Although its merits as a film are questionable, Godzilla vs. Gigan is actually anything but a widely disliked Godzilla movie among fans. Does this mean the final product is particularly good? Not necessarily, yet there are several things going for the film that account for its appreciation among genre fans despite its more lackluster qualities. Among these are the handling of the movie’s roster of monsters and the drawn out battle. That said, there are numerous aspects that drag the production down. This includes a rehashed story that leaves little room for character development alongside uninspiring performances from the cast, not to mention rampant use of stock footage; however, at least the stock soundtrack by maestro Akira Ifukube is well constructed for the proceedings.
In terms of overall plot, the movie focuses on Gengo Kotaka, a down on his luck artist who was recently fired from a job at a comic publisher. With the help of his girlfriend, Tomoko Tomoe, Gengo lands another job, this time with a non-profit organization in charge of the World Children’s Land amusement park. Despite making a good impression on his boss, Gengo is left uneasy with his assignments and the organization in general. His suspicion grows when he runs into a girl named Machiko Shima as she flees from the company’s Committee Office. Gengo later confronts the girl only to discover that she believes her brother, who had worked for the organization, to have been kidnapped by them. After reading her sibling’s journal, she believes that their true intentions are placed on tapes, which is what she stole 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 quickly decipher the message and begin a plan of action. With Earth’s monsters already in place, the organization’s true motives begin to take focus as the monsters Gigan and King Ghidorah begin their descent toward Earth, awaiting a climactic battle with the planet’s forces.
Given the story layout, it’s easy to see that the movie tries to establish its rather impressive cast of monsters on screen as quickly as possible. Once the four monsters do arrive, the plot does little to hold back as the movie then focuses on the impressive struggle between the creatures. The movie is especially noteworthy, though, for introducing fan favorite Gigan to the long running Godzilla series. Overall, the creature boasts an impressive design with a unique armament of weapons, and looks especially imposing standing next to the towering King Ghidorah. The production is also memorable for its development of the Anguirus character. From what started out as Godzilla’s first opponent has now become the King of the Monsters’ most trusted ally. A lot of Anguirus fans would be born from this movie, and it’s easy to see why. Featuring a rather impressive suit for its time, the same suit that was used in Destroy All Monsters (1968), and a never give up attitude, there’s no doubt how he became so widely popular among genre fans.
The other aspect of the production to boast about is the incredibly drawn out climactic battle between Godzilla, Angurius, Gigan and King Ghidorah. Normally, this would be a bad thing from a cinematic standpoint, as the fight would lose impact due to its sheer length; however, the final battle in Godzilla vs. Gigan is inter-spliced with scenes of the human protagonists in such a manner that the battle stays interesting as the combat between the kaiju keeps moving at a pace that doesn’t outstay its welcome. There are also very few movies which exploit how well a multiple kaiju battle can excite the viewers like Godzilla vs. Gigan does, which makes this long sequence stand out even more. This isn’t to say that the final battle is not without its faults, as for one thing the choreography during the battle leaves something to be desired at points. The most noticeable fault being how one of the kaiju, most often King Ghidorah, sits back and simply watches the others fight, or just stands their as they allow their foe to charge and attack them. Chances are, though, that this was done to place the spotlight more firmly on Gigan, who was being paired with one of Godzilla’s most powerful foes from the era.
Unfortunately, the more “popcorn” aspects of the movie aside, the story doesn’t make much of an impression on the viewer. In its attempt to lay down the foundation as quickly as possible for yet another alien invasion utilizing kaiju, the film does little to establish its characters or give much meat for the actors to work with. For example, what if I told you that the main character, Gengo, was the brother of Tomoko who he lives with? For the record, he’s not, he’s her boyfriend. The point stands though that nothing in the movie would contradict it, as there is really nothing to establish the couple. They have no tender moments, no chemistry or really even a dynamic together beyond her apparent ability to get him lined up for jobs, which he seems to semi-resent. As a whole, the protagonists just aren’t fleshed out. Shosaku Takasugi, most famous for holding up the antagonist with a corn on the cob, is easily the film’s least developed character as there is nothing to be said of him other than he is a friend of Machiko; however, it’s quite apparent that his inclusion was merely for comic relief. Besides flimsy character development, the other disappointment is lost potential in the characters. For example, the whole Fumio Sudo and Kobota side story, where it’s hinted that their death is tied in with the Nebula Space Hunter M Aliens, had the potential to be semi-eerie; however, it never goes anywhere and whatever point it was trying to make is quickly tossed by the wayside. The invading aliens in general are fairly laughable at times too, especially their “invasion on a budget” type methods of doing things. Kubota really saves these guys’ credibility; in fact, he is more imposing than that of the poorly acted Chairman. Of course, even the Chairman is helped along with the use of Ifukube’s opening theme to Frankenstein vs. Baragon (1965), which makes the character seem almost chilling… well, at least until the music stops.
Sadly, the performances given by the actors manage to drag down these hollow characters even further. In fact, Godzilla vs. Gigan is one of those rare films in which the US version is actually on par, if not better, than the Japanese version. Not because of superior editing or the quality of the dubbing, but because it helps to mask the rather uninspiring acting showcased in the film. The entire cast hardly seems to be giving the movie their all, with the most lackluster performances being the Chairman and Gengo Kotaka, both of which just emanate that feeling of not particularly caring about their craft and most likely the film as a whole.
Still, what many cite as the movie’s worse offense is its use of stock footage. In special effect director Teruyoshi Nakano‘s defense, the effect work his crew does here is rather impressive, but as a whole the film relies on stock footage far too much. The film isn’t picky on what it lifts as well, as the movie will quickly shift from night scenes to poorly darkened day footage of the monsters fighting. These are the worst offenders, and the movie probably would have been better received had it not attempted to insert stock footage of Godzilla fighting King Ghidorah from previous movies at all. Yes this would have shortened the runtime, but the battle was long enough that it could have easily handled these cuts. In addition, it would have avoided a lot of the awkward transitions that they introduced in the fighting. Night to day transitions aren’t the only sloppy aspect of the stock footage use, though. There are also scenes during the final battle where monsters make accidental “quest appearances.” One of the most obvious is the larva Mothra, which can be seen quiet easily when Godzilla charges at King Ghidorah during a scene lifted from Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964). Rodan does another one of these accidental “quest appearances” when Godzilla gets up during a scene from Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965); Rodan can be seen lying on the ground during this scene. The last “quest appearance” is done by Gaira, and this one is the hardest to spot; it happens when Gigan jumps behind the trees when the Maser Beam Tanks are firing at him, and he starts to move through the trees for cover. This scene is lifted from The War of the Gargantuas (1966), and that is in fact Gaira behind the trees not Gigan.
To end on a more positive note, normally if a film was to use an entirely unoriginal soundtrack, this would be viewed as a rather large downside. Godzilla vs. Gigan, though, escapes this verdict because the music that it lifts is so good in the first place that it definitely deserved on an encore. The sources that the soundtrack is lifted from are numerous too, ranging from The Big Boss (1959) to the Mitsubishi Pavilion (1970), an event that occurred at the “Expo ’70”. In fact, the music found here is easily the most diverse soundtrack that Ifukube, who has been known to reuse and repeat numerous themes in his scores, has ever had his name attached too.
Overall, despite the film’s rather large list of faults, director Jun Fukuda does manage to create a rather fun film, which should give fans of the genre enough incentive to watch the movie numerous times. Those less passionate about the Godzilla films, though, would be advised to pass over this entry as it’s certainly far from a highlight in Godzilla’s long cinematic career.