Television & Early Physical Media
In the late ‘80s we began getting physical media releases of the Gamera films after two decades of being shown on television time and time again by AI-TV and on shows like Elvira's Movie Macabre. The first physical releases of these films were in response to a new dub from Sandy Frank Enterprises. A company called King Features Entertainment released VHS’s of Gammera The Invincible (titled as Gamera), Gamera vs. Gyaos (titled as Gamera vs. Gaos), Gamera vs. Guiron, and Gamera vs. Zigra. Image Entertainment, three years later released Gammera: The Invincible (titled as Gamera), Gamera vs. Gyaos (titled as Gamera vs. Gaos), Gamera vs. Guiron, and Gamera vs. Zigra on laserdisc.
Image Entertainment Gamera vs. Gaos & Gamera vs. Zigra laserdisc cover © KADOKAWA
During and after, Gamera went back to television and gained cult status when all the Sandy Frank titles aired on the hit show, Mystery Science Theater 3000. Until 1997, Gamera stayed on television as more of a comedy than a serious tokusatsu film franchise. In 1997, A.D. Vision released Gamera: Guardian of the Universe in the United States to select theaters and on VHS with a new dub made by A.D. Vision. Before the turn of the millennium, Gamera had one last push from Synapse Films who in 1999, released the original Gamera: The Giant Monster and Gamera vs. Gurion (titled as Gamera vs. Guillon) on VHS with English subtitles and subsequently, Gamera: The Giant Monster received a laserdisc release. Other titles such as: Gamera vs. Gurion (presumably under the title Gamera vs. Guillon), Gamera vs. Gyaos, Gamera vs. Barugon, and Gamera vs. Zigra were slated to come out on laserdisc but were cancelled for unknown reasons.
Public Domain Chaos
In the early 2000s, DVDs started to take the market by storm, so anything and everything was being released. Unfortunately, the original distributors of the Gamera films (AI-TV), just like CinamaShares with Godzilla vs. Megalon, forgot to put the copyright notices at the end of these films, which then presumably fell into public domain. These titles included Gammera: The Invincible, War of the Monsters, Return of the Giant Monsters, Attack of the Monsters, and Destroy All Planets. While further research thanks to James Flower (which can be found in the Arrow Video set's booklet) has confirmed that these did in fact not fall into public domain (except maybe Gammera: The Invincible). However, due to a lack of action by the owners of Gamera and AIP, these releases have been the easiest way to watch these films in dirty, damaged, and faded color prints. The films could often be found in public domain box sets from companies such as Mill Creek (who will be brought up again later). Hopefully, the research done by James Flower will help put these releases out of circulation.
The Rise of DVD
While the Shōwa Gamera films were being released in public domain box sets, the Heisei trilogy of films started its wide US release with DVDs by A.D. Vision in 2003. These releases were the top notch releases of their time. However, A.D. Vision wasn't finished just yet. In 2004, ADV re-released their Heisei Gamera films with a new special feature for Gamera 2: Attack of Legion (that being the full Lake Texarkana dub). Two years later in 2006, Gamera: The Brave had a very limited theatrical release in the United States. Shortly after, Media Blasters acquired the rights, and in 2007 released Gamera: The Brave on DVD. In 2006/07, Shout Factory acquired the rights to the Shōwa Gamera films and released Elvira's Movie Macabre: Gamera, Super Monster/They Came from Beyond Space in 2007. In 2010, Shout Factory started releasing the original Japanese versions of the Shōwa Gamera films. This lasted until 2011 with their last release of Gamera vs. Zigra and Gamera: The Super Monster. This was the first release that the majority of these films had since 1987, so this was a big thing for Gamera. Shout Factory also acquired the rights to release the Mystery Science Theater 3000 library, so before their license ended, they put out a standard and deluxe edition of Gamera vs. MST3K.
Shout! Factory Gamera vs. Zigra/Gamera: Super Monster DVD cover © KADOKAWA
Downfall of DVD & Rise of Blu-ray
During this time, Mill Creek acquired the rights to the Heisei trilogy after A.D. Vision went bankrupt and closed their doors in 2009. In 2010, Mill Creek released Gamera: Guardian of the Universe and Gamera: Attack of Legion on Blu-ray. In late 2011, Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris was released in both a single disc and a Heisei Blu-ray box set. Unfortunately, Mill Creek's Gamera 3 release had an issue with the subtitles so in early 2012, Mill Creek reissued the Blu-ray with fixed subtitles. Another release that came out in 2013 was Gamera: The Brave from Media Blasters on Blu-ray. Unfortunately, this was a very limited release and now is very costly to purchase. After the success of the Heisei trilogy on Blu-ray, Mill Creek picked up the rights to all the Shōwa films and in 2014, released all of them on two Blu-ray volumes and the Gamera Legacy Collection, which included eleven of the twelve films on four DVDs. The reason why it didn't include all twelve was because at that time, Media Blasters still held the rights to Gamera: The Brave.
In 2019, on one Home Cinema Choice forum, somebody that worked with Arrow revealed that they were actively working on a new complete box set. In a recent interview with Matt Frank and James Flower of Arrow Video, they revealed that they acquired the rights in 2018 and planned a release for 2019, but due to many setbacks it was pushed to summer of 2020 and because of COVID-19, they pushed it further to late summer 2020. This gave Arrow enough time to pick-up as many special features as they could and publish what is one of the most extensive physical releases a kaiju/tokusatsu franchise has received. Unfortunately, the set only had 8,000 copies made, and within the week of it's release, it was completely sold out stateside and had low quantities left in the UK. Thankfully, this means Gamera is still alive and well and isn't going anywhere any time soon.
Arrow Video cover art by Matt Frank © KADOKAWA
While the future of both physical media and a new Gamera film are in question, we have had confirmation from James Flower that a "basic" release of the Gamera films is coming within the next six to twelve months and will be the same discs from the recently released Gamera: The Complete Collection. This is all the info we have currently.
A special thanks to August Ragone, James Flower, Ed Godziszewski, Steve Ryfle, and everyone that has worked with Gamera over the years.
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This article was written By Elijah Thomas and published on 2020-08-29 16:17:05
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