STUDIO: Shout! Factory
MSRP: $15.99
RUNNING TIME: 82 Mins & 83 Mins Approx.

  • Publicity Galleries
  • English Dubs

The Pitch

- “A picture about the life of a giant beast sounds delightful, yet I can’t help thinking it’s missing something…”
- “Another beast who wants to kill it?”
- “I’m gonna start writing zeroes on this check. Just tell me when to stop…”

The Humans

Director: Noriaki Yuasa
Writer: Fumi Takahashi
Cast: Nobuhiro Kajima, Miyuki Akiyama, and Christopher Murphy

Director: Noriaki Yuasa
Writer: Fumi Takahashi
Cast: Tsutomu Takakuwa, Kelly Varis, and Katherine Murphy

After some early safety concerns, the Planet X 2024 Olympic Games were a huge success.

The Nutshell

To every Armageddon its Deep Impact. Enter Gamera, Daiei’s answer to Godzilla. No mere cash-in, though, mankind’s favourite turtle monster is a phenomenon in his own right for destroying all evil that comes into his path. And racing children in submarines or spaceships.

The Lowdown

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is arguably the most prevalent saying around. It has seemingly endless applications, from art to cuisine, and they’re all usually proven right. How could anyone anticipate the joys of Phantasm by looking at a picture of a lanky man? Or deduce that beneath the awful 90’s psychedelic cover of Hüsker Dü’s The Living End lurks one of the best live albums ever? The simple answer is “they probably couldn’t.” This rule endures with good reason. Like most rules, though, there tend to be exceptions.

“I don’t care if you’re ‘The King’ or not. All will respect the Bald-Gun!”

Gamera Vs. Guiron (1969) is a prime example. I’m not above admitting I was excited by this double feature DVD. I ooh’d, I ahh’d. There may even have been a little gasp in there. The cover uses the same template as the disc’s predecessor, Gamera Vs. Gyaos/Gamera Vs. Viras (oh, look! There’s a shamelessly self-promotional link to my review right here.) Two tatty posters of colourful monsters beating the life out of one another – one of which is in space! – with all the cool Japanese writing and worried onlookers anyone with even a passing interest in monster cinema could ask for.

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While that double-feature delivered two entertaining (though massively flawed) films on top of an impossibly great cover, history doesn’t exactly repeat itself here. Within minutes, the clunky magic of yesterfilm starts to evaporate. For a kick-off, Guiron doesn’t so much “flirt” with remaking Viras as it does get naked and jump into its bed once it goes to the toilet. When Masao and Jim found themselves stuck on an alien spaceship bound for who knows where, it felt fresh. When Akio (Kajima) and Tom (an awesomely dressed Christopher Murphy) follow suit, it’s just annoying. Add to that the fact that the Asian/American boy double act that worked so well before gets another run-out and Gamera is largely absent from his own movie for the first half hour and you’ve got yourself a recipe for boring.

The network weren’t kidding when they said they were axing Space Gyaos: Coast To Coast.

Gamera Vs. Guiron is Mark Strong (metaphor!) You know, the guy who wants to kill The Hero in most of the movies you watch? Him. There’s nothing wrong with what he does (except for killing or wanting to kill someone heroic. That’s bad.) It’s just that he tends to do much the same thing over and over again. The film’s opening act feels almost beat for beat like a different draft of Viras. An alien space-ship comes to Earth and is promptly discovered by the space-obsessed kids we meet. Said children are told-off for their extra-curricular interests. Foreshadowing abounds. So far, so samey. Oddly enough, the scientists so interested in the potentially alien communications they’ve just received don’t spot the giant hubcap that lands in the woods right by the kids’ neighbourhood. Anyway, Akio and Tom get whisked off to Tera, the planet from whence the ship came. There they find the ruins of a formerly “superior civilization” turned monster battleground.

The most frustrating thing about Guiron is not the absence of any great ideas. It’s the bungled and botched job it makes of every great idea it has. 2, to be precise. The Monster Planet and its indigenous “chicks.” You might scoff at the idea of a film with only two ideas, but these are two great ideas (Gamera Vs. Guiron 2 – 0 I Am Legend.) If you told me there was a film where giant monsters battle for supremacy on a planet where only Asian women survive, I’d say ooh, and ahh, and maybe even gasp. It’s an excellent idea, absolutely begging for a decent re-make. As with so many films of this ilk, though, the version of Gamera Vs. Guiron in your head is most likely better than the real thing.

“You have to come out some time, Branson! You and that balloon of yours…”

Guiron himself is pretty interesting as far as monsters go. Screenwriter Takahashi highlights the lumpy blandness of Clash of the Titans‘ (2010) Kraken with a beast whose head has a giant axe built into it. I can imagine what you’re thinking, but it works (see above.) It shouldn’t work, but when a film has cannibalistic aliens with tinfoil headgear that Lobot wouldn’t be caught dead in, the envelope of awesome has officially been pushed. Although the film deserves most of its kudos for its excellent message which is spelled out to hilarious effect at the end. The camera zooms right in on the safely-home Aoki as he soberly declares “we shouldn’t long for other planets, but make Earth a place free of wars and traffic accidents.” Subtle!

“So then I says to the Manchester City fan, ‘trophy cabinet? What trophy cabinet?'”

Gamera Vs. Jiger (1970) takes a welcome break from all the space shenanigans by pitting ole’ turtle-features against another Earth monster. No, not Katie Price (ouch) – Jiger! Thankfully, the film restricts flash-backs of Gamera’s greatest hits to a brief montage over the opening credits. The plot’s an improvement on Guiron, too. A World’s Fair named “Expo ’70” is taking place in Osaka. Keisuke (Sanshiro Honoo) an archeological expert, wants to leave a time capsule containing data of contemporary culture at the Expo site so that future generations won’t be left to wonder the past as we do today. Central to this plan is the acquisition of “The Devil’s Whistle”, an ominous totem from Wester Island. This is no typical scary statue, though. A legend from (the Lost) Mu Continent warns of terrible consequences should the statue ever be moved. 

“Make ‘em laaaaaaaaugh! Make ‘em laaaaaaaaaaaaugh…”

If the “superstitious” objections of the racist African envoy, “Mr. Gimbo” (I’m not kidding, see below) weren’t enough to convince the Expo organizers to drop the idea, Gamera’s attempts to halt the talisman’s removal definitely should’ve clinched it. It’s not like the big fella, a renowned friend to all children, saved the Earth before or anything. Against all common sense, they take the statue. The result? Jiger: a giant brown Triceratops/rhino! In addition to your standard monster mod-cons like extraordinary size, power, and aggression, Jiger also comes with a nifty ray that turns “living” to “dead” and a needle which impregnates other creatures with mini-Jiger’s! Gamera, who’s always up for a scrap, gets wind of this and goes to work.

“Why did I have to be addicted to Bran Flakes?”

Gamera Vs. Viras may have struck a better balance between plot and action, but Gamera Vs. Jiger is definitely superior in the fight department. The quality and quantity of its battle scenes exceeds anything I’ve seen from the series. Jiger is the most menacing opponent Gamera has faced. He’s also even bigger than Gamera, not to mention an expert at casual destruction so the contest doesn’t suffer from the same air of inevitability as before. Jiger borrows Guiron’s “two boys, one girl” approach to its child characters. The results are solid, if unremarkable. Hiroshi (Takakuwa) and Tommy (Varis) look the part as two smart, sneaky scamps, and the fun they’re having in their roles translates.   

“I don’t tell you how to handle your diet. Don’t tell me how to handle mine!”

Narrative’s not the only department to get a much needed spruce up this time round. Production values are also improved. Compared to the primitive designs on show in Guiron, Jiger boasts an ambitious range of locations. Jiger’s Osaka rampage alone trumps Aoki and Tom’s trip on the lowest-rent spaceship man has ever seen. Hiroshi and Keisuke’s early tour of Expo 70′ showcases some lovely quasi-futuristic architecture and the beating both beasts and Japan take over the course of the film is without equal. If you’ve got an itch only model/man-in-suit based mayhem can scratch, you could do a LOT worse.

The Package

The films are presented in exactly the same format as the Gamera Vs. Gyaos/Gamera Vs. Viras double feature, right down to the distribution of English dubs; 2 for Guiron, 1 for Jiger. These dubs are uniformly terrible, even by the genre’s standards; Aoki, a pre-pubescent Japanese boy, sounds like a 30 year old suburban American mother in Guiron‘s second English dub. This is good for a laugh (“mother, it’s about a big trouble!”) but there’s so little effort on show it would’ve been easier to just not bother.

“Theory books are all well and good, but, to really slap and pop, you’ve got to feel it, man…”

Shunsuke Kikuchi’s music makes a welcome return, Gamera’s kiddie-sung theme sounding bigger and more hummable than ever before. Each film also gets a nice Publicity Gallery of stills and posters, once again. The inside of the disc even reuses the same cross-section of Gamera. There’s really no excuse for this, especially considering the dissection of Guiron included on the disc’s picture gallery. A few lazy spelling and grammar mistakes (“Ohristopher Murphy!”) in the English subtitles aside, this is another fine presentation of two films that have never looked so good.

5.0 out of 10