No, not a remake, but a digitally tarted-up reissue from Fred Olen Ray’s Retromedia.
Gamera tai uchu kaiju Bairasu [trans. Gamera vs the Outer Space Monster Virus] (1968; dir. Noriaki Yuasa) was the fourth Gamera film from would-be rival to Toho’s daikaiju eiga crown, Daiei Studios. Like the same period’s minor Godzilla film Oru kaiju daishingeki [trans. All Monsters Giant Attack] (1969; dir. Ishiro Honda) [aka Godzilla’s Revenge] — which was made, at least in part, in reaction to the success of the Gamera films — Gamera tai uchu kaiju Bairasu was firmly aimed at juveniles, not the adult/cross-generational audience that Godzilla generally appealed to. Things were kept relatively cheap during this time, full of stock monster footage from previous Gamera flicks and containing minimal new city-trashing. What it did have in abundance was a plethora of surreal weirdness — and Boy Scouts.
Gamera tai uchu kaiju Bairasu is an alien-invasion daikaiju film featuring a bunch of Boy Scouts who are kidnapped by pointy-headed alien cephalopods in flying beach balls to be used as a shield against the protective antics of the child-friendly flying turtle.
The aliens plant a brain-control device on Gamera and send him off to trash Tokyo (in black-and-white footage from the first Gamera film), something he hadn’t been able to do since that film in fact, as he had subsequently become rather too much the Good Monster to indulge in such anti-social behaviour.
Naturally the alien plot goes awry thanks to the kids. In the last ten minutes or so of the film, the master squid chops off the heads of the other aliens (who are hiding in human bodies) and absorbs them. In true daikaiju fashion, he thus becomes a huge alien squid-monster so that Gamera can fight him, monster-on-monster, in defense of Earth (and the children). This even involves Gamera being skewered through the chest, though that doesn’t seen to faze him too much.
Some of the cast were played by Americans, specifically the second lead Carl Craig (on the right below), which helped when the film was subsequently manhandled into an American format as Destroy All Planets [aka Gamera vs. Viras]. Gamera vs Viras was never one of the best to start with, though it looks way better and less cheap in the original format than it has tended to look in the pan-and-scanned, cut, and endlessly recopied US version that most viewers in the West are familiar with.
Now Retromedia’s new release of the US version — with the silly title that was no doubt meant to suggest Toho’s famous Godzilla epic, Destroy All Monsters — seeks to redress some of the visual problems that have plagued available public-domain versions of the film.
Fred Olen Ray is reported as saying:
We’ve transferred an original 16mm AIP-TV print and color corrected it two times to produce the best version of this film available… But the real reason to catch this Special Edition is the commentary track by American star, Carl Craig… his recollections of the film making process is fascinating. Hosted by Brett Homenick and Damon Foster, recorded in Chicago by our own Randy Carter. (As reported by Brett Homenick)
It is, of course, no substitute for a copy of the Japanese original, but this release will be the best edition of the AIP-TV version of the film ever made available on DVD and should please many fans.
- Source: Amazon.com; Brett Homenick; via Avery Guerra; also Monsters Are Attacking Tokyo! by Stuart Galbraith IV and Videohound’s Dragon: Asian Action and Cult Flicks by Brian Thomas.
- Written by Robert Hood
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