Gamera Vs Gyaos – 1967, Noriaki Yuasa, Japan
Daiei continues the slow, lumbering turtle March into the realm of ever-improved sequels with Gamera’s third outing, the fun, yet two-thirds insane Gamera Vs Gyaos. At this stage in the game, Daiei had indeed succeeded in steadily improving their product and tightening the quality gap that separated their Brand X monsters from the “designer jeans” beasts of Toho’s Godzilla-Verse, but they’re also starting to out themselves as being batshit wacky in the process. I don’t really regard that as being a problem, but it’s for sure worth discussing.
THE PLOT~ Tension is high. The residents of a rural, Japanese mountain village have blocked the construction of a proposed super-highway that would lead right through the heart of the pristine forest they call home. The construction can’t continue until these people all agree to sell, so the big muckymucks back in the city tell their head foreman to really put the pressure on these guys to force a deal, but nobody is budging. We come to learn that this is because a respected elder in the village has organized this standoff deliberately, not because these people want to stay in their village, but because they all see this as an opportunity to get super rich, and they believe that the longer they hold out, the more crazy yen they stand to receive from the increasingly desperate land developers. It’s funny how sometimes life can throw you curveballs… One day, you’re leading your friends and neighbors in a crusade to get rich quick, and the next, your Grandson is riding through the sky on the back of a giant turtle, and a three hundred foot tall vampire monster is barking death rays at fighter jets in your back yard. You just never know how life is going to play out, so it’s important to keep your shit straight while you can, I guess.
Anyway, that’s what happens, a volcanic eruption (that old chestnut) opens an ancient cavern in the side of the mountain, from whence Gyaos emerges, a huge, weirdly plane shaped bat type monster who eats humans and causes crazy damage. Luckily, by this point Gamera has apparently totally reformed and is now our big, green homie, so things sort of work out for the best in the end.
The film’s moral is all about greed- as in, don’t be greedy, dude, but it also views the natural world as a cut and dry commodity and states that the deliberate burning of old growth timber is an issue only because that wood is worth money, so Gamera Vs Gyaos isn’t really going to teach you too many lessons you actually want to learn. It’s mostly just fun because it’s full of big, stupid looking monsters who really fuck each other up.
It’s pretty good, though. If you’re into these films, this one is going to give you what you want and expect from the Gamera series, and in greater quantities than the prior two films (Although I did dig Barugon.) The budget also looks stepped up again, but the single biggest change you’ll feel with Gamera Vs Gyaos is how vivid the color pallete is. This movie is very artistic and playful with the colors used, the art department appears to have been tasked with producing props and set dressing which would jazz up the film’s visuals considerably, and they absolutely have; Gamera’s old rival Godzilla wouldn’t be featured in a film which got this ambitious with color until Godzilla Vs Megalon, and even then, the colors that movie used were more basic primaries and much less inventive or stylish. Honestly, there are frames of this film that look like a fucking Wes Anderson movie, and that’s a kaiju first.
If Steve Zissou were piloting that, who would be surprised?
The topic I most feel needs to be addressed, however, is Gyaos; how weird he is, how everything about this whole series now seems very weird in retrospect, and how Daiei must be run by complete and utter madmen. Let’s sit down and talk about this.
So, it’s now painfully, glaringly obvious that Daiei fills their movies up with really, really weird monsters. I feel like I should have noticed this before. They seem to just invent new, bizarre, and totally unrelated abilities for their kaiju on a whim, and the results are really, really strange. Barugon was weird, I’m realizing. He had purple blood. He sprayed frosty gas out of a long tongue, blasted murder rainbows out of his back, and he dissolved in water… Gamera just straight up eats fire- that’s like a treat to him! Now, Gyaos pops in, and he’s plenty weird, too. Gyaos spits powerful death rays, drinks human blood, can regrow severed limbs like it’s no big thang, and sprays yellow powder out of his nipples, which extinguish flames instantly- yet he cannot rotate his head left or right, and is alergic to sunlight. Oh, yeah, and the reason he can’t turn his head is because he has two throats. Yeah, so Gyaos is a garbled Chimera of a creature worthy of Dr. Seues’ darkest nightmares, is pretty much what I’m getting at, and the same nonchalant insanity that created him rears it’s head over and over again throughout this film. At one point, the Japanese Powers-That-Be honestly think that the best plan they have for killing the Gyaos is by getting it really, really dizzy. They set up a fountain that dispenses artificial human blood on a rotating platform, crank up the juice, and prey like hell that he fucking dies somehow. It doesn’t work, of course, probably because that plan sounds like it was conceived by a nine year old, but they try, and we watch them do it. Of course, when they come up with an idea that actually does work, and it literally IS conceived by a nine year old, so I guess whatever. The point is that this movie is pretty much bonkers, and after seeing it, you start to realize just exactly how wacky this whole Gamera thing has been from day one. I now feel somehow uneasy about the time I have spent with Gamera… Like the sensation one must feel when they’ve just dropped off a hitchhiker with whom they’ve enjoyed a long chat, only to then turn on the radio and hear a news bulletin about a dangerous, escaped mental patient matching the hitchhikers description…
I guess maybe there were a few warning signs…
Anyway… Moving on.
As I mentioned before, this movie also further establishes Gamera as a friendly guardian to all mankind, so it comes across as more kid friendly than it’s predecessors, but there’s actually sort of a lot of monster blood in this. None of it is red, though, which seems to mater. Gamera’s blood is green and Gyaos’ is purple, so maybe that didn’t seem like actual gore in the eyes of our distant ancestors, but there’s no buts about it, these monsters are gounging and tearing at each other pretty agressivley. Honestly, that’s not gonna hurt a kid, they need to be exposed to this sort of thing sooner or later. Let your kids watch turtles getting death ray blasted at home, or some other kid is just going to show them at school, and there it’ll be out of context.
Anyway. This is another good one, and so far, these movies are getting better and better,