Appellate Judge James A. Stewart has been studying world cinema classics again.
Our review of Gamera: Ultimate Collection, Volume 1 (Blu-ray), published June 4th, 2014, is also available.
"We have discovered a terrible creature protecting the Earth."
Gamera may be a terrible creature, but he's a nice terrible creature. He lets kids ride on his back, and usually only breathes fire at monsters and alien baddies. The giant flying turtle with the firestorm breath made his movie debut in 1965. In that one, he was "awakened from his arctic tomb by an atomic bomb," according to the DVD case, and was no doubt very cranky. A quick look at IMDb shows that he didn't make as many movies as the hard-working Gojira, but there have been a few sequels, even into the new millennium.
Gamera vs. Gyaos/Gamera vs. Viras presents two of the sequels, letting viewers choose between the original Japanese movies and the dubbed versions.
Facts of the Case
The two movies share one disc:
Gamera vs. Gyaos
Gamera vs. Viras
Both films rely on a kid to spot the weaknesses that destroy the monsters or aliens and save the day, but there are differences.
With Gamera vs. Gyaos, the people at the Daiei studio were still trying hard. There are lots of clashes between the two monsters, and the subplot about the expressway attempts to be dramatic. The fight scenes get to be repetitive, but the cinematography won an award at an Asia-Pacific Film Festival for Akira Uehara.
Gamera vs. Viras, on the other hand, is just plain silly, with most of the screen time taken up by the two Boy Scouts, Masao and Jim, clowning around. There's a long sequence in which the boys play a prank by rewiring a mini-sub and another long sequence in which they order lunch from the alien ship's computer. The sight of Gamera cracking open an alien craft and breathing in fire to fry its inhabitants is more amusing than scary, at least for earthlings. If you doubt the low expectations, note the 15-minute flashback sequence of past fights and keep in mind that the actual Gamera rampage scenes are in black-and-white, possibly flashbacks to the original. Given that these movies are pretty much MST3K fodder today, the goofiness of Viras actually works well. If you're really into monster battles, though, it will be disappointment.
Gyaos has two English dubs (the second one is actually English, I think, although only a few of the accents sound British), while Viras only has one. They're all pretty much the same, although the British-sounding one on Gyaos occasionally throws in a line that sounds apologetic for a plot hole.
Picture quality isn't bad for a '60s monster flick. The candy colored brightness of Viras comes across really well in this transfer, and I didn't have any complaints about the nighttime scenes in Gyaos.
Each movie has a nifty bonus gallery, with posters, publicity stills, and schematic drawings of the monsters. You probably won't learn a lot, but it's fun to look at. There's no commentary, but would you try it after MST3K discovered Gamera? You'll find a Gamera drawing with his backstory inside the DVD case.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Each of these movies has a scene or two that, while hardly graphic, would likely scare an actual little kid. That cave in Gyaos and the monster's first appearance are a little spooky, and there's a weird mass beheading scene in Viras involving lots of alien tentacles. Beyond that, you don't want your kids doing any fighting or rewiring around the house. If you're getting this for your little ones, watch with them.
I haven't seen the original Gamera, but I have the feeling that it was probably a much better movie than either of these sequels.
Even with an icky (but bloodless) beheading-and-tentacles scene in Gamera vs. Viras, I'd say this double feature is a family friendly introduction to Japanese monster movies. Who knows? Maybe your kid will become a scientist, inspired by the boys solving monster riddles in the Gamera movies. Stranger things have happened.
Not guilty, but then I don't want Gamera breathing fire at me.
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Scales of Justice, Gamera Vs. Gyaos
Perp Profile, Gamera Vs. Gyaos
Studio: Shout! Factory
Distinguishing Marks, Gamera Vs. Gyaos
• Photo Gallery
Scales of Justice, Gamera Vs. Viras
Perp Profile, Gamera Vs. Viras
Studio: Shout! Factory
Distinguishing Marks, Gamera Vs. Viras
• Photo Gallery
Review content copyright © 2010 James A. Stewart; Site design and review layout copyright © 2015 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.