The fourth film in the Gamera series was, in my opinion, the best yet – being so utterly bonkers and campy in tone that you couldn’t help but enjoy it. It was so 60s, it even featured Gamera surfing on his opponent in the final battle. Utterly batshit insane – and all the better for it.
Daiei Studios had a real hit on their hands with their Godzilla rival, Gamera – and they continued pumping these films out annually, with Gamera vs Guiron being the fifth in the series since the first movie in 1965. That rushed production cycle meant that inconsistent quality in writing, acting, effects and even tone was an issue with the first films in the series – though by the third film, the series had at least seemed to settle on being much more family friendly than the first two entries. The fifth entry strives for that same family friendly tone, but does stumble in that regard with some of the gore-laden monster battles – though they’re at least fairly cartoony in style.
Kids Akio, his sister Tomoko and their friend Tom see a spaceship landing in the woods through their telescope one night and head out the next day to investigate. When they find it, Akio and Tom accidentally launch into space in the alien craft – and though Gamera soon appears to keep them safe from danger, he’s unable to keep up, meaning the kids end up far from Earth on an alien planet.
Some moments that stand out include a weird fourth wall breaking look at the camera by Tom and more bizarre songs, sung by kids, praising their jet-powered turtle guardian.
For the most part, the effects are pretty good – the modelwork especially – but as with the previous films the bluescreen work can be pretty bad. There’s no getting around how goofy Gamera still looks either, especially when he’s in space with his jets firing (and there’s more hilarious, physics- and logic-defying moves in the kaiju clashes).
We see a familiar face in the form of Gyaos (I was never a fan of his design) or at least a Space Gyaos variant of him, as well as a new creature – the eponymous Guiron. He’s a vicious beast, with a sharp, knife-shaped head – which he uses to quite grim effect, considering the fact that this film is supposed to be aimed at kids. Gamera is even referred to as ‘the friend of all children’ at one point. Guiron’s hilariously bizarre hidden shurikens are amazing too, causing Gamera to go-go dance at one point. No, that’s not a joke.
As with the last film, the campy aliens and their general aesthetic are unique and very, very 60s (their true intent, which I won’t spoil here, is another oddly grim element of this supposedly family friendly film). We also have a ‘greatest hits’ montage of Gamera’s previous adventures – yes, again – this time showcasing his various actions to save kids from certain doom. As with the previous Gamera movie, which featured a similar montage, this feels like filler to drag out the running time – which is still way under 90 minutes.
True to form then, this mostly space-based Gamera film is utterly mental. The man-in-suit fights are big and daft, with some fun models and puppetry thrown in for good measure (though the bluescreen shots remain really weak). The slightly gory moments provided by the main antagonist’s design give it an inconsistent feel, but the completely campy silliness – with a couple of hilariously bad songs celebrating Gamera – marks this out as another daft entry in the series, but even though it shifts the action into space, it can’t help but feel somewhat repetitive at times. That shouldn’t be a surprise, given that it’s the fifth annual film in the series – but it is still a little disappointing.
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