Also known as Gamera vs. Guiron, the fifth installment in Daiei’s Showa era Gamera series gets weirder, cheaper and more glorious. By this point, the “Friend to Children Everywhere” moniker has officially been coined and Gamera has now taken on the role of “best babysitter EVER”. Gamera seems to spend all his spare time playing with children, rescuing them and teaching important life lessons. The greatest thing is that Gamera has become entirely commonplace in the world of these films, to the point where his appearance among humans results in little more than an, “Oh, hey, it’s Gamera. ‘Sup?”
God, if only the real world could be as awesome as these movies.
Attack of the Monsters (1969)
Friends Akio (Nobuhiro Kajima) and Tom (Christopher Murphy) accidentally board a spaceship which whisks them away to Earth’s sister planet, Terra, where they’re greeted by a pair of sexy alien dames (Hiroko Kai and Reiko Kasahara). As it turns out, Terra is under siege by a swarm of Space Gyaos, with only the guardian monster Guiron to protect them. The kids think this is all cool beans until they learn that the ladies are actually brain-eating monsters with designs to turn Earth into a buffet table. Their lone salvation lays in the giant rocket-turtle Gamera, but he’ll have to get through Guiron first.
Attack of the Monsters recycles the Japanese/American kid dynamic from Destroy All Planets, which was a method I really appreciated. Gamera is supposed to be “Friend to Children EVERYWHERE”, after all, not just “Friend to Children, but Only in Japan”. So adding a multicultural human cast helped drive the point home and likely helped Gamera’s appeal net a wider audience on a global level.
On the flip side, Attack of the Monsters boasts perhaps a bit too much of the main kid protagonists, with a human-to-monster ratio closer to your average Godzilla movie’s. Previous Gamera outings were more interested in cramming the flicks with as many monster battles as possible, as Daiei recognized that kids saw these movies for the kaiju, not the plot. But I’m sure budgets have a way of changing all that, and this installment seems to have spent most of its allowance on the sets for the alien world of Terra. They’re as cheap as anything else you’ll find in the Showa era Gamera series, but there are a lot of them, as the kids explore the vast Terran complex and Gamera and Guiron duke it out on the scaled-down alien landscape.
Guiron is the “knife-monster”, if you can’t picture his face off the top of your head. Speaking of tops of heads, Guiron’s got a friggin’ butcher knife jutting out of his, making him the most visually bizarre kaiju that Gamera has faced so far. Guiron’s knife can deflect the supersonic beam attacks of the Space Gyaos and is sharp-enough to slice through even Gamera’s shell. He’s also decked out with shuriken that fly from his temples, making him a reasonably devious opponent for the heroic turtle and not a total mort like Viras was. Gamera’s battle with Guiron is short, which is something of a shame, though I have to say that I love the way he kills the villain at the end. He plants Guiron’s knife in the dirt with a rocket-powered pile-driver, stabs him through the brain with a missile and then detonates the warhead with his flamethrower breath, thus blowing the cur to pieces.
Don’t fuck with Gamera.
The lesson Akio learns at the end of the movie is pretty hilarious, not so much in its good natured intent, but with its rather backward delivery. After returning to Earth, Akio addresses the media (while otherwise looking like he’s talking directly to the audience) to let them know that all aliens are hostile douchebags, that Earth is the only planet that matters, so we should stop wasting time and resources searching for life among the stars and focus on making Earth super-awesome. Can’t… Can’t we do both?
Gamera proceeds to nod his head in approval of the message, then giving a look that I swear is Rocket-Turtlese for “My work here is done”, proceeds to fly away to who-knows-where.
Attack of the Monsters is a step up from the previous film thanks mostly to having a really cool kaiju, though the amount of monster battles seem to be dropping. Even so, the goofy fun of the movie keeps it from being boring, if not occasionally annoying, and if you’re into Asian chicks in stupid outfits then, boy, are you in for a treat.