|Destroy All Planets|
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|Japanese Title: Gamera Tai Uchu Kaiju Bairusu (“Gamera vs. Space Monster Viras”)
Alternate Titles: Gamera vs. Viras (international title)
Director: Noriaki Yuasa (Gamera vs. Guillon, Gamera vs. Jiger)
Original Release Year: 1968
Running Time: 90 minutes
DVD Released By: Alpha Video
Audio: English mono
Extras: Picture gallery, Alpha Video catalog
Closed Captions: None
UPC #: 089218420893
Catalog #: ALP 4208D
Status: Available. You can also order copies signed by actor Carl Craig (boy scout Jim Morgan) from his site, www.destroyallplanets.com.
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|The Film: Two boy scouts, Jim and Masao, are adept with both high-tech gadgets and practical jokes. This combination may not endear them to the scoutmaster, but it comes in handy when they are taken prisoner by alien invaders. After Gamera destroys their first spaceship, the aliens’ second ship manages to subdue the monster and probe his mind. They discover his one exploitable weakness: Gamera is friend to children! The aliens take the boys as hostages and attach a mind-control device to Gamera.
Luckily, the boys’ skills aren’t limited to what’s in the scouting manual. They manage to escape and free Gamera, who attacks the spaceship. The aliens have to shed their human skins and combine their bodies to form Viras, a giant pale squid-like monster. With Viras adept at both land and underwater combat, Gamera may have to take to the skies to beat this foe!
Destroy All Planets is the fourth Showa Gamera film. With this movie, the series firmly established the formula of presenting the Gamera adventures as fantasies for children. In order to appeal to wide domestic and international audiences, a Japanese and a Caucasian boy are paired in the lead roles. The kids are likeable and resourceful. Jim and Masao are quite possibly the coolest of the many youngsters to participate in kaiju films. While the adults in the film stand around helplessly, they take the initiative to disable the invaders and save the planet. They also cheer Gamera on from the sidelines, instructing him on what battle tactics to use. Daiei’s well-known Gamera song also makes its first appearance in this film.
Unfortunately, the film is marred by other issues. Viras is a fairly lackluster foe. It lacks the believability of Baragon and Gyaos. It is also strangely devoid of weapons and special powers. Since Viras was Gamera’s first alien opponent, this seems odd. While presumably the filmmakers could have really let their imaginations run wild, budgetary restraints apparently limited them in the visuals department. This is also apparent in the film’s reliance on stock footage. As the Virans probe Gamera’s mind, they (and the audience) see long scenes of Gamera battling Barugon and Gyaos from the two previous films. When the aliens order Gamera to attack, the scenes of destruction are also recycled from earlier films (including the original 1965 Gamera, which was black & white!!!). Combined with a lack of new miniature work, this makes the whole production look cheap and uninspired. Destroy All Planets is one of the weakest entries in the series. Grade: C-
Video: Destroy All Planets is presented in fullscreen. The widescreen composition of the original Japanese film is very compromised. The print shows its age with speckles and lines. The image is grainy throughout, the colors are faded, and some scenes have an unnatural greenish tint to them. The version of DAP on Retromedia’s Gamera Double Feature disc is slightly sharper. It also has more vibrant colors. Of course, none of these cheap public domain versions can match the beautiful quality of the Japanese region 2 release. Grade: D
Audio: English mono is the only option. It sounds okay, if a bit flat. The dialogue is clear and easy to understand. The Virans' alien voices have decent impact. There are no overt problems with hissing, popping, or dropouts. Not too bad. Grade: C+
Extras / Menus: Like Alpha’s other Gamera DVDs, this disc contains a picture gallery. Unfortunately, it’s not as extensive as the others. It consists of only 7 still images. It includes box art for a Japanese model, and 5 lobby cards / publicity photos. There is also a foreign (Italian?) poster. This poster bears the title Il Mostro Invincibile. Carl Craig (Jim Morgan) is billed as “Carl Crane,” which is better than the film itself, which bills him as “Kurl Crane.” The poster also features a picture of Godzilla’s nemesis, King Ghidorah! It’s a pretty cool poster.
There is also a “Catalog” with over 200 images of other DVD titles available from Alpha. Alpha does come up with some cool, colorful cover art for many of their discs. All of the menus are still images with no music or sound. They are very simple and easy to navigate. Grade: C-
Final Analysis: This is not a great disc by any standard. It doesn’t even compare to the region 2 Japanese release. (The original Japanese version also includes less stock footage.) If you don't have a region-free DVD player, stick with the Retromedia version. It looks a little better, and it can save you some shelf space. Final Grade: D
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