Many call Vs. Virus the beginning of the end of quality for the Showa Gamera films. In some ways they wouldn’t be wrong. The original film was dull, but Vs. Barugan and Vs. Gyaos were very good. Virus marks the trend of cheesy dubbed kids as the protagonists. The tone wasn’t gritty or particularly dark, something that would last until the Showa series ended. This one doesn’t get as much recognition as its sequel or previous film, but Vs. Virus is actually one of the more solid Gamera movies. It has a good story, a great antagonist kaiju, and the fight between the two monsters is pretty good.
The story follows two young boy scouts who run into Gamera when inside a submarine. Little do they know that an alien ship is coming for the sole purpose of defeating him. Instead of merely killing him however, they manage to put a mind control device on. With Gamera under their own control, what can the world do?!
Call Godzilla of course! It’ll take the ingenuity of these two kids to free him. And of course, it’ll come down to a showdown between Gamera and the squid alien thing called Virus. While watching, I couldn’t help but think that are kids really that smart? Perhaps we’ve been underestimating them all these years. They actually get more work done than any adult in the film. But anyways…
First it’s extremely important to mention the film’s intro. It is by far one of the greatest kaiju movie openings ever. The final line by the alien, “The Earth has a defender! And its name is…” que the explosion and title screen, is perfect, absolutely perfect. It sets the mood and Gamera as Earth’s primary defender, a timeless intro. It takes a bit for the film to quite match the powerful opening. The next scene introduces us to the boyscout camp. Our two heroes are Masao and Jim. These two are established as troublemakers, but we soon see they are actually the most brilliant characters in the whole thing. Somehow they manage to escape the spaceship, knows exactly what to do, and figures out what Virus’s henchmen are…without being told anything! Yes, it’s inconceivable, but at least it’s fun to watch these two little masterminds.
Virus is a pretty intriguing kaiju. To some, his design may look lame, but it’s also important to know that there had been no giant squid monsters yet. (Gezora from Space Amoeba wouldn’t appear until 1970!) The pacing is also interesting, because Virus doesn’t actually appear until the film’s third act. Thankfully, the climax made up for his lack of appearing. He rises above almost all of the Gamera Showa foes. Like Zigra, he’s actually given some lines, so he’s established not just as some rampant animal, but an evil mastermind. Unlike Zigra, he’s a deadly fighter. If it’s one monster that should be brought back, it’s this guy.
One of the most off aspects with the writing was when the boyscout commander and the doctor let the boys go into the submarine after testing it themselves and seeing the controls were faulty. I truly doubt two high-esteemed individuals would have let that happen. The English version of the film interestingly has a long recap scene where the aliens look into the past (somehow they’re able to do that) to find a weakness of Gamera. It shows us scenes from the first film, Barugon, and Gyaos. While it was definitely unnecessary, it was still fun seeing those fights again. Sadly, when the aliens mind control Gamera, the scenes of him destroying Tokyo are lifted from the first film. That my friends was one of the drawbacks of low-budget Japanese kaiju films, stock footage. The fight against Virus was pretty solid, definitely a lot better than what was shown in Zigra. I don’t know how Gamera survived being impaled in the stomach by Virus’s razor-sharp head, but it was a shocking and greatly-done scene nonetheless. As for the music, typical Showa Gamera fare. At least the theme song isn’t too cheesy. (It would get immensely cheesy as the films went on.)
Overall, Gamera vs. Virus is actually one of the better Showa Gamera flicks.The intro is incredible, and the story is fun to watch and doesn’t become boring. It takes awhile for Virus to pop up, but when he does it doesn’t disappoint. You’d be surprised at how much damage he can do with a design like that. While not very popular since it’s between the two classics from the Showa era, Virus is still a very enjoyable watch.
Daniel has been a Gamera fan as far back as he could remember. His favorite monster is Legion and you can follow him on Twitter: @Destroyer_199