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Gamera vs. Viras (a.k.a., Destroy All Planets) (1968).

March 17, 2009

The Scoop:
Sick of Gamera yet? I hope not!

You know how all your favorite sitcoms invariably have a clip show, consisting of a framing device followed by scenes from earlier episodes? Well, this is the equivalent of that for the Gamera series. You’d think the fourth episode would be too soon to go the nostalgic filler route, but you’d be wrong.

The film starts with a great opening sequence, probably the best in the series. Some aliens — in a ship that looks like it was made of ping pong balls — approach Earth as their leader makes a pompous speech about destroying humanity and taking over the planet. Then, without warning, Gamera pops up on their viewscreen and basically says, “It’s on, bitches!” and proceeds to tear their ship apart while the aliens pee their pants in terror.

After this fun, the credits roll and we’re whisked away to a Boy Scout jamboree where a scientist is also testing a new kind of submarine. It’s the same kitschy silliness you’d except from a kaiju movie, but done better than most. Two of the more precocious Boy Scouts are allowed to take the sub out for a spin, where they encounter Gamera in his undersea hideout.

Meanwhile, a second crew of aliens arrives to avenge their fallen comrades, and then the tedium begins. The aliens decide to learn all by can about Gamera by running a seemingly endless reel of his battles from the first three films.

When we finally get back to our main story, the aliens (who dress like French existentialists) kidnap the sub-driving Boy Scouts and try to battle Gamera with a mind control device. For the scene where the aliens make Gamera destroy Tokyo, director Noriaki Yuasa opted not to shoot new footage, but rather to use the rather incongruous black and white footage from the first movie.

Finally, when Gamera and the kids escape, the aliens merge into a single monster, a giant squid named Viras, only to be beaten down my Gamera.

Despite a couple of slow stretches, the main story action holds up pretty good in comparison the other Gamera films. Unfortunately, this is undermined by the over-reliance on old clips.

Best Bit:
Did I mention I liked the opening sequence?

Side Note:
Kojiro Hondo, who plays the scout master, has had a long and distinguished career in Japanese film and television. In addition to all his other credits, he has appeared in two other Gamera movies — “Gamera vs. Barugon” (1966) and “Gamera: Guardian of the Universe” (1995).

Companion Viewing:
Normally I’d recommend the other Gamera films, but I don’t have to since they’re already included here.

Links:
IMDb.
Sci-Fi Movie Page.

Take a Look:
The Japanese trailer:

Here’s that fabulous opening sequence. (You know, I’m probably a lot fonder of this than I have a right to be.):

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