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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Kenji Yuasa
Cast:
Kôjirô Hongô, Tôru Takatsuka, Carl Craig
Writing Credits:
Fumi Takahashi

Synopsis:
Gamera the Flying Turtle falls under the spell of evil aliens, but two children free him and he returns to fight the monster Viras.

MPAA:
Rated NR.

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio:
Japanese DTS-HD MA Monaural
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 72 min. (Theatrical)
81 min. (Director’s)
90 min. (US Extended)
Price: $179.95
Release Date: 8/18/2020
Available Only As Part of 12-Movie “Gamera Complete Collection”

Bonus:
• Three Versions of the Film
• Audio Commentary with Actor Carl Craig and Film Historian Jim Cirronella
• Introduction by Film Historian August Ragone
• “52 Years Later” Featurette
• “G Fest 2003” Highlights
• “4th Nippon Jamboree” Highlights
• Alternate English Credits
• Trailers
• Image Gallery


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RELATED REVIEWS


Gamera vs. Viras [Blu-Ray] (1968)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 4, 2020)

From 1965 to 1971, Daiei Studios cranked out a Gamera movie every year. With 1968’s Gamera vs. Viras, we find ourselves smack-dab in the middle of that run.

When an alien spacecraft threatens Earth, Gamera the giant super-powered flying turtle destroys it. However, another extraterrestrial mission makes it to our planet.

The aliens attempt to abduct young scouts Masao Nakaya (Toru Takatsuka) and Jim Morgan (Carl Craig) but Gamera saves them. However, in the midst of this, Gamera comes under the control of the visitors and they use him to create destruction.

Eventually the boys free Gamera from this form of slavery. He comes back to full strength in time to battle Viras, the aliens’ powerful monster.

Though the first film included a prominent young character, the third – 1967’s Gamera vs. Gyaos - became the place where the franchise really pushed that element. Gyaos offered the true beginning of Gamera’s reputation as “Friend to All Children”.

With Viras, we get an even stronger push in that direction. While Gyaos gave us a lot of time with its young character, he didn’t play the dominant part, as adults remained at the fore.

This changes in Viras, as kids come to the fore in a way not seen previously. Masao and Jim dominate the human scenes and turn into the real leads of the tale,

Unsurprisingly, Viras also becomes the most “kid-oriented” of the first four in other ways. Not that the 1965 debut or Gyaos provided deep drama, but they still came with a certain level of adult-focused material.

1966’s Gamera vs. Barugon remains the odd monster out, as it lacked any notable child characters. That one brought a much greater level of seriousness as well.

Viras seems a million miles from Barugon, and it sends the franchise ever closer to fare intended solely for kids. As noted, the first and third movies weren’t exactly deep and dramatic, but they felt palatable for adults as well, whereas Viras seems wholly unconcerned with any potential audience over the age of 12.

Perhaps I shouldn’t criticize Viras for this heavy emphasis on the kiddie audience, as there’s nothing wrong with movies aimed at a young crowd. While I appreciated the adult tone of Barugon, I understand why the film faltered at the box office, as this series appeals more for kids than older folks and they didn’t dig the 1966 movie’s darker tone.

That said, just because a film shoots for a young audience doesn’t mean it needs to dumb down the material. Plenty of kid-oriented flicks still manage to appeal to adults, so they don’t have to pander to hit the mark with their target.

I’m not sure I’d say Viras truly panders to the child audience, and it manages to become a bit more serious as it goes. The movie’s first act boasts a goofy attitude that makes it look like it’ll be the kaiju equivalent of Saturday morning cartoons.

Though Viras never turns dark or somber, it does pursue greater drama toward its finale. This helps it work a bit better than I feared during the borderline campy early scenes.

But it only fares a little better than I worried, as the movie seems like too much of a mess to go anywhere. Simple as it seems, the plot makes little to no sense, as the narrative exists mainly for action beats.

Maybe if Viras included more of these, it might entertain. However, outside of flashbacks whose length varies dependent on the version you choose – the Blu-ray comes with three cuts of Viras - the flick lacks a lot of monster mayhem for much of its running time.

Indeed, the Viras monster doesn’t actually enter battle until less than 15 minutes remains in the film. When we finally see it do battle with Gamera, it seems like too little, too late.

The emphasis on the kids really becomes a drag as well. They’re bland characters and whereas adults in other Gamera movies pursue proactive courses, the boys do little more than react to events around them.

I doubt Viras will deliver the worst of the series’ initial seven films, as I suspect the next three will seem even goofier. However, it becomes the weakest of the initial four and it foreshadows a silly path I expect will come.


The Disc Grades: Picture B-/ Audio C+/ Bonus B

Gamera vs. Viras appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a fairly good presentation.

For the most part, sharpness seemed positive. Occasional wider shots and interiors could feel a little soft, but the movie usually displayed reasonably appealing delineation.

I saw no issues with jagged edges or moiré effects, and the movie lacked edge haloes. Grain felt appropriate, and print flaws stayed minor, as I saw only a few minor specks and a stray gate hair.

The movie came with a pretty broad palette, and the colors looked acceptable. They didn’t jump off the screen, but they offered reasonable fidelity.

Blacks looked generally deep, while shadows brought decent clarity. Low-light shots could become a bit murky – perhaps intentionally to hide issues with visual effects – but they didn’t turn into an issue. All in all, this was a more than watchable image.

As for the movie’s DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack, it also felt wholly appropriate for its vintage. Speech occasionally showed some edginess, but the lines lacked much of that concern, and the lines seemed reasonably concise.

Music and effects lacked much range, but they also became fairly well-rendered. Though a bit of distortion crept into the mix at times – usually for explosions – but the elements seemed accurate enough most of the time. This turned into a perfectly average track for its era.

On this Blu-ray, Viras comes in three flavors: Theatrical Version (1:12:14), Director’s Version (1:21:17) and US Extended Version (1:30:24). Because this disc’s audio commentary comes alongside the US cut, I chose that as the one I screened.

The three vary in only one way: the length of their flashbacks to earlier films. When the aliens immobilize Gamera, we get glimpses of his prior adventures.

These start at 21:51, and for “Theatrical”, they last less than two minutes. “Director’s” extends the old clips to the point where they run almost 11 minutes.

With the US edition, the flashbacks go crazy and fill almost 20 minutes! This means nearly 22 percent of the US flick features old footage, whereas the original uses less than three percent of its running time for these clips.

I guess the “Director’s” version exists as the theoretical happy medium, but I think Gamera fans circa 2020 would probably enjoy “Theatrical” most. When Gamera ran in the 1960s, the flashbacks acted as nice reminders for viewers who’d potentially not seen the movies for a year or more.

In the home video age, though, these old clips seem useless. Anyone who watches Viras on Blu-ray will own the prior films as well and won’t need this refresher course on Gamera’s antics.

I’m glad the Blu-ray includes to different versions, though. I can’t imagine anyone will take satisfaction from the longer cuts, but I’m glad they’re here.

As with all the other Gamera Blu-rays, Viras comes with an Introduction from Film Historian August Ragone. In this 11-minute, 14-second chat, Ragone gives us background for the film and a discussion of the production. Ragone provides another compelling overview.

Alongside the US Cut, we find an audio commentary from actor Carl Craig and film historian Jim Cirronella. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at aspects of the production.

Though Cirronella throws in his own notes at times, he usually acts as moderator, with Craig as the primary participant. That works fine, as he brings a unique perspective on the film and gives us more than enough insights to turn this into an enjoyable track.

By the way, we get no mention of the different cuts of the film here. That surprised me a bit, as I thought Cirronella would’ve tossed in observations about those differences.

With 52 Years Later, we get a 12-minute, 29-second piece in which Craig shows us props and mementos from the shoot. Craig offers a fun glimpse of these artifacts.

G Fest 2003 Highlights delivers one-hour, 59-second reel from a Chicago fan convention at which Craig and director Noriaki Yuasa appeared. We see both men as they participate in the event and also check out kinds of Gamera memorabilia. This delivers a nice glimpse of the festival, especially when Yuasa and Craig interact.

Next comes The 4th Nippon Jamboree, a six-minute, 18-second promo reel created for the Boy Scouts. It shows the Scout gathering featured in the film, and it acts as a decent archival addition.

Alternate English Credits fill one minute, 28 seconds. As usual, they simply offer translated text for the US TV version.

In addition to a Japanese trailer and a US TV spot, we find an Image Gallery. It brings 109 stills that feature promo pics, shots from the set and advertising. Expect a quality collection.

Just as the James Bond franchise got campier as it went, our favorite giant turtle marches toward silliness with Gamera vs. Viras. It more overtly panders to kids and becomes a spotty adventure. The Blu-ray comes with good visuals, adequate audio and a nice mix of supplements. I’m sure Viras won’t end up as the worst of the series, but it becomes the weakest of the first four.

Note that as of August 2020, this Blu-ray version of Viras only appears as part of a “Gamera Complete Collection”. This packages 12 Gamera adventures.

The “Complete Collection” also features a 120-page reproduction of a 1996 Gamera comic book and an 80-page retrospective book. My review copy didn’t include these components so I can’t formally discuss them.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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