Monday, February 6, 2012

Attack of the Monsters!

Gamera vs. Guiron (Gamera Tai Giron, 1969)

DVD Description: Released by Shout! Factory, (2010; double-billed with Gamera vs. Jiger); Japanese version with subtitles; original AIP dub; Sandy Frank dub; publicity gallery

Directed by Noriaki Yuasa

Starring Nobuhiro Kajima, Miyuki Akiyama, Christopher Murphy, Yuko Hamada, Eiji Funakoshi, Hiroko Kai, Reiko Kasahara

Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars

The best thing about Gamera vs. Guiron is that it inspired Bill Gudmundson—illustrious Japanese Giants guy, long-time friend, and former roommate (visit—sometime long or about the late 1970s, to devise a Guiron butter knife, using... yes... an honest-to-god butter knife, sculpting compound, and a spot of paint. Beyond that, I don't know that there's any real need to review this movie.

But I will. Briefly. It's like this: Gamera hits the penultimate nadir of the series (yes, I realize what I just wrote, so pipe down).

The damning evidence:

Two young boys, Akio (Nobuhiro Kajima) and Tom (Christopher Murphy), spy a spaceship descending into a nearby field, and they bicycle their young carcases to the site to investigate. To their delight, they find the ship and manage to steal into it. Then, without warning, the ship takes off and soars into outer space...straight toward a field of asteroids. On cue, Gamera appears and clears a path for them. Alas, the spaceship leaves Gamera in the stardust and transports the boys to an unknown planet, where it lands on the outskirts of an inexpensive, miniature alien city. Suddenly, a silver "Space Gyaos" appears, but just before it attacks, a second, bizarre monster—whose head resembles a knife—emerges from an underground lair. After a violent battle, the knife-headed monster kills the Gyaos by chopping it into pieces.

Akio and Tom soon meet the planet's only inhabitants: two beautiful women, named Barbella and Florbella, who explain that their planet, known as "Terra," orbits the sun directly opposite the earth, which is why it has never been discovered by earth's astronomers. The knife-headed monster, which the Terrans call "Guiron," is their defender against the Space Gyaos monsters.

Using superdynawhopping technological devices, the alien women probe the boys' minds, in the process learning about Gamera—who, they discover (again via stock footage), has a terminal soft spot for human children and is hurtling toward Terra on a rescue mission. Much to our shock, the Terran women turn out to be cannibals, who plan to feed on the boys' brains. Now, however, Gamera lands on Terra in search of our hapless protags. The women deploy Guiron to attack the giant turtle, and after a brief battle, Guiron renders Gamera helpless, sending it into a lake...unconscious and on its back.

Tom manages to free Akio using a toy dart gun but, in the process, inadvertently releases Guiron. Out from under the aliens' control, Guiron rampages through the Terran city—even attacking its masters as they attempt to flee to Earth. The knife-headed creature slices the spacecraft in half, mortally injuring Barbella...who then dies at the hands of her own heartless, merciless, thoroughly annoyed companion. Guiron attacks the base where the boys are imprisoned, but Gamera awakes and renews its assault on the alien creature. After a furious Punch-and-Judy battle, Gamera finally rams Guiron's head into the ground, pinning it in place. Using a missile launcher they have retrieved, the boys fire a missile at Guiron, slicing it in half and killing Florbella. Gamera uses its flame energy to weld the alien spacecraft back together, so that Akio and Tom can use it to return to earth, all safe and sound.

I suppose one can't deny the imaginative prowess at the heart of this chapter of the Gamera saga. Or perhaps one could. At any rate, it probably isn't the motion picture I would elect to convince a doubting layman that he or she really ought to give daikaiju movies a sporting chance. In its day, Mystery Science Theater 3000 did showcase this flick on any number of occasions, and in fact used the memorable scene of Gamera swinging like a gymnast on a horizontal bar, which doubles as a structure in the Terran's alien city, as a promo segment for the show.

Of course, it is to Shout! Factory's credit that they released this movie on a double-bill with Gamera vs. Jiger (a similarly moving example of the cinematic arts), with an excellent print, featuring not only the original Japanese soundtrack but the atrocious Sandy Frank dub and the entertaining AIP-Titan dub from its original 1969 U.S. television release.

The old butter knife never looked or sounded so good.

1 comment:

Rob Lee said...

I can't help dwelling on the fact that of all of it's remarkable monster powers, Gamera mastered the art of welding.