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"What is it, a bird or a reptile?"
"I think it's a monster."

Despite being more than a little bonkers even by kaiju standards, Gamera vs. Gyaos is a surprisingly decent third entry in the series, pitting Japanese cinema's favorite giant flying fire-inhaling turtle against a prehistoric monster bat with two throats that emit deadly ultrasonic rays, can regrow lost body parts and has a taste for human flesh (particularly reporters) who gets woken up from his long nap by the eruption of Mount Fuji. The most popular of Gamera's adversaries, Gyaos can only be destroyed by ultraviolet light, so naturally the authorities have a plan for dealing with him. It's probably the daftest single plan ever devised in any kaiju at that: they'll spray thousands of gallons of fake human blood over the area from helicopters to lure him to a revolving restaurant where they'll spin him around until he gets too dizzy to fly away when the sun rises and be destroyed by its rays... When, for some inexplicable reason, this doesn't quite work out, it's up to Gamera to save the day in the usual deathmatch.

This pretty much establishes the series as the poor man's Godzilla, and the defender of Japan Godzilla at that. Playing of the beast's popularity with children there's naturally a small kid along who knows the turtle will save the day, though they don't belabour the bond between them or `humanise' the critter: Gamera is still fundamentally an animal (well, reptile) and behaves like one, with no special feeling for people. The effects aren't as good as the Godzilla films, with the Gyaos suit and puppets much more limited in their movement and not always shot with an eye to their limitations, and there's a distinct lack of personality to either of the critters that the end title montage of far more dramatic shots from the previous film only underlines, though there's enough quality destruction to satisfy most kaiju fans. And, of course, there's comedy both intentional and unintentional along the way (the subtitling on Shout's US DVD adds another layer with translations like "Don't wuss out, man!") as well as that curiously reactionary worldview that would carry over to the modern Gamera series: here in the human conflict between the corporation building a road through a small town and the locals opposing them, it's the greedy villagers who are in the wrong in their determination to squeeze every last yen out of the poor construction conglomerate!

Gyaos would get a much better vehicle and a detailed back story in the first film of the 90's series, Gamera: Guardian of the Universe, but while this is nowhere near as smart or as well made it's still a surprising amount of fun in its original Japanese version.

There's a tendency to deride the original Gamera series as kid's films, which is rather unfair since that's exactly what most of them were intended to be once producers Daiei discovered that the giant flying turtle played better with children than with adults. Certainly Gamera Vs. Viras aka Gamera Vs. Space Monster Viras/Gamela Vs. Bailus/Destroy All Planets is an enjoyable kids movie despite its limitations that see it recycling a huge amount of footage from the first three films (even if part of it is in black and white) as aliens scan Gamera's brain waves to find his weaknesses from their bee-like spaceship. The plot isn't a million miles away from the standard Godzilla/aliens template, with invaders from the planet Viras seeking to control Gamera to conquer the Earth - and they would have got away with it too if it weren't for those pesky kids. In this case rather than an allegedly cute infant we get a couple of likeable Boy Scouts, one Japanese (Toru Takatsuka) and one American (Carl Craig, presumably to help with foreign sales). Despite being potentially irritating pranksters they've both got enough personality and genuine screen chemistry with each other to have you rooting for them in a low-on-logic plot that sees them kidnapped by the aliens as a bargaining chip to get the humans to surrender, which, naturally, they do until the boys' ingenuity saves the day. Reality doesn't really get much of a look-in here, so it's pointless complaining about the unlikeliness of that particular plot development - this is, after all, a film where scientists allow unsupervised children to pilot malfunctioning minisubs, so this is more about juvenile wish fulfilment that understands its target audience perfectly.

Complaints about the space monster are perfectly valid, however. Despite a half decent twist on its nature it unfortunately looks like a cross between a giant squid and the bad-tempered Sam the Bald Eagle from The Muppet Show, so it's impossible to take seriously, which is a pity since the Gamera effects are much better than in Gamera Vs. Gyaos. But silliness comes with the territory in many a kaiju flick, and this is one of the more enjoyable of the Godzilla wannabes, never outstaying its welcome at a sprightly 82 minutes.

As with Gyaos, Shout Factory's US DVD release is a fine 2.35:1 widescreen transfer with both original Japanese and dubbed English soundtracks, though the only extra is a stills and poster gallery with some dramatic composite stills that misleadingly sell the final battle as taking place in a big city during a thunderstorm rather than on the beach on a sunny day!
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