that are about to get the better of him. (This sequence looks as if it were originally designed to suggest a continuity with the ending of GAMERA 3, which had the giant flying turtle marching off to face a swarm of these monsters; however, the opening of GAMERA THE BRAVE is set way back in 1973, decades before the ending of REVENGE OF IRYS.) Over thirty years later, a young lad discovers an egg from which a new Gamera hatches. The middle of the film is actually quite funny as the tiny turtle grows larger overnight, displays abnormally intelligence for a reptile, and begins to display the familiar powers (flying, spitting fireballs. etc).
Things turn from amusing to exciting when Jidas, a new man-eating monster, arises, and Gamera, sensing his destiny to be a protector of mankind, turns from being a friendly pet to being a faithful guard dog. The new opponent, perhaps not unintentionally, seems to resemble the Sony 1998 Godzilla; it’s a very effective, frightening design, that is perfectly realized with a combination of suit-mation, puppetry, and CGI. Unfortunately, the new Gamera design is a disappointment, replacing the fierce look of the defender of Earth with a kid-friendly face featuring big blue eyes, like something out of a bad anime.
The special effects are mostly good, although the miniature work is apparent at times. The acting and script are better than expected, considering that the appeal is mostly to kids. Things only really start to fall apart near the end. There is a cornball sequence wherein a string of kids act as a sort of relay to carry an object that will revive Gamera (kind of like spinach for Popeye) so that he can defeat his opponent. This is just barely works, in a cornball kind of way. But then it really gets bad when our hero finally delivers the object (a scarlet pearl) but first gives a long speech demanding that the turtle not self-destruct in order to kill the monster that’s eating people left and right. As if this were not bad enough, there’s an even cornier moment after that battle, when all the children cordon off Gamera to keep the authorities at bay, so that the turtle can fly away to fight another day.
Despite these missteps, the film is mostly entertaining – a good effort for parents to watch with their children. As if realizing that the baby Gamera was the most endearing part of the movie, the final credits rolls with outtakes running on the left side of the screen, with the tiny creature wandering around looking cute. All in all, GAMERA THE BRAVE succeeds where Takashi Miike’s GREAT YOKAI WAR (another Japanese fantasy film aimed at children) fails, because the filmmakers did not treat the material with contempt but instead tried to make the best of it.
U.S. kaiju fans finally got a chance to see GAMERA THE BRAVE on DVD when Media Blasters released it under their Tokyo Shock label on December 30, 2003. GAMERA THE BRAVE (a.k.a. Chisaki Yusha Tachi – Gamera [“Little Braves of Gamera”], 2006). Directed by Yurta Tazaki. Written by Yukari Tatsui. Cast: kaho, Kanji Tsuda, Susumu Terajima, Ryo Tomioka.