Gamera vs. Jiger (1970)

Known as Gamera tai Daimajū Jaigā in Japan, or Gamera vs. Giant Devil Beast Jiger, this is the sixth Gamera film. In the U.S., it was released straight to television under the name Gamera vs. Monster X.

The American version contains stock footage from Gamera vs. Guiron and Gamera vs. Barugon to extend the movie’s release time.

As Japan gets ready for Expo ’70 in Osaka, they decide to take a mysterious status called the Devil’s Whistle off an island. Gamera tries to stop them, but they take it anyway. It makes everyone sick and insane that goes near it.

The sound that the Devil’s Whistle makes Jiger go crazy too, so the beast comes down and starts taking out everyone in its way, as well as using its spiked tail to mess up Gamera. It also has a spiky bulbed tail that lays an egg — and eventually a baby Jiger — inside Gamera’s lungs.

That baby looks like a cute version of Jiger, but damn if those little Japanese kids don’t go inside Gamera and kill that infant with static from their walkie-talkies. The scientists then use big speakers to keep Jiger busy while the kids go back inside the giant turtle and jump-start his heart.

In their final battle, Gamera uses telephone poles like earplugs — man, these movies are inventive — and he smashes Juger’s tail, finally making her weak enough to destroy.

Despite the increasingly low budgets and bad effects, Gamera movies remain willing to embrace pure insanity. Isn’t that what we’re all looking for anyway?

Gamera vs. Guiron (1969)

Gamera tai Daiakujū Giron was released in the U.S. — on TV only — as Attack of the Monsters. At this stage in the Gamera series, the special effects are starting to not feel so special and there’s even more padding than in past films. But you know, Guiron looks so awesome — he has a giant sword nose and throws shuriken from around his eyes — that I can’t help but love this movie.

Two boys find a flying saucer and are taken on an adventure into space, where Gamera magically appears and rescues them from an asteroid field. But then, they go into hyperspace and a new Gyaos appears to attack their ship. That’s when Guiron shows up and slices that beast — which just gave Gamera so much grief — into small little bits, even beheading it, which seems way too far for what is supposed to be a kiddie film.

It turns out that the Space Gyaos are all over this planet called Terra, which is on the other side of the sun. Somehow, those scientists — some of the dumbest smart people in the world are in the Gamera movies — have never found their planet.

There are also twin alien women named Barbella and Florbella who control Guiron, who eventually gets out of control and cuts their spaceship in half. Florbella then kills the injured Barbella, explaining that useless members of their society are euthanized. What is she, in charge of the stock market?

Finally, Gamera does what you’ve wanted him to do all along: he slices that monster in half. Yes, unlike Godzilla, Gamera straight up eviscerates and annihilates his foes. Gamera would just heat blast them. Nope. Gamera is like, “You’re not getting up from this one.”

You can watch this on Vudu and Amazon Prime.

Gamera vs. Viras (1968)

This film was released in the U.S. as Destroy All Planets, which may have been a ploy to make people think it was Destroy All Monsters, perhaps the greatest of all Toho monster battles.

This time, Gamera is defending our planet from aliens. He starts off by destroying one of their ships, but not before an entire planet declares that he is their enemy.

The aliens come back to Earth and learn Gamera’s one weakness: he loves children. They kidnap some kids and force him to do their bidding, but before long, he’s broken loose and is battling all of the aliens at once, who have combined their form into the menace known as Viras.

Daiei was in financial trouble, so this movie suffers from a smaller budget than previous films. But this is where the idea of Gamera protecting kids from aliens and monsters began. Yet it’s also the first of the series to use flashbacks from past films to pad the running time. This will get much, much worse as Gamera would battle on.

There was also an agreement with AIP that an American kid had to be in the movie. They couldn’t find any kids that could speak Japanese, so the studio cast Carl Craig, whose father was an army soldier stationed in Japan, despite Carl having no acting experience.

You can watch this on Tubi and Vudu. You can also download it on the Internet Archive.

Gamera vs. Gyaos (1967)

This movie was released in the U.S. by American International Television, who renamed it Return of the Giant Monsters.

It all starts when a series of volcanos go off, attracting Gamera, who enters one of them. This reveals a new monster, Gyaos, named for the sounds he makes. It looks like a giant bat and has wind powers, which he uses to decimate the Japanese Self-Defense Force.

Gyaos is a formidable opponent, as he has beams that cancel out Gamera’s fire breath. He’s also willing to bite off his own toes to save himself from Gamera’s fierce fangs. It takes Gamera dragging Gyaos into one of those volcanos to kill him.

This film presents a world where money is more important than the lives and needs of the poor, even in the face of a monster ready to kill all of them with no prejudice. Yes, Gamera vs. Gyaos remains a lesson for our time, even as it features men in rubber suits beating each other up.

You can watch this for free on Tubi and Vudu, or on YouTube below:

Gamera vs. Barugon (1966)

Known as War of the Monsters in the U.S. thanks to its English-language dubbing by American International Television, the second Gamera film has twice the budget of the first and realizes what they should have known all along: Gamera isn’t the villain. He’s the good guy and ready to defend children against more dangerous kaiju.

Those dumb scientists and their Z Plan rocket didn’t count on a meteorite letting Gamera escape and come back to Earth. Meanwhile, three ex-soldiers invade a cave — a scorpion kills one and treachery another — before bringing an opal to the surface. And that jewel? It’s an egg. And it’s hatching.

It becomes a lizard called Barugon, who can breathe freezing gas and launch rainbow rays from the seven spines on its back. These are all weapons that can do great damage to our turtle protector.

How do you defeat an undefeatable monster who freezes our hero again? Mirrors and drowning. Yes, Gamera straight up holds Barugon’s head under the waters of Lake Biwa.

In Germany, they screwed up the translation and call Gamera Barugon and Barugon Godzilla. Those versions are titled Godzilla, der Drache aus dem Dschungel (Godzilla, the Dragon from the Jungle), Godzilla, Monster des Grauens (Godzilla, the Monster of Horror) and Gamera vs. Godzilla.

You can watch this on Tubi and Vudu. You can also download it from the Internet Archive.

Gamera (1965)

I’ll come clean. As a kid, I liked Gamera more than Godzilla. Sure, Daiei Film Studios was just following the success of Toho’s kaiju superstar, but I always felt a kinship to a monster who could just withdraw into his shell. Gamera was, after all, a friend to all children. And man, I wanted to be his best pal.

Originally released on November 27, 1965 in Japan, a re-edited version with new footage was released the following year in the U.S. as Gammera the Invincible. It was the only movie in the series to get a theatrical release in this country.

Over the Arctic, a nuke blows up and awakens a prehistoric giant turtle that just so happens to have big tusks. That’s Gamera, but he’s no friend to anyone at this point.  He can also breathe fire, which he does to blow up an American jet real good.

These scientists that he battles are pretty much morons. They’re smart enough to come up with freeze bombs, but they think that if they get him on his back, he’ll die of starvation. So Gamera just pulls all his arms and legs inside his shell and starts spinning around like a UFO.

This movie will also teach you that turtles are not even. They’re just turtles.

Back to those scientists. A whole bunch of Russian, Japanese and American ones invent this thing called Z Plan. You know what it is? They put Gamera in the nose cone of a missile and send him to Mars, all excited about how their scientific ways have triumphed over idealogy.

It’s a crock of turtle shit.

You know what’s really awesome? This movie was originally going to be called Dai Gunju Nezura (The Great Rat Swarm), but all of the real rats that were going to run over the miniature city got fleas.

This is the only Gamera movie where he doesn’t fight another monster and also the singular black and white film in the series. He’s also a good guy in every movie after this.

You can watch this at the Internet Archive and imagine a young Sam losing his mind screaming, jumping all over the TV room, so happy to see a turtle fly.

In Advance of the Landing (1993)

Based on the book by Doug Curran, this movie is all about people who have seen UFOs or been abducted, like Betty Hill. It also shows off the Unarius Church, which we’ve happily featured on this site thanks to Children of the Stars

This is a really even-handed discussion of people that believe that they have a connection with aliens and other planets. None of it is played up as a joke or as too silly or even deadly serious for that matter. It’s just right and a great example of Curtis working as a documentary filmmaker. I would have liked to have seen him do more stuff like this.

Sadly, this is a really hard to find movie. I’ve done the research and found it on YouTube for you.

Frankenstein (1973)

Written by Sam Hall and producer Dan Curtis, this made-for-TV Frankenstein adaption was directed by Glenn Jordan, who would also be in charge of Curtis’ The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Originally airing on January 16, 1973 on ABC, this show was forgotten due to another more expensive TV film, Frankenstein: The True Story.

Robert Foxworth, who was Questor in The Questor Tapes, stars here as Dr. Frankenstein, determined to give life to dead tissue. He’s also in the TV movie The Devil’s Daughter with Johnathan Frid and Shelley Winters.

Bo Svensen makes for a great monster that you both feel for and are afraid of at the apporpriate times in the script. He’s joined by Susan Strasberg (Sweet Sixteen), Robert Gentry (Dear Dead Delilah) and Curtis favorite John Karlen (who is in just about every TV movie that Curtis woud produce).

You may or may not like the shot on video look of so many of Curtis’ productions. I personally love them and make me wistful for an era of TV that is long gone.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime and Tubi.

Scream of the Wolf (1974)

In a sleepy town along the coast of California, an unknown animal begins killing people, beginning with a ‘70s version of Dana Carvey. The local sheriff (All My Children’s Philip Carey) recruits local writer John Wetherby (Peter Graves) who used to earn his living as a big game hunter to help track the animal.  Baffled by the presence of both four and two-legged tracks, he approaches his shifty ex-hunting buddy Byron (Clint Walker) for assistance who refuses to cooperate. As more people die, the townsfolk begin to believe there’s a werewolf in their midst. 

 A few weak red herring characters peppered throughout the story aside, Byron is the prime suspect. Not only was he bitten by a wolf, he has a strange obsession with the exchange of power between predator and prey. He hates John’s new “emasculating” life of leisure and possesses a rather creepy yet swaggering demeanor. 

Based on the story The Hunter by David Case, Richard Matheson’s teleplay is better than the average TV movie script. On the surface it appears to be a standard whodunnit supernatural mystery. It was only upon further scrutiny I noticed the anti-hunting message and sexual subtext. Both of the protagonists are professional hunters. One becomes civilized and changes careers. The other sticks with it and grows into a psychopath who masks his feelings for another man through hyper-masculinity and violence.  

The sexual tension between John and Byron isn’t just palpable. It’s downright steamy. The long knowing gazes, Byron’s unexplained hatred for John’s girlfriend Sandy (Jo Ann Pflug), the passive aggressive references to their time together alone in the Canadian wilderness and the arm-wrestling match where Byron challenges John, to “last seven minutes” are all very obvious references that Byron just can’t quit John. I kept waiting for them to embrace in a passionate kiss and walk off into the sunset together, carrying their very long rifles at waist height. 

 Alas, this is a ‘70s TV movie, so their past is never fully revealed. Instead, we get a nice double twist where first Byron fakes his death and pins the werewolf murders. After returning to confront him, Byron reveals himself to John, who assumes he was the werewolf all along. Not even close.  In fact, it isn’t a werewolf at all that’s been mutilating people. It’s a German Shepherd, tortured and trained to hunt humans by Byron. Why? To awaken John’s “urge to action” and get him to go off to South America with him on another “hunting trip.” It doesn’t work. After a chase reminiscent of The Most Dangerous Game (1932), heterosexuality wins out. John outsmarts Byron and shoots him with a hidden handgun after a nice bit of dialogue where Byron tells his prey, “You wanted me to stalk you.” and John replies, “Let’s just say I didn’t want you to leave.”  

By the time Scream of the Wolf aired, director Dan Curtis was already well-known for working in the horror genre, having made Dark Shadows and The Norliss Tapes. Whether he was aware of the subtext in the teleplay is unclear, but he directs the stalk-attack sequences with his usual skill, and is very unsettling even for a TV movie. As journeymen actors, Graves, Walker, Pflug and Carey are all very good in their respective roles. The musical score is another highlight, with a groovy yet suspenseful theme that’s a combination of Enter the Dragon and Friday the 13th

While not as well-known as Trilogy of Terror, which arrived the following year, Scream of the Wolf is an overlooked gem that made the rounds on cable about 15 years ago. It’s never been given a proper DVD or Blu-Ray release, but it definitely deserves one. It’s got a good script, plenty of dead bodies, good acting and subtext so subtle it probably flew right over the average ‘70s ABC viewer’s head. Fans of Dan Curtis, or older men arm-wrestling will enjoy it. Did I mention Peter Graves drive a sweet Corvette? The cherry on top. 

That time Halloween III: Season of the Witch was remade and nobody noticed

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jim Rex knows plenty about movies and is more than happy to share that knowledge with the world at large.

I been hanging around the Video City Drive-in for a while and although I wouldn’t boast that I’ve seen it all, I would say I seen my fair share. But still, some things surprise me and fans surprise me.

Before we start I want you to know I’m gonna be talking freely about the two films in question and if you haven’t put your eyes on them yet and don’t want them spoilt, then stop reading. I mean, one has been around for dang near forty years and if you haven’t seen it by now you probably ain’t never gonna get around to watching it but still, divert your eyes. Go watch some cat videos. But seriously, stop reading because I’m giving away main plot points and endings; the whole shooting match. 

Ok, may the record show that I like remakes. Sure, maybe not every remake that comes down the pike. I find a lot of them to be kind of pointless, but when the higher power of the almighty greenback dictates what gets remade, no fan’s philosophical outlook on the matter, or their love for the original film, means much to the suits up there in Hollywood Town. 

When we’re talking about remakes, there are a couple different flavors filmmakers can choose from. Because all remakes aren’t created the same, it stands to reason that some remakes slip by fans or they never realize a new film is a remake. This goes beyond knowing there have been four official film versions of Jack Finney’s The Body Snatchers. It drives me nuts sometimes when fans don’t know their movie history. I don’t mean you have to know every movie ever made, but know some of your history. You need to be aware there’s a dumb little rubber Piranha remake stuck in between Joe Dante’s classic 70’s version and Alexandre Aja’s entertaining modern 3-D remake.

So, I’m about to shoot my mouth off and make a big fat statement some of you might be inclined to react to with a sour, “Jim Rex, you done flipped your lid, son. Your mouth-hole’s making one heck of a racket and you need to shore it up before you get popped.” I’m hoping you might be more inclined to say, “I never did consider that idea quite that way before, Jim Rex. Your mouth-hole’s making a little sense.”

Without further ado, the Video City Court of Law is now in session. In presenting my case I am going to try and use official, judicial sounding words and phrases, most of which I will be too lazy to look up to see if I’m using them correctly. (Abet I do it more than once, but I’m felon pretty good about stating my case today.) 

No, ladies and gentlemen, technically I did not go to law school. To the best of my knowledge I never even have driven by a law school. But I did log a couple hundred intense hours watching Perry Mason and Matlock with my Maw-Maw Rex and her friends at the Abilene Convalescent Center, so if anything, I feel pretty good about wrapping all this up within an hour or so, less fifteen minutes for commercials. 

Let’s first discuss about all the different types of remakes and figure out what kind we’re chin waggin’ about here. The traditional remake is by someone who loved and/or respected the old movie and then convinces a studio to let them remake it, and they try to add to the story in an attempt to make it better, or update it for modern viewers. Examples would be John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) and David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986). Sometimes someone just wants to remake a movie they loved and/or respected, knowing full dang well it won’t be as good as the original but they hope it is at least fun and they do it anyway. These kinds are like Black Christmas (2006) and Sorority Row (2009).

Then, there’s the old sequel-remake, as in, “We made our first movie for seventeen dollars and thirty-three cents and it made millions at the box office. Let’s take all this money the studio gave us for a sequel and just remake it.” Evil Dead 2 (1987) and Phantasm II (1988) are examples of this kind of remake.

Then there’s the “Inspired by” kind of remake. Some people call these “Rip-off,” but these are really two different things. An “Inspired by” uses the nugget of an idea from an earlier film as a launching pad for a new film. Zero Hour! (1957) begat Airplane! (1980), Fantastic Voyage (1966) was the proud papa of Innerspace (1987) and IT! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958) sired Alien (1979). “Inspired by” remakes are usually made with love and respect for the original film. It is not always blatantly obvious what older film the new film is inspired by.

A “Rip-off” remake is usually inspired only by the money an earlier film made. Great White (1982) is certainly a rip-off of Jaws (1975) and Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) is certainly a rip-off of Star Wars (1977). “Rip-off” remakes are usually made with love and respect only for money. It is always blatantly obvious what older film the new film is ripping-off.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I would now like to take the opportunity to convince you that I absolutely believe, beyond a shadow of reasonable doubt, that Tommy Lee Wallace’s 1982 classic trick or treat flick of witchcraft and robots, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, was remade, quite brilliantly with much respect, as an “Inspired by” type remake by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg with beer and robots as the chug-a-lug classic The World’s End (2013)!

It feels good to say it out loud. I mean, I been waiting for someone else to notice this forever and say something so I wouldn’t have to, but never once have I ever seen or heard it mentioned. I talk to other fans about it and when I sort of hint around it they look at me like I got gawl-dang lobsters crawling out my ears. 

Okie-dokie, the hard part is over, now the easy part. Evidence. I have so much manipulating and speculative and circumstantial evidence it is going to make your head spin. What makes me think Halloween III: Season of the Witch was remade as The World’s End? Please look over at the ABC table of evidence. 

  • Both films take place in small rural towns; Santa Mira in Halloween III and Newton Haven in The World’s End.
  • Silver Shamrock rules Santa Mira and The Network rules Newton Haven. In fact, these “corporations” coming to these small towns revitalized them.
  • The Silver Shamrock logo is prominent throughout Santa Mira. The logo for The Network (five lines of varying heights) is prominent throughout Newton Haven. 
  • Both “corporations” resort to shady business practices. (Silver Shamrock mixes modern technology and ancient witchcraft for results while The Network depends on ever-advancing modern technology for results.)
  • As soon as our heroes in both films roll into town, eyes are on them from everywhere.
  • The “hero” in both films is a middle-aged alcoholic man. Dan Challis, in Halloween III, is a divorced doctor. Gary King, in The World’s End, is a ne’er-do-well who spends a lot of time with various doctors.
  • Dan Challis has two kids. Gary King may have a French kid.
  • Dan Challis learns about Silver Shamrock from the town drunk outside a liquor store. Gary King and his friends learn about The Network from town drunk Basil in a bar.
  • Dan Challis likes to test his sexual prowess with young girls fresh from the shower. Gary King likes to test his sexual prowess with his friend’s sister in the public restroom.
  • Dan Challis has a manly mustache. Gary King has a manly Sisters of Mercy tattoo.
  • Most everyone in Santa Mira is an automaton under the rule of Silver Shamrock CEO Conal Cochran. Most everyone in Newton Haven is an automaton under the rule of The Network.
  • In both films, the automatons break apart like action figures, with limbs snapping off easily.
  • In both films, the automatons attack with a stiff arm thrust forward.
  • In both films, the automatons have super strength, but it is never a match for middle-aged alcoholic heroes.
  • In both films, the automatons try to act normal but always seem to stick out like a turd in a punchbowl. 
  • In both films, a major character is taken over by the evil “corporations” and transformed into an automaton.
  • In both films, the major character has been transformed in an attempt to manipulate the actions of the hero. (Ellie tries to make Challis drive into a tree and Oliver tries to deliver Gary and the group to The Network.)
  • In both films, the automatons squirt brightly colored juice for blood. (Orange in Halloween III and blue in The World’s End.)
  • Throughout the film, Dan Challis is seen drinking in bars, carrying six-packs and leaving liquor stores. The nature of the pub crawl keeps Gary King drinking throughout the entire movie.
  • There is a moment in both films where our hero makes a mad dash from one point to another. In neither case do they vomit or pass out with a gut full of alcohol swishing around in them.
  • Both Halloween III and The World’s End were the third chapters in film trilogies.
  • Both films include sidekick actors that appeared in all three films. Nancy Loomis was Annie Bracket in the first two Halloween films and then appeared as Linda, Dan’s killer shrew of a wife in Halloween III.  Nick Frost was co-star opposite Pegg in the “Cornetto Trilogy,” appearing also in Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.
  • Jamie Lee Curtis was in Halloween I and II as Laurie Strode and then “appeared” in Halloween III in voiceovers. She can be heard as a phone operator as well as the voice of the town’s curfew reminder. Bill Nighy was in both Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz in supporting roles and then “appeared” in The World’s End as the voice of The Network. He can be heard first on the phone talking to a character and then as The Network in the climax.
  • In both films, human characters meet their doom at the hands of automatons after revealing “secrets” about the “corporations.”
  • In their final moments, both Conal Cochran and The Network give up when they realize they’ve been bested by their human opponents. (Cochran even applauds Challis’s ingenuity. The Network just throws in the towel at King’s stubborn ignorance.)
  • Finally, the endings are basically identical, with the destruction of the world. I know, I know, it never really shows what happens to all the kiddos on Halloween night, but we know instinctively there is no way Challis saved anyone. You don’t save the world with a belly full of beer. (We also know Universal imposed a “happier” ending than the original cut, wherein the screams of children could be heard in Halloween III’s final fadeout.) The World’s End follows through with its end of the world wrap-up, showing the destruction of the world and what is left of mankind after The Network packs its bags and leaves. 

In closing, I will say that Wright and Pegg have shown some serious genre savvy in everything they’ve ever done together, going way back to their Brit TV show Spaced. I don’t think it is too far off to see a connection between these two films and their appreciation for Halloween III.

When boiled down, both movies work as fantasies for middle-aged men everywhere, especially those stuck in a rut who would love the adventure of maybe having to save the world. For Dan Challis it is almost a James Bond scenario where he is escaping the disappointments of his ruined family life and getting to save the world while making it with a young woman who doesn’t seem to notice how long in the tooth old Dan really is. For Gary King, he is returning to a moment in his youth when everything was perfect, and no matter how wonky the night goes, he is able to re-capture and revitalize a part of that wild spirit he left behind when he got old.

Both of these men fought for their worlds bravely, both with bellies full of beer.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, you have the proof before you. It is time to decide for yourownself. I know what I believe.