By the time Daiei Pictures produced 1969’s GAMERA VS. GUIRON (the fifth film of the Gamera series), the once terrible terrapin from GAMERA, THE GIANT MONSTER (1965) and GAMERA VS. BARUGON (1966) was now firmly established as chief defender of children and of mankind in general. As the series progressed, the stories were geared more and more to a children’s audience in a similar fashion as Toho’s humanization of Godzilla in such films as DESTROY ALL MONSTERS (1968) and GODZILLA’S REVENGE (1969). As the next DVD installment of the Gamera franchise, Shout! Factory has produced another magnificent double feature featuring the fifth and sixth entries of the cult classic series.
In GAMERA VS. GUIRON, an unmanned alien spacecraft lands in an abandoned field. Two boys, Akio (Nobuhiro Kajima) and Tom (Christopher Murphy), discover the craft and blast off. Before long, they crash land on the planet Tera where they encounter an extra-terrestrial version of Gyaos as well as a giant knife-headed monster, Guiron. The sole inhabitants of this rapidly dying planet are two beautiful female aliens, Flobella and Barbella. These two nefarious women plan on consuming the brains of the two boys and use the spaceship to launch an invasion of Earth. Of course, Gamera arrives to save the day and battle Guiron in a spectacular climax.
GAMERA VS. GUIRON is most remembered by American audiences under its AIP-TV title, ATTACK OF THE MONSTERS and was a veritable television staple throughout the 1970s and early 1980s after which time it disappeared from the airwaves. In the late 1980s, Sandy Frank Film Syndication released a horribly re-dubbed version to VHS. Although ludicrous with its American South-accented voices for the Japanese actors, the new release was a revelation in the fact that the Sandy Frank version featured a monster battle scene originally edited out of the AIP-TV version for its excessive monster violence. This of course is the infamous scene wherein Guiron chops Space Gyaos into several bits. That scene is now included in this DVD release where it belongs.
Once again, the AIP-TV version of GAMERA VS. GUIRON was dubbed at New York’s Titan Productions and many of the vocal artists (Corrine Orr, Larry Robinson, Bret Morrison, et al) who dubbed GAMERA VS. VIRAS also dubbed this film. Mr. Morrison also served as dubbing director on the AIP-TV version as well.
Shout! Factory’s DVD of GAMERA VS. GUIRON is a visual delight in every way. Finally, the aforementioned battle between Guiron and Space Gyaos is reinstated to make this version a complete 82 minute print. The brief dialogue during this battle scene between Tom and Akio features a few lines from the Sandy Frank version to fill in the lines cut in 1969 by AIP-TV when the film was originally dubbed and the violent scene was expurgated. This DVD also features a great sounding Japanese language audio track with newly translated English subtitles. Unfortunately, the AIP-TV English audio is a bit of a disappointment with what sound like static or some noise in the background. This reviewer is not sure with what audio elements the producers at Shout! Factory had to work (and probably MGM was little or no help from their vault) and genre fans should be grateful that an AIP-TV English track was even included at all (just take a look at the first two Gamera releases from Shout! Factory which came out sans any English audio). The third English audio track features the infamous Sandy Frank Film Syndication re-dub and is adequate as far as sound is concerned. The only other special feature is a publicity gallery.
In 1970, the next installment of the Gamera series was released as GAMERA VS. JIGER. This particular entry serves not only as a typical battle-of-the-monsters epic, but also as a commercial travelogue of Expo ’70 which was held in Osaka in 1970. Now, this film makes its official DVD debut as the co-feature to GAMERA VS. GUIRON.
A mysterious statue is taken from a remote Pacific island called Wester Island. The natives have dubbed the statue “the Devil’s whistle” due to the grating whistling sound which emanates from the object. The intent is to exhibit this statue at Expo ’70. Once the statue is moved, a huge lizard-like creature emerges and heads toward Osaka to retrieve the statue. Of course, Gamera comes to the rescue and does battle with this new monster christened Jiger. However, Jiger stabs Gamera in the shoulder with a needle in its tail and “impregnates” Gamera with its larva. It is up to two intrepid boys, Hiroshi (Tsutomu Tawkawa) and Tommy (Cary Varis), to use a mini-submarine to enter Gamera’s body (a la FANTASTIC VOYAGE) and destroy the small Jiger larva.
The American version of GAMERA VS. JIGER (titled GAMERA VS. MONSTER X by AIP-TV) is notable as the last Gamera film released directly to television by AIP-TV. As with the previous two Gamera films, the American version was prepared by Titan Productions and featured the familiar voices of Corrine Orr and Bret Morrison doing a variety of roles. The next installment in the series (1971’s GAMERA VS. ZIGRA) would not receive any American release until 1987 when Sandy Frank Film Syndication issued it to television (its “premiere” being on primetime on the USA Network in March, 1987).
GAMERA VS. JIGER is unique at this point of the series as it relies on almost no stock footage to cut costs. With the exception of the opening credits in which scenes of Gamera battling his previous foes are shown over the credits and a couple of brief snippets from GAMERA VS. BARUGON during Jiger’s raid on Osaka, the monster action was made specifically for this film.
The video of GAMERA VS. JIGER is as excellent as the other releases. This film is also in 2.35:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement. The Japanese language audio is also very well done with newly translated subtitles. The AIP-TV English audio is a huge improvement over the one provided for GAMERA VS. GUIRON. It is fairly rich and clear with a nice, full sound. There is also a publicity gallery to round out the special features.
Overall, Shout! Factory has done an excellent job in making these Gamera films available in North America the way they were originally intended to be seen. They also must be thanked for giving it their all in making the nostalgic English language versions available even though they most likely had less-than-perfect audio sources from which to work. Gamera’s final films (1971’s GAMERA VS. ZIGRA and 1980’s GAMERA: SUPER MONSTER) are expected to be released from Shout! Factory in the coming months. Look for reviews right here at DVD Drive-In. (Joe Cascio)
BACK TO REVIEWS