It was well over a decade ago
when I first viewed Godzilla vs. Gigan.
To my young eyes, that movie was just plain magical.
It was my first exposure to King Ghidorah, and
the beginning of my fondness for Anguirus (called
Angilas in this dub). I used to watch this movie
until my eyes were raw, and so many years later,
I still watch the exact same VHS that I was given
when I was 7 or 8 years old (say what you will,
a well-made tape will last). Even though I see
more flaws here and there now, I still can't help
but have fun watching the film that kept my gaze
for an infinite number of weekends and Summer
vacations back in the early 90s. Godzilla
vs. Gigan is a triumph, perhaps not in a
critical sense or in a big-time production sense,
but instead in it's indefinable charm that doesn't
seem to go away, even with age. And yes, I still
go wild during the monster-talk scenes.
Construction has begun in Japan
of a new non-profit exhibit, World Children's
Land, complete with a stunnning feat of architectural
engineering: Godzilla Tower, a museum dedicated
to monsters of various origins and designs. Run
by secretive interests, the staff immediately
makes new hiree manga-artist Gengo Kotaka uneasy
and suspicious. Working to create new, imaginitive
attractions for the park, he runs into a frantic
woman who had absconded with a mysterious tape
from their Committee Office. Gengo later discovers
that this woman, Machiko Shima, is in search of
her brother, the computer technitian Takashi Shima,
who disappeared in Children's Land some time ago.
Apparently, within his private journal, he revealed
that he discovered that the staff of Children's
Land, who were said to promote perfect peace,
instead were planning diabolical acts of some
sort, the information pertaining to which concealed
in the secretive tapes that Machiko had attempted
to steal. Upon listening to the tapes, and changing
the speed, it appeared as though there was nothing
but nonsensical sounds contained in the reels.
At Godzilla Tower, the Chairman and his associate
Kubota were panic-stricken. Their sensors indicated
that the tape had been activated, and a change
in plan would have to be observed. The brains
behind the Children's Land fascade weren't the
only ones disturbed by this strange event... the
monsters on Monster Island were also disturbed,
and the hulking ankylosaur, Anguirus, was summoned
by Godzilla to investigate the peculiar signal.
As Gengo, Machiko, and their associates
contiued to investigate Children's Land, they
uncovered more questions than answers. According
to their research, the Chairman and Kubota were
supposed to have passed on one year earlier! Gengo
journeyed to Godzilla Tower once more, and discovered
Takashi located in a locked room. Kubota, growing
suspicious of Gengo's activities, sent him away
with a tracking device. Following Gengo home,
Kubota prepared to do away with the troublemakers
who were prying too far into their affairs, when
fortunately Tomoko Tomoe repelled the aggressors.
They all visited to the police, but with such
a lack of evidence, they could do very little.
While at the station, a chilling announcement
bellowed over the intercom... Godzilla and Anguirus
had escaped Monster Island. But even more terrifying,
the Chairman and his associates were simultaneously
summoning two dreaded space monsters: Gigan and
King Ghidorah, for the brains behind Children's
Land were actually a colonizing alien race from
Nebula Space Hunter M. The good guys, unable to
convince the police to assist, were forced to
go in on their own, and rescue Takashi. Meanwhile,
the space creatures were approaching Earth as
Godzilla and Anguirus closed in on Japan. An epic
battle would inevitably ensue...
The characters may not be the strongest
suit of this film, but for the '70s, it's very
hard to deny it's a step above. Unlike the Godzilla
movie prior or the one to follow, we at least
know the motivation of these characters.
Gengo Kotaka (Hiroshi Ishikawa) is the work-starved,
goof-ball, manga-artist who gets caught in the
intergalactic intrigue of the impending invasion
plot. Machiko Shima (Tomoko Umeda) is the distraught
sister who will stop at nothing to free her brother
Takashi from the Nebula Space Hunter M aliens.
The Chairman (Zan Fujita) and Kubota (Toshiaki
Nishizawa) are the representitives of their race,
the primary invasion team who sets up planet Earth
for disaster in their efforts to escape a dying
world. And... that's where it ends, unfortunately
(still, sadly, one of the better efforts in character
development from this time period). Shosaku Takasugi
(Minoru Takashima), is a friend to Machiko...
or a friend to her brother Takashi... or somone...
who also happens to be a corn-cob wielding hippie
("he must've thought it was a gun...").
Tomoko Tomoe (Yuriko Hishimi) appears to be the
working associate to Gengo... or a girlfriend
maybe... or a complete stranger, I don't know,
there is really no development here (except for
the fact that, of course, she kicks butt). Takashi
Shima (Kunio Murai), is given similar treatment.
Besides the fact that he's a computer technitian
kept against his will at Children's Land, we really
don't know much about him. In fact, the development
runs so cold, one finds oneself warming up to
Kurayoshi Nakamura's character moreso than half
of the main cast.
As for the acting in the respective
roles, there doesn't seem to be any breakthrough
performances, nor any necessarily terrible performances.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the Japanese
version is easily, and far more obviously noted
for bad acting, but at least the dubbing (although
overly dramatic and seemingly shifting voice actors
around occasionaly) seems to cover most of this
problem. Hiroshi looks like he's having some fun
with his role, but it is a bit over the top...
while Tokiashi seems to downplay it. At least
with the dubbing, neither seems out of the ordinary
for the bubblegum hero/villain performances for
a kaiju film from this period. Everyone else sees
to do well in their respective roles... but Tomoko
seems to be on the verge of full-out tears half
the time, even after Kunio's character is recovered.
It's quite unsettling.
Toy monsters, flaking monster suits,
incredibly plentiful stock footage... yeah, there
are a few problems in the special effects department,
I won't lie. Let's start with toy monsters. King
Ghidorah and Gigan arrive on screen (after hatching
from a ruby and a sapphire... or something) in
what should be at least a mildly terrifying entrance.
But, it doesn't quite work out that way. They're
toys, toys that do flips and spins as we're supposed
to accept the fact that they're approaching the
earth at Mach 4. As for their suits, Gigan looks
very impressive. There is one brilliant shot with
Gigan watching his own buzzsaw amidst the lapping
flames of the devastated city, and along with
Anguirus, they are the best suits in the film.
Anguirus looks very impressive, especially in
the scenes where he surveys Sagami Bay, and when
he first arrives at the battle (look closely and
you'll see an excellent, animalistic snout-sway
that sprinkles the water in the background). Ghidorah
and Godzilla are unfortunately lacking, however.
Ghidorah's suit is looking a little shabby and
cheap by this time period, losing the organic
luster it once had. Godzilla's not too much better;
All Monsters (1968) suit makes its reappearance,
but the material actually flakes off during mid
battle, in what is almost a grotesque display.
The suit used for the water scenes is a little
better in some regards, but the face is atrocious
and obviously different from the regular suit.
It looks like they merely updated the Son
of Godzilla (1967) suit for aquatic purposes.
As for the stock footage... ugh... it's so painful.
It goes from night to broad daylight in seconds,
from the early-60's Godzilla suits to the 70's
Godzila suits in the blink of an eye. Entire scenes,
like King Ghidorah carrying Anguirus through the
sky, are lifted from previous movies. What makes
these scenes even more jarring is that nighttime
is going by, and morning comes at the end of the
film, but broad daylight scenes are so plentiful
in this battle that it becomes far too jarring
for the audience. There are some triumphs in the
area of sfx, however. For example, the gore in
the battle scene is very interesting. Here, we
see the first really detailed blood effects in
a Godzilla movie, and the spurts and sprays are
accomplished to a favorable degree of excellence.
Finally, there's Godzilla Tower. While the painted
eyes look unrealistic in closeups, the distance
shots, the explosion shots, and the laser effects
are all accomplished with great success.
The music is a triumph, even if
it is composed primarily of stock tracks. Why
is it a triumph, then? Well, one doesn't necessarily
need new themes to make an excellent score. The
soundtrack for Godzilla vs. Gigan is
a wonderful mix of Akira
Ifukube's classics, from Godzilla's famous
theme, to King Ghidorah's theme, and even some
themes from the more obscure Toho monster movies.
They fit each scene perfectly, the eerie music
for the mysterious and unsettling shots, the intense
music for the raging battles, and the upbeat themes
for the lighter areas of the film. Some will complain
that it is recycled... here's what I say to that:
it's far better to recycle an old diamond ring
rather than to create an all new plastic one.
There are too many movies that go for an all new
soundtrack and are met with failure (Godzilla
2000: Millennium  and Godzilla:
Final Wars , just to name two examples).
This is unneccessary, and Godzilla vs. Gigan
is pleasant to the ears, albeit something that
has been heard before.
For such a strange movie, it is
obvious that a category just for "weird stuff"
should be set aside. First, let's get it over
with... the monsters talk. My dub goes a little
something like this: "Hey! Angilas!"...
"What do you want?"... "Something
funny's goin' on... you'd better check"...
"All right..."... "Hurry up!";
and later on... "Hey Angilas come on, there's
lots of trouble ahead! We gotta hurry"...
"OK!" All right, this should be
obvious, but let me make this clear. They are
not actually talking. As obvious by the
tape recording sound effect in the background,
coupled with the Chairman's statement about monsters
understanding the tape, and then later on with
the tape sound accompanied by no words, it is
clear that this is basically the first real situation
of monster dubbing. Now, could these scenes have
done without talking? Yeah, sure, body language
alone would have conveyed the proper information...
but doggone it, it isn't fun that way! Of course,
there are more oddities than merely this alone.
If the car that the Nebulans shot was unoccupied,
how did it turn the corner? Why don't the Nebulans,
who are "hypnotized" by machinery, have
a better security system? Why does the military
miss point blank targets such as 50+ meter monsters
so often? Why is the dubbing so bad at times?
All right, we've all become accustomed to the
occasional "Godziller", but when "Godzillya"
shows up in the dub track, one just has to wonder
if they could have afforded a redo. Finally, there
is the ending song. That would have gone in the
music paragraph, but I feel it belongs here. It
has a gentleman and some children singing, it
plays as Godzilla and Anguirus walk off into the
sunrise, and it's in F pentatonic minor... it's
a strange addition... therefore... it's perfect
It certainly is an intiguing movie.
Sometimes peculiar, sometimes hilarious, and even
a little suspenseful, Godzilla vs. Gigan
may not be the next Godzilla
(1954), but it's another cheerful day at the amusement
park from Jun
Fukuda. Sure, it has its flaws, and a lot
of moments that are even a little strange for
kaiju fan, but it has such a fantastical, off-the-wall
air that it just becomes appealing in its own
regard. It may not be as far out as Godzilla
vs. Hedorah (1971), or as down-to-Earth
of Mechagodzilla (1975), but this delightful
piece of '70s charm is undeniably indellible.