Gamera (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 to watch bad movies by the evil Dr. Forrester. The crew try to make the most of the movies presented to them as they continually crack jokes while the movies play on for the audience. In this particular episode Joel and company are forced to watch the original Kaiju classic: Gamera. This is the age old story of a boy, his pet turtle and a gigantic monster tortoise who destroys cities. After an airplane carrying nuclear explosives is shot down in the Antarctic, out of the icy terrain the ancient monster Gamera is awakened. A massive turtle who breathes fire and feasts on destructive energy, it seems that earth can in no way compete with this monstrous beast. However, a small boy named Kenny realizes that while Gamera most assuredly does destroy nearly everything in his path – he has a heart and is a friend to all children!

The Review
Take Mystery Science Theater 3000, now combine it with one of the most notable Kaiju series to ever come out of Japan and then what do you get? Well, you get MST3K Vs. Gamera, the latest box set from the fine folks over at Shout! Factory. This was ultimately a no-brainer for the company as they own the rights to the Gamera license as well as MST3K and when you look back on the many episodes from the series throughout the years you have to admit that any episode where the inhabitants of the Satellite of Love were to watch a gamera movie: the results were generally pretty spectacular. This box set packages all five Gamera episodes and today we start off with a look back on the very first in the epic series. If you read this site, you’re likely already vaguely aware of our love for Gamera from our review of the previous Gamera: The Giant Monster Shout Factory release, but I promise that with the English dub and the masterful riffing of Joel and the bots – this is a completely different movie experience entirely.

The history between this show and the Gamera series actually travels all the way back to the original KTMA local access station that originally hosted Mystery Science Theater 3000 before it was picked up by what would later become Comedy Central. Although the Gamera series would be visited in those early days, it wasn’t until the show had been given an actual budget that we would truly get a feel for what these two giants of Geekdom could produce when paired together. The Gamera series on the whole is rather child-like and surreal to enough degree that it would make for perfect fodder for this show, and it seems that the MST3K crew realized this. The original Gamera might prove to be one of the most serious entries, but Jole and the bots manage to keep things from being able to be taken as stoneface as it was originally meant to be. In the post-war years that the film was made in, and with the cold war threat of looming nuclear apocalypse surrounding it, the original Gamera was another stern look at the results of nuclear warfare. With the help of Sally Frank however, who distributed the series some time after their initial release, the movie becomes a bit of a farce and Joel & company perfectly capture the sense of silliness inherit in this new version of Gamera.

Although you’ll see in my Gamera: The Giant Monster review that this can, and very well should, be taken as a somewhat legitimate film in its original format, when Sandy Frank grabbed ahold of this series he sort of put a hole in all of that. With ridiculously over the top dubbing it proves much more difficult to picture these characters as anything remotely three dimensional. As anyone who has ever seen a Kung Fu movie can tell you, when it comes to children being dubbed the results are almost always annoying. Such is the case with young “Kenny”, the lead child and inevitable friend of Gamera himself, who in this dubbed form becomes an annoying nuisance. His whiny voice and hysterics over his recently deceased pet turtle grabs the attention of Joel, Crow and Tom Servo, who lampoon the young boy without mercy. Throughout the movie it becomes a running gag for the crew to insert “evil” lines of dialogue into the young boy’s mouth as things play out. The idea is ludicrous and generally makes no sense, but as they insert these evil lines about murder and Satan worship, you’ll find it impossible not to laugh.

As with each film featured on the MST3K Vs. Gamera boxset from Shout Factory, you can expect some very high quality special features. On this first disc there is a very nice featurette that details the background history between the show and the entire Gamera series. The background delves into both Gamera’s North American distribution as well as the original KTMA coverage of the series, all featuring interviews with the majority of the cast. The featurette is relatively short but incredibly informative and frankly its always nice to see the cast in their current day appearance. The DVD set is rounded off with cool mini-flyers as well as a metallic case that should look pretty swank on any collector’s DVD shelf.

The Conclusion
Easily one of my favorite episodes and a great start to a classic collection. As good, in its own unique way, as the original Gamera: The Giant Monster, the MST3K treatment creates comedic gold. Some of the best riffing from this period in the show’s history and a really great episode of an amazing series, you can’t go wrong with snatching up the box set.

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