The veering of the Gamera series towards the younger generation began with the fourth film, "Gamera vs. Viras" released a speedy three years after the original hit Japanese theaters in 1965. Even though the previous movie, the gleefully entertaining "Gamera vs. Gyaos" was also geared mostly toward children, it still had an element of terror and dread in it. That is gone here and "Gamera vs. Viras" is an unsuccessfully endeavor. However, that it is hardly due to the fact that it is being directed at little children and those who are still able to find the child deep within themselves (a la moi). The problem with this picture is, despite its wonderful beginning and wonderful ending, most of the middle is just shameless, lazy jigsaw-construction of its predecessors. In other words, it's mostly just stock footage reels.
The opening is very promising. A spaceship venturing for a conquest of Earth is interrupted by Gamera, now fully evolved into the friend of all children. Before the vessel is destroyed, it sends a signal back to its home world and a second one is dispatched. Upon the new one's arrival, the aliens use their technology to determine Gamera's weaknesses and take two boy scouts (Toru Takatsuka & Carl Craig) hostage. Now implicating a mind-control device, they use Gamera to destroy civilization. The thin plot becomes thinner before it ultimately leads up to the titular conflict between the giant terrapin and a slimy extra-terrestrial cephalopod.
The movie is so wonderful at first. Both Gamera and the two boys are very entertaining. The latter are portrayed as witty, audacious, and thoughtful individuals...despite the occasional prank or two. And a scene involving them inside of a submersible racing Gamera underwater brought a smile to my face. But the movie starts crippling itself at the moment where the aliens start searching Gamera's past. It's stock footage from the previous movies, each reel lasting roughly five minutes. The aliens quote that their process takes fifteen minutes and it literally does. There's hardly any narration or trimming of the stock footage; it's just reused. (Frighteningly enough, for the U.S. version, the stock footage reel was increased to a mind-numbing twenty-five minutes!) When this ends, there is some relief, but then it becomes just more reused footage from the previous movies. Sequence upon sequence. And most jarring of all is when they decide to once again show Gamera attacking Tokyo as he did in the original film "Gamera the Giant Monster." Now if you will recall, that movie was black-and-white. This one is in color. Eyes squinting yet? Colorization was not around at the time this picture was made and yes, they still integrate colorless footage into a color movie! Just a slight bluish tint, that's all. And sadly, this drags on and on seemingly without end and wore me out. All of a sudden, even the whim and charm of Mr. Takatsuka and Mr. Craig, both of whom are very good in the film, seems unimportant.
Now the movie does pick up a little when the final battle does arrive. And it's satiatingly lengthy, but even with that, by the time it was all over, "Gamera vs. Viras" had exhausted me and left me feeling a thirst for a lot more. The stock footage it so abundant that if there had been more, it could have been a "Best of Gamera" show instead of a continuation to the series. And as far as I am concerned, a low budget should not be an excuse for ham-handed filmmaking. There are some good things here, including a leading performance by that wonderful actor Kojiro Hongo (who was in the previous two Gamera movies and would later play a small part in Shusuke Kaneko's marvelous "Gamera: Guardian of the Universe" almost thirty years later) but there are also a lot of bad things here too.