|Gamera vs. Viras (Region 2)|
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|Japanese Title: Gamera Tai Uchu Kaiju Bairusu (ďGamera vs. Space Monster VirasĒ)
Original U.S. Release Title: Destroy All Planets
Director: Noriaki Yuasa
Original Release Year: 1968
Running Time: 72 minutes
Official Website: www.gamera.jp
DVD Released By: Toshiba / Daiei (Japan)
Video: Anamorphic widescreen
Audio: Japanese mono
Extras: Cast / crew filmographies (?), anatomy of Viras, theatrical trailer, interview with director Noriaki Yuasa, and a compilation of fight scenes from Gamera vs. Baragon and Gamera vs. Gyaos
Closed Captions: None
MSRP: 4,700 yen
UPC #: 4988008039986
Catalog #: TKBU-5074
Status: Available (individually, or as part of the Gamera: The Box 1965 - 1968 Box Set).
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|Reviewed by: Zillamon51|
|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 aliensí 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 boysí skills arenít limited to whatís 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!
Gamera vs. Viras 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. Daieiís 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 previous foes Baragon and Gyaos. It is also strangely devoid of weapons and special powers. Since Viras was Gameraís 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 filmís reliance on stock footage. When the aliens take control of Gamera and order him to attack, the scenes of destruction are all 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. Gamera vs. Viras is one of the weakest entries in the series. Grade: C
Video: The anamorphic widescreen image is crisp and clear. It has bright colors, is free of grain, and there is extremely little print damage. Gamera vs. Viras looks much better on this disk than the American version (Destroy All Planets) looks on either Retromediaís Gamera Double Feature, or the stand-alone version from Alpha Video. Grade: A
Audio: Audio quality is good throughout. Japanese mono is the sole option, and all of the dialogue, music, and sound effects are reproduced faithfully. There is no noticeable hissing, popping, or background noise. Unfortunately, the music for this installment is more insipid than previous entries. It sounds like a xylophone was used extensively in the score. The Gamera song is catchy, though. Grade: A
Extras / Menus: All of the extras are in Japanese, with no subtitles, and are consistent with other disks in the series. First up, there are seven screens of text that appear to be cast and crew filmographies. I canít read Japanese, so I canít tell for sure. They can be cycled through back-to-back, or selected individually from their own submenu. Next is an anatomical detail of Viras. It includes a cut-away view of the monster, with five text selections that highlight the corresponding organs in the picture. There is some additional text on the screen which may be statistical data such as height / weight measurements. The original Japanese theatrical trailer is included, in anamorphic widescreen. A brief (2 Ĺ minute) interview with director Noriaki Yuasa is also included. This appears to be part of a larger interview that is spread across all eight Showa Gamera DVDís. Finally, there are 18 minutes of fight scenes from the previous two Gamera movies. Gameraís battles with Barugon and Gyaos are shown almost in their entirety. I donít know the rationale for including this. It is better than actually showing all of these scenes in the movie, like the U.S. version. The five fight scenes are shown in order, except for the first battle between Gamera and Gyaos (in which Gamera saves Eiichi), which is saved for last. These scenes are presented in non-anamorphic widescreen, and they suffer from more print damage than the films themselves exhibit on their respective disks. All of the menus are still images with no music or sound. Despite being entirely in Japanese, they are fairly easy to navigate. Grade: B- (Higher if you can understand Japanese.)
Final Analysis: Excellent presentation of what is unfortunately one of the low points of the Showa Gamera series. Recommended for fans of the film and completists. Final Grade: B
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