Gamera vs. Viras (1968)
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The first reason was the flashbacks to which many viewers allude. Not only is there a roughly fifteen minute scene composed of much too large chunks of "fight" scenes from earlier movies, but there are at least two "major" scenes that are taken from the first and second movie and then played off as freshly happening. It is so poorly done, that the scenes from the first one are left in black and white, despite the rest of this movie being in color! The second reason was the utter illogic of this one, in places. A genius kid is one thing, if almost always annoying at times, but this one went above and beyond. Not only is the kid allowed to tamper with various things with almost no repercussion, but him and his friend are given far too much freedom in the middle half of the movie. It is almost like this is a kid's happy dream, as opposed to an abduction by a vindictive life force.
And the climatic decision...egads! All in all, I stuck with it, and finally just started laughing out loud at it machinations. The final scene has some really good moments, as well, including some really well staged smashes and jabs. I give it a solid five stars, I enjoyed it once my brain switched over into its mode of handling things.
I've always liked this Gamera film best. Its Kennys (tm - in honor of Gamera's pal from the original film, all Gamera-film children are known as "Kenny") - a pair of pranksters who get held hostage to compel the big turtle's obedience - are more appealing than most. The flight sequences are still awesome. The Evil Monster (who never really gets a name, but its race is named something like "Varian") is an incredibly cool blade-headed squid-thing (Gamera always had the slickest, if somewhat unbelievable, costumes - see Gaos). There's plenty of Gamera's signature technicolor gore, including a huge sucking chest wound and a review of the (blue-, white-, purple-, and orange-)bloodiest scenes from previous films (which, admittedly, does go on a bit too long). Really, something for everyone.
This Japanese production was directed Noriaki Yuasa & was the fourth film to feature the giant fire breathing turtle Gamera that can fly by using blue jets of fire that shoot out of where he legs normally protrude after pulling them into his shell, I suppose you could say that Gamera is a sort of Godzilla type monster who actually protects the Earth from other monsters. Anyway, the script by Nisan (named after the car?) Takahashi moves along like a rocket & at least isn't boring, it is just one of those indefinable madcap oddball Japanese monster flicks where anything goes & quite often does. Gamera tai uchu kaijû Bairasu is just one of those films which defies conventional logic, you can't watch Gamera tai uchu kaijû Bairasu & judge it next to normal film-making, you just can't. The script is just a strange incoherent mess of bizarre ideas from (very Japanese looking) alien invaders who wear silly little beret's on their heads, having detachable homing limbs, wear what looks like Vicar's dog collars around their necks, have glow in the dark eyes & can fly to their master Viras which is a sort of mutant space squid with beady shifty little eyes, a beak for a mouth, can use the tip of it's body as a spear & is kept in a cage until it is let out at which point it then chops the heads off the other aliens in order to let the inner squid out of them & absorb their power thus making Viras grow to huge proportions in order to fight & destroy Gamera! If that sounds weird it's just the beginning since the evil aliens who mange to build sophisticated spacecraft are defeated by a couple of teenage boy scouts, the spacecraft is controlled telepathically, there's a big bird monster who shoots lasers from it's mouth, the spacecraft looks like five ping pong balls stuck together & despite saving the whole planet Jim & Masao don't get any supper! As I have already said Gamera tai uchu kaijû Bairasu is an incredibly silly film yet it's so action packed & fun that I found it impossible not to like it, I think Gamera tai uchu kaijû Bairasu is a kids film & by that I mean kids of all ages...
Gamera tai uchu kaijû Bairasu was the fourth Gamera film & the first forty minutes features about twenty minutes of footage taken from the previous two Gamera films, War of the Monsters (1966) & Return of the Giant Monsters (1967) which at least keeps the monster mayhem coming thick & fast. The special effects are of the men in rubber suits destroying scale models of Japan, Viras the space squid has to be seen to be believed with it's beady little eyes which dart left & right! The spaceship shots look really silly as well with a stupid looking design. But when all said & done I don't think anyone who knows anything about Japanese monster films is going to go into Gamera tai uchu kaijû Bairasu expecting realistic effects. Well, at least I hope they're not. The fights are fun, Gamera destroying Tokyo is fun as is the whole film really, it's the sort of cheesy Saturday afternoon monster flick that kids used to love watching on telly.
Technically the film is alright considering, OK the special effects are cheap but allowances need to be made. The whole thing was obviously dubbed for American audiences, originally running 75 minutes the American version was reedited & increased to 90 minutes. I actually saw the 90 minute version & there are separate credits for the 'American Re-Recording' under 'Titan Productions' including Bret Morrison as director! It's impossible to know how good or bad the original acting was since the entire thing is obviously & often hilariously dubbed into English but I doubt it was any good in the first place.
Gamera tai uchu kaijû Bairasu is a fun Godzilla style Japanese monster fest, there's plenty of bizarre things going on to take your mind of the ridiculous plot & the aliens silly costumes. I liked it but then I have a high tolerance for this type of cult trash, if you like men in rubber monster suits fighting each other type films then you will probably enjoy Gamera tai uchu kaijû Bairasu & if you don't you won't.
For starters, a lot of the sets and I believe even some of the props and costumes have been taken directly from 'Gamera vs Guiron'. But at least 45 percent of this film is composed of stock footage from older films. Perhaps the funniest scene in the movie is when they show footage from the original Gamera film- a black and white movie- and try to pass it off for something that is happening in the present, even though this film was shot in color.
The kids in this film take charge of the situation and try to help Gamera out when the adults are content to do little or nothing. There's a lot of Kiaju 'gore' in this film, a funny yet kind of cool alien invader and stupid, stupid henchmen who get their heads knocked off )!) before the mutate into other squid-like creatures.
This is actually less boring than the previous films. Since the aliens are studying the previous Gamera fights in order to defeat him, the film is full of fairly cool monster battles. The final battle against Viran is a good one!
While I quite enjoy that portion of the film that actually features new footage of Gamera and Viras in action, a third of this movie seems to be made up of stock footage from previous Gamera films and the way the footage is used is disappointing, one action sequence after another after yet another to the point it really grinds the movie to an halt. It's really too bad as the alien footage features some neat albeit shocking images much more gruesome than is usual for this type of kids' movies and the final battle with Viras just has to be seen to be believed. All in all, this is good fun that should appeal to those young and young at heart but still, that third featuring stock footage is tough slugging.
The opening is very promising. A spaceship venturing for a conquest of Earth is interrupted by Gamera, now fully evolved into the friend of all children. Before the vessel is destroyed, it sends a signal back to its home world and a second one is dispatched. Upon the new one's arrival, the aliens use their technology to determine Gamera's weaknesses and take two boy scouts (Toru Takatsuka & Carl Craig) hostage. Now implicating a mind-control device, they use Gamera to destroy civilization. The thin plot becomes thinner before it ultimately leads up to the titular conflict between the giant terrapin and a slimy extra-terrestrial cephalopod.
The movie is so wonderful at first. Both Gamera and the two boys are very entertaining. The latter are portrayed as witty, audacious, and thoughtful individuals...despite the occasional prank or two. And a scene involving them inside of a submersible racing Gamera underwater brought a smile to my face. But the movie starts crippling itself at the moment where the aliens start searching Gamera's past. It's stock footage from the previous movies, each reel lasting roughly five minutes. The aliens quote that their process takes fifteen minutes and it literally does. There's hardly any narration or trimming of the stock footage; it's just reused. (Frighteningly enough, for the U.S. version, the stock footage reel was increased to a mind-numbing twenty-five minutes!) When this ends, there is some relief, but then it becomes just more reused footage from the previous movies. Sequence upon sequence. And most jarring of all is when they decide to once again show Gamera attacking Tokyo as he did in the original film "Gamera the Giant Monster." Now if you will recall, that movie was black-and-white. This one is in color. Eyes squinting yet? Colorization was not around at the time this picture was made and yes, they still integrate colorless footage into a color movie! Just a slight bluish tint, that's all. And sadly, this drags on and on seemingly without end and wore me out. All of a sudden, even the whim and charm of Mr. Takatsuka and Mr. Craig, both of whom are very good in the film, seems unimportant.
Now the movie does pick up a little when the final battle does arrive. And it's satiatingly lengthy, but even with that, by the time it was all over, "Gamera vs. Viras" had exhausted me and left me feeling a thirst for a lot more. The stock footage it so abundant that if there had been more, it could have been a "Best of Gamera" show instead of a continuation to the series. And as far as I am concerned, a low budget should not be an excuse for ham-handed filmmaking. There are some good things here, including a leading performance by that wonderful actor Kojiro Hongo (who was in the previous two Gamera movies and would later play a small part in Shusuke Kaneko's marvelous "Gamera: Guardian of the Universe" almost thirty years later) but there are also a lot of bad things here too.
Last weekend, I attended the annual Godzilla fest, known as G-FEST, where Carl Craig, one of the stars of GAMERA vs. VIRAS, made an appearance. Of course, they featured this movie. It was one of the most hilarious bad movies ever made. Of course, you have to be in the right frame of mind to watch it. In one scene, for example, the boy scouts held prisoner on board the alien space craft manage to escape by distracting the not-too-bright aliens. When they realize they"ve been duped, one of them says, "That's funny...I think those kids lied to us." Not even PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE can boast that kind of dialog.
This may not be GODZILLA or even GAMERA 3, but this one is a decent enough time waster, if you watch it in the right frame of mind.
However, if you want top quality kaiju entertainment, check out the recently released GAMERA 3.
Rating: **1/2 out of *****
The camp is pretty horrendous, and the human characters are completely dismal. Same old annoying kids, in a world where youngsters are held hostage by aliens who then let them wander their ship which has a machine that can produce ANYTHING they desire. As far as idiotic plots, they could almost take the cake with this one. All along accompanied by a score I just do not care for.
oh and did I mention that if you haven't seen "Gamera vs. Barugon" or "Gamera vs. Gyaos" you get to see like almost ten minute-each flashbacks of each of those films? These flashbacks go on for quite a bit of time, I suppose to give the appearance that this is a feature run-time flick. When I first saw it, I was surprised. About more than half of this movie's action sequences are stock-footage. For Godzilla's sake, don't use stock footage from a black-and-white movie in the full-on color one; someone's bound to notice you know? However, after 90% of the film being completely pointless and redundant, there is pretty entertaining fight at the end. Too bad it was too little too late. Viras is a squid-like alien kaiju, who I suppose to some extent would provide inspiration for Irys in the 1999 film "Gamera 3: Awakening of Irys", but it's a much simpler concept design. I tracked this film down pretty much for the adventure of watching all the Gamera movies, but by no means is this one of the best, not by far. "Gamera vs. Barugon" and "Gamera vs. Gyaos" are far better made, hell even "Gamera vs. Guiron" improves on this one. Watch if you dare!
It's pretty startling to see the boys convince a scientist to let them operate a newly invented submarine that might be defective. Previously boy genius Masao had wired the unit to run in reverse direction of it's controls, but Dr. Dobie didn't think about checking that out as a possibility. At least that prepared the boys for interfering with the alien space ship's controls by playing switcheroo with a bunch of triangular blocks.
When boss alien Viras says 'Activate the Videotron', hang on to your seats for rehashed footage from earlier Gamera movies where he battles Barugon and Gyaos. These take up quite a bit of screen time, but are no match for the fast forward button if you want to get on with it. For the longest time Viras addressed an invisible crew, and when they finally appeared, they were Orientals who could fly - imagine that!
Seeing as how these movies were made for a juvenile audience, it's surprising to see how gruesome some of the scenes are. Gamera drawing blood comes to mind, and how about the pair of space crew members being decapitated. When squid tentacles started emerging from the headless bodies I made a connection to the 'Alien' films; having the individual units merge to form the giant Viras was a neat device.
I guess the appeal for young kids might reside in identifying with the two young heroes who make friends with a giant monster, move around pretty freely on an alien space ship, and get to have whatever they want with the help of alien telepathic technology. Seeing as how the movie was presumably made by adults, it could have been a simple case of wish fulfillment.
When Gamera destroyed their ship in a previous film which we saw a flashback of, the aliens decide they must get control of Gamera before they can occupy earth. They implant a thought control device in the big guy and for good measure capture a couple of kids.
Their big mistake was capturing a pair of Boy Scouts in Japan for the International Scouting Jamboree. One scout from Japan and one from America become prisoners of the aliens on their ship. And as we all know scouts are taught to be resourceful and are always prepared, though I doubt the scouting manual covers capture by space aliens.
Yes this film is as bad as it sounds with the cheesy special effects and lousy dubbing of the Japanese actors. But these Japanese monster films do have a lovable quality about them and they have a devoted group of fans who should be pleased.
The unashamedly silly plot goes as follows: alien beings in a spaceship that looks like bumblebees plan to kill everyone on Earth so they can populate the planet themselves. Cue Gamera, the giant prehistoric flying turtle with fangs, fiery breath, and jet propulsion in his feet. Before the aliens can get near the Earth, Gamera kicks ass on them. The would-be invaders retreat but dispatch a second bumblebee ship. This time, the aliens trap Gamera on the bottom of the ocean with some kind of electronic net thingy.
But Gamera frees himself, prompting the aliens to affix a mind- control device to the turtle. He eventually loses the device and trashes the spaceship, only to do battle with Viras, the aliens' lord and master. If the storyline sounds familiar, it was recycled the following year for GAMERA VS. GUIRON, a/k/a DESTROY ALL MONSTERS.
When director Kinji Yuasa realized he only had about an hour of footage, he padded the film out with scenes from the previous three movies. Never mind that the first two were in black and white. The same thing happens when the aliens order Gamera to destroy Tokyo. Since the turtle had done so in the first film (when he was still a bad monster), director Yuasa merely inserted the footage here. So approximately one-third of this 90-minute film is in black and white.
There's also a sub-plot involving two mischievous Boy Scouts (or whatever the Japanese call them) who steal a mini-sub and end up racing with Gamera on the ocean's floor. They also get caught in the electronic net thingy when the aliens catch their turtle foe. Later on, they abduct the boys and take them aboard the Starship Bumblebee as leverage against the child-loving Gamera—not to mention the Japanese miiltary. That's right, folks. These two boys are apparently worth the annihilation of the rest of humanity!
It's ludicrous, but who cares? Certainly not the kids in the audience, who just wanted to see Gamera locked in mortal combat with his latest goofy-looking monster foe. In that regard, the film delivers. And unlike the next chapter, neither kid is obsessed with traffic accidents.
Perhaps the first Gammera film is an aberration because the child DOES get punished and IS put into danger, but the rest of the series is pure wish fulfillment.
As one critic said, these aren't failed adult movies but successful kid's movies.
Oh boy the last film of the Mill Creek Sci-Fi Classic 50-Pack and it had to be another Gamera film - yippy, yippy! And this one is either truly awful or I'm just in a terrible mood - maybe a bit of both. A couple of the other Gamera films were kinda okay to watch but I did not like what I saw with this particular film - It just didn't have what the other films had to keep me interested.
All of the Gamera films are crappy but this one is the worst of the batch I think. Oh well, not all of them can be good. That is what happens to franchises - they all tend to go down hill.
What's so irritating is that another giant monster literally doesn't appear until the last ten minutes of the movie! I guess the monster is called Viras, but he's never actually specifically called that in the movie. I hear that the later movies are a million times better. I'd love to check those out, if I could find them. We get some pretty annoying characters, but I suppose the special effects are no worse than they were in the other movies. If nothing, it was interesting to see those old clips without them being riffed on by the MST3K crew. *1/2
There is really nothing spectacular or unique about the story and plot, which are very basic and simple - aliens invade earth, aliens kidnap children, aliens control Gamera to destroy cities, kids try to escape and foil aliens' scheme. The two lead kid characters consume a majority of the movie while the other adult actors are just window dressing; none of the characters stand out. And, the acting is mostly atrocious, especially in the part where one of the girl scoutmasters nonchalantly point to the sky after she spots a monster/spaceship.
The special effects were below average; the suit for Gamera looks like a cardboard cut-out with moving eyes and the suit for Viras looks like Styrofoam. The aliens' spaceship looks like a bumblebee and the zombies inside the ship look like clay models.
It appears the filmmakers didn't put too much effort in making this a riveting monster movie, rather, they just winged it and treated like it was a fun monster episode of a children's variety show.
Watch at your own risk and if you want to watch the sequels that follow, be warned that the series only gets campier and cheesier.