The third film in the Gamera series opens with stock footage of an earthquake and volcano eruption – leading to everyone’s favourite fire-breathing, rocket-powered kaiju Gamera checking out the situation – apparently because he loves lava, because of course he does – then promptly disappearing. Meanwhile, there’s some human-centric business about a motorway needing to be completed, regardless of the people who live in the way of the construction work refusing to move – as well as the eruption and Gamera – being in the way. As this is going on, a green light is spotted in a mountain by a helicopter observing the effects of the tremors, before the copter is unceremoniously shot down by beams emerging from the green glow. Before long, we see that this heralds the arrival of new monster, Gyaos – and it doesn’t take much time before it clashes with Gamera.

The kid element was missing from part two, but makes a return here – with the child in question, Eiichi, being instrumental in the discovery (and naming) of Gyaos. The new monster’s first appearance is awful, with closeups that do the model no favours at all – though the Gamera series thus far has a problem with its goofy-eyed kaiju in general, Gyaos also has a weirdly angular head design and a very inexpressive jaw. His winged body also suffers from a few bizarre design choices, such as the way his wings fold. It’s definitely the weakest creature to have appeared thus far – but, as you’ll see, for some reason Gyaos really struck a chord with audiences, as it’s one of the few monsters to make repeat appearances (even in the Heisei-era films from the 90s onwards).

There’s some unexpectedly gnarly gore; the way Gyaos starts chopping through Gamera’s arm when they first meet is surprisingly graphic. The series’ trademark bizarre pseudo-science makes a return too – the hypothesis about Gyaos’ biology is hilarious, yet treated with the utmost seriousness. After the slightly more mature tone struck by the bickering, murderous treasure hunters in the previous film, the focus on Eiichi’s bond with Gamera is a bit jarring and comes out of nowhere, though this is – like Gyaos – an element that becomes re-used quite often throughout the rest of the series.

With this being the third Gamera movie in as many years, the signs are here that they were just being pumped out; the aforementioned design of Gyaos is awful, as is his implementation – the suit just looks so cheap and immobile, with way too many straight edges. He often looks more like a plane than a biological creature. The subplot of people holding onto their land for a higher price instead of selling to make way for the new road is bafflingly drawn out and pointless – and the special effects are fairly weak in general too, with some awful bluescreen work, cheap looking models in some cases and visible strings on the flying Gyaos.

That said, Gamera generally looks great (though there’s never going to be a way to make his weird rocket-powered spinning look right), especially in the water – and the general miniature sets, especially combined with the pyrotechnics and general destruction, look great.

It’s definitely the weakest of the three films so far – though it has some charmingly bonkers plans to deal with Gyaos (and, sticking with the endearingly nutty theme, Gamera even gets a singalong end credits theme!), the evil kaiju in this instance isn’t particularly well realised. To add to this, the cracks in the obvious quickie production are exposed really early on with the emergence of the new monster – Gyaos is no Gamera or even Barugon. The focus on Eiichi and the end theme sung by kids celebrating Gamera seems to indicate a series being more aimed at kids, but the monster gore and extended, dull, ultimately pointless subplot on negotiations to make way for the creation of an expressway seems to indicate otherwise, giving Gamera vs Gyaos an uneven, muddled tone. It does, however, somehow set precedents that would continue way into the future for the Gamera films, but it’s odd that the weakest link of the first three films would end up being so influential.

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