Saturday, January 21, 2012

Movie Review: Gamera vs. Guiron (1969)

As much as I love MST3K, it's not as fun to watch it alone. My wife just doesn't understand why anyone would deliberately watch a bad film and my mother (my usual b-movie partner) lives in another state and can't visit as much as we'd like. Fortunately for me I've been able to get Bryce (a.k.a., "B" in previous posts) into the show, although he has cursed my name on several occasions for recommending certain movies.

Despite evidence of my poor taste in movies, Bryce has agreed to watch several episodes of the show with me. I own every volume of MST3K ever released, so I don't lack in movies to subject him to. We play Warhammer 40,000 every couple weeks, so we chose an off-week to watch the truly wretched Hobgoblins and Space Mutiny back to back. The following week we were scheduled to play 40K with Jon and Carl, so I came over a few hours before the game so that Bryce and I could watch Gamera vs. Guiron from the Mystery Science Theater 3000 vs. Gamera collection (i.e., Volume XXI). All I can say is: Bryce, I'm very, very sorry I made you see that... but not sorry enough that I won't do it again.

For those who aren't familiar with Gamera, imagine a giant bipedal flying turtle with tusks. The Daiei Motion Picture Company's early Gamera movies were effectively cheap knock-offs of Toho's Godzilla films from the same era. Like Godzilla, Gamera's first appearance featured him as a city-stomping, nearly indestructible prehistoric monster of the sort that us kaiju fans love. In subsequent movies, which were geared more towards younger viewers, he became a friend of children (kaiju fans generally do not like it when their city-stomping monster is turned into a friend of children). By the time of Gamera vs. Guiron, Gamera is using his ridiculous flying ability, wherein he pulls his legs into his shell and the resulting cavities emit jets of flame, to rescue children who get themselves into interplanetary mischief.

Joel and the 'Bots riffed five Gamera movies during their third season, all of which appear in Volume XXI. I chose to inflict Gamera vs. Guiron on Bryce since I'm pretty sure that it was the first MST3K I actually sat down to watch and was the episode that got me hooked on the show.

Gamera would never pass California's emissions standards

Now on to the plot, such as it is. Two boys, Akio and a gaijin named Tom whose presence in Japan is never commented on, explore an empty spaceship that has inexplicably landed on earth. No, we never find out why the spaceship was here. Anyway, the boys are whisked away when they accidentally activate the ship. As the ship flies off into space on some sort of preset course, the boys are threatened by a meteor shower. Luckily for them, Gamera arrives and bats away the meteors. This scene had Bryce simultaneously laughing and groaning. The effects are horrible, the flying Gamera model looks incredibly cheap, and the jets of flame appear to be scorching the model's rubbery shell at several points.

The ship ends up outpacing Gamera, Friend of Children (*ugh*) and takes the boys to "Terra"; Earth's long lost twin. Terra and Earth share an orbit but are always on opposite sides of the sun (the "Counter-Earth" is a well-worn sci-fi notion). Once there we behold a vast model... er, a vast city that is occupied by only two women. Apparently Terra is a planet on the brink: it is slowly freezing over and is constantly under attack by giant monsters. The women fight back by unleashing the dreaded (*snicker*) GUIRON; an odd-looking monster whose distinguishing feature is the giant Ginsu knife protruding from its head. Although the monster's head appears to have been designed for a creature that stands upright, it spends most of its time on all fours. This gives one the impression that poor Guiron is constantly looking for a dropped contact lens.

Despite the unusual physiology, Guiron just isn't a particularly interesting monster. It's certainly not as cleverly designed as many of Godzilla's nemeses such as King Ghidorah or Gigan. Even the notoriously cheap Megalon costume put in a better showing than this abomination. On a humorous note, it would appear that the costume people put a lot of the budget into making Guiron's and Gamera's eyes moveable, with the result being countless loving closeups of thrilling eye-moving action!

He slices, he dices!

Although the Terran women play nice at first, it turns out that their real plans for the boys is to "eat their brains raw(!)" ("What, no sides?" responds Joel) and to travel to earth in the spaceship, leaving Terra behind. Unfortunately for the brain-eating duo, Gamera arrives to rescue the boys. Our favorite tusked turtle ends up fighting Guiron over a period of several disappointingly short scenes. For every minute of kaiju action we get two or three of watching idiot children trying to evade evil alien women. But on the plus side we get to enjoy some of the worst translation and dubbing I've ever encountered in a Japanese film. It's thanks to the ineptness of American distributors that I insist on watching subtitled Japanese edits of daikaiju films whenever possible. Yes, this means that I'm a snob with regards to movies that feature stuntmen dressed in rubber monster suits destroying models of Tokyo. And yes, I do understand how weird this seems to most people.

Anyway, Guiron is one of those giant monsters that the villains guide with some sort of mind-control device. Anyone who has ever seen a monster movie knows that the mind-control device will be damaged or deactivated at some point and the monster will "ironically" destroy its master(s) in the resulting rampage. (Oops, that should have been preceded by a spoiler warning.) In the end, one Terran woman kills the other (with very little motivation, it seems), Guiron chops the spaceship in half with the second alien inside (thus killing the entire native population of Terra, yay!), and Gamera kills Guiron with a little help from a missile launched by the boys (the first and only useful thing those kids do during the whole movie). Gamera is able to weld the spaceship together with its fiery breath(!) and the giant turtle returns the boys safely home.

Oh, and there was also a whole subplot about how the boys' mothers won't believe the claims of Akio's little sister that their sons were carried off in a spaceship, but that part of the story was dull and didn't have giant monsters in it, so I kind of forgot about it until just now.

"Gamera is really neat, Gamera is filled with meat..."

Not being a connoisseur of Japanese-made giant monster films, Bryce called Gamera vs. Guiron one of the five worst movies he'd ever seen. Apparently the shabby costumes, boring subplots, poor dubbing, and absurd storyline didn't add up to fine cinema in his opinion. Obviously the movie isn't good by any objective standard, but I'd have to say that it doesn't even make my list of the top 20 worst movies I've suffered through. Admittedly, having been a kaiju fan since childhood biases me a bit. Maybe next time I'll torment Bryce with Monster A-Go Go or The Creeping Terror to give him some perspective. That would make him revise his list, although he probably wouldn't let me pick the movies anymore.

C- [the mere presence of giant monsters will save almost any movie from a lower score]

1 comment:

  1. Not the best movie I've ever seen (but also not the worst). The highlight for me was the Japanese actresses dubbed into English with a southern accent. "We'll eat their brains raw"!



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