HCF REWIND NO.140. GODZILLA VS GIGAN AKA CHIKYU KOGEKI MEIREI: GOJIRA TAI GAIGAN, EARTH DESTRUCTION DIRECTIVE: GODZILLA VS GIGAN, GODZILLA ON MONSTER ISLAND [Japan 1972]
AVAILABLE ON DVD
RUNNING TIME: 85 min
FEATURED MONSTERS: GODZILLA, GIGAN, KING GHIDORAH, ANGILAS
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Down on his luck artist Gengo Kotaka gets a new job with the help of his girl friend, Tomoko Tomoe. It’s with a non-profit organisation in charge of the World Children’s Land amusement park. Despite making a good impression on his boss, Gengo is left uneasy with the organisation in general and then runs into a girl named Machiko Shima as she flees from the company’s Committee Office. She thinks her brother, who had worked for the organization, has been kidnapped by them, and, after reading her sibling’s journal, believes that their true intentions are placed on a tape which she has stolen from the Committee Office. The tape, however, only offers a garbled message to the confused listeners, although the signal carries out to Monster Island where Godzilla and Anguirus hear it…..
My attitude to Godzilla Vs Gigan has changed over the years. As a teenager it was one of my favourites, certainly out of the first series of Godzilla films that was shown by Channel 4 on UK TV. A major reason for this was because it really does have the longest monster battle out of all the films. However, most books on Godzilla and Japanese monster movies consider this entry to be one of the worst and a pretty bad film in general. My opinion of the film started to lessen when I began to notice the major flaws and even more so when I saw all the earlier Toho monster pictures and realised that the amount of footage from them that it uses was far more than I realised. The idea, after the studio-hated experimentation of Godzilla Vs Hedorah, was to make a more ’60’s style Godzilla film, but with a ’70’s budget, meaning that if they wanted lots of spectacular effects footage they would have to use footage from other films, though the low budget still cramps the story, which for the third time uses the idea of aliens trying to conquer earth with monsters that they control. Overall, it is certainly a weak entry, poorly plotted and pretty juvenile, though it has a certain quirkiness that is appealing and a few good ideas, if not always well executed. And….as long as you see the dubbed version….Godzilla talks.
Jun Fukuda had directed Godzilla Vs The Sea Monster and Son Of Godzilla, so he was asked to return to the series while Takeshi Kimura first wrote a script called Godzilla Vs. The Space Monsters: Earth Defence Order. Godzilla, Angilas, and Majin Tuol (a giant stone idol, similar to the popular monster Daimajin) fought King Ghidorah, Gigan, and a humanoid insect creature called Megalon, all three recruited by an evil alien brain called Miko to destroy earth. The Godzilla Tower was part of a world fair amusement park, was not made for an evil purpose, and was mistaken by Gigan for the real Godzilla. Shinichi Sekizawa reworked this script into King Ghidorah’s Great Counterattack, which had Godzilla, Rodan and Varan fighting Ghidorah, Gigan, and a new monster named Mogu [I can’t find any details on what sort of monster he was]. This was reworked into Godzilla Vs Gigan by Sekizawa and director Jun Fukuda because creating three new monster suits [Varan’s was virtually destroyed] would have been too expensive. Godzilla’s pal was now the four-legged, armour-plated dinosaur Angilas from Godzilla Raids Again and Destroy All Monsters. Money was saved everywhere, to the point of not even commissioning a new music score; instead they re-used old tracks. It did better box office than the previous two entries and was released theatrically in the UK though it didn’t reach American shores until 1977, where it was called Godzilla On Monster Island and censored for two shots of monster blood and the word “bitch”.
So how much stock footage is in this film? Absolutely tons. Some of it is cleverly edited into the film. When Angilas pops up in Tokyo Bay to investigate the strange noise he hears, the military mobilises and uses big satellite dish-like devices that fire lasers to attack him with. The footage is from The War Of The Gargantuas, and there’s even one shot which has a gargantuan in it but you can’t make out the details from behind the trees so they get away with it, but it’s cleverly inserted and if you haven’t seen The War Of The Gargantuas you wouldn’t know that the shots are from it. On the other end of the scale though are the shots of Ghidorah in action during the big destruction sequence just after half way through. Ghidorah and Gigan set about destroying Tokyo, and it looks like there are two Ghidorahs, one a fast moving, fierce dragon in shots from Ghidorah The Three-Headed Monster and Invasion Of The Astro-Monster, and one an awkward, almost inert thing whose wings hardly move because the Ghidorah suit was in such poor condition. It also alternates from night to day several times during this clumsily put together sequence and the battle that follows. Elsewhere are small bits from Destroy All Monsters, Son Of Godzilla and Godzilla Vs Hedorah.
Aside from all this, some of Godzilla Vs Gigan is reasonably done. A few of the earlier scenes have an almost eerie atmosphere as we wonder what these odd people working in Children’s Land are up to, though much of the plotting is silly and even repetitive with endless sneaking in and out of the absurdly unguarded alien’s earth base. Much of the story makes little sense, such as there being no reason for the aliens to hire our human hero at all unless they wanted him to snoop around and discover things. They don’t even ask for his address, and the fools are even fooled by a drawing of the main characters, though today one can only nod at the several comments about the aliens being too reliant on machines. When the aliens reveal themselves as large cockroaches, the sight of a huge insect shadow on the wall is quite effective, but most viewers would still be laughing at the previous scene where the aliens explain where they came from and shots of their planet are actually shots of smoggy Tokyo and you can see people in cars. At least an anti-pollution element gives things a small amount of weight, and the build-up to the appearance of Ghidorah and Gigan is really well done, the camera pulling back from the Godzilla Tower to fix on the blackness of space, where, after quite a while, the two space monsters appear in the distance. When Ghidorah and Gigan circle round the tower waiting to attack though, they are far smaller than they are the rest of the film, a good example of the film’s sloppiness.
The lengthy battle begins quite spectacularly amidst lots of exploding factories, Teruyoshi Nakano pulling off some really cool shots here before the fighting relocates to Children’s Land and some odd models which don’t even seem to be trying to look like actual buildings. ’70’s Godzilla battles were usually slower than ’60’s ones, a great deal sillier but also more with bloody moments. Here we see blood when the buzz-saw on Gigan’s stomach [!] cuts Godzilla’s shoulder and stupid Angilas thinks it’s a good idea to ram Gigan’s tummy, resulting in red stuff splashing all over the lens. The Godzilla suit from Destroy All Monsters is literally falling apart on-screen and a newly built costume for the water scenes has ridiculously bulging eyes, but Gigan, a cross between a robot and a parrot, is very striking, outlandish in design but memorable for that very reason. One great scene has him knock planes out of the sky uses his hook hands. Many Godzilla fans consider this film most memorable, and mostly in a bad way, for one main reason. Godzilla talks. It’s stupid, and even I cringe at it. In the Japanese version, he and Angilas make sounds like a record being scratched while comic-like speech bubbles come out of their mouths, though sadly you can’t see the bubbles on the R1 DVD because they just overlaid the uncut dubbed version with the Japanese soundtrack. The dubbed version, though, has the two monsters converse in very low tones over the scratching sounds. What do they say?
Godzilla: “Hey Angilas”
Angilas [indignantly]: “whadya want?”
Godzilla: “Something funny going on. You’d better check. Hurry up!”
And later on:
Godzilla: “Hey Angilas. There’s a lot of trouble ahead”.
The three human heroes are unusual. Gengo is a bumbling idiot who pulls faces and even recreates Peter Seller’s leaning-on-a-globe-and-stumbling bit. He’s such a wimp that he faints when he thinks a gun, which is actually a corn on the cob, is being pulled on him. His girlfriend Tomoko clearly wears the trousers in the relationship and is a karate expert, while Shosaku is a hippie. Jun Fukuda’s direction seems to imitate Ishiro Honda’s quite closely. One of the best things in Godzilla Vs Gigan is the music. Aside from two pieces including the exceptionally rousing title track which was originally used for an exhibition at the World’s Fair in 1970, it’s all tracks from earlier Toho films including even non-Godzilla films like Battle In Outer Space and Frankenstein Conquers The World. For the most part, the cues are chosen and used well, sometimes even cleverly combined, and the diversity of the score means that it is one of the best to listen to. A decent song is heard at the end of the film. Godzilla Vs Gigan may have lost much of its lustre for me personally over the years – it really is one for the kids and kids will probably love it – and certainly shows the series in a creative slump. It’s still kind of fun though, its goofy naivety just about carrying it through. I still watch it more often than some of the better entries in the series.