Gamera vs. Guiron (1969)
What secrets are hidden in these countless stars?
Apparently, a planet that is in trouble. Terra sits in space opposite Earth. (Since it’s on the other side of the sun from us, we’ve never seen it.) A “mix-up” with the computer brought mass destruction and caused uncontrollable monsters to form. When we didn’t respond to the “waves” they sent us for help, they launched a spaceship.
Young Akio (Nobuhiro Kajima) and Tom (Christopher Murphy) explore this spaceship when it lands near the vacant lot on which they play. Whether it’s because they start carelessly pushing buttons, or aliens Barbella (Hiroko Kai) and Florbella (Reiko Kasahara) retrieve it remotely, the ship launches with the boys inside, leaving Akio’s sister, Tomoko (Miyuki Akiyama), to explain their disappearance to the adults who don’t believe her.
On Terra, we learn that Barbella and Florbella, whom the boys call, “cool space girls,” really want to “eat their brains raw.” We definitely share the sentiment of Akio and Tom:
If only Gamera were here!
At least they have some entertainment. From the villains’ lair, they watch “Space Gyaos” (returning from Gamera vs. Gyaos, but now painted silver) battle Guiron, who has a sword for a face. Again, we share their sentiment:
Indeed. Space Gyaos fires the laser from its mouth, but it ricochets and severs one of its legs. It takes to the skies, but Guiron leaps into the air and slices off one of its wings. When Space Gyaos falls to the ground, Guiron not only slices off the other wing, but also its head. It then slices the rest of its body into thick pieces suitable for grilling.
Gamera vs. Guiron is a kid’s movie? Yes, As the series goes on, I’m enjoying each one more than the last. I like this one better than the previous one because the stock footage is used as expository flashback; it doesn’t try to pass as new material. Somehow, they keep sucking me in, striking some kind of chord with me that I didn’t know I possessed.
Even when Gamera arrives to fight Guiron and spins ‘round and ‘round a parallel bar, not to propel himself toward his adversary, but to land in perfect form and raise his arms proudly, I was literally cheering. I haven’t had so much pure fun watching a movie in a long, long time. The sillier these movies become, the more eager I am to watch the next one.
I have a theory that transforms this kiddie matinee into a serious psychological drama. You could view Gamera vs. Guiron as a variation on The Wizard of Oz. On their way to the spaceship, the three children pass Officer Kondo’s (Kon Omura) house. He’s in the front yard practicing swordsmanship and they act like he’s their adversary.
What if, while playing in the vacant lot, Akio falls and hits his head? His trip to Terra could be like Dorothy’s trip to Oz where the “bad guy” Kondo appears as Guiron, just like Miss Gulch appeared as the Wicked Witch of the West. Instead of wielding a sword like Kondo, Guiron’s entire face is a sword.
It’s a stretch, I know. But when everyone gathers at the landing site at the end of the movie, it feels like Dorothy’s friends and family gathering around her bed. There’s also an undercurrent I can’t quite identify… Kondo is ultimately the person that believes Tomoko. And she whispers something odd to him at the very end:
Listen, Kon, there are space people like you too?
If you think the moral of the story is, “We should have believed our children,“ it would seem so. But it’s really what Akio says that resonates:
We shouldn’t long for other planets but make Earth a place free of wars and traffic accidents.
Gamera nods, pulls his head inside his shell, fires his jets and spins away with a nice shot from his perspective of the children running below him and waving goodbye. Nonsense? A child’s fever dream, literally or figuratively? I don’t really care, it may be a little of this and a little of that, but it’s entirely entertaining.
Original Japanese Version Gamera tai daikaiju Giron
Released March 21, 1969
RT 82 min.
Written by Niisan Takahashi
Directed by Noriaki Yuasa
Starring Nobuhiro Kajima, Miyuki Akiyama, Christopher Murphy, Kon Omura, Hiroko Kai, Reiko Kasahara
US Version Attack of the Monsters
RT 82 min.
Home Video Blu-ray (Arrow Video, Gamera: The Complete Collection)