DVD Review: Gamera vs. Everybody
By the conclusion of 1966’s Gamera vs. Barugon, the giant flying turtle was firmly established as the protector of humanity and he managed to churn out an annual film for the next five years until Daiei Studios went bankrupt for non-Gamera related issues. Shout Factory has collected Gamera’s next four films, which represent the best years of his original run, on two DVDs. The quality of the transfers continues to be as impressive as their first two DVDs but now the English language dubs are included as well. Not only do we get the original dialogue tracks from the 1960’s US releases from AIP-TV but we also get the lackluster re-dubs done by Japanese import Czar Sandy Frank in the 1980’s. Most fans probably won’t want to listen to these latter tracks as anything more than brief curiosities but it’s a lot of fun to hear the original goofy voices we all remember from Saturday afternoon viewings on programs like Creature Feature. Only the first film, Gammera: The Invincible (yes, that’s two m’s), was released theatrically in the United States so the extras are limited to foreign promotional materials. The following is a break down of the four films available on these two DVDs.
Gamera vs. Gyaos (1967) – Released to television in the US as Return of the Giant Monsters. Gamera’s third outing introduced his most popular and so far only returning foe, Gyaos. Resembling a cross between a fox and a bat, Gyaos can fly, spread noxious gas from his wings and emit a laser beam from his mouth that could cut through almost anything. After several battles and a serious trouncing for the Japanese military, Gamera discovers that the creature, which has so far only appeared at night, can be killed by sunlight. The military fails again with a plan to trap Gyaos but Gamera saves the day. This was the first film in the series to prominently feature a child as humanity’s connection to Gamera.
Gamera vs. Viras (1968) – Released to television in the US as Destroy All Planets in a weak attempt to cash in on the Godzilla monster rally Destroy All Monster. After Gamera destroys one of their scout ships in space, a race of squid-like aliens send another to Earth. They uncover Gamera’s weakness for children, thanks to the series first extensive use of stock footage in a lengthy flashback to scenes from the first three films. The aliens use this knowledge by capturing two young boys and trying to force the giant turtle to do their bidding. The boys escape and free Gamera but the aliens combine into the giant squid monster Viras, one of the lamest enemies in the whole series! Realizing that the US was one of their major export markets, Daiei made one of the boys American and started a trend that would last through the next two films.
Gamera vs. Guiron (1969) – Released to television in the US as Attack of the Monsters. In a reversal of the previous film’s set up, a Japanese and an American boy are trapped aboard a spaceship and transported to a hostile planet intent on invading Earth. The two antenna sporting space babes left alive on the planet plan to eat what little brains the boys have after they use them to exploit Gamera’s inexplicable fondness for children. Guarding the planet is the knife-headed beast Guiron, who gives Viras a solid run for his money in the goofy costume department. After turning attacking “Space Gyaos” (the same suite from two year’s earlier spray painted silver) into cold cuts, Guiron spars a few rounds with Gamera and initially wins by a knock-out. Before he can finish the job though, the boys get loose on the spaceship and disrupt the alien’s technology. The outrageous finale of this one has to be seen to be believed. This was one of the few Gamera films that suffered some editing for television to eliminate some of the violent content.
Gamera vs. Jiger (1970) – Released to television in the US as Gamera vs. Monster X. Having subjected fans to two less than serious Gamera films, Daiei gave the first film of the new decade a much darker tone. When an ancient idol is removed from a remote island for inclusion in the World’s Fair, a dinosaur-like creature emerges from the hole and wreaks havoc trying to recover it. Jiger is a fully loaded monster with spears that fire from its face, a spiked tail, and a heat beam that can fry anything in its path. Gamera initially tries to disrupt the statues removal and prevent Jiger’s release but is run off by the clueless humans. After the creature attacks, Gamera attempts to fight it but is almost killed in the process. Retreating to the ocean, the giant turtle falls into a coma and scientist discover that Jiger has injected an egg into his body with its tail! At this point, this film’s bi-continental youth duo hijacks a mini-sub and sets course for Gamera’s insides. There they find and destroy a baby Jiger and revive the titanic turtle with a massive dose of defibrillation. Feeling thoroughly violated by Jiger, Gamera shows no mercy on the insidious inseminator and finishes him off by burying the idol in his skull! Most fans consider this film, released in some countries as Monsters Invade Expo ’70, as the high point of the original Gamera film series.
After playing in television syndication for many years, most of the Gamera films lapsed into obscurity after the fall of their distributor, American International. Sandy Frank purchased most of the titles in the late 80’s and released them on home video with unenthusiastic new English dubs, but at least he restored the original titles. Viras and Jiger were among the films he did not reissue so they have been the most difficult to find in any form until now. Shout Factory has created the ultimate home video collection of the original Gamera films and the final two entries, Gamera vs. Zigra and the posthumous stock footage festival, Gamera: Super Monster, are slated to follow shortly.