Director Noriaki Yuasa retook the reins of the Gamera franchise for Return Of The Giant Monsters, more commonly referred to as Gamera Vs. Gyaos (1967).
Following the high production values on kaiju underrated underdog and critically derided Gamera Vs. Barugon (War Of The Monsters), the second Gamera picture and the only one not directed by Yuasa, Yuasa returned with his wide-eyed enthusiasm and youthful love of all things Gamera as if looking at the creature through the lens of a child. The director was exceptional in his approach and his natural connection to the turtle monster ensured it did not take a backseat to Gyaos in terms of film time as he did in Gamera Vs. Barugon.
The concept of a beloved Gamera by children was introduced in Gamera's debut black and white film, Gamera, The Giant Monster (1965), then dropped for Gamera Vs. Barugon (1966). With Gamera Vs. Gyaos Yuasa was no holds barred in brining back the wide-eyed child love for Gamera that was sidelined for a film.
Production values are solid and largely the kind of kaiju fun one should embrace who has any heart and wonder at all.
Is it important that the Japanese technicians are trying to build a road in this latest tale before being introduced to the evil ray-slicing Gyaos? Gosh, Hell no!
The adventure begins when a child is imperiled by Gyaos a strange flat-headed winged creature. A hiker is eaten alive. A plane load of passengers is sliced in half and fall to their deaths. Some grisly stuff for 1967. Gamera comes to the rescue of the child, Eiichi, and saves the adorable, chunky, little Japanese boy, but not before taking some knife-slicing hits on his right arm several times nearly losing it.
Gushing good old-fashioned green kaiju blood Gamera escapes with the boy on his shell for a trusty kaiju version of a magic carpet ride. These child-friendly concepts taken further later in the year for Johnny Sokko And His Flying Robot (1967-1968; 26 episodes).
Gamera beats back Gyaos with his flame-projecting breath and even at one point retracts his legs and arms and rolls downhill straight at Gyaos. The feature is filled with fun, creative kaiju action.
What Gamera Vs. Gyaos does offer is a turtle with significant intelligence. The creature clearly demonstrates an equally mutual affection for the kids as he refrains from spinning through the air, lands and leans into a ferris wheel to dump off the young child into loving arms. That's one smart terrapin people!
Not only was this turtle a hell of a lot of fun to watch but Yuasa's franchise run influenced very early on many of those kid-friendly Godzilla pictures. The Godzilla franchise began infusing its own features with the child wonderment of the great lizard and even began incorporating some kaiju gushing violence to compete with those unique Gamera ideas.
Gamera's unabashed kaiju-gushing violence became a real trademark beginning with Gamera Vs. Barugon.
In the rogue's gallery of Gamera's villains Gyaos ranks among his most well known somehow surpassing the equally interesting Barugon and arguably surpassing, and surprisingly so, the fantastic Viras or Guiron from the menagerie. The strange looking bird creature seemingly part reptile comes off like a lower budgeted Rodan, but those big anime-like eyes give Gyaos a cartoonish, but intriguing allure. Gyaos would be reimagined and revisited for the Heisei period of Gamera and Gamera: Guardian Of The Universe (1995) relaunching the monster in a new film trilogy. The villain would return not as one, not two, but three separate Gyaos with one eventually evolving into a Super Gyaos.
The creature in this classic film is complemented by a terrific series of sound effects and the film itself is accented and enhanced by another outstanding Showa era soundtrack.
When the film culminates in its final act, the boy is naturally connected to Gamera who is at the bottom of the ocean healing his wounded arm. The boy intuitively knows this. Bypassing any scientific mumbo jumbo it is the boy who seems to understand the creature better than the scientists. He even names the creature Gyaos. The youngster determines the creature is nocturnal long before the eggheads. Who needs the W.H.O. (formed in 1948)? This kid is more in touch than the damn scientists and adults. These are quite possibly some of the dumbest overthinkers in kaiju history. Without that kid they would be lost. No wonder the W.H.O. is in trouble.
There are some comedic players in the entry too that keep things light with some wonderfully animated physical performances. A little more of it could have made the film more effective and even more fun.
In a major tussle between Gyaos and the great turtle, Gamera bites and tears off two of Gyaos toes. Meanwhile, Gamera is spurting green blood from a head wound and the two retreat for some healing time. This gives our dumb scientists time to ponder how dumb they are. Understandably they never figure that out.
Eventually, the scientists and military come up with quite possibly one of the most preposterous plans ever conceived to stop Gyaos, but somehow it works for a time. Eventually, the scientists move to plan B and try to snuff out Gyaos with a forest fire, but the bat-like bird creature proves resilient with its extinguishing gas. Nothing like scorched earth and total destruction to meet their ends.
Gamera proves elusive to Gyaos rays seemingly dancing around any direct hits save for Gamera's tail which is punctured and gushing.
It's a battle royale.
Gamera Vs. Gyaos keeps the gushing turtle soup coming in another memorable entry.
Writer: Niisan Takahashi. Director: Noriaki Yuasa.