It would be easy to dismiss Gamera vs. Jiger, as this film brings with it all the formulaic characteristics of the Gamera franchise, including the annoying kids. Surprisingly, this sixth entry in the Showa series of Gamera films is pretty damn good, as Gamera is given a solid opponent to battle. Titled Gamera vs. Giant Demon Beast Jiger in Japan, Gamera vs. Jiger is worth watching, even for weary fans of the kaiju genre.
Gamera vs. Jiger should be of interest to those who have watched the Heisei series of Gamera movies because some of the core ideas fully realized in the Heisei series can be traced back here. Jiger herself is similar in design to Barugon, but her face has various horns and pointed quills. The quills can be fired like missiles, and once fanned out, they serve as guideposts for Jiger’s energy beam, which can be used to vaporize everything in a city block. Jiger also has organic thrusters behind her head and the sides of her body that enable her to jump forward with battering-ram speed. Like the comic-book villain Magneto of the X-Men, Jiger has the ability to attract metal to itself. By far her most dangerous weapon is a stinger-like appendage at the end of her tail. Jiger can use this stinger to inject an egg into another organism like Gamera. The parasitic offspring of Jiger can then feed on the host, killing it from within.
Gamera vs. Jiger begins with Japan preparing for the 1970 World’s Fair. On Wester Island, scientists discover a strange large statue that is known as the Devil’s Whistle. The statue is removed so that it can be showcased as part of the World’s Fair, but its removal attracts Gamera, who tries to prevent it from leaving the island. What the scientists do not realize—and what Gamera knows—is that the statue has kept Jiger at bay for centuries. With the statue removed, Jiger goes on a rampage through Osaka.
In the meantime, the whistle is being transported via ship to the World’s Fair. Almost immediately the ship’s crew begins to fall ill, as the statue emanates a piercing sound. It is this squeal that is makes humans weak and sick.
Jiger and Gamera battle, with Jiger successfully injecting an egg into Gamera. Jiger then uses its energy weapon to vaporize various parts of the city of Osaka, killing all the humans in various grids by turning them into skeletons. Jiger also manages to take down the Self-Defense Force’s aircraft by using her spear-like quills.
Debilitated by the alien organism inside her, Gamera is close to death. Fortunately, a couple of kids come up with a plan to go inside Gamera using a small submarine. Inside the giant turtle, the boys (Hiroshi is Japanese and Tommy is American) fight and subsequently take out the baby Jiger inside Gamera. Scientists then successfully revive Gamera (using high-voltage electricity), who uses the Devil’s Whistle to take down Jiger once and for all. Thanks to Gamera, the 1970 World’s Fair in Japan can go on as planned.
Although the storytelling in Gamera vs. Jiger retains the typical formulaic elements—Gamera is the friend of children, Gamera is almost killed as is comatose for some part of the movie, and the kids come to the rescue—this movie redeems itself by showcasing some excellent monster fights and introducing an interesting monster from an era before modern humanity. Kaiju fans will have to sit through another rendition of the “Gamera Them Song” and listen to another pair of kids whining their way through the production, but its all worth it just to watch Gamera and Jiger go toe-to-toe in several action-packed monster fights. The movie also introduces a antediluvian technical device—the Devil’s Whistle—hinting at a time when the people of Atlantis created such things to counter monsters (and perhaps also hinting that Gamera has been around a very long time).
Gamera vs. Jiger ranks as one of the best, if not the best, of the Showa Gamera monstermashes. Minimizing previous monster mayhem, allowing Jiger to wreak havoc on cities and military personnel, and of course showcasing several monster battles all make this movie a must-see for fans of kaiju movies in general and Gamera fans specifically.
The original Japanese version of Gamera vs. Jiger is available on the recently released Gamera Legacy Collection. This bare-bone collection offers 11 Gamera movies but no commentaries or extras. Gamera vs. Jiger in this collection is in its original Japanese with English subtitles.