MST3K Vs. Gamera: Mystery Science Theater 3000, Vol. XXI [Deluxe Edition]

Actors: Joel Hodgson
Directors: Kevin Murphy
Format: Box set, Color, DVD, Full Screen, NTSC
Language: English
Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
Number of discs: 5
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Shout! Factory
DVD Release Date: August 2, 2011
Run Time: 540 minutes

Special Features

  • So Happy Together: a look back at MST3K & Gamera
  • Gamera Obscura: a history by August Ragone
  • Gamera Vs. The Chiodo Brothers
  • The MST hour wraps
  • Original Japanese trailers
  • 5 exclusive mini-posters by Artist Steve Vance





Gamera is really neat! He is full of turtle meat! And damn if he wasn’t made for Mystery Science Theater!

The giant fire-breathing turtle who is friend to all children started out as a bad knock-off of Godzilla, then eventually developed a cult following all his own. The merry pranksters at MST saw potential in him immediately, and used five of his movies as fodder during their inaugural season on KTMA in Minneapolis.

When Comedy Central picked them up, they returned to those same five movies in new episodes that aired during the show’s third season. Shout Factory has used them as the basis for their new boxed set; it proves an extremely apt choice, though you need to be ready for a whole lot of turtle.

The five films in the set – Gamera, Gamera vs. Barugon, Gamera vs. Gyaos, Gamera vs. Guiron and Gamera vs. Zigra – all follow a similar pattern of guys in rubber monster suits bashing the crap out of each other while horrified human extras look on. Like the Godzilla franchise, the films became more family friendly as time went on; Gamera begins as this overwhelming threat to civilization, then gradually morphs into a kid-friendly hero, saving all manner of tubby Japanese boys from the clutches of carnivorous aliens and other sinister grown-ups.

It’s all colossally goofy in ways that only a Japanese monster movie can be . . . which explains the deep affection the MST gang has for the films. The models are shoddy, the costumes outlandishly fake and the Japanese-to-English translation results in some of the strangest dialogue you’ll ever hear. It’s an entirely off-kilter experience, but as actor Trace Beaulieu notes in one of the extras, these are essentially family films, and thus offer nothing patently offensive. The riffing responds to that status: taking place during the kinder, gentler Joel Hodgson era, and while their never-ending riffs are hysterically funny, they stem from a place of love.

The only downside to the package is the comparative lack of variety in the films. Shout Factory’s previous MST collections have covered as many bases as they could: with a healthy mix of Mike Nelson episodes interspersed with the Joel Hodgson ones, and hard-to-find first-season stuff (which frankly isn’t very good) added into later episodes when the crew really had their mojo going. All of these come from the same season, and since the movies themselves are so similar, they may become a little repetitive for people who don’t dig the whole “curb stomping Tokyo” thing.

On the other hand, the set’s definite theme lends it a great deal more distinctiveness than other MST collections, and fans of the Gamera films won’t need to hunt throughout multiple sets to get the complete collection. There’s even a specialized opening to the menu on each DVD, with Gamera charging forward through the tunnel to the Satellite of Love’s theater. The set’s identity helps it stand out from the remainder without skimping on the dependable nature of MST3K’s DVD releases. The 21st set proves to be yet another winner . . . gift wrapped with a giant fire-breathing bow.

THE DISC: The five-disc set (one more than most MST3K collections) comes in a handsome-looking tin with Gamera on the front, and contains a set of mini-posters from artist Steve Vance, as is typical for the Shout Factory releases. Extra features include a retrospective on the relationship between MST3K and the Gamera films, a documentary charting the history of Gamera (featuring film expert August Ragone), and “Gamera vs. the Chido Brothers,” which covers the history of Japanese monster movies in general. MST “hour wraps” featuring Mike Nelson’s perennially confused host and the original Japanese trailers complete the set.

WORTH IT? The set is slightly more expensive than other MST collections, but the extra movie justifies the additional cost.

RECOMMENDATION: A terrific set from Shout Factory; just be prepared for a whole lot of giant turtle and not much else.

- Rob Vaux



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