To begin with, it would take very little effort to best Gamera vs. Guiron, and certainly, Gamera vs. Jiger goes at least that far. No farther: it does not bring us back to the halcyon days of "so bad it's good" Gamera films. It's just so bad. But not bad in such a claustrophobically pointless way as its immediate predecessor among the six films made in the franchise as of 1970, where we now find ourselves.

The arrival of Gamera's second decade! And like all auspicious dates, it came with a celebration alongside of it: Expo '70 in Osaka, the first World's Fair held in Japan. This was a real-life spectacle that Daiei Film cannily piggybacked on; for what kind of producer of junky genre films could possibly pass up the chance to exploit real-world interest in a major event that everyone in the target audience would already be talking about? And so, when the time comes for it, of course the big battle between the headlining monsters takes place on a mockup of what looks enough like the Expo grounds that I don't suppose anybody would feel compelled to complain. And of course - also unsurprisingly - the film opens with what amounts to a commercial for the Expo, with some flimsy narrative pretext serving to introduce us to such wonders as the Swiss Pavilion, looking like an enormous prison made of glass cubes, or the Gas Pavilion, which resembles an enormous, smiling onion.

Actually, I have gotten out ahead of things: in fact, Gamera vs. Jiger opens with stock footage of the action sequences from the previous five movies, the earliest that the stock footage has reared its head in any of these films yet. And to accompany this unapologetic adventure in recycling, we have a new iteration of the themesong: instead of a boys chorus happily singing "Tsuyoi-zo Gamera" (you're strong, Gamera!) we now get two verses in which a different, rather fluffier boys chorus first proclaims "Ikasuzo Gamera" (which I gather to be idiomatically somewhat close to "You're awesome, Gamera!"), and then "Ganbare Gamera" (don't give up, Gamera!). If I linger on the song, it's for the unanswerable reason that we're now on our third consecutive film in which it is the best thing that happens across the entire feature. Because damn me, but it's a catchy, freakishly bouncy little march that Hirose Kenjiro left behind him before he was replaced as composer by Kikuchi Shunsuke and his far more enervating "kiddie" motifs.

The human element is less developed here than in any Gamera picture to precede it, but basically we have two tween boys one Japanese and one American, yet afuckinggain. There's Hiroshi (Takakuwa Tsutomu), wearing the traditional "boy in a daikaiju eiga" outfit of baseball cap and jacket, and Tommy (Kelly Varis), wearing the traditional... navy blazer and crisp slacks. What an odd notion of American children the good folks at Daiei film had. Oh well, it's not like we don't still harbor some terrible notions about the Japanese and the batshit crazy nonsense we accuse them of stuffing into their movies.

So anyway, back to the movie about a pair of tween boys piloting a submarine into a giant turtle's lung to kill the monster larva living there. We shift from Hiroshi and Tommy receiving a tour of the Expo '70 site to the South Pacific, where a team is busily extracting ancient statues from Wester Island to display the priceless, irreplaceable artifacts at the Expo alongside the building that looks like the giant smiling onion. One statue in particular, named the "Devil's Whistle" for the high-pitched squealing noise it makes thanks to a hole carved into it, is attracting most of the attention of the workers, and also a member of the African delegation to Expo '70, who has an enormous, crazy voodoo booga-booga reaction to seeing it, screaming "Jiger!" over and over again in a way that suggests that the Japanese had not, by 1970, seen any reason that wildly overt racism was a thing to be avoided. But even the voodoo African guy isn't the most pissed off at the excavation of the Devil's Whistle; from out of the ocean comes Gamera, hauling ass like a turtle out of hell, trying his best to disrupt the dig. For the first time in the franchise, though, human guns are sufficient to chase off a daikaiju, and the statue is pulled out entirely, triggering a volcanic eruption, and this in turn leads to the emergence of a giant quadrupedal lizard-like beast with all sorts of plates and crags and horns on its face - her face, since Jiger (and this is, of course, Jiger) is the first female daikaiju in Gamera's rogues gallery. The initial battle is decisively tilted in her favor; she knocks Gamera flat with some projectile quills. She then heads to Japan after the Devil's Whistle, Gamera follows, and their second fight is even more lopsided, as she uses a stinger to pierce his chest, afterwards throwing the statue into the sea.

Gamera starts to turn white from the head down, and Hiroshi and Tommy - you remember them, right? The protagonists? - quickly intuit that he's been poisoned somehow. In fact, as the scientists who take enormous X-rays of Gamera note ("he resembles a turtle" concludes one of them with and admirable refusal to take even the most obvious shit for granted), Jiger implanted an egg into Gamera, and it's growing. Before anyone knows that they're gone the boys hop into a sub, zip straight into Gamera's body, and fight a little version of Jiger inside the enormous turtle's respiratory system. Sheer accident clues them into the monster's weakness: loud sounds drive it made and eventually kill it. Reporting back to the human authorities while Gamera recovers from his infection, the boys end up revealing Jiger's secret weakness to high pitched noises, noises like the one coming out of the Devil's Whistle. Like all other human plots to save the day in these movies, all that this knowledge does, really, is to pad out the plot until the budget kicks in and Gamera comes back to save the day, which he does in this case with particularly bloody gusto.

Now, in case I somehow didn't manage to communicate this fact, Gamera vs. Jiger is a tremendously weird and frankly rather stupid motion picture, by daikaiju eiga standards or any other. Fantastic Voyage inside a Japanese giant monster? It has the merit of being unexpected, I suppose, though it's hard to find any other merit besides that. It's desperately cheap: not quite as desperate, nor as cheap, as Gamera vs. Guiron. Or perhaps its merely that director Yuasa Noriaki and his crew were doing a better job of hiding the limitations of their budget. Certainly Gamera vs. Jiger lets up on the process shots, and that alone is enough to make it look better. Only slightly better! There are still eye-popping shortcuts, including the use of totally unconvincing reversed footage to carry off the effects during the fight scenes, and once again, the editing seems fixed on separating the monsters as much as possible rather than suggesting that they're actually doing anything to each other. And even that's not the big standout bit of terrible filmmaking: that honor I reserve for the early shots, filmed with an anamorphic wide angle lens, with lots of pans thrown in to make everything look both stretched out and fish-eyed for a few seconds of some breathtakingly bad cinematography.

And even without resorting to its shortcomings as a work of cinema - and they are considerable - this is just terrible storytelling. Takahashi Nisan was on Gamera Script #6, and of course we can all understand why that would be a dismal, boring experience to arrive at, bu that doesn't excuse or really even explain the sheer dysfunction of a script that has no real plot or character beats to speak of: compared to most of these, it's a little more "about" the monster battles, but they still make up just a small portion of the whole. Basically, the framework is something like "people mill about, Gamera, people mill about, Gamera, people mill about in Gamera, Gamera, the end". The daikaiju eiga, as a form, is not invested in stories that stand up well on their own, but even by that standard, Gamera vs. Jiger feels like very little happens and what does isn't interesting. Still, it amps up the what-the-fuckery enough so that it's not quite as joyless to watch as Gamera vs. Guiron, and well, I've got nothing.