GODZILLA VS. GIGAN

(aka Godzilla on Monster Island)

(1972)
(Japanese Title: Chikyû kogeki meirei: Gojira tai Gaigan)
With Hiroshio Ishikawa Yuriko Hishimi, Minoru Takashima, Tomoko Umeda, Toshiaki Nishizawa
Directed by Jun Fukuda
Reviewed by JB

This review is of the dubbed American/International version of the film.

"Mind if you smoke? I don't care if you burn!"       Gigan?  Okay, now they're just making up monsters out of thin air!

    All right, they've always made up monsters, but this guy is something else. He looks like he's made out of metal, he's got fiery red eyes, he's got two sharp flipper-like appendages for arms that can bring down buildings like nobody's business, he's got three wings (would that even work?) and he's got a buzz saw in his belly.  Gigan can fly, but if he's just standing around, he really has no long range weapons like atomic breath or death rays, so fighter jets planes can stay at  a safe distance, shoot missiles at him all day long and remain unharmed.  So naturally, every fighter jet in the film tries to come in close and gets sliced and diced by Gigan's flippers. 1

    But I get ahead of myself.  I should have started this review with something like this: it's about time!  After several boring, preachy and annoying entries into the Giant Monsters series, it's nice to have one that's almost pure fun again.  GODZILLA VS. GIGAN is certainly a mixed bag, but it is the best Godzilla film since GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER.  In spite of some negatives, its heart is in the right place.

    We've got evil aliens again, people!  They're not the strange-looking aliens of MONSTER ZERO or GHIDORAH THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER (no budget for funny costumes), but they'll do because they've got an evil plan and it involves mind-control over Giant Monsters!  Woo hoo!  Like that ever works!  They look human, but win points for actually being giant cockroaches in disguise.  Two of them wear bright orange Nehru jackets while the others wear suits, but with a splash of orange like a shirt or scarf.  It's a thing with them.  They want to take over the Earth because their own planet is polluted beyond all hope, so naturally their plan involves coming here and blowing everything up.  Well, what do you expect from cockroaches who love the color orange and live in a large-scale tower shaped like Godzilla - logic?

"Like, it's the Old Professor in a Gigan costume!"    We've got a Scooby gang too, and a really good one, with four clearly defined and likable members.  We have (from left to right) Comical Hippy Dude, Sad My Brother Was Kidnapped Girl, Hot Karate Girl and Handsome Turtlenecked Hero, not to mention Kidnapped Guy Who Gets Rescued, not pictured.  They uncover the alien race's evil plot (and by uncover I mean the aliens flat out tell them the evil plot and then stupidly let them all escape) and then must find a way to keep the Earth from once again being taken over by aliens, who always start in Tokyo because that's where we keep all our Giant Monsters, and evil aliens are all about the Giant Monsters.  The way the Scoobies finally stop the aliens is not just fairly ingenious but also laugh out loud funny, although not for the cockroach people.  This is the best cast of human characters the series has had in some time, and thankfully it includes no little boys in micro shorts shouting "Papa!  Papa! Papa!" (something I neglected to talk about in GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER).

   But what about the monsters?  Well, Ghidorah (three-headed thingy) and Anguirus (giant ankylosaurus) are really useless for most of the time, tending to stand around like two guys hanging outside an OTB, but Godzilla and Gigan more than make up for it.  Even before Godzilla shows up, Gigan and Ghidorah have created so much damage, you have to wonder how Toho Studios didn't burn to the ground while this film was being made.  Much of the battle footage is actually taken from older films, all the way back to RODAN and up through DESTROY ALL MONSTERS, so that sometimes the monsters are battling at night, and then it's daytime, and then suddenly there's a bridge that wasn't there a second ago... but this is forgivable because it's all edited together at such a breathless pace, you've just got to throw your hands up and admire the chutzpah of the filmmakers.  They had just enough money for some orange clothes and one new monster suit, but not for a lot of new battles.  They didn't even have enough money for much new music, but that worked out fine, because they resurrected some of the great battle themes from the early sixties films, all blaring horns and moody marches.  Unfortunately, the budget cuts also affected some of the monsters, Ghidorah especially, whose first appearance, flying through the sky, is clearly achieved by using an obviously immobile plastic model.

    In the original Japanese film, there were supposedly scenes of Godzilla and Anguirus talking to each other via comic book dialogue bubbles.  Those are gone, and in the Japanese version, they just speak in weird squeaks and roars.  The English dubbed version goes one better, and we hear the voices of both monsters in a couple of scenes. Who knew Giant Monsters sounded like The Sunshine Boys?  Anguirus's annoyed "Whattaya want?", spoken to Godzilla like a annoyed seventy-year-old man with intestinal problems, is quite amusing.

    Just when you think it's all fun and games, Godzilla starts taking a serious beating, more serious than any I have seen yet.  Gigan, slices his shoulder, and blood spurts out.  Blood!  Then Gigan uses his sharp flippers to crack Godzilla in the skull again and again, and the results are so graphic, even for a rubber-suit monster movie, I almost had to turn my head.   When Godzilla is ready to collapse, the aliens shoot laser beams at him, starting with his eye(!), bringing him to the point of near death.  You have to feel sorry for the Big Guy, even though you know that,  like Superman, he's going to bounce back and kick ass by the end.  

    When the battle is over, and Godzilla and Willy Clark... er... Anguirus head off to sea once again back to Monster Island, with the Scooby Gang waving to them and yelling "Goodbye!" like idiots, you might wonder if this is the last gasp of the series or a new beginning.  Considering there were only three more films before the rubber suits were put back in the giant trunks, I'm guessing "one last gasp".  2 ½- JB

1. After doing a little research, I learned that Gigan is actually cybernetic.  Who knew?  But that does explain the buzz saw in the belly, which is something you don't usually find occuring by itself in nature.  Thank God.

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