Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Giant Monster Dogfight: Gamera Vs Gyaos

Gyaos Reigns

Giant Monster Dogfight:
Gamera Vs Gyaos
aka Daikaijû kûchûsen:
Gamera tai Gyaosu

Japan 1967 Directed by Noriaki Yuasa
Daiei Arrow Gamera Complete Collection
Blu Ray Zone B

So this is only my third Gamera film watched to date but, I have to say, this new Arrow boxed Blu Ray edition was money well spent because I’ve watched three strong kaiju eiga in a row now. I’m not expecting that batting average to hold up for all 12 films in the set but, well, so far three out of three is pretty good.

This one starts off with a series of volcanoes which, this time, unleash a new monster from captivity in the depths of the Earth. This one was originally supposed to be some kind of giant Dracula to combat the box office draw of Toho’s giant Frankenstein monster films but, in the end, the beast in this one kind of evolved into Gyaos... who is pretty rigid and angular of facial expression and, to me, looks a little like Sam The American Eagle in The Muppet Show, I have to say. However, the blood craving of the Dracula template was kept as this monster likes to feed on people and on the bloody pulps of their corpses it leaves in its wake. Yep... this guy isn’t content to step on those pesky humans... he likes to pat them and then scrunch them up in his fist to presumably lick the blood afterwards (off screen).

Gyaos also fires sonic but clearly visible beams out of a combination of what he can blow through his two throats (his double throat genetics meaning he can’t actually turn his head to see what’s behind him). These look pretty much like laser beams and can cut pretty much anything they come into contact with... and we see him slicing up a fair few things in this movie, including Gamera who, it turns out, bleeds a kind of greenish blood. There’s an impressive shot early on in the movie where his laser-like beams slice a big helicopter in half and a real sized cabin was obviously built for a great side view of the halves parting and various passengers falling to their death.  

Talking about the gore, this was something which was pretty much absent at the time from most of Toho’s various Godzilla films. When the previous Gamera film didn’t hit so well at the box office, the original director who had made the first one was reinstated for the series (as well as retained to do the effects shots he made so successful in Gamera VS Barugon which I reviewed here) and one of the things he wanted to do was to push the kaiju gore to find a way to compete with the product Toho were putting out. The presence of Noriaki Yuasa here may also explain why those terrible ricochet sound effects are back on the soundtrack when something explodes. It just sounds so fake.

Another thing Gyaos can do is fire a kind of fire extinguisher out of his belly, which really seems to knock Gamera for six. By now, in keeping with what was going on in Toho’s Godzilla series, Gamera was already thought of much more as a protector creature than a threat... but he’s bested many times here in fights with Gyaos.

The cast are all great here, with Kôjirô Hongô returning as a different character from the one he played in the previous Gamera film and a lot of emphasis on a child who befriends the giant turtle. Now, I’d heard that the emphasis on the Gamera films were mostly focussed on kids but the way it’s done in this one, at least, is not too over the top and it doesn’t in any way ruin the watchability of the movie. Although, I have to ask myself why it’s always the kid who picks up on the ways to try and kill Gyaos and not the adult characters. It’s he who works out, for example, the Gyaos is a nocturnal character and helps lead the adults to the fact that Gyaos’ main weakness is sunlight (originally scripted as giant Dracula, remember).

Unlike a lot of the kaiju eiga, there’s no real exploration or researched explanation as to Gyaos’ motive and penchant for destruction throughout the film. He’s just released from his hibernation and that’s it, he just wants to slice up buildings, eat people and lick up their blood. However, already a pattern is emerging in the films as I see them. And that is that the humans cook up a plan to defeat each film’s villanous monster, only for that attempt to fail and then, thankfully, the help of Gamera saves the day.

Mind you, with the plan they hatch in this one, you can see why it would fail. After manufacturing a kind of fake, pink and bubbly blood which smells and tastes the same as regular human blood, they use a big fountain of it to lure Gyaos to the top of a big, revolving restaurant/hotel. Then, when Gyaos takes the bait, they spin the restaurant around at speed to try and dizzy the monster up so it will fall over and be defeated by the dawning sunlight. Not only does this plan look pleasingly ridiculous on film... in just the way every kaiju lover wants to see... it fails miserably but, of course, by this point, Gamera is on hand for his third and final showdown with the creature.

Like the previous two films in the series, the shot design in this is pretty cool and there’s some lovely bright lighting throughout. The turquoise pulsating cave in the first ten minutes of the movie is especially nice. There’s also a lot more action and less explanation in this one, in a deliberate move to stop the child section of the audience getting too bored, too quickly with the movie. That being said, the film retains the satirical edge by focusing on a roadblock protest of the building of a new highway through farmer’s land, which was very much on the mind of the Japanese at the time due to some pressure put against the building of a new airport with similar, aggressive protests.

There’s no real human villain in this one either, although the main kid's grandpa, played by Akira Kurosawa regular Kichijirô Ueda, does fulfil a kind of mini version of this role for a little part of the film, before the character is softened considerably as the plot progresses.

All in all, I had a lot of fun with Giant Monster Dogfight: Gamera Vs Gyaos and it’s been an absolute pleasure to watch through these so far. I really wasn’t expecting the Gamera series to be this good so... well... I can’t wait to see what the next one will bring.

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