a.k.a. Gamera tai Daiakuju Giron
(lit. Gamera against Giant Devil Beast Guiron)
Attack of the Monsters
company: Daiei Motion Picture Co.
director: Noriaki Yuasa
cast: Nobuhiro Kajima, Christopher Murphy,
Miyuki Akiyama, Kon Omura,
Reiko Kasahara, Kai Hiroko,
Yuko Hamada, Edith Hanson
writer: Nisan Takahashi
cinematography: Akira Kitazaki
music: Shunsuke Kikuchi
Reviewed from a screener provided
by Shout! Factory, LLC.
Pre-order this film from Amazon.com
The Gamera vs. Guiron / Gamera vs. Jiger double feature DVD is due out on September 21st from Shout! Factory, day and date with their double feature DVD of Gamera vs. Gyaos / Gamera vs. Viras. Both discs can currently be pre-ordered through Amazon.com and other online retailers.
Following firmly in Gamera vs. Viras’ juvenile footsteps 1969’s Gamera vs. Guiron is generally cited as a primary example of just how low Daiei’s favorite monster franchise could stoop in terms of overall quality, but while films like Gamera vs. Zigra and Gamera: Super Monster are genuinely dreadful (if endearing in their own quirky ways) I’ve always been a devoted supporter for the guardian of the universe’s final pre-’70s outing. Director Noriaki Yuasa accomplishes amazing feats given his considerable financial limitations, crafting a fantastical science fiction adventure on a budget just as compromised as that for the previous outing (just a third that of 1967’s hit Gamera vs. Gyaos).
Akio (Nobuhiro Kajima) and Tom (Christopher Murphy) witness the landing of a spaceship in a vacant lot near their home and promptly investigate, only to be whisked into outer space by the craft once they find it. The ship takes them to the dying planet Terra, which exists in our same orbit but on the exact opposite side of the sun. There they encounter two alien sisters who ask for the boys’ assistance in escaping their dying world, a favor our star-obsessed child heroes are more than happy to attend to. But there’s more to the Terran sisters than meets the eye. Their ultimate goal is to conquer the Earth, but first they must eat the boys’ brains (!) and absorb all the knowledge held therein. It’s up to Gamera, in the first and only interstellar voyage of his career, to save the boys from the two evil sisters and their devil-beast pet, Guiron.
Enthusiastic director Noriaki Yuasa was rewarded for the surprise financial success of 1968’s Gamera vs. Viras with the opportunity to do it all over again and under the same strenuous budgetary limits. In spite of the considerable financial constraints, Yuasa and screenwriter Nisan Takahashi chose to expand, rather than to contract, the scope of their story. Cost cutting is evident but not overly obvious – bits and pieces of the Viran spaceship interiors for the previous film, notably walls of large glowing triangles, are repurposed to good effect, as is the Gyaos suit from Gamera vs. Gyaos, here given a shiny new silver paint job and rechristened ‘Space Gyaos’.
Practically every other shot in Gamera vs. Guiron involves an effects setup of one kind or another, from old-fashioned miniature photography to more complex process photography and optical work. With next to nothing to work with the latter would become particularly hairy, the backdrop for the opticals visibly marred with vertical scratches and a single gaping hole that appears in shot after shot after shot. It’s impossible for me to believe that Kazufumi Fujii and his fellow effects technicians were unaware of these fundamental problems – they were merely doing the best they could with the minimal resources provided.
The end result is a mixed bag in terms of quality, but none of the special effects of Gamera vs. Guiron ever imply laziness on the part of the craftsmen behind them – in fact quite the opposite is true. The work here may be crude and utterly ineffectual by and large, but the enthusiasm of the crew, working their fingers to the bone and stretching every last yen to its fullest, is never in question. There is a lot of new monster footage on display here (Guiron never relies on effects takes from earlier films to fill its SPFX quota, ala Gamera vs. Viras), from a gruesome battle between a Space Gyaos and knife-headed Terran watch dog Guiron to a pair of rollicking and bloody confrontations between the eponymous stars of the show, all of which brings out the kaiju-loving kid in me.
Perhaps more than any other film in the original series, Gamera vs. Guiron was done severe injustice upon its importation for stateside distribution. American International Pictures TV picked up the title for television play (as it had with Barugon, Gyaos, Viras and Jiger) and, in the usual way, pan-and-scanned the ‘Scope imagery to within an inch of its life and looped an English dubbing that, while far from horrible, just doesn’t do service to the film itself (I know I’m in the minority of kaiju fans here, but I was never really taken with these Titra-recorded dub tracks). Shorn of a couple of minutes of footage, including the graphic violence, this cut of the film (retitled Attack of the Monsters) was aired throughout the ‘70s.
The real nightmare of Guiron’s stateside distribution would rear its ugly head in the early 1980’s, when television syndication mogul Sandy Frank (never trust a man with two first names, especially if one of them is a woman’s) produced his own American edition. Whereas any pan-and-scanning is bad, Frank’s was worse, cutting the often imaginative photography of Akira Kitazaki into an incongruent and illogical mess. More horrifying still was the English dubbing, newly produced by Frank just for the occasion. Lethargically performed by voice actors that are anything but, the dialogue (So the people on solar are the same system planet?) taken with the chopped visuals transformed Gamera vs. Guiron into the epitome of Z-grade awfulness – an experience worthy of the ridicule it solicited from MST3K not once, but twice. Frank’s cut played USA and the Sci-Fi Channel throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s and was released to both VHS and Laserdisc home video, which is how I encountered it at an impressionable young age. The tape was of such shoddy construction that it would only play (and badly) in one of the many VCR’s I had access to.
Gamera vs. Guiron was always my younger sister’s favorite out of the Gamera films I had access to, and with the beer-goggles of the Frank version removed it’s easy to see why. This is colorful late-60s sci-fi fantasy at its most imaginative, and its ability to enthrall younger audiences is not to be underestimated.