What’s this? Two movie themed blogs right in a row? Very unusual, I know, but I just got through watching one of the best MST3K DVD collections yet! It’s called MST3K vs. Gamera and contains all five of the Gamera movies that Joel and the ‘Bots made fun of all in one nice tin holder! So I wanted to talk about it a bit, plus I recently watched a new Rifftrax in the theater and wanted to talk about that, too (Rifftrax is the spiritual successor to MST3K). So, why is Gamera fighting MST3K? And just who the heck is Corn Job?!? All these questions and more will be answered if you keep reading!
Who is Gamera (and MST3K)?
Anyway, for those of you who don’t know (and it’s OK if you don’t), Gamera is a Japanese giant rubber monster movie creature who rode the coattails of other stars like Godzilla. Gamera is a giant turtle who can breathe fire and has a super tough shell. Gamera’s other notable trait is that he can retract his legs into his shell and shoot jet fires from the four holes and spin around and fly. Or sometimes he just pulls in his back legs and flies.
Gamera starred in quite a few movies, and when MST3K was on the air, they showed a few of the films to make fun of. Mystery Science Theater 3000, or MST3K for short, was a cable TV show that aired on Comedy Central and later the Sci-Fi Channel. They showed old, really bad movies and a guy and two robot puppets sat on the bottom of the screen in silhouetted theater seats and cracked jokes about the movie. It’s my most favorite TV show of all time, and if you would like to learn more, well, you’re already on the Internet, might as well do a search on it. You’ll be glad you did.
One other thing I’ll note is that I have three pet turtles, and I named them Raphael, after the Renaissance artist (or the TMNT character), Tuck (after the Wonder Pets turtle), and since the third turtle is darker and uglier, I decided to name it Gamera. I made sure my turtles were present when watching the Gamera movies, in hopes the films would inspire my turtles to greatness. Not sure if it paid off or not, though. At least not yet. Ha ha!
The reason why the Gamera movies are so coveted by MST3K fans is that for a while, they couldn’t show them on TV or release them on DVD. The guy who brought and dubbed the Gamera movies to the US is named Sandy Frank. In fact, anime fans might remember his name because he also brought over Gatchaman, or Battle of the Planets, to the US. Anyway, when MST3K got the rights to the Gamera movies, they made fun of Sandy Frank a lot. I’m not sure if the story is totally true or not, but I heard that when Sandy Frank got word of that, he got mad and had lawyers tell the MST3K folks to stop showing his movies.
I’m not sure how they got the rights to show the Gamera movies again. Did Sandy Frank have a change of heart? Did Shout Factory (the DVD folks), pay him off? Or did Sandy Frank pass away? We won’t know because I’m too lazy to do research. But in the special features of the Gamera vs. MST3K DVDs, they were rather apologetic about making fun of Sandy Frank. But I don’t think they needed to be. Sometimes people just need to learn to take a joke, I think. I don’t mind if people make fun of me, as long as the jokes are funny and not mean spirited. And I don’t think MST3K meant any harm by any of it. At least that’s what I think, anyway.
Friend to Children
The other notable thing about Gamera movies is that, especially in the later movies, they geared them toward younger audiences. Gamera usually has to save a couple of kids in the movies, and he is “friend to all children.” Because of this, the later Gamera movies have simpler plots and goofier monster fights. Some fans pan Gamera because of that, but I think it’s great. Kids need good monster movies, too, and Gamera just found his niche and become more successful. Kind of like how I found my niche when I started writing for GamerDad and GamingWithChildren.
Speaking of children, I’m sure you parents out there have a list of things you want to do with your kids before they grow up. I think that putting “Watching a giant rubber monster movie with your kids” should be on that list. Most of those movies are more hokey than scary, and I bet your kids will love them. The Gamera vs. MST3K DVD set is a good place to start, so here are the movies on the DVD:
The very first movie was in black and white, and showed Gamera’s origin story. When atom bombs blew up in the frozen north, Gamera awakened from his thousand year slumber encased in ice. Since he was attracted to heat and fire, Gamera flew to Tokyo and went on a rampage, just like Godzilla. Even in the first movie, Gamera saved a child from a crumbling lighthouse, which convinced everyone in the movie that he had a good heart and loved children, even though he was killing thousands by destroying Tokyo. The child that Gamera saved convinced the army to not kill Gamera, but instead they lured him to a rocket and sent him to outer space. The end. Or is it?
My favorite part of the first Gamera movie they showed on MST3K was one of the skits they showed in between. Tom Servo, one of the robots, sang a song about the kid’s pet turtle. It would’ve been a touching song until you realized that it was basically a robot puppet singing a love song to a turtle. But it’s one of the funnier MST3K skits out there. My other favorite part was in the actual movie. One of the scientists who looked like a Japanese Col. Sanders had a young female assistant who looked like she was constantly about to fall asleep in the movie. Joel and the ‘Bots made fun of that a lot, and it cracked me up.
Gamera vs. Barugon
The next two movies are the weakest in the set, with this one being my least favorite. You can tell Gamera hadn’t found his niche yet. Anyway, in this one, some Japanese gangsters go to an island to find a giant opal. When they do, one of the men is consumed by greed and kills the others. He brings the giant opal back to Japan, only to find out it was a reptile egg exposed to UV rays so when it hatched, the reptile became giant and fearsome.
Barugon the reptile, as called by the islanders, went on a rampage in Tokyo and only Gamera could stop him. Oh yeah, Gamera returned to Earth after his rocket was hit by an asteroid. But Barugon put up a pretty good fight with his special skills. He had a tongue that could shoot out freezing gas, covering everything, including Gamera, in ice. Barugon could also shoot out a rainbow from his back, which could make things explode on the other end of it. I’m not making this up, folks. Anyway, after Gamera defeated it, the greedy gangster repented and Gamera didn’t even save a kid. Guess he hadn’t found his niche yet.
Gamera vs. Gaos
There’s a subplot in this one about road workers building a new road, and farmers trying to get the road workers to pay them more for use of their land. But when they all discover a cave in the mountains that started glowing, a monster named Gaos emerged and started destroying Tokyo again. Insurance in Tokyo must be very expensive. Gaos looked like a pterodactyl with a flat head, and he could shoot lasers that could cut even Gamera’s skin. And he could emit green smoke from his armpits that could stop Gamera’s fire breath.
You could tell that the makers started to realize that they had a market by catering to kids. There was a boy in this one that Gamera had to save and give a ride home. The MST3K crew called him “Itchy.” And some of the plot points were rather silly. Like at one point, the humans decided to distract Gaos by making a giant fountain of blood to attract him, and then they put the fountain atop a revolving restaurant, so when Gaos stood on it, he’d get dizzy. Needless to say, their plan failed. I think Gamera finally defeated Gaos by making him stay in the sunlight too long.
Gamera vs. Guiron
The last two movies are the best, and you can really tell they were aimed at kids by this point. In this movie, two boys and a girl find a UFO. The boys go inside it, and the UFO takes off to a faraway planet. The boys discover the planet has an advanced civilization, but no one lives there anymore except for two space women. The two space women seem nice enough at first, but they plan on eating the kids’ brains and hijacking their UFO back to Earth. One funny thing about the space women is their dubbed voices sound like they’re from South Carolina, so the two women have a slight southern twang to their voices, which Joel and the gang made fun of extensively.
Anyway, the space women also have control of a giant monster on their planet, which they use to fend off other giant monsters. Their monster is named Guiron, and he has a giant knife for a head and can shoot out ninja throwing stars from his…nostrils I think. Guiron first fights a space version of Gaos from the last movie and makes short work of him. Gaos’ lasers just bounce off of his knife-head, and zaps off one of Gaos’ feet. Then Guiron cuts up Gaos like he was a steak.
The kids shout out to Gamera for help, who can somehow hear them and rushes to outer space to aid them. Guiron is a tough opponent at first, but Gamera defeats him by shoving his knife head into the ground. Then Gamera catches a missile that the boys launch from the control station, and he shoves the missile into Guiron’s nose holes where the ninja stars come from. Then he breathes fire on the missile and Guiron explodes. Gamera then welds the crashed UFO shut with his fire breath, the kids get inside, and Gamera carries the UFO in his mouth all the way home. Even Joel noted this movie was getting a little goofy, which is an understatement.
The other notable thing about this movie was one of the human characters. There was a policeman wearing glasses who was friends with the kids, and one of them called him by a nickname. But the dubbed voices were so unclear that it sounded like they called him Corn Job, so that’s what Joel and the ‘Bots referred to him as through the rest of the film. I think that, and one of the MST3K stars also mentioned it in the special features, that Corn Job must’ve been a famous Japanese comedian back then due to his mannerisms in the movie. He provided a bit of comic relief, too. And his name was Corn Job.
Gamera vs. Zigra
The final movie on this set is also nice and goofy. A UFO that looks like a glowing bowl of Trix cereal lands in the ocean near a Sea World in Japan, so two scientists go out on a boat to investigate. Their two kids, a boy and a girl, sneak along on the boat and they all get hijacked on the UFO. Inside the UFO is an attractive space woman (wearing the same outfit sans the helmet from the last movie), and she hypnotizes the men and tries to kill the children after revealing her plan to take over the world. The children manage to escape with their unconscious fathers, but the space woman chases after them in disguise.
Back on land, scientists learn how to revive the unconscious men through sound waves. It also stops the space woman, who we learn was actually an astronaut who was hypnotized by the UFO. So the cute space woman is a good lady now. Anyway, some stuff happens, and the UFO turns into a giant fish monster that Gamera has to defeat. Zigra is the monster’s name, and while he puts up a good fight in the water, once Gamera gets him on land it’s all over. Zigra flops around while Gamera picks up a rock and plays xylophone on him (really). But then Gamera realizes he can breathe fire so he roasts Zigra to a crisp. Then Gamera saves the kids and everyone is happy. The end.
And that’s all the movies. It’s the best MST3K DVD collection yet, and I highly recommend it if you are a fan of MST3K and/or giant rubber monster movies from Japan.
Rifftrax: Jack the Giant Killer
Even though MST3K is gone, the spirit lives on through Rifftrax. It’s just some of the makers of MST3K doing the same thing, but without the robot puppets. I like MST3K better because of the robot puppets, but Rifftrax is still pretty funny. Every so often, they’ll do a one night showing of a movie in theaters through Fathom Events, so on August 17 I caught Rifftrax latest. So while I was talking about MST3K, I thought I’d talk about this, too.
Anyway, they first had an old short that had two kids talking about the definition of nothing. It was really weird and trippy. Then they showed a couple of internet videos whose only redeeming features were they were very short. Then they showed the main film: Jack the Giant Killer. I hear they wanted to spoof that movie even in the MST3K days. It’s a fairy tale movie with crappy stop motion clay animation. My favorite quotes from the movie were “Be right there…” and “Seize the bone.” But I guess you’d have to see it to understand. But it was still funny and an enjoyable evening out. And they made lots of video game jokes and references, too.
And that’s all I feel like talking about MST3K right now. Do you like MST3K? What are your favorite MST3K movies and characters? Let me know in the comments section.
My favorite MST3K movie is The Painted Hills. It’s a Western starring one of the Lassie dogs. I wish they’d put it on DVD. My favorite robot is Tom Servo, but there is another character I like even more. Every character in MST3K has been replaced by someone else at one point, whether it’s just a voice of a puppet or a complete cast change. I never really got upset at most of the changes. Even when Mike replaced Joel, I didn’t get too upset because Mike did such a good job as the host (though I do like Joel better). Except when one character left, things weren’t the same anymore. And that character was TV’s Frank. So he’s my favorite MST3K character and if I was ever a bad guy villain, I would want TV’s Frank as my sidekick. Well, either him or Juni & Juli. –Cary