Gamera Double Feature:
Gamera vs. Gyaos/Gamera vs. Viras
Studio: Shout! Factory
US DVD Release Date: September 21, 2010
Theatrical Release Year: 1967/1968
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 86 minutes/81 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (Japanese, English)
Gamera vs. Gyaos: 3 out of 5
Gamera vs. Viras: 2.5 out of 5
After the success of Gamera vs. Barugon, Daiei Studios continued to release at least one Gamera film per year. In 1967, they released Gamera vs. Gyaos, which began to steer the series as more family-friendly, re-introducing a child sidekick of sorts for Gamera, but still maintained the threat to nature and human greed themes of the previous films. After a series of volcanic eruptions, a survey team preparing to build a road through a farming village mistakenly disturbs a large bat-like creature capable of spitting laser beams at anything in its path. The young boy, Eiichi, names him Gyaos, because its “voice sounds that way.” Gyaos follows a formula similar to Barugon, in that the bad monster appears, Gamera fights and loses, Gamera fights again and loses, the humans come up with a preposterous plan on defeating the monster themselves and fail miserably (the plan this time centers around using a revolving hotel to make Gyaos dizzy, knocking him unconscious, and letting the sun’s rays destroy him), and Gamera ultimately comes to the rescue, defeating the monster. It is rather apparent that the effects budget on Gyaos was much smaller than the previous films, as many of the miniatures look like miniatures, even without having Gamera or Gyaos stomping around to give the effect away.
One year later, Gamera vs. Viras would complete the transition of the series into a kid-friendly franchise, but it would also bring smaller budgets, forcing the filmmakers to re-use many of the effects footage from the previous films. At times, Viras feels much like those infamous (and dreadful) “flashback episodes” that used to be a staple of television series. In this outing, aliens arrive on Earth, hoping to conquer and colonize the planet. Gamera manages to thwart the first spaceship, but not before the aliens dispatch a distress signal. A second ship is launched, kidnapping two mischievous Boy Scouts and holding them hostage so that they can use Gamera to help them conquer the world. This sets up the ability to use footage from the first film, as Gamera destroys Tokyo (in purple-tinted black and white). The monster Viras finally makes his appearance during the final ten minutes, a giant squid-like creature capable of walking on two of its eight legs. The film is goofy, at best, and the miniature effects have taken on an even more toy-like appearance. Unfortunately, Gamera vs. Viras is very much what most Americans think of when you mention Japanese monster film.
Shout! Factory has provided the original Japanese language version of these films in this DVD release, which I believe is the first time they have ever been available here in the US.
Video: 4 out of 5
The video on this disc is outstanding. Taken from a new HD master from original elements, the 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer has deep blacks, accurate flesh tones, and well-saturated colors without bleeding. Detail is very good, and compression artifacts are minimal.
Audio: 3 out of 5
The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono Japanese soundtrack, encoded at 192 kbps, has very good fidelity, but don't expect it to knock your socks off. Hiss, crackle, and pops are almost non-existent, obviously cleaned up for this release.
Special Features: 2 out of 5
Since both films have been included on one disc, the special features are very minimal compared to the previous Gamera DVD releases from Shout! Factory. Both films include a brief Publicity Gallery, consisting of international posters, lobby cards, and promotional stills. Gamera vs. Gyaos includes two English dubs, I’m assuming one is from the American International Pictures release, the other created for the Sandy Frank version. Gamera vs. Viras contains only one English dub. All three dubs have not been restored, so I’m also assuming they have been included here at the request of fans for archival purposes. Sadly, there are no commentary tracks or liner notes to accompany the films.
Overall: 3 out of 5
Shout! Factory continues to put out beautifully restored versions of the Gamera films, thanks to their licensing deal with Joyplex. The special features, though, are slim. Still, these are marked improvements over what has previously been available, so fans should be pleased.