MST3K: Gamera vs. Zigra (1991)
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 are presented to them by continually cracking jokes while the movies play on for the audience at home. This time out the crew take on their very last Gamera film! The giant turtle doesn’t seem interested in going out quietly however, as he invites along the gigantic water monster Zigra along for the ride! The plot revolves around Zigra, the aforementioned water-based creature from outer space who looks to enslave all of mankind. Zigra has the ability to hypnotize any creature it comes in contact with and after kidnapping a female astronaut from the moon, the monster heads to the earth and looks to use this brainwashed young woman in order to further his goals of world domination. While this is going on, a group of kids based in a water park that best resembles Seaworld are soon on the case and look to put an end to Zigra’s nefarious plans! Their secret weapon? The one and only Gamera, friend to all children!

The Review
This review marks our final foray into the world of MST3K vs Gamera, the box set from Shout! Factory that celebrates the brilliant gatherings between these two parties. As has been previously discussed in these reviews (starting with Gamera, then followed by Gamera vs. Barugon, Gamera vs. Gaos, Gamera vs. Guiron and finally our film today), the history that Mystery Science Theater shares with this gigantic turtle is actually quite immense. The beast has been around since the inception of MST3K as a show and has lead to some of the most memorable moments in this show’s history. Who could forget the Gamera theme song? Or Gamera spinning on that bar like an Olympic athlete in the show’s opening? Gamera vs. Zigra is treated as a celebration in this final episode, as the cast and crew make it a point to announce that it would be their final Gamera episode (something they are very excited about!), and they go out on top. Unfortunately, Gamera vs. Zigra is most certainly another lackluster Gamera outing.

The Gamera series, as it evolved, seemed to continue in a spiral (either for the positive or negative, depending on your point of view) into a world of progressive strangeness. Each subsequent film after Gamera vs. Gaos seemed to find director Yuasa taking the series into as strange of waters as he could. During Gamera vs. Gaos when you saw the giant blood-filled bird feeder make its appearance, you knew you weren’t dealing with a series concerned with following the rules of conventional filmmaking. At least this time, as opposed to the situation with Gamera vs. Guiron, Yuasa decided to keep this movie based on planet earth. However, in placing his film around a Seaworld-esque location Yuasa does manage to craft a rather wacky childlike feeling for the majority of the picture. Gamera has long been said to be a series dominated by a fanbase of children, and the setting for Gamera vs. Zigra reinforces this feeling. It’s as if the entire world that Gamera lives in is a theme park just waiting to be wrecked. Like most Gamera titles though, there is more fixation on the children characters than there is on explosive rubber suited monster action. As always though, the final act doesn’t let us down.

The kids are, as always, the focus here and these characters are every bit as annoying as the other children that have popped up in these American distributions. It’s funny that even though the child actors are dubbed over completely, we still get the idea that they can’t act. Although I’m sure it’s slightly more tolerable in the Japanese language, the performances from the children (especially the smallest child) show no kind of emotional reaction to anything going on around them. The older child of the two that we are saddled with through the majority of the picture is actually dubbed over as “Kenny”, which is the same name given to the young boy from the original Gamera. Despite this fact, I never picked up on any references made towards that original character and when Gamera first shows up it doesn’t turn out to be a reunion. Sure, Gamera does ultimately go pretty far out of his way to save these kids throughout the movie, but the last time we saw him he actually traveled to a distant planet for two lone earth kids that he most certainly did not know!

Zigra as a villain is a bit weak, in my opinion. Sure, he gives Gamera a hard time for most of the picture but all bad guys in these movies do that! Honestly though, a fish monster? Did the Gamera series really need this? I do like the fact that he is able to brainwash his enemies and sends human beings to do his bidding, but overall he’s the sort of character that you expect Gamera to crush quite easily. As we watch Gamera going into battle with this oversized Goblin Shark, we as an audience expect Gamera to take him and suplex this fish-monster into a mountain. While the overall design is well done and the plot is handled well enough that I found myself engaged by the back and forth plotting of Zigra, the lack of monster mayhem really hurts the movie. Thankfully we have the MST3K crew along for the ride providing some really fun commentary. Although their work isn’t as on-point as it was in the Guiron episode, this is another fine outing for the guys (or guy and robot, as it were).

The Conclusion
Sure, it doesn’t go out with a bang, but it is a fun way to end a fantastic series. The episode features a watchable monster movie and many great laughs. Certainly worth a look and just another reason (of many) to pick up this fine collection. A three out of five, check it out!