Gamera vs. Guiron / Attack of the Monsters / Gamera tai Daiakuju Giron (1969) -**½
Almost certainly one of the three or four strangest movies I’ve ever seen, Gamera vs. Guiron/Attack of the Monsters/Gamera tai Daiakuju Giron is one of those rare films whose character changes completely depending on the number of people watching it. A lone viewer is sure to find this movie nearly unwatchable, but put four or five people together, and it’s an instant party. This was the fifth Gamera movie, and the second in which the story revolves entirely around the child characters. It also accelerates the trend of using recycled footage from previous series entries to extremes that would not be exceeded until the release of the virtually all-stock-footage Gamera: Super Monster in 1980. And as you might gather from that last point, Gamera vs. Guiron-- at least the Sandy Frank version that was the standard American cut of the film during VHS days-- is probably the very worst of the Gamera films from a technical perspective.
It’s easy to see why stock-footage padding seemed like a good idea-- the plot of this turkey is minimal in the extreme. Early on, there’s some bullshit about strange waves from outer space being intercepted by scientists at some observatory or other. But after about five minutes, the movie forgets all about that and introduces us to some annoying little kids. Unfortunately, these three brats-- Akio (Nobuhiro Kajima), his sister Tomoko (Miyuki Akiyama), and their Anglo friend Tom (Christopher Murphy, who actually had some kind of subsequent career, at least if you count Carnosaur 2)-- will be the characters with whom we’ll spend most of our time. The kids are obsessed with space and spacemen (the existence of whom they regard as a foregone conclusion-- as, for that matter, do all the journalists in the film). Akio is especially fixated, particularly on the notion that the inhabitants of other planets are more advanced than we are, and have thus been able to make their worlds into utopias free from “wars and traffic accidents.” Obviously, the news from the last scene would seem like the coolest thing ever to these kids, and after they hear about the interception of the waves from space, they stay up late to watch the sky with their telescope. The two Japanese kids’ mother (there’s no sign of their father, or of Tom’s) regards their astronomy hobby with almost as much suspicion as Kenny’s parents regarded his turtle fixation in the original Gamera, and she’s less than pleased that they are spending their night thus, particularly after Akio claims to have seen a UFO. He, Tom, and Tomoko want to go out and look for its landing site right away, but Mom will allow nothing of the sort.
Instead, the kids settle for devoting the following morning to the task, after a short interlude of harassing a bumbling neighborhood cop named Kondo (Kon Omura, who would be back the next year in Gamera vs. Monster X). (Incidentally, the kids call Kondo “Kon-chan,” using the familiar honorific [only the Japanese would go to the bother of inventing a familiar honorific], and the “Mystery Science Theater 3000” folks are absolutely right-- it does sound like “Cornjob” the way the dubbing “actors” say it.) Tomoko is the first to see the alien ship, but she is smart enough not to try to go aboard. The boys are not, however, and when they do, the ship takes off into space with them in it. They are nearly pulverized in a collision with an asteroid, but fortunately for them, Gamera happened to be in the neighborhood (what?!), and the big flying turtle (who apparently can escape Earth’s gravity under his own power-- who would have guessed?) saves them in the nick of time.
But this alien ship is faster than Gamera, and it has places to go. Specifically, it is headed for the mysterious planet Terra, which turns out to be a sort of evil anti-Earth, a planet of exactly the same size and composition which shares the same orbital path in such a way that it is always on the opposite side of the sun from Earth. Thus, we on Earth have never even noticed it’s there. (Yeah. The studio already used that idea once before in Warning from Space.) The planet Terra is that most shopworn of science fiction cliches, the Dying World whose Last Living Inhabitants are Searching For a New Home. In this case, the Last Living Inhabitants are a couple of cute Asian chicks in skin-tight, sparkly outfits (their costumes are obviously the most expensive element of this production), and their pet monster Guiron. The “groovy space girls” (one of the boys actually calls them that) need a pet monster because they are not quite Terra’s last living inhabitants. Terra is also home to a whole slew of Gyaoses, which were somehow created by the same malfunction of the “electronic brains” that caused the planet to start dying (don’t ask). About the only exciting thing we’ll see during the entire movie is a fight between one of those Gyaoses and Guiron.
Now how shall I put this? Guiron is a 70-odd-meter-long Ginzu knife. You laugh, but I’m completely serious-- the monster’s head is an enormous, curved blade which he uses to dismember the Gyaos and carve it up into patties like a fucking sausage. (Interestingly enough, Gyaoses have purple blood and no internal organs.) This blade of Guiron’s is so hard that the Gyaos’s sonic ray, the Earthly counterpart of which can even cut through Gamera’s hide, simply reflects off of it. You might expect it to be quite a show when Gamera has to fight this guy.
But alas, that’s not going to happen for a loooooooooooong time. Before we get there, we’ll have to endure what seems like at least a week of Akio and Tom buffooning around in Spacegirl City, alternating with Tomoko trying in vain to get anyone to listen when she says that the boys were abducted by aliens. Not even the revelation that the space chicks are brain-eating cannibals is enough to add a sense of urgency to the proceedings, and it is with great relief, followed by crushing disappointment, that we greet Gamera’s arrival on Terra. Great relief because it seems that at last something will happen. Crushing disappointment because that something is the single worst monster duel in kaiju eiga history. Director Noriaki Yuasa apparently can’t even be bothered to put both monsters in the shot at the same time (though admittedly that could equally well be the fault of the doofus who was running the pan-and-scan equipment for Sandy Frank), and we respond to Gamera’s apparent defeat (the movie’s only half-over, you know) with the same rapt attention with which we might watch flies fuck.
And then it’s back to watching the kids, and looking for something poisonous to eat around the house. If you can sit through the next twenty minutes without scarfing down that Soft Scrub sandwich you made, you’ll be treated to the second-worst monster duel in kaiju eiga history, as the cries of the annoying little kids revive Gamera just as the cannibal space chicks lose control of Guiron and he begins Ginzu-ing their city to bits. Gamera’s uneven parallel bars act is the only thing making this fight better than the last one, other than the fact that when it ends, the end of the movie is not far behind.
I think it should be fairly obvious why this film would be almost unwatchable for a lone viewer, but exactly what is it that makes it such a terrific party movie? Simple: the dubbing. As with the original Gamera, just how loopy the dubbing is depends on whether you’re watching the Sandy Frank or AIP-TV version, but if it’s the former, you’re in for quite a ride. I have seen a lot of movies in my time, and a great many of them were dubbed. I have seen and heard dubbing the likes of which most people have never even imagined, but I swear to you, it never even occurred to me that anyone would ever try to get away with dubbing this bad. It’s as if the voice-over team were actually reading their scripts, aloud, for the first time while the tapes rolled. And the fact that whoever was in charge of the panning and scanning seems to have been watching something other than the movie while he did his work adds yet another layer of hitherto-unimagined ineptitude. It isn’t often that I can honestly say that a movie actually breaks new ground in incompetence, but that really is the best way to describe Gamera vs. Guiron.