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Region 2 DVD Review: Gamera vs. Gaos

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Following up on the success of Gamera vs. Barugon, Daei Studios wasted no time in keeping audiences glued to their new giant monster franchise. However, research showed that the growing theater patrons were kids, not adults. Bored by the lengthy human drama, Daei created Gamera's next film around Gaos (pronounced G-ow-s), cutting much of the human element out in the process.

If there's one thing someone could learn from this third film in the series, it's that the writers and monster designers had plenty of imagination. Gaos is a wild design, with an angular head, glowing ears, and a beam weapon that splits anything cleanly in half. Like the first film, a child is the key character here, an obvious result to the market research.

The elaborate and completely ridiculous means of trying to eliminate Gaos are another effort to appeal to their newly realized fans. Thought up by the child, the apparent scientific community and military are clueless. Believing that building a massive spinning structure would make him dizzy, forcing him to stay out in the sun long enough to kill him (the giant critter dies when exposed to the sun) would actually work is incomprehensible. For all the wild and entertaining goofiness the film brings with it, it somehow adds to the charm.

Gamera vs. Gaos also carries over a problem from the last effort, and that's a short-term involvement from Gamera. While the two beasts struggle often, it's generally brief, and the military spends the majority of the film performing various methods to dispatch of Gaos. Gamera simply flies in when they're all but defeated.

The budget here is definitely cut (said to only be $165,000), settling on forest fights than cities to trim down on the miniature work. The Gamera suit loses its meaner edge of the previous film, now with gaudy yellow, huge eyes and rounder face. Matte work, rear projection, and blue screen effects work effectively where used. The few miniatures that are used are spectacular, including a classic scene of Gaos's beam weapon splitting a passenger helicopter in mid-air and the stunning destruction of a rail yard. Other effects, like Gaos flying completely immobile, are inexcusably bad.

For kids, this is an easy way to introduce them to the genre. While oddly violent (Gamera chews off Gaos's toes and there's gaudy colored monster blood poured out at a few points), it's a solid effort. This would be the final high point for the giant turtle before Daei was hit financial issues and the films would barely rise above the level of Saturday morning TV matinees. The constant action of Gamera vs. Gaos is a fine way to send the series off to the depths of low budget hell.

While not as sharp as the transfer used in Gamera vs. Barugon, Gaos still looks amazing. The contrast is set higher here and sharpness is lacking, washing out finer details. Still, with a distinct lack of noticeable compression artifacts and gorgeous color, the film comes alive like it never has on any other film format. The print used is immaculate. It's necessary to appreciate (or enjoy on any level) this film, which this widescreen presentation does wonderfully.

While these Daei DVD's fail to go out like rival Toho Studios and provide 5.1 remixes, Dolby 2.0 mono is serviceable. Memorable roars and sound effects come through cleanly. Distortion is a rare occurrence.

Director Noriaki Yuasa provides a short video interview that is sadly left without subtitles. Thankfully, the film itself has an accurate translation via clear captions.

The franchise would push on, given yearly releases until 1971. A lapse period following that ended in 1980 with Gamera Super Monster, which could quite possibly be the worst giant monster film in existence. Made entirely from stock footage, the movie follows a group of Japanese female aliens that call on all the monsters Gamera previously fought. Sloppily edited fight footage then follows for 90-minutes. It's as bad as it sounds.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.
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