Mystery Science Theater 3000: Gamera vs. Barugon (1991)
Director: Jef Maynard
Writers: Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu and Kevin Murphy
Starring: Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu and Kevin Murphy

The Plot: Joel Robinson and his robotic friends Crow and Tom Servo are stuck in outer space aboard the Satellite of Love where they are forced, by the evil Dr. Forrester, to watch very bad movies. The crew try to make the most of the flicks that presented to them by continually cracking jokes while the movies play on for the audience at home. After the events of the previous film Gamera, the giant turtle of the same name escapes from his missile and heads back towards earth where he soon feasts upon an electrical plant. Meanwhile, we watch as some mafioso types head out into the jungle in order to find a particular “oval” which could be worth a fortune to them. However, this is no regular “oval”, it is in fact the ancient monster Barugon! When the creature finally hatches all hope for mankind will rest on the massive shell of Gamera the giant monster!

The Review
Continuing on through the epic “MST3K vs. Gamera box set from Shout Factory, the second film in the series marks another triumphant return to form for the MST3K cast. In one of the most divergent films in the Gamera series, and one of the few not directed by Gamera icon Noriaki Yuasa (this film was directed by Shigeo Tanaka), Joel and company find a lot of fun to be had at the expense of our most beloved tortoise. With Gamera vs. Barugon the quality of the riffing seems to find a steady increase over the original episode and the movie itself seems to work even better due mainly to it seeming to be a slightly “lesser” Gamera movie. While I won’t go out and speak for the hardcore Kaiju fans who know everything there is to know about these movies, a lack of Gamera or any of his typical traits might lead this one to holding a rather strange torch within the lineage of these movies. However, that ultimately leads to a very entertaining episode of Mystery Science Theater that features some fun host segments and plenty of referencing towards the original Gamera episode reviewed previously.

Veteran director Shigeo Tanaka, who was better known than Yuasa and who was given a larger budget than the original film, took on the Gamera series in this second entry. Although I know little about the director myself, I will applaud some of his work here and say he definitely steps up to the plate with his film and creates an even more visually creative space for Gamera and Barugon to run around in. The first major divergence from the previous Gamera is obviously first and foremost the fact that this film is in color while the original was in black and white. Still, Tanaka does a lot more than throw a little bit of color onto the palette. There are a number of impressive shots throughout the movie and at nearly all moments we are consumed by a rather epic vision, which seems suitable for a movie about two giant monsters fighting one another. Right from the start we’re introduced to Gamera as he heads back toward earth, directly picking up where the previous film left off and we watch as begins a quick tirade of destruction. Tanaka seems to promise us a rather grand and destruction filled sequel as we watch on with Gamera shooting his flames in a much more directly visual presentation of the giant turtle creature than what had been seen previously. However, in an epic bait and switch move Tanaka introduces us to Gamera but then sets him on the sidelines for almost the entire duration of the movie. Afterward our story focuses primarily on Barugon and the intense destruction that this monster looks to devastate the world with.

Barugon, by his design, is actually quite similar to Gamera himself. Both walk on all fours and have a very distinctive “animal” look in opposition to other Kaiju beasts such as the famed Godzilla who was much more anthropomorphic. Their differences of course come primarily in their superpowers, which are both quite epic. Gamera of course has the ability to absorb and spit fire, as well as fly by sucking his head/legs inside of his shell and firing rockets from the holes. In the case of Barugon, his power was created as an exact opposition to Gamera’s famous fire breathing antics. Barugon is a monster who has two main powers. The first, and most ridiculous, is that he can somehow shoot forth a rainbow out of his backside which is somehow a destructive force to anything it touches. Secondly, he shoots a projectile tongue-like weapon from his mouth, similar to one of Ridley Scott’s Alien, only this tongue of his shoots forth an ice storm that freezes anything in his way. So, it becomes easy to see what the producers were really hoping for with this one. You take two polar opposites and set them up against one another in the most gargantuan battle of giant rubber-suited monsters that this world has ever seen! Unfortunately, by sidelining Gamera for nearly the entire movie it really hurts audience members who had grown attached to the beast throughout the course of the previous movie.

The distinct lack of Gamera is certainly a big issue with this movie. The lack of children, for whom Gamera is always a friend to, is also another lacking element. Some however might count that as a positive. One can only hope that while our cameras here were steadily watching Barugon for almost the entire duration of this film, in some alternate dimension there was another Gamera movie being made where our giant turtle friend was then coerced into his climactic showdown with Barugon by a very simple Japanese boy. Unfortunately, one can only guess at what the original contents of this film were as this version, distributed by Sandy Frank, is missing roughly 14 minutes worth of additional footage. While its doubtful that there’s much more additional Gamera footage in the original cut, the spliced together feel of Gamera vs. Barugon shows a lack of affection from the distributors. Apparently the film was originally picked up by American International Pictures and originally featured a different English dub soundtrack, but this version became less available as the Sandy Frank version took over as the most popular amongst television studios who were looking to buy up cheap content. The AIP print also exorcized the additional 14 minutes worth of footage but one wonders if the dubbing could have at least been better on that print because the one we’re stuck with here is pretty awful even for Kaiju fare.

The Conclusion
There’s really not a whole lot to say. This is a weaker Gamera film but is an incredibly entertaining piece of Mystery Science Theater 3000. The riffing is top notch and the guys rarely relent as they continually point out the campy atmosphere of the movie. A lot of fun is had and this marks another impressive addition to the excellent MST3K vs. Gamera box set. It gets a four out of five!