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Retromedia presents
Gamera vs. Monster X / Monster from a Prehistoric Planet (Gappa the Triphibian Monster) (1970/1967)

"Maybe we did make a big mistake."
- Hiroshi Kurosaki (Tamio Kawaji)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: January 18, 2004

Stars: Tsutomu Takakawa, Kelly Varis, Tamio Kawaji, Yoko Yamamoto, Yuji Okada
Other Stars: Katherine Murphy, Kon Omura, Junko Yashiro, Ryo Hayami, Koji Waden, Tasuya Fuji
Director: Noriaki Yuasa, Haruyasu Noguchi

Manufacturer: Deluxe
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (giant rubber monster mayhem)
Run Time: 02h:51m:16s
Release Date: January 20, 2004
UPC: 014381213522
Genre: fantasy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C- D+DC- D-

DVD Review

The Kaiju eiga pictures of the 1960s weren't quite as menacing for the most part as they were back in the 1950s; the kid-friendly adventures of Gamera and the watered-down later Godzilla films took care of that. This Retromedia disc pairs samples of two giant monster films from studios other than Toho, both of which prominently feature a connection between the monsters and young children.

Gamera vs. Monster X (Gamera Tai Maju Jaiga) (1970) plays almost as if it were an ad for Japan's world fair of that year. The father of young Tommy Williams (Kelly Varis) is on a mission to get a large statue called the Devil's Whistle from a south seas island for exhibition at the Expo. Unfortunately, that statue is also a cork of sorts, sealing in the monstrous Jiger or Monster X, a vaguely ceratopsian flying monstrosity armed with a heat ray, "Ultra Sound Waves" and other weapons. But though Gamera the flying monster turtle is on the task to save the day, Jiger incapacitates the hero monster by injecting it with larvae. It's up to Tommy and his friend Hiroshi (Tsutomo Takakawa) to save Gamera so he can save the Expo.

As was common in the Gamera films, the kids are much smarter than the adults. This concept is really taken to extremes here, as Tommy and Hiroshi not only figure out what the problem is with Gamera, but they steal a minisub and take a Fantastic Voyage into Gamera's body to remove the larvae from his lungs. Despite a fair amount of silliness relating to the continent of Mu and Expo '70 filler, the film is pretty briskly paced and entertaining enough. The rubber suits are pretty poor, however, though the guy in the Jiger suit does at least walk on all fours, instead of on his knees as Barugon did. There's also an amusing bit where in real-life turtle fashion Gamera ends up flipped on his back and can't get over!

More serious is Gamma the Triphibian Monster (Daikyojo Gappa) (1967) from Nikkatsu studios, better known for its crime pictures. It was billed for American television purposes as Monster from a Prehistoric Planet, which makes even less sense than "triphibian." The publisher of "Playmate" magazine has decided to establish Playmateland, mimicking a tropical island in Japan. He has send Hiroshi Kurosaki (Tamio Kawaji, also in Nikkatsu's Tokyo Drifter), together with scientists Tonoka (Yuji Okada) and Itoko Koyanagi (Yoko Yamamoto) to retrieve exotic creatures from the south seas. On the island of Obelisk, the expedition finds natives worshiping something called a Gappa. On further examination, they find a cavern of eggs and a baby Gappa, which they take back for Playmateland. Unfortunately, not only is the baby growing to gigantic proportions, but its very angry parents have come in pursuit.

This owes a good deal to the British picture Gorgo (1960), but the Gappas are very much lacking in comparison. Rather than plausible dinosaur-type creature, the monsters here are goofy looking bird-lizards that inspire snickers at every sight. Unfortunately, it's also exceedingly dull, for even when the monsters finally appear there is endless footage of planes and missile firing at the creatures. I was particularly amused by the scientists' insistence that large statuary on the island is "just like the idols on Easter Island," except it's completely different. Although the kids aren't quite as magical here as in the Gamera films, they do have an empathic connection to the young Gappa and understand that its parents are angry. The creators did add a few nifty touches, such as the mother Gappa carrying an octopus in its mouth to feed the youngster as their rampage begins. The miniatures work is decent as well, for the period. There was no followup sequel, however, for Nikkatsu fell into bankruptcy soon after release.

As usual for such films, some footage was cut out for American television. Gamera loses about 1m:18s, while Gappa is shorn of five minutes or so.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: D+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - P&S
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: The original Gamera movies were all 2.35:1, so the pan & scan version here snips off nearly half the frame. Gappa is also severely cropped, as can be seen from the largely-missing titles. Gamera vs. Monster X is quite faded, with mediocre black levels. Color is much better on Gappa, though neither film has much detail or clarity. Gamera even features a massive piece of crud in the gate for quite a long period of time. Poor even for television prints, though the opening card for each film acknowledges and apologizes for the suboptimal source materials.

Image Transfer Grade: D


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Both films feature substantial hiss and tinny sound on the 2.0 mono tracks. Gamera also is plagued by an electronic buzz for much of the running time. However, the high frequency weapon used against the Gappas is appropriately piercing. Alas, there's no original Japanese track. The English dubbing is pretty poor and dates from the original television release.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: There are no extras. Chaptering is quite skimpy as well.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

This disc features a pair of mildly entertaining Japanese giant monster movies but subjected to pan-and-scan and iffy period dubbings. No extras at all.


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