Once upon a time, like, four days ago, I brightly and innocently declared that I knew what I was getting into with Gamera: Super Monster. I was incorrect. Based on the only things I knew about it, it seemed easy enough to figure out why people hated it: the 1980 one-off resuscitation of the franchise attempted to keep the struggling Daiei Film afloat after a decade spent on the brink of receivership tried to keep costs low by culling a huge percentage of its footage (Wikipedia noncommittally describes it as "about one-third" of the 90-minute film) from the earlier Gamera films. Meanwhile, the new monster footage consists of a grand total of two minutes or less of a stiff Gamera prop whose only point of articulation is it mouth flying through space. That certainly sounds like enough to go on, but it's not really specific enough to know. I mean, they could have done just about anything with all of that recycled footage. This could have been the goddamn Alone. Life Wastes Andy Hardy of Gamera movies.

But the hell of it is, the third of the movie that was taken from other, better movies - and doesn't it already say a lot that Super Monster is bad enough to make me retroactively describe Gamera vs. Guiron and Gamera vs. Jiger as "better" - is certainly the best part of the movie, which is never more visually appealing and dramatically tight than when it lops the ends off of yellowing footage to fit it into the new movie's narrower aspect ratio, while the same exact narrative scenario plays out six times with no more variation in the screenwriting that leads to these fights than the bored narrator mentioning at one point that Gamera had to travel to "the planet where monsters are kept" in order to fight Guiron. Though I might have liked it even more if the film had just flatly declared that the rocky alien world of Gamera vs. Guiron was just some other part of Japan, and had the same reaction shots that we see elsewhere.

As for the bad part of Super Monster, it's hard to decide if I'm more aggrieved by the terrible low-impact story, or the unfailingly cheap execution of that story. Certainly, the bottomless depths of suckitude that the film will reach have been indicated before the slightest impression of the plot has been given: the cheerily dumb earworm of a march that had served as Gamera's theme song for several films running has been replaced here by something that resembles a Japanese approximation of a German oompah band, with vocals by a happy-sounding adult lady and not the sugared-up children's choir that had previously insisted with such energy that "Gamera is strong! Aliens from Venus or Mars are no match for his spinning jets!" It's the kind of heartbreak that instantly got the film on my bad side, and things only got worse as the narrator informs us of the great space battles that we'll be seeing in the form of paintings, in lieu of, y'know, space battles. These paintings serve to tell the none-too-exciting terror excited across the galaxy by the pirate space ship Zanon, which I take to be the Japanese word for "Imperial Star Destroyer", given that the Zanon is a dead ringer for that design and is even introduced in the exact same "ship moving over the camera, away from us" shot that opened Star Wars when we finally see it as a model and not just a cost-saving drawing. Everything about the opening minutes of Super Monster conspires to promise the cheapest, most unimaginative possible attempt to force Gamera back into the spotlight, and the hell of it is, the film only gets worse from here.

The audience identification figure is Keiichi (Maeda Koichi), one of many happy little boys in Japan in those days, reading his comics and punking wacky cops and daydreaming about his favorite of all hero-monsters, Gamera the turtle (it's not even slightly clear what history Gamera has in this world: the brand-new backstories for all of the other monsters would seem to indicate that it discards all of the earlier films besides the very first Gamera, but Gamera himself was still a villain at that point, which clearly isn't the case now). But the actual protagonists are a trio of aliens hiding in the form of Earth women, Kilara (Fumiaki Mach), Marsha (Kojimo Maeko), and Mitan (Komatsu Yoko), frequently engaging in a weird little background-dancer choreography when they need to adopt their true form: Earth-looking women in bright pink and white superhero capes and suits. Zanon, which is apparently sentient on top of everything, knows that these space women are the only thing that can stop it from conquering the planet, so it sends its own space woman assassin, Giruge (Kudo Keiko), to also hide herself as an Earth woman and try to kill the women by throwing giant monsters at them. But the turtle-obsessed Keiichi has apparently called up Gamera, friend to all children, or maybe Gamera just shows up, or whatever, but Giruge's increasingly frantic attempts all involve stock-footage fight scenes spooling up, with her and Keiichi and the good space women staring at it in new shots that almost manage to convince you that they might possibly belong in the same movie.

He also plays the new Gamera march, twice: once for his pet turtle, once for the space women, though at that point I think he still doesn't know that they're space women. Surprisingly, the plot kind of bleeds into itself a little.

The pervasive sense of littleness that affects every moment of the story makes it abysmally hard to watch to begin with: Zanon has no presence as a villain, so all we get is Giruge, and she spends half the movie freaking out that Zanon is going to execute her if she keeps messing up. There is never a trace of the idea that our protagonists, who aren't nearly active enough for the word "heroes", are ever in any kind of danger of being found by Giruge, let alone defeated by her in battle.

That said, I think the deathly pointlessness of the story is less galling than the terrible cost-saving filmmaking technique: when the inside of the space-women's secret hideout space inside a giant mustard-colored van is depicted as a room made of bed sheets with a fan blowing on them, any hope is dashed that the film will at any point invest in more than the absolute minimum effort necessary to put the feeble excuse for a script over. Assuming such hope remained after the whole "painted stills standing in for a first act" gesture. Anyway, it's pure, non-stop agony: crappy chroma-key effects of a sort that rival low-budget television in their sharpness and persuasive ability doing absolutely nothing to spice up the bland locations, which give the film the sickly pall of having been shot entirely in one suburb, possibly all in different rooms of a single suburban home.

To their credit, director Yuasa Noriaki and screenwriter Takahashi Nisan understood what a dismal heap of shit they had on their hand, and so ended the film with Gamera killing himself to take Zanon out once and for all, in what I can't even bring myself to call an "effects sequences", though it involves shaking the camera a lot. And so the career of the little daikaiju that couldn't finally coughed itself to death, and when a much-revamped and restructured Daiei decided to bring the unlamented beastie back to life after fifteen years, it would be in such a wildly different form as to count almost as a different franchise altogether. For which I can only give thanks: Super Monster might have represented the absolute worst possible daikaiju eiga made by an even remotely important film studio, but it also might not, and the thought of someone making another one on an even lower budget is the stuff of nightmares, pure and simple.