Friday, November 21, 2014

Gamera vs. Gaos (1967) - MST3K Review

After thrashing Barugon really good in the previous film Gamera vanished. The folks living in a village not far from a volcano believe that Gamera is camping out inside. This is making them a bit nervous, and also freaking out a crew attempting to build a road through the village. The villagers are pulling a scam on the road working team, so they can get more money for their farms when they sell them off. A photographer goes out to snap some pictures and maybe get a few shots of Gamera. Along the way he meets a young boy Eiichi (Naoyuki Abe). Eiichi and the photographer end up awakening a monster – but it isn’t Gamera.

This creature is called Gaos. It his huge, bat-like with powerful wings, a deadly laser beam blast from it’s mouth and some kind of fire extinguishing cloud from its armpits. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.  When Gamera arrives to save Eiichi from certain death, Gaos nearly slices his leg off with the laser beam! Gaos is now free to torment the area around Nagoya. Scientists try to figure out what Gaos is and how to stop him, but really all they need to do is listen to Eiichi. This kid knows that only Gamera can save them. But will faith be enough for a terrapin victory in this heavy weight bout of Gamera vs. Gaos!

Movie Review:
We told Gaos not to buzz the tower! Maverick!
After the sluggish first film, Gamera and the turgid follow-up, Gamera vs. Barugon, I was hoping we would get something a bit more lively. I wasn’t hoping for something as fun as Godzilla vs. Megalon or even Time of the Apes, but at least something as entertaining as Prince of Space. Well we did get an improvement in this film. There is more monster combat. We have a little kid calling the shots and telling the grown ups what they need to do. There is even one of the strangest and wackiest monster traps I have ever seen (and that is saying something). So really Gamera vs. Gaos is an improvement overall.

Like the previous film, we get lots of rich color and fun models in this movie. Gaos itself is a funny looking creature. He appears to be inspired by Rodan, but with a boxier body and flat head. His huge wings can stir up quite a ruckus, but it is his laser beam that causes the most damage. She blasts Gamera a few times with it and causes the rocket turtle to gush green blood. While I’m on the topic, these Gamera films are pretty gory in general (something the Godzilla films of the period shied away from). Gaos gets his foot ripped off by Gamera during one battle and there is blood spurting everywhere. Later on Gaos grows the foot back as good as new… but man I was surprised it went there in the first place.

"Either this is real good blood or the room is
I have to talk about one of the key plot points because it creates one of the most unusual images in the entire Gamera series. About half way into the film Japan’s scientists determine that Gaos will be destroyed by sunlight. So they plan to get him so dizzy that he can’t fly back to his volcano cave. In order to do this they have to create a spinning trap that will cause Gaos to get dizzy. They rig a rotating restaurant as the trap. For the bait, they determine that Gaos is attracted to human blood, so they create a HUGE blood fountain on top of the restaurant. Once Gaos stops for a sip, they’ll spin him silly and he’ll be destroyed by the sun. I can’t see how this can possibly go wrong. So the scientists create some synthetic blood, and start the fountain. With all the blood gushing into the air, Gamera vs. Gaos becomes the goriest film in the series (and the goriest film in Mystery Science Theater 3000 history).

Beyond the outrageous blood fountain, all that the model work is still a lot of fun in this movie. Gaos’ mountain home is craggy and filled with glowing lights. When he goes on the rampage there is plenty of destruction. While it lacks some of the stand out set pieces like Osaka castle in Gamera vs. Barugon there is still plenty of good stuff here.

Just try to ignore the comic relief in the background.
The sound and music are typical of Gamera movies of the period. Also typical is the horrendous dubbing in this film. Performances range from bored and stilted to over the top and insane. It creates plenty of unintended laughs. On a positive note, the voice actor for little Eiichi is much less annoying that the one for Kenny in original Gamera film. There are a couple of comic relief characters that are part of the road crew, and they win the prize for the most annoying performances: both visually and in the audio department.

I suppose I should talk a bit about the acting. Kojiro Hongo plays the roadwork foreman, and I suppose he is our main heroic lead. He is earnest and brave, pretty much a clone of the hero from the previous film. You also get Dr. Aoki (Yoshiro Kitahara) the mastermind behind the blood fountain concept. Someone revoke his monster scientist cred! There are various folks running around and taking up valuable monster fighting time. But Eichi is really the focus of the flick, and brings a kids point of view to the film.

Gaos, get off my lawn!
Gamera vs. Gaos brings the series into a more Godzilla style monster versus monster territory. The two creatures get much more battle time with a few good face offs, and plenty of crashing and smashing. But both monsters here don’t have much of a personality. They seem to just be huge animals out to destroy each other. Gamera saves Eichi, but he doesn’t seem quite as invested in the kids as he does in later films like Gamera vs. Guiron. But to be fair the monster outfits in the early Gamera films don’t really allow for much expression. Godzilla always seemed to be better at that.

When it comes down to it, Gamera vs. Gaos meets your Japanese monster movie needs. It’s poorly dubbed, has some fun monster battles, plenty of property damage and moves at a better pace than the previous films. Sounds like something Joel and the bots can really sink their teeth into.

Episode Review:
Hey Aeschylus, look out below.
Luckily the crew at Mystery Science Theater 3000 was not burnt out on Gamera films yet. It’s a good thing too, because they still had a couple more to tackle after this one. What works out well for them (and us) is that movies became more outlandish and goofy as they go along. The basic story elements improve. Each of these monster villains seems tougher than the last. Gaos really seems to give Gamera a nasty time. This makes them more fun to watch and all the action gives Joel and bots plenty to work with.

Gamera vs Barugon dropped the child from the story, but Gamera vs. Gaos bring him back in the form of Eichi. But a combination of a bad dub and the boys not really paying attention causes them to dub him “Itchy”. When Itchy and the nosy photographer stumble upon Gaos mysterious cave the riffs come fast and furious. A glowing light appears and the photographer gasps “What is that?” Crow responds for Itchy with “I’m only 6. Who do you think I am? Carl Sagan?” Gaos appears and quickly devours the photographer. Crow declares, “It’s time for another episode of Eat the Press.” Gaos grabs Itchy and is about to make him dessert. Itchy is yelling like a howler monkey and Tom observes, “He’s no Fay Wray, is he?”

"Itchy" waves to his adoring fans.
Gaos enormous bat body and oddly shaped head make for plenty of jokes. The monster turns around quickly with his wings open and Tom says in his best Michael Keaton, “I’m Batman!” When Gamera crashes into Gaos noggin, Crow shouts, “Grace Jones takes one to the head!” When Gaos is exposed to bright light his forehead begins to glow red. Tom observes, “He’s embarrassed.” Joel responds, “If you had a head shaped like a Dixie cup you’d be embarrassed to.”

When Gamera vs. Gaos’ infamous blood fountain trap is revealed the boys just kick it into overdrive with lots of funny riffs but also just letting the ridiculous scene play out for you to enjoy. But Tom does think that the fountain looks like “a blood atomizer”.

He may have a beard and glasses, but this man came
up with the blood fountain idea!
Of course Gamera isn’t immune to riffing. When the terrapin hero pulls his legs into his shell to avoid Gaos’ deadly beam, Joel quips, “Ballpark Feet, they shrink when you cook ‘em”. But one of my favorite riffs and maybe one of the nerdiest riffs they have ever uttered is when Gaos seizes Gamera by the shell and takes to the air with him. Then when they are both at a great height, he drops Gamera like a hot potato. As the turtle comes crashing back to earth Tom muses, “Isn’t that how Aeschylus died?” This joke requires the viewer to know who the hell Aeschylus is, and then to know how the famous ancient playwright died. Damn, I love this show.

The episode starts off with Crow and Tom impersonating their favorite raspy voiced stars. Crow is Lucille Ball and Tom is Harvey Fierstein. It is as goofy as it sounds. For the invention exchange, the mad scientists reveal printers that reveal your self-identity. Frank is a clown and Dr. Forrester is Mrs. Ohio. Joel creates a fax machine that prints out on tissue paper, so you can recycle the faxes when you blow your nose. After the first break Joel attempts to show the folks at home how to make your very own Gaos out of household stuff. The bots think he’s being dorky and ruin it. When we come back from the next commercial: Joel, Tom, Crow and Gypsey present the Gamera-dammerung. It is one of the silliest skits they’ve done in Season three. The next break features Joel as Gaos the Great and he tries to spin plates that look like Gamera. He’s not very good. After the movie ends, Joel and the bots discuss less goofy ways to snuff Gaos, and then ask viewers to write in with some of their own ideas.

Joel and the bots attempt a skit of Wagnerian
Gamera vs. Gaos is a fun episode and certainly an improvement over the previous two films. But it still doesn’t quite hit that sweet spot of being the best of the Gamera episodes. There are still plenty of moments with the human characters that are just plain boring and go on way to long. The boys do a good job with most of these, but it does hurt the pacing a bit. Still you can’t go wrong with this episode if you need to get a Gamera fix.

Gamera will return in Gamera vs. Guiron!

I give this episode 3 blood fountains out of 5.

This episode is available on the MST3K vs Gamera boxset (Vol.XXI).


  1. Esoteric jokes are always welcome -- even ones that pass me by. I like Gamera-dammerung too.

    1. Yeah, even if I end up having to look something up to get the joke, hey at least I learned something. One of the reasons I love this show so much is the mix of humor. Any given episode can contain a few fart jokes, some dark humor, ridiculous puns and jokes about ancient Greek tragedians. Not too many shows could pull that mix off so consistently and so well.