Keith Sewell with Guy Mariner Tucker
(Originally published in G-FAN Issue #14 March/April 1995)
The origin of the Flying G can be traced to the studios of Daiei international, which had already achieved some success in the fantastic movie field. In 1956 there was Uchujin Tokyo ni Arawaru, released to the U.S. as Warning From Space. Later there would be Tomei Ningen to Hae Otoko ("Invisible Man and the Fly Man") and Dai Gunju Nezura ("Giant Rat Swarm"). But Daiei's greatest international success was embodied in the most famous turtle ever to hit the silver screen. He wasn't teenaged and he wasn't a ninja, but most defInitely he was a mutant: the flame- breathing monster Gamera.
GAMMERA THE INVINCIBLE (1965)
US re-release title: Gamera
Japanese title: Daikaiju Gamera
Eiji Hidaka, his lady assistant Kyoko, and newspaper photographer Aoyanagi
visit the North Pole in order to investigate the possible modern-day whereabouts
of the lost continent of Atlantis. An Eskimo chief hands to Hidaka an ancient
stone carving which heralds the legend of Gamera. Not a minute too soon, since
the explorers' ship is being beset by just such a beast, a monster turtle
which has sprung from a crevasse unearthed by bombs from U.S. warplanes firing
at an unnamed foreign enemy.
Having destroyed the ship, Gamera seems to vanish, leaving much of the world skeptical he had ever appeared. At the same time, mysterious UFO activity is sighted in the skies over London, Sydney, Cape Town and even Niigata in Japan.
Elsewhere in Japan, young Toshio, the son of a lighthouse keeper in Hokkaido, is running into trouble over his obsessive love for turtles. His father Sakurai and sister Nobuyo order him to get rid of his own pet turtle so he will concentrate more on his schoolwork. Toshio goes to the ocean to free his turtle, only to find a much larger one waiting there for him. He runs to the lighthouse to warn his family about Gamera, who catches up and wrecks the lighthouse. Toshio nearly falls to his death, but Gamera catches him and deposits him gently on the ground.
Hidaka, Kyoko and Aoyanagi head for Hokkaido's subterranean geothermal power plant, Gamera's next likely target. There, they hope to defeat the monster with a high voltage electric current. However, Gamera actually seems to en joy the effect once he encounters it, and the Army's bombs, missiles and planes don't deter him in the least. Hidaka and another consulting professor, Murase, observe Gamera ingesting flames from a burning stockpile as he destroys the plant. Evidently Gamera craves heat, the hotter the better, explaining his invulnerability to invulnerability to the trap and the Army. Fortunately, there is a refrigeration bomb at hand that ought to take the monster out. The Army promptly explodes a few in the vicinity of the monster turtle, and Gamera is frozen, but not killed. The Army uses the time it has to surround Gamera's body with explosives; when Gamera fInally stirs, the dynamite sticks ignite, the hill gives way, and Gamera is toppled, "helpless" on his back. The soldiers cheer but not for long: Gamera draws his limbs and tail into his shell, flames burst from the limb cavities, and the body slowly rotates and rises into the air. The monster turtle can fly! Gamera is the mysterious UFO. The ocean waves Hidaka thought he saw on the Eskimo carving were actually clouds.
Gamera trashes Haneda Airport and much of Tokyo. Desperate strategists formulate Plan Z, which will involve the cooperation of all the world's scientists. A prior plan to build giant rockets to colonize other planets with Earth residents is converted to a plot to lure Gamera to Oshima Island, where he will be shut into one of the rockets and catapulted off the face of the Earth.
Upset by the turn of events, Toshio runs to Gamera's side. The monster is "feeding" on the docks of Tokyo, where the Army is preoccupying him by sending endless trainloads of petroleum loaded tankers down the tracks and into his paws. Toshio's reunion with the beast is spoiled by a meddling workman who somehow fails to comprehend the stripling's passion.
Soldiers drop flaming canisters into the bay, creating a line of fire for Gamera to follow to Oshima Island but a sudden typhoon kills the flames. Watching from the beach, Aoyanagi sets fire to one of the sheds, not as an act of sabotage, but as an effort to keep Gamera interested. This fails as well, but nature intervenes in the form of a convenient volcanic eruption of Mt. Mihara. Gamera happily steps onto Qshima and into the disguised nose cone of the rocket which will spearhead him straight into space. Toshio is downcast but gets over it quickly, shouting a cheery sayonara to his gigantic friend.
There are three
existing versions of six of the eight Gamera films, including this one. The
versions are: (1) the original Japanese print; (2) the dubbed American version
of all eight, released to television; and (3) the six films redubbed and
released to cable and home video by Sandy Frank in the late 1980's.
In the original Japanese version, there were some English-speaking characters,
provided with Japanese subtitles. This included the scene between Dr. Hidaka
and the Eskimo chief, who are actually conversing in English; and scenes involving
the U.S. Air Force base. The actors in that sequence are actually British,
and these scenes were redone for the first American version.
Released to American television in 1966, this version, Gammera the Invincible, was treated in a similar way to the American editions of Godzilla King of the Monsters and King Kong vs Godzilla, with American actors hired and the story told as much through them as through the original Japanese characters. Distributed by NTA [National Television Association], this version used most of the prior movie's footage, so when the new footage was added, the film actually became longer than the original. Edited sequences included scenes of farmers, store merchants, and various auto mishaps, as well as a scene of Toshio barely escaping being hit by a car while carrying a sack of rocks. The new American actors included Albert Dekker , Brian Donlevy, John Baragrey and Diane Findlay, among many others. The new dialogue was supervised by Richard Krait, and a new theme song, by Wes Farrell and Artie Butler, was composed for the film, to be heard at the beginning and the end of the film, as well as over a brief nightclub scene during Gamera's Tokyo rampage. Most of the rest of Tadashi Yarnauchi's score was retained.
One of the most significant differences between the Japanese and US versions involves the love relationship between Nobuyo and Aoyanagi, which was removed in America. So was the fact that Hidaka's "assistant" Kyoko is also his daughter. The English dialogue between Hidaka and the Eskimo is considerably different as well, while the Japanese names are westernized: Kyoko became "Catherine", Aoyanagi "Alex", Nobuyo "Nora", and of course Toshio became "Kenny."
The Sandy Frank version, on the other hand, restores the original film's plot line and dialogue, dubbed by a new group of actors (the same ones are heard on practically all the Sandy Frank editions). No scenes are edited out, though the main title sequence has been replaced by a simple shot of a mildly rolling ocean (the same shot used in all but one of the Frank cuts). The alteration is annoying but mild compared to Frank's earlier track record, which included the butcher job done on Gatchaman, better known in the U.S. as Battle of the Planets.
Surely the most significant alteration in the NTA version was the extra "M" slapped into the middle of Gamera's name, leading to the pronunciation "Gam-MEH-ra" for Gammera over the more widely favored "GAM-ra" for Gamera. Sandy Frank's version of the movie is called simply Gamera; but the paradox is that the double-M spelling sounds more like the Japanese pronunciation! But, what's in a name?
This black-and-white film was directed by Noriaki Yuasa and written by Nizo Takahashi, with special effects directed by Kazufumi Fujii. This team would be responsible for all the Gamera movies through 1980 except for Gamera vs. Barugon.
WAR OF THE MONSTERS (1966)
US re-release title: Gamera vs Barugon
Japanese title: Gamera tai Barugon
containing Gamera hits a freak asteroid, freeing the fiendish turtle, who
zips back to Earth and torches an electrical power plant, then caves in the
dam next door. Satisfied, he leaves, and the story begins.
Keisuke Hirata, an airplane pilot for a sightseeing company, is visiting his older brother. Two others are present, Onodera and Kawajiri, and the three listen to the older Hirata's story of discovering a giant opal during the island war in the Pacific. The crippled Hirata outlines a plan which he says will enrich them all: the three men are to travel incognito to the South Seas, find the cave where he hid the opal twenty years earlier, and bring the gem back to civilization.
The three arrive in New Guinea, ignoring a local tribe's warnings not to enter the jungle of "Rainbow Valley." Onodera is the first to quit making nice with them, firing a warning shot across their bows. Deep in the jungle, they find a likely looking cave and, sure enough, the opal. Kawajiri is delighted, but not for long: his jumps for joy irritate the scorpion on his leg and its sting promptly kills him. Keisuke is prostrate with grief, and Onodera, who saw the scorpion but thought better of mentioning it, double crosses his companion and uses grenade bombs to seal him in the cave. Keisuke survives however, nursed back to life by the stern Karen, daughter of the only other Japanese speaking local, Doctor Matsushita. The doctor explains that the opal had no value as an opal, for in reality it is the egg of the legendary monster Barugon. Old and weak, he sends Karen with Keisuke off to Japan to retrieve it before it hatches.
Back on the Awaji Mare, Onodera is plagued with jungle rot on his feet, which he treats an with infrared lamp. Just as the ship docks in Kobe, he carelessly leaves the lamp on. His hidden opal tumbles under the ray, where it rapidly incubates and hatches, a small lizard-looking creature prying out through the ooze. It gets big in a hurry (off screen) and the ship begins exploding and sinking. Onodera is among the survivors, reunited with Keisuke's brother Hirata just in time for both men to witness the full-grown Barugon plow out of the water and through the side of a warehouse.
At Hirata's apartment in Osaka, the two men watch as Barugon lays waste to the port city of Kobe and starts heading in their general direction. Hirata catches on to Onodera's role in the seeming deaths of Kawajiri and Keisuke. Miffed, Onodera cuts him out of the deal, pushing the handicapped Hirata under a pair of file cabinets and leaving him and his wife to be demolished by the oncoming Barugon. Thrifty as ever, Onodera takes care to steal their wallets as he leaves.
Barugon's onslaught continues, all tanks and jets falling prey to the freezing spray he shoots from the tip of his hideous tongue. He is able to sense a distant field of missiles arrayed against him at Suzuka; before they can fire, a rainbow springs from the spikes on his back, an ultra powerful prism ray that destroys the missiles from many miles away. The heat of the rainbow also attracts Gamera, who confronts Barugon by Osaka Castle in the midst of the ghostly white, ice petrified city. A bloody battle ensues, with Gamera finally giving in to the onslaught of the cold ray. Barugon contemptuously tosses the flash frozen turtle on his back.
Keisuke and Karen arrive in Japan and confront Onodera, to explain the truth about the opal. A fight erupts, end ending with Onodera tied to a post and left to die, though a lady friend soon saves him. Onodera is now interested by a TV report on the military's new plan. Karen has brought to Japan an enormous diamond, which the Army will use to lure Barugon to a body of water large enough to kill it (fresh water being toxic to the beast). With that diamond in view, Onodera is more than happy to forget the opal. Surprisingly, Barugon doesn't show any interest in the diamond at all. Onodera's doctor from the Awaji Maru recalls the infrared ray, deducing it to be the reason Barugon hatched. Furthermore, it must have accelerated the growth of the monster, who would normally require some ten years to grow to its normal size, much smaller than its current freakish proportions. The diamond is hurriedly irradiated and affixed to a giant infrared spotlight. The trick works. Barugon, kept temporarily immobile by artificial rain, is lured to Lake Biwa. Onodera interferes however, appearing out of nowhere in a speedboat and seizing the diamond. Not about to lose and give up the gem so easily, Barugon extends his tongue and seizes the thug right out of his boat and into his mouth, jewel and all.
The desperate Keisuke spots a rear view mirror in the dirt, the only thing left in the wake of one of Barugon's rainbow ray attacks. The rainbow reacts to mirrors as ordinary light would: it is reflected. Keisuke suggests the construction of huge mirrors to burn Barugon to death with his own rainbow, and the Back Mirror operation begins. Barugon is easily provoked into using the rainbow, and sears himself badly: not badly enough to kill him, but badly enough to stop him from ever sending the ray out again. Apparently nothing human can stop Barugon, but fortunately Gamera is thawing out and spoiling for a rematch. Spinning in his famous flying saucer mode, the super turtle plows into Barugon, knocking him right through a trestle and into the lake. Barugon struggles wildly but water is Gamera's natural environment and the shelled hero drags his foe deeper and deeper. Barugon sinks beneath the waves, his death cry symbolized by one last, short lived rainbow emanating from the surface of the lake. Barugon is dead and Gamera flies away, but Keisuke's heart still is heavy, feeling himself responsible for all this destruction born of his own personal greed; and now his friends and his brother are all dead, and he is alone in the world. But Karen is moved by his efforts and the way he has changed, and she takes him by the hand and whispers, "You're not alone."
Of the Gamera
movies this is the best, despite Noriaki Yuasa's absence from the director's
chair. Yuasa did take over the direction of the special effects, but the
movie itself was helmed by Shigeo Tanaka, who does a serious job of it, along
with series writer Nizo Takahashi. No hammy child actors in the lead role;
no children anywhere! The Keisuke-Karen relationship is drawn well, with Karen's
emotions moving from contempt at Keisuke's greed at the beginning to an understanding
of his growth and humility by the end. All in all the kind of story line
one might rather expect from a Toho movie at its best.
There are flaws, such as the sight of all the wires holding Barugon up during his first battle with Gamera, the refrigeration monster's head apparently so heavy it couldn't be supported by the actor inside the suit. Two actors from the original Gamera are among the stars of the sequel. Koji Fujiyama plays the engineer who rescues Toshio from the exploding trains; here, he plays the less sympathetic Onodera. Toshio's father is played by Yoshiro Kitahara; in Barugon Kitahara plays Professor Amano, organizer of the Back Mirror strategy, in aging makeup. Most notably, Gamera vs Barugon marks the series debut of one of Daiei's top actors Kojiro Hongo, the studio's answer to Toho's Kenji Sahara.
The music is intense, yet still maintains a sort of mournful subtlety throughout. Gamera's quick freeze at the tongue of Barugon actually elicits some sympathy. The composer is Chuji Kinoshita, and this is his only contribution to the Gamera saga or, indeed, any monster films.
American International's TV division purchased Gamera vs Barugon and, with a few minor cuts, released it as War of the Monsters. Karen was renamed "Kara, but became Karen again when Sandy Frank released his version. AIP-TV would continue to release all the Gamera sequels through 1970. Producer Masaichi Nagata's name appeared on the credits of the first Gamera, but this and all sequels through 1971 would be supervised instead by his son Hidemasa Nagata. A final thought: With all the craftsmanship that went into this movie, why didn't someone think to give Gamera some eyelids? Real turtles have them, and so do all of Gamera's opponents. When Gamera is bested, his eyes merely go black as if someone flicked off a light switch. A kaiju is just a man in a costume unless there's action in the eyes.
RETURN OF THE GIANT MONSTERS (1967)
US re-release title: Gamera vs Gaos
Japanese title: Gamera tai Gyaos
of a mountain valley village are shocked by the sudden eruption of a nearby
volcano, and appalled when the heat and lava attract Gamera. Stranger yet,
a helicopter full of scientists and reporters investigating the phenomenon
is cut from the sky by a mysterious golden ray fired from a nearby crater.
The local farmers have enough to worry about already, what with construction
on the Tomei Highway threatening to cut through their land. The farmers retaliate
by picketing and sabotaging equipment, all to tile dismay of
the well-meaning foreman, a working stiff named Shiro Tsutsumi.
Eiichi, tile grandson of the rebellious village headman, spots a prying newspaper reporter, who suggests that Gamera is on tile mountain, causing tile strange green light there. Eiichi agrees to go exploring, but once they enter a cave, sudden tremors cause tile reporter to flee, abandoning the boy. Once outside something pulls him up into tile air and towards a huge and hungry mouth; his last sight is not a pretty one. Eiichi manages to get out in time to see the creature Gyaos emerge, a bat winged, fox-headed, bird thing. Gyaos goes for Eiichi with a claw-tipped wing, but fortunately Gamera realty is on the mountain and chooses that moment to attack. Gyaos fires the mysterious golden ray from its mouth, slicing deep into Gamera’s arm. The wonder turtle counters by climbing into his shell and rolling full force into Gyaos, who drops Eiichi. Gamera catches him and, as Gyaos retreats, props the boy on his back. For the first time Gamera flies without rotating, to return Eiichi to his family.
As Eiichi imagines Gamera’s recuperation on the bottom of the sea, the Army inquires into the mystery of Gyaos [so named by Eiichi according to what the monster's cry sounds like] . The scientist Aoki observes that Gyaos has a double throat and spine which operates like an oscillator. Because of this, Gyaos cannot turn its head. Its destructive ray is a concentrated super-sonic wave; such waves help account for recent electrical disturbances in the village. The monster is probably nocturnal; Shiro Tsutsumi suggests that a flare system, called the AGIL, be deployed against the creature.
Gyaos emerges again and heads for Nagoya, smashing buildings and eating citizens galore; in a moment of comic relief Gyaos' ray slices a moving car in half, after which all three passengers climb into the half still working and continue on their way. Other citizens pile into the Chunichi Stadium, thought to be so brightly lit as to repel Gyaos. Gamera arrives and a huge air battle follows, Gamera flying at Mach 3 to Gyaos' Mach 3.5. Gyaos' supersonic ray has little effect on Gamera's spinning shell, but in close combat it learns the yellow powder spray that bursts from its chest can extinguish Gamera's flame. Gamera falls into Ise Bay, managing to grab one of Gyaos' feet in his jaws. As the sun begins to rise, a red glow in the center of Gyaos' forehead signals trouble, and Gyaos finally saws off his own foot with his ray to escape, the toes regenerating later at home.
The amputated appendages are recovered from the bay, shrunken somewhat. Scientists deduce that ultraviolet light causes Gyaos' tissue to shrink: the sun is deadly to it. A platform is built atop the revolving sky lounge of the Hi-Land hotel. Artificial blood is heated in a huge bowl on the platform to tempt the winged monster. Once it lands on the platform, it begins to revolve, the scientists hoping to disorient the monster’s equilibrium until sunrise and beyond. Unfortunately the motors overheat before the sun can fully kill the beast.
After this, the village farmers have had enough not just of the monster, but of their own headman Kanemaro. Because if him they have not sold their land to the Tomei Highway Company; they were holding out for a higher price, and now there will be np price: the company has changed the direction of the highway, and their farms are all but destroyed. The unruly mob is only turned away when Eiichi intervenes to save his grandfather, and they depart in shame. Eiichi thinks that Gamera is the real answer to the problem, and that he might be attracted if the forest were set alight. Kanemaru, at the end of his rope, thinks this is a good idea and brings it to Dr. Aoki.
Soon the Futago Hill region is ablaze. Gyaos douses the fire with his built-in extinguisher, but Gamera is already attracted and the third and final gory battle begins. Once again Gyaos’ ray puts Gamera on the defensive, slicing open a wound on the chelonian champion's tail. Withdrawing into his shell under fire, Gamera manages to hurl a boulder into Gyaos’ mouth, blocking his most potent weapon. Roaring forward like a rocket, Gamera smashes into his foxy foe and sinks his tusks into Gyaos’ neck. Blood rockets from Gyaos’ ear as the mammoth turtle drags him up the mountainside, exposing him fully to the rays of the sun, and finally dropping him down into the volcano from whence he came. The menace is finished, as is the company's threat to change the course of the highway. Every body is happy as Gamera flies victorious off into the sunrise.
like to regard Gyaos as Daiei's answer to Toho's Rodan, but there is very
little in common between the two. Gyaos may resemble Rodan somewhat in body
type, but his head is not like a Pteranodon's. He also has many abilities
Rodan does not, such as the power to regenerate lost limbs, and until Godzilla
vs Mechagodzilla (1993) Rodan could not fire a ray from his mouth or anywhere
else. Gyaos is rather a more frightening manifestation of evil than
Barugon; it devours people, for one thing, and its conflicts with Gamera
are far more violent throughout. The blood is colored blue though, to avoid
upsetting the younger members of the audience. Realism is destroyed even
further by the sight of all the wires supporting Gyaos' body during the fight
The characters of Eiichi and his sister Sumiko are highly reminiscent of Toshio and Nobuyo from the fIrst Gamera, the same format of older sister playing mother to a younger brother. This is a motif that would be repeated with little variation (older brother/younger sister etc.) in most of the films. Familiar faces in the cast include Kojiro Hongo as Shiro Tsutsumi and Yoshiro Kitahara as Dr. Aoki. Tadashi Yamauchi, who composed the score to the first Gamera, returns to the series for the only time here.
The AIP-TV version, Return of the Giant Monsters, is mostly complete though missing the last two minutes of the film. The main title was also truncated to exclude a scene of Gamera consuming the flames of the open volcano. In the Sandy Frank version (“Gamera vs. Gaos” not “Gyaos”), the entire main title was cut, replaced by the standard close-up shot of ocean waves. This version did include the ending missing from the AIP-TV cut, but only the footage (a montage of scenes from earlier in the picture). Music and sound effects from these scenes were used instead of the original “Gamera Song” written for the Japanese finale and never heard in either American versions.
DESTROY ALL PLANETS (1968)
Japanese title: Gamera tai Uchu Kaiju Viras
A strange ship
crosses the void of outer space, unfriendly eyes inside observing the planet
Earth. These are would be invaders from the planet Viras. Unseen inside the
penta-globed spacecraft, the threatening voice of the commander is heard
as the ship's radar picks up a rotating object. It is Gamera on patrol,
but the Virasians had no prior knowledge of him. Just as Gamera destroys
the ship, the commander sends a warning back to his home planet.
Later, at the Chikesaki seaside near Tokyo, a pack of Boy Scouts led by Nobuhiko Shimada is setting up camp. Shimada notices that two of his charges are missing, lovable scamps Masao Nakatani and Jim Morgan. Masao's older sister Mariko tracks them down via a two-way radio designed by Masao that the two wear on their wrists. The boys obey Shimada's order to return to camp, but not before they run across Dr. Dobie's miniature submarine lying in dry-dock. They mischievously reverse its control wires, leading to predictable slapstick chaos when Dobie and Shimada demonstrate the sub in front of the Scouts.
Masao and Jim volunteer to fix and test out the two-seater on their own, and the grownups are suitably astounded, even more so when the boys meet up with Gamera at the bottom of the sea. The wonder turtle is in a playful mood, entering into a race with the little sub. The fun comes to an end when a second Virasian ship arrives, sealing Gamera inside a "Super Catch Ray" force field. Gamera manages to lift a corner of the field, allowing the boys to escape. The Virasians use the limited amount of time before their ray wears off to probe Gamera's memory (availed by extensive stock footage from the previous three films). They conclude that Gamera's sole weakness is "his overpowering kindness towards children" and so, descending below the clouds and revealing their ship, they snatch Masao and Jim.
The Virasians warn Gamera that they will execute the boys if Gamera opposes them, so the creature submits and is enslaved by a small control device affixed to his neck, and forced to destroy Tokyo (stock footage from Gamera) and the so called Okamasashi Dam (the Kurobe Dam footage from Gamera vs Barugon). Inside the alien ship, the boys find rather humanoid-looking Virasians and, in a cage, a multi-tentacled yellow-eyed space creature which seems to understand their language but doesn't respond in kind. They figure it is destined for a zoo. Eventually, the boys' meddling offends the Virasians sufficiently that they are pinned immobile to a wall. Masao is able to work his wrist radio however, telling his sister and scout leader that he and Jim are perfectly willing to sacrifice their own lives if need be, rather than submit to the Virasian plot of destroying Earth with Gamera until the world gives up the fight. The boys manage to worm out of their bonds and Shimada, suggests the idea of the boys reversing the ship's controls as they did the mini sub's. Sure enough, Gamera is freed and the Super Catch Ray beams the boys back to the beach. Gamera assaults the Virasian ship, which crashes. Masao and Jim peer through one of its broken walls and observe the creature from the cage, now free, lining up the humanoid "Virasians" and decapitating them with a single slash of its tentacle, and more creatures like itself burst from within them; they weren't humans all along, but host bodies for the other Virasians, which now merge with their multilegged boss to form a single, gigantic Viras unit.
Gamera and Viras clash violently with the alien super beast using its six tentacles to good advantage, tripping up Gamera's feet and hurling the tremendous tortoise into a bridge. Counter at tacking vigorously, Gamera sends Viras flying into the ocean where Gamera grabs the space monster's arms and rides him like a jet ski. Unexpectedly, Viras gains the upper tentacle when his spear like head accidentally jams into a sandbar and Gamera's grip is dislodged. Gamera falls on his back on the beach, and Viras plunges his head into Gamera's stomach several times. Gamera gathers his strength and starts his jet flames, rotating high into the sky with Viras still stuck in his belly, then turns over, spins faster, and dislodges the alien body. Viras ices up as it plunges towards earth, its frozen corpse landing in the sea with an enormous splash, never to appear again.
The boys are congratulated for their role in averting the subjugation of the people of Earth. "And you owe that to one of your jokes," Shimada says. Everybody waves at Gamera as he flies away, his job well done.
For the first
time but not the last, Daiei attempted to catch the attention of American
children by pairing the usual Japanese boy with an Anglo sidekick. The Western
boys in the original films speak Japanese just like everybody else in the
movie (though the same boys are never heard speaking their English lines
in the U.S. version), not a particularly incredible feat, as children raised
in a foreign environment often pick up the local dialects faster than their
elders. Grown up actors include Yoshiro Kitahara, in his fourth Gamera
film, playing Masao's father, and Kojiro Hongo as scoutmaster Shimada, as
well as Koji Fujiyama as the general commander of the defense force.
This movie introduces the famous Gamera March music track, composed by Kenjiro Hirose, and heard in the U.S. version minus the vocal track; the main title track was also abbreviated, but the rest of Hirose's score left thankfully alone. Excellent stuff, especially the shivering low toned organ pieces heard during many scenes with the Virasians. Despite Hirose's great contribution to the film, it is his only work on the series. Other interesting credits in his extensive career include " Japanese music consultant" to John Williams on the film None But the Brave (1965), and conductor of Maury Laws' 1977 score for The Last Dinosaur.
Gamera met an unearthly adversary for the first time here, traveling in one of the most interesting of spaceship models. The Viras ship consists of five striped balls attached to and revolving on a ring. The interior sets are a little too drafty, though, the actors' breath can be seen as they talk. Sometimes the humanoid Virasians' eyes glow in the darkness, blinking on and off in synchronization with their speech. The movie overall is seventy five minutes long, but some twenty four minutes of that is stock footage from the fIrst three movies, including black and white scenes from Gamera, tinted with a color sheet. AIP-TV did not see fit to cut it anywhere except in the main titles, but strangely chose to call it Destroy All Planets, perhaps in imitation of their moniker for a Toho film from the same year, Destroy All Monsters. If Sandy Frank has prepared a version of this film, he hasn't let it see the light of day.
Article © 1995 Keith Sewell. Reprinted with permission of the author.
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