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.