Rewatching the Gamera movies! Gamera vs. Viras (1968) takes our favorite giant turtle into outer space.
Here’s what happens: In space, Gamera battles an alien spacecraft that’s come to steal all of Earth’s nitrogen. Gamera later befriends two Boy Scouts, only for the kids to be abducted when the aliens return. The aliens put a mind-control device on Gamera, making him attack Earth for them. Aboard the alien ship, the kids bumble their way into freeing Gamera. He then battles the aliens’ leader, Viras, with the fate of Earth in the balance.
Nice gams: As this movie begins, humans no longer fear Gamera, as it’s become common knowledge that he’s the hero. This is the one that gives us the famous line, “Gamera is a friend to all children.”
Turtle power: Gamera uses his head as a battering ram when fighting the alien ship, which is pretty cool. We see he can swim at amazing speed without having to use his jets. Other than that, it’s his same power set as before, fire breath, flight, biting, and raw strength.
Big baddie: Every monster in this series before now has had the same origin, as prehistoric beasts hibernating for centuries deep underground. This time, they come from space. The first “monster” is the aliens’ ship, five connected spheres that spin around. It has some cool moves and puts up a good fight against Gamera.
The actual aliens appear human at first, but then reveal themselves to be creepy automatons of some kind. Viras is the aliens’ leader, a big tentacled guy. He nearly does Gamera in by impaling him, only for Gamera to get the better of him. While impaled, Gamera flies both him and Viras into space, where Viras freezes.
Kid stuff: Rather than supporting characters, the kids are now the protagonists. Jim and Masao are two mischievous Boy Scouts who sneak into an oceanographic research station to take a mini submarine for a joyride, where they befriend Gamera in the ocean. Their antics aboard the alien ship is some of the best stuff in the movie, where they keep coming up with ways to mess with their captors.
Hapless humans: There aren’t many other characters. The boys’ scoutmaster, an oceanographer, and some military guys don’t do much. Also, there’s a trio of older Girl Scouts who are friends with the boys. These three are fun characters, and it’s too bad they couldn’t have joined the boys on the adventure.
Clip show: Fifteen minutes (!) of footage from Gamera vs. Barugon and Gamera vs. Gaos get spliced into this movie, allegedly to reduce production costs. It comes out of nowhere. The Gamera fan sites call this sequence the “flashback scene” so I guess we’re meant to be seeing Gamera’s memories?
Thoughts on this viewing: This is a cool slice of ‘60s sci-fi. For all this talk about the movie being low budget, it looks pretty good. The miniatures are much improved from the previous films, and the sets have that great retro-future look. If you want campy monster action, consider this a recommend.
Next: Outer space, again!
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