Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 13, 2020)
In 1965, Gamera the Giant Monster became a hit in Japan, one that spawned six more movies through 1971. In 1980, the franchise attempted a comeback via Gamera: Super Monster.
The evil alien Zanon heads to Earth with the desire to enslave humans. When the superheroic group the Spacewomen can’t stop Zanon, they turn to another combatant.
Enter Gamera the giant turtle! Foes from Gamera’s past return to fight him, as the massive reptile attempts to halt Zanon and save the planet.
An eighth Gamera movie intended to come out in 1972, but the Daiei studio ran into massive financial issues, so the franchise went on hold until 1980. Under new management, fans eventually got Super Monster.
That didn’t mean those Gamera lovers got a truly new product, though, as Super Monster offered a bargain basement affair. It relied heavily on clips shot for earlier movies to flesh out its barebones narrative.
Apparently this didn’t sit well with fans. Super Monster bombed and sent Gamera back into hibernation until a reboot took place in 1995.
But that’s the subject of a separate review. Now we’ll deal with the atrocity called Super Monster.
Because I didn’t enjoy Giant Monster, I didn’t plan to dig into the rest of the Gamera catalog. However, the bonus features for Giant Monster offered some slivers of Super Monster, and it looked so bat guano crazy that I felt compelled to give it a look.
Alas, Super Monster never becomes the surreal camp masterpiece I hoped to find. Instead, it just offers an incoherent mess.
Face it: the “story” exists just as a vague excuse to package clips from old movies in which Gamera fights other creatures. The narrative kinda sorta pretends to offer something more than that, but absolutely none of it goes anywhere.
Zanon comes to Earth to dominate but then sends female representative Giruge (Keiko Kudo) to assimilate/supervise because… I don’t know. She wanders around and seems like a vague threat to the Spacewomen but she serves no real purpose I can discern.
As for that superhero trio, they also seem impotent. Of course, some of that stems from design, as they can’t offer a counterbalance to Zanon or we wouldn’t need Gamera.
Nonetheless, it never seems clear what powers the ladies possess and why the movie needs them. They remain spectators who feel like they’re involved but they’re just expository window-dressing.
And then there’s Keiichi (Koichi Maeda), a Gamera-loving youngster who helps bring the creature out of hiding… I guess. Like the others, his purpose remains uncertain, other than to give kids in the audience a conduit, I suppose.
But who needs him? He brings nothing to the story and seems like a dolt since he eagerly goes off with strange adults he doesn’t know. This kid’s a milk carton waiting to happen.
At the start, Zanon tells humans to surrender or be destroyed, but then the violence ensues right away. We get no sign of a span in which earthlings get a chance to obey, as the mayhem occurs without haste.
Again: wha? And why does Zanon need these old monsters to do their bidding? They came to Earth with this bitchin’ space cruiser but they can’t fight their own battles?
Plot holes and idiocy seem legion. The Spacewomen worry that humans will detect them, but then they ride a van that’s transformed into a big orange blob in the middle of a city.
Cheapness and derivative material abound in Super Monster. Many effects look like they were shot on video, and some were!
The opening space voyage of Zanon simply films concept art, and the ship itself brings a hilariously obvious repurposing of an Imperial Destroyer from Star Wars - one introduced with music that evokes 2001: A Space Odyssey!
If Space Monster managed some excitement, I might forgive the absence of any real story or character arcs or competent effects or filmmaking. Alas, the battle scenes make no more sense than anything else.
These feel like what they are: reused footage from old movies. They don’t blend with the new material in a coherent manner and fail to pack any kind of punch, as they pop up out of nowhere and lack impact.
I can’t really fault the filmmakers for the disaster that is Space Monster, as their hands seem to have been tied. Nonetheless, a terrible movie is a terrible movie, no matter what excuses we make for it – and this is a really terrible movie.
Footnote: when Zanon arrives on Earth, they declare that “resistance is futile”, and they want to assimilate humans for their cause. Is it possible that the Borg from Star Trek actually ripped off Super Monster?