Giant Monster Mash: Gamera Vs. Viras (1968)

I’ve got a real love/hate relationship with giant monster movies. I love the idea of them, gigantic monsters with weird powers wreaking havoc on a town or village only to become the lesser of two evils once another more dangerous monster comes along. However, I seem to hate most of the giant monster movies I see because they often spend an inordinate about of time showing me boring, uncharismatic scientists trying to either explain or worse stop the thing I want to see: giant monsters kicking the shit out of each other. That’s why we watch these movies right? To see tiny scared people running away from giant monsters and then one giant monster hit another.

So, with that in mind, I was pretty excited when I got sent two Gamera 2-packs from Shout Factory. The movie I’m talking about today is the second of a double feature on one disc that kicks off with Gamera Vs. Gyaos. Now, I know I watched that flick (from the previous year) but I couldn’t tell you whether it would fall into the category of giant monster success or failure. I can however judge Gamera Vs. Viras because it just finished and I remember every excruciating detail. This ones lands in the fail side of things.

We start off with a pretty cool looking space ship (I’m pretty sure it’s several ping pong balls on a structure with some mini antenna glued on, but it looks better than a lot of CGI space ships out there) fighting Gamera in space. Good start. But after that, we find ourselves following two little kids as they drive around the ocean in a minisub that brings them into contact with Gamera (if you’re not familiar, he’s basically Godzilla, but a giant turtle) who then finds himself caught in a force bubble created by the aliens he fought earlier (or some of their friends, I didn’t quite catch the difference).

As you might expect the aliens have a mad on for Gamera and want to kill him. So what do they do? Watch 15 minutes or so of footage from previous Gamera movies to see his weaknesses. The aliens then capture the children and use them to bribe Gamera into destroying buildings and cities (points for that). See, the aliens are looking for a planet to inhabit because theirs doesn’t work anymore. The aliens then try to bribe the government by saying they’ve got two little boys on board. Doesn’t seem like a very solid strategy to me. Two little kids for the safety of an entire planet? I wouldn’t like those odds if I was one of those little kids.

When the movie isn’t wasting time following children around or showing footage from previous installments of the series, it does sport some pretty good special effects. I’m a huge fan of the guy in a rubber suit crashing through a to-scale version of a city. In fact, I’ve often thought of building my own, putting on the monkey suit my mom made for me in college and filming it for funsies. I’ve already mentioned the spaceship, but the sets look pretty good and there’s even a weird squid thing that’s kind creepy. And Gamera looks great all around.

I’m wondering if these movies are actually aimed at kids. Like how Goonies was an action/adventure/treasure hunt movie for kids. The kids seem smarter and braver than all the adults around them and are deemed important enough by the aliens to be used as ransom. Heck, they even have the respect of a giant turtle. The whole thing feels a little bit like that old Hanna-Barbera cartoon Moby Dick where the two kids in SCUBA gear would get into adventures and then their giant whale friend would swoop in and save the day. I think I’ve got more respect for the movie if that really is the case and could see showing this one to my kids in the future because it’s not what I want in a giant action movie: intensity and brutal battles. Heck, he doesn’t even fight a brand new giant monster until the last 10 minutes!

For an adult, this movie makes no sense. It wastes huge amounts of times, somehow bribes a giant monster with two children (how are they even in contact with him?) plus they still thing they can control the big turtle after the boys are free. How does that make any sense? They try to salvage things at the end by having a regular sized squid monster decapitate five humans, spawn five more squid creatures out of their dead bodies and then absorb them to make a giant monster for Gamera to fight, but by then it’s too little too late. I don’t think even the most epic giant monster battle could save this flick which is not something to be worried about because there’s a lot of Gamera falling over and kids calling his name before he finally SPOILER wins.