Friday, June 20, 2014

Franchises: Godzilla. Godzilla vs. Gigan (Godzilla On Monster Island) (1972)

Godzilla vs Gigan 1972.jpgThis was one film in the handful of Godzilla movies that I owned during my very early childhood, with other examples being Godzilla, King of the Monsters, King Kong vs. Godzilla, Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster, and Godzilla vs. Megalon. I actually got my first glimpse of this movie over at the house of my step-cousin, whom I've mentioned many times by this point, because he somehow ended up with a copy of this movie on video. As small as I was at the time (this was not very long after the two of us had really become friends and become big fans of Godzilla), I remembered a lot of things from that viewing, like the Godzilla Tower, the sequence on Monster Island, the part where Godzilla and Anguirus actually talk with each other, and some bits during the climactic battle, including the part where one of the non-monster bad guys turned into a cockroach (it'll all be explained in the review, trust me). When I was at Wal-Mart with my mom some time later and she bought the VHS of this film for me, I had no idea that this was that film (I had a hard time keeping up with titles back then) until I took it home and watched it. Not that mattered to me, though; in fact, back then, I was always happy just to get another Godzilla movie. This movie instantly became one that I watched quite a bit, mostly because of the second half of the film where you have a big monster attack on Tokyo (since I didn't actually have Godzilla vs. Monster Zero at the time, this was the only one I owned that had a third act that was comparable to the one I enjoyed so much in that film) and a two-on-two monster mash afterward. I liked it so much that one of my teachers at school suggested that I bring it (or any Godzilla film, for that matter) to school one time to watch since there were many times during my elementary school years where the teachers would put on movies since they didn't feel like doing any teaching. I did do that but the teacher that was having the kids watch something immediately shot it down and we watched The Swiss Family Robinson instead. That was the last time I ever brought any movie that I had at the house to school. In any case, this was a Godzilla movie that I enjoyed very much throughout my childhood and as an adult, my feelings towards it haven't changed much. In retrospect, it is a very run-of-the-mill entry in the series that doesn't do anything new, involves a lot of stock footage from movies that are certainly much better, and does have some bad, dumb moments but, regardless, every time I watch it and it gets to the second half, I still find myself having a lot of fun with it. It's not a great Godzilla movie but, to me, it's an entertaining one, which is ultimately all I ask of any movie.

Gengo is a manga artist who, along with his girlfriend, Tomoko, is trying to sell some of his ideas but no one is interested and he's even told at one point that his ideas stink. After striking out once again, he's sent to meet with the heads of World Children's Land, an organization that's building an amusement park whose centerpiece is life-sized tower of Godzilla, and, while he's not impressed with the head man, Kubota, or his claims that the place is meant for peace and that their main attraction is going to be a museum inside the tower dedicated to monsters, Gengo gets hired as a concept artist for the park. When he heads to the organization's main office in Tokyo to meet with the chairman, he comes across a young woman who's being chased by Kubota and who dropped a tape when she slammed into Gengo while running out of the building. Gengo takes the tape with him and eventually meets the chairman, a rather young and brilliant man who does very advanced mathematics in his spare time. The chairman tells Gengo that the woman who Kubota was chasing is an "enemy of peace" and that the tape she took is the basis of their entire plan. While heading home that night, Gengo runs into the woman, Machiko Shima, and her friend, Shosaku, who at first try to take the tape from him by force and cause him to pass out from fear when they question about where the tape is when they don't find it. Later, after becoming friendly with him, the two explain their dilemma: Machiko's brother, Takashi, worked at World Children's Land but has recently disappeared. She also mentions that an entry in Takashi's diary said that their plans were evil and all on tape, with Machiko adding that they think the people behind the organization has Takashi locked up somewhere for finding out too much. Gengo retrieves the tape from a pay-locker he placed it in and they play it but all he and his new friends hear is an unintelligible, whirring noise; however, it clearly means something to Godzilla and Anguirus, who hear the signal on Monster Island. Godzilla sends Anguirus to Japan to see what's going on. Meanwhile, Gengo finds Takashi's cigarette lighter in the Godzilla Tower and he and his two new friends check up on the background of World Children's Land and the men behind it. When following up on a lead that the chairman is apparently a young man named Fumio Sudo, they discover that both Fumio and his teacher, Kubota, have been dead for over a year. Shortly afterward, Anguirus arrives in Japan but is immediately repelled by the military and Gengo and his friends discover that not only is Takashi definitely locked up in the Godzilla Tower but that the people behind World Children's Land are willing to kill to get that tape back, which they manage to do. Godzilla and Anguirus leave Monster Island to head for Japan, while Gengo and Tomoko attempt to sneak into the tower in order to save Takashi. However, the two of them get captured and Kubota and the Chairman reveal themselves to actually be aliens (human-sized cockroaches, to be exact) from a dying planet in Nebula Space Hunter M who plan to take over the Earth and make it peaceful for their species. To that end, they have taken control of King Ghidorah and a new monster called Gigan and have guided them to Earth in order to destroy human civilization for them. Now, Godzilla and Anguirus are the Earth's only hope.

If you watch the Godzilla movies in chronological order, you'll notice that, coming off of the bizarre, surreal quality of Godzilla vs. Hedorah, Godzilla vs. Gigan feels like very old territory... and you'd be right, because that was exactly the point behind the film's conception. As I stated in my review of Hedorah, Tomoyuki Tanaka absolutely despised that film and its unconventional, art-house approach. After cancelling a proposed sequel to it and banning director Yoshimitsu Banno from ever working at Toho again, Tanaka set out to return the Godzilla series to normalcy and go back to the traditional approach (and yet, he had no problems with having Godzilla and Anguirus speak in one scene). To that end, he brought back director Jun Fukuda, who'd last been involved with the series five years earlier, screenwriter Shinichi Sekizawa, had him craft another story about aliens using monsters to try to conquer the Earth, along with introducing a new monster, brought back some familiar ones like King Ghidorah and Anguirus, and made sure that the film's score was by Akira Ifukube, one way or another. That's why this film may have a run-of-the-mill, "been there, done that," feel to it for viewers who are first introduced to the series in chronological order and also why it's not one of the most highly regarded entries, among other reasons. While I still think that Tanaka's reaction to Hedorah was rather extreme and uncalled for, I can't fault him for wanting to return the series to the traditional feel that had made it so popular in the first place and I personally think he succeeded in that regard for the most part.

In the years since his last contribution to the Godzilla franchise, Son of Godzilla, Jun Fukuda had gone back to doing the types of movies he most enjoyed: action movies, crime drama, and comedies. Some of his directing credits in the years leading up to his return to the franchise include Booted Babe, Busted Boss (that sounds like fun, doesn't it?), a couple of other entries in his Young Guy series, a 1970 crime drama called City of Beasts, and miscellaneous other dramas and comedies whose titles I can't find English translations of. At this point, he'd also become known for releasing multiple movies within a year, directing four, along with an episode of a television series, in 1969 alone. Because of his obvious talent, Toho had long since decided that he was the most logical choice to completely replace the now departed Ishiro Honda as the Godzilla series' prime director, even though Fukuda himself didn't care for making these types of films. In fact, in his attempt to return the Godzilla series to a sense of normalcy, Tomoyuki Tanaka seems to have forced Fukuda to channel Honda rather than approach the movies in his own way as he'd done previously. Of the five Godzilla movies that Fukuda would eventually direct, this one comes across as the most traditional. There are no big action scenes other than the monster stuff, you have Godzilla partnered up with and battling classic monsters from the series' past, the plot once again involves aliens using monsters to try to conquer Earth (this same plot would be used in the following two films but it would be tweaked somewhat), and, which I think contributes a lot to this feeling of conventionality, this is the only Fukuda-directed Godzilla movie where you have a score comprised of music by Akira Ifukube, which means that this is the only one where you hear Godzilla's iconic theme music (and the last time you would hear a particular variation on it). Plus, even though this movie has silly stuff like Godzilla and Anguirus inexplicably talking to each other and the aliens turning out to be cockroaches, this is actually the most seriously-toned Godzilla film Fukuda ever directed. That may seem ridiculous but the thing is, whereas his two previous ones, as well as the two he would direct after this one, all had campy and pulpy overtones to them, this one is played quite straight and doesn't make light of some of the more silly moments. For my money, I think Fukuda pulled this more serious approach off fairly well, although knowing that he wished he could find a new approach to Godzilla movies in order to satisfy himself, I'm also sure that this film and the next two were very frustrating experiences for him.

It's almost redundant at this point for me to say that the human characters in this movie, while likable, are generic and don't have much depth to them. However, I will say that the main cast fall in line with the main characters in Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster in that, instead of being scientists, officials, or anything of the like, they're just some young people who get caught up in an extraordinary situation involving monsters. For example, our lead guy, Gengo (Hiroshi Ishikawa), is a young manga artist who's just trying to make a living and get a job doing his artwork for some big company. While he does get a job as a concept artist for World Children's Land, he has a gut feeling that there's something not quite right about the place and the head of it, Kubota, especially when it comes to their whole claims of working for peace, but since it's a job, he goes along with it and decides to meet with the chairman. His suspicions only deepen when he runs into Machiko when he arrives at the committee office, finds the tape that she dropped, discovers that Kubota and some guards are after her (he knows well enough to point them in the wrong direction), and when he meets the incredibly young and yet brilliant chairman. When he learns that they were chasing Machiko to get back the tape that she had taken, and that he now has, he asks them what the tape is and, even though they say that their whole plan is on the tape and that Machiko wants to stop them from bringing peace to the whole world, Gengo decides that it's best to not yet reveal to them that he has the tape and put it in a pay-locker for the time being instead. He meets Machiko and her friend Shosaku later that night and while he intentionally seems to believe Kubota and the chairman's claims that they're enemies of peace, especially when they act as if they're holding him up to get the tape back, he comes over to their side when Machiko reveals that her brother, Takashi, has disappeared while working at Children's Land. Even though the tape the people at Children's Land seemed so desperate to retrieve is nothing but electronic garbage to them, Gengo still remains suspicious of the organization, particularly when he finds Takashi's cigarette lighter in the Godzilla Tower. Now knowing for sure that there's something sinister about the place, Gengo and his friends proceed to check into the backgrounds of the people behind it and discover that both Kubota and the chairman, Fumio, have been dead for over a year. This, coupled with Gengo's discovering that Takashi is indeed locked up inside the tower and that the heads are willing to kill in order to get the tape back, prompts him and the others to try to get the authorities to help them but when that doesn't work, they take upon themselves to rescue Takashi. While Gengo and his girlfriend, Tomoko, end up getting captured along with Takashi, they eventually manage to escape with the assistance of their other friends and go as far to help Godzilla in his battle with the aliens by destroying the tower, which is shooting him down with its lasers. Like I said, Gengo's not a deep lead character but a likable and dependable one nonetheless (I actually like him more than the rather bland lead characters in Fukuda's earlier Godzilla films).

While Gengo may be the manga artist, you get the feeling that the real motivator behind him is rather tough girlfriend, Tomoko (Yuriko Hishimi). For instance, Gengo wants to take some time off from trying to find a job at the beginning of the film but Tomoko tells him that there's no time, that they're going to have to keep going until they finally sell some of Gengo's ideas. She also gives him some tough love, telling him to knock off the sarcasm when he asks if his being sent to the World Children's Land Construction Committee means that he's going to have to start shoveling dirt, and later on when he's voicing his displeasure about Children's Land and the people he has to work for, Tomoko says that he can't afford to be fussy or sensitive about a job that pays. Tomoko is not only tough personality-wise but physically as well because you learn that she has a black belt in karate and she's not afraid to use it when the need arises. When Gengo, Machiko, and Shosaku are about to be killed by Kubota and his henchmen for now knowing too much about their operation, Tomoko walks in on the confrontation and, before the bad guys know what hit them, opens up a can of whoop-ass that sends them running out the door like scared rabbits. Later on, when she and Gengo sneak into the Godzilla Tower to rescue Takashi, she lets two guards who are about to execute him have it and instantly knocks them unconscious. Unfortunately, her martial arts skills can't help them when they end up getting captured before they can escape with Takashi but, nevertheless, she's one tough broad. Gengo is so intimidated by her that he refuses to repeat the little, quiet insult he gives to her at the beginning of the film when she's pushing to go to another interview and even models one of his monster drawings on her (which she finds out, causing Gengo to laugh very nervously, I might add). Overall, I do like Tomoko for how tough she is and how she appears to determined to help Gengo and his new friends in any way she can. The only thing I don't like about her is how, despite her toughness, she's terrified of bugs. I can understand freaking out when you discover that your captors are actually man-sized cockroaches underneath their human skin but, also, at the end of the movie, she jumps and screams like women in old films did whenever they saw a mouse when she sees a normal cockroach crawling around on the ground. It's a little too stereotypical and insulting for an otherwise tough female character to act like that in my opinion.

Machiko's (Tomoko Umeda) only defining personality trait is her concern for her brother, Takashi, and her determination to find out what happened to him, going as far as to steal a tape from World Children's Land in order to figure out what they're up to. There's not much else I can really say about her except that she comes across as a soft-spoken, loving sister who's very close to her brother and was worried about him even before he disappeared. I also do find it funny that she's much more soft-spoken and gentle than Tomoko and yet doesn't freak out like she does when they see that regular cockroach at the end of the movie. While I don't have much to say about Machiko, her long-haired hippy sort of friend Shosaku (Minoru Takashima) is possibly my favorite human character in the film. I don't know what it is but I just like this guy. He comes across a laid back, dependable, and funny man who would give you the shirt off your back and be your best buddy. He's such a close friend of Machiko and Takashi that he does everything that he can to help her find out what happened to her brother, even if some of the things they do, like taking a tape from the World Children's Land Committee office and frightening Gengo by acting like they're holding him to the point where he faints, are a little rash. I've always smiled at the fact that Shosaku sticks a corn on the cob in Gengo's back, which is what causes him to faint because he thinks it's a pistol, in order to make him give up the tape and yet is surprised when Gengo faints out of fright. I also like that laugh he gives when Gengo first realizes he's behind him and later on, when Gengo mentions Nebula Space Hunter M, Shosaku at first seems to recognize it but then laughs and says, "Nope, never heard of it." He's also much smarter than you'd expect him to be, coming up with the idea to look into the backgrounds of the heads of Children's Land and later on, along with Machiko, carrying out Plan 2 when Gengo and Tomoko end up getting caught themselves while trying to save Takashi. Like everyone else, there isn't much to say about Shosaku as a character but he's a likable guy nevertheless. And when it comes to Machiko's brother, Takashi (Kunio Murai), I don't have a lot to say other than, even though he initially doesn't completely realize who the people behind World Children's Land are or how horrific their plans really are, he does understand that they're not as peace-oriented as they claim and tries to do what he can to stop them even after they begin holding him prisoner inside the Godzilla Tower. He also understands that the tower could pose a legitimate threat to Godzilla himself with its lasers and comes up with the idea to blow it up from the inside, which ultimately leads to the death of the aliens.

The bad guys, Kubota (Toshiaki Nishizawa) and the chairman (Zan Fujita), are very typical of the alien invaders that we've seen before in previous Godzilla movies as well as in similar monster flicks like the Gamera movies. For me, personally, they're kind of a mixture of the inhabitants of Planet X and the Kilaaks. Like the former, they've managed to blend in amongst the people of Earth and use a company as a front for their activities (the name World Children's Land is not much different from World Education Corporation), say that they want peace (albeit when they're still pretending to be human), and their reason for trying to take over Earth is because the condition of their home planet leaves a lot to be desired for, with the major difference being that their planet is dying while Planet X was simply barren and had very little water. The biggest correlation between them and the Kilaaks is that they use the appearance of humans as a disguise for what they really are, which is large cockroaches in this case. Also, I find their eccentricities and the slight hostility on the part of the chairman to be a bit more like the Kilaaks' less than friendly attitudes as opposed to the Controller of Planet X and his people's claims that they want peaceful relations with the people of Earth. I personally find them more interesting than the Kilaaks because of how they managed to arrive and stay on Earth for a while without being discovered and how, unlike both of these previous races, they didn't immediately make themselves known and were a small infiltration group meant to make way for a much bigger invasion, which I think is a more effective way to go about it and didn't require the, at points, needlessly complicated plot that the Controller came up with. And as they themselves mention, they didn't exactly lie about their peaceful intentions, unlike the people of Planet X did. They fully intend to make Earth a peaceful planet... just for their own species by getting rid of the humans who are eventually going to destroy it with the pollution, as happened to their own planet. Their methods may be ill-advised but their ultimate goal is kind of what we strive for. Some may find it dumb for the aliens to take the form of people who are dead since that would raise some eyebrows but, given that they it was two people from an obscure community 50 miles from Tokyo and nobody discovered that something was up until over a year after they died, it seems to have worked out well for them (although that said, how were Gengo and his friends able to get the information on the real people?) It's never implied but you could say that the aliens themselves had a hand in killing Fumio Sudo and his teacher when they first arrived on Earth in order to take on their appearance. I don't really know how they do so. The explanation in the English dub made me think that they were actually wearing the skins of the people they pose as, whereas in the Japanese version, Kubota gives a bizarre explanation that they, "Solidify the afterimages of you humans and then reflect them." I don't have any clue how they can do that and, since this isn't the type of science fiction movie where deep thinking is required, I'm not going to wrack my brain over it. They're also smart enough to plan to get rid of the Earth monsters, Godzilla in particular, in order to ensure that the invasion succeeds.

As for the two individual characters themselves, all I can say about the chairman is that he's definitely the head of the operation and calls the shots, as well as that he's a mathematical genius. While he has the same aims as the chairman, Kubota is a bit more interesting since he's the one who benevolently claims to Gengo that they want to make World Children's Land a peaceful place for kids and that they intend to "save the world" with peace, as opposed to his superior's more brash, slightly antagonistic way of saying so. You could say that this is the reason why the chairman stays behind the scenes, because Kubota is able to put on a more appealing public face. Also, while this isn't really there in the Japanese version, in the English dub you get the feeling later on when Kubota is explaining why they're on Earth that he dislikes humans because they remind him so much of the dominant species of their home planet who ruined it with pollution. One thing that is certainly memorable about both of them, though, are those bright orange suits that they wear. I can't say that I've seen anything like that in a movie other than this one. Yowza!

I cannot stress enough how indebted I am to David Kalat and his marvelous book, A Critical History and Filmography of Toho's Godzilla Series, which I've made reference to many times throughout these reviews and will continue to do so. This guy is infinitely more knowledgeable about this stuff than I could ever hope to be. I could give you a fair amount of insight into the atomic allegory of the original Godzilla and I also possibly could have done the same with the marketing satire in King Kong vs. Godzilla and the "brotherhood of man" theme in Mothra vs. Godzilla but without Kalat, I wouldn't have been able to go as nearly in-depth with those films, as well as with some of the others, as I have. So as we go on, keep in mind that if the sections of these reviews on the films' deeper meanings come across as very insightful and intelligent, it's mostly because I'm paraphrasing what Kalat has written about them. You really should be reading his book instead of these reviews. In any case, the reason I bring this up now is because Kalat delves deeper into Godzilla vs. Gigan than I would have ever thought to do. Even though I do enjoy the film very much, if left to my own devices, I wouldn't have made any mention of satire or commentary in the film because I wouldn't have recognized it; Kalat, however, mentions that, even though this film's prime agenda was to restore the Godzilla series to normalcy after Godzilla vs. Hedorah and, by extension, bring back those fans who were turned off by that movie's weirdness, Shinichi Sekizawa wrote into his screenplay an interesting, self-referential subtext. According to Kalat, the film is about the role of monsters in modern society, as both legendary creatures and, most importantly, as marketing tools. In the nearly two decades since he first menaced Tokyo in 1954, Godzilla had gone from a menacing force of nature and metaphor of the atomic bomb to a reluctant hero that kids absolutely adored. As I've mentioned, Sekizawa recognized early on when Godzilla was still a villain that he would be popular amongst kids and, to that end, put in that brief moment in King Kong vs. Godzilla where that little kid excitedly tells his terrified mother that he wants to go see Godzilla. And what do you do when something has become a big hit with kids? You market the crap out of it with stuff like toys, comic books, and the like. By the 1970's, the films themselves may not have been doing very good business but they still proved worthwhile financially because they kept Godzilla in the public eye, which meant they could still make toys and other merchandise off of him and the other monsters to sell to children. That's another reason why Godzilla vs. Gigan was put into production in the first place. Since the budget was as low as it was, they really couldn't do anything else with the movie. That's also why they brought back classic monsters like King Ghidorah and Anguirus, to keep them in the public eye in order to merchandise them along with Godzilla. Gigan himself was created in order to both bring a new monster and opponent for Godzilla into the series as well as to have another one that they could merchandise the crap out of. Given how popular Gigan now is, both with fans of the series in general and in toys, I'd say that strategy worked out well.

Shukra, the homework monster.
Mamagon, the monster of strict mothers.
As Kalat goes on to describe, Sekizawa wrote into the screenplay for Godzilla vs. Gigan a self-referential critique of the commercial motives behind the movie's creation. He did this with Shukra and Mamagon, the two monsters that Gengo comes up with based on what kids don't like: Shukra is a homework monster and Mamagon is the monster of mothers who are far too strict. Unsurprisingly, the film begins with those two monsters being flatly rejected by a potential editor, not only because they're, quite frankly, stupid ideas but also because, as the man himself says, they're far too simple in concept and that kids are too sophisticated for stuff like that. In other words, they're very superficial and unlike Godzilla, who can be seen as both a menacing bringer of death and as a hero and symbol of national strength, don't have any layers to them. (Kalat goes on to mention how Mamagon, which is the one that Gengo models a little bit after Tomoko, reflects an issue that the Japanese with women who are too aggressive and don't stay in their "place," so to speak, but I'd rather not dwell on that.) The reason why Kubota, on the other hand, likes the idea of these two superficial monsters is because of their aim for "perfect peace." Kubota says that they plan to destroy Monster Island and all of the monsters living there because they're hardly peaceful and to replace them with models to be put in a museum at World Children's Land. Not only is this to ensure that they can take over the Earth without resistance from a powerful opponent like Godzilla but it's also to mute the controversial issues that his very existence brings up (remember the debate the reveal that he was created by the atomic bombs caused all the way back in the original film). If he were replaced with nothing more than a static model, then these debates would be brought up and humanity would be "disarmed," if you will. Shukra and Mamagon fit right into their plan to market monsters to the masses, children in particular, as nothing more than superficial commodities. That's also why they built the Godzilla Tower: it appeals to the masses but, unlike the real Godzilla, is "peaceful." You can even take this argument and see it as a critique of how a character that was meant to symbolize the horrors of nuclear holocaust is now also a marketing tool aimed at kids. Very interesting way of reading a movie that appears at first to be nothing more than a typical monster mash, don't you think?

Speaking of Monster Island, its treatment in this film shows that the continuity that ties this first series of films together is very, very loose and that even then, the filmmakers weren't too concerned in maintaining it, especially at this point. If we're going chronologically, it would mean that Destroy All Monsters, which takes place in 1999, is the last entry in this first continuity of films and that's when all the monsters were rounded up on Ogasawara Island in the place that was known there as Monsterland rather than Monster Island. The name Monster Island wasn't even uttered until Godzilla's Revenge and as we discussed in that review, the issue of whether or not that film actually takes place in the same universe we'd been seeing up to that point is up for debate. Taking that film out of the equation, we could assume that every movie made after Destroy All Monsters up to the original series' end with Terror of Mechagodzilla in 1975 takes place the year it was released, which would explain why King Ghidorah is in this film even though it was definitely killed at the end of Destroy All Monsters. But, here's the issue: if this movie is taking place in 1972, nearly three decades before Monsterland was firmly established, then why do we hear an emergency announcement from the "Monster Island Control Center" that Godzilla and Anguirus "have broken out"? In the Japanese version of Destroy All Monsters, Dr. Yoshido says that they first started rounding monsters up on Ogasawara Island twenty years previously, which would have been 1979, still a ways from the year in which this film is taking place in. You could make the argument that Godzilla and Anguirus had just recently decided to live on that island and that a control and research center was established there in order to keep an eye on them. That would work if weren't for the statement that, again, says that they've, "broken out." That makes it sound like they were doing more than just researching them. And they apparently have really crappy security since Anguirus already managed to leave the island and head for Japan once already (in that case, the military didn't even realize that he was approaching until he was almost there!) Speaking of Anguirus, if this is technically his first real appearance in the series since Godzilla Raids Again (discounting the brief stock footage of him in Ichiro's imagination in Godzilla's Revenge), then why is he now Godzilla's buddy instead of trying to tear his head off as he was before? Did he just decide that it's best not to be on Godzilla's bad side since he could do that to him? Or, is this just a relative of that Anguirus who's not as aggressive? Who knows? And finally, we see in a montage when Gengo is talking to Kubota for the first time that Godzilla and Anguirus are hardly the only monsters being monitored. Granted, it's stock footage of all the monsters we saw in Destroy All Monsters, as well as several shots from Son of Godzilla, but the dialogue in both versions suggests that these monsters are indeed living there. So, the history of Monster Island is a very confusing one and while I've never batted an eyebrow at it since it doesn't hurt the enjoyment of the films, I'm sure that some people may feel differently towards it.

I find it very odd that Tomoyuki Tanaka intended for Godzilla vs. Gigan to be a return to normalcy and yet, he was okay with having a couple of scenes where Godzilla and Anguirus talk to each other. I don't mean like in Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster or even in Godzilla vs. Hedorah where they communicated with their roars but literally talk to each other. It's done in different ways depending on which version you watch, with it being done with speech bubbles appearing above the monsters' heads, as in a comic book, in the Japanese version or with actual, albeit distorted, human voices in the English dubbed version, but it's still an out there and, frankly, dumb idea. I went with it when I was a kid because I thought it was rather cool to hear Godzilla talk (although, that's not the voice I imagined he would have) but now, I think it's way too silly even for this type of movie. I understand that the reason they did the speech bubbles in the Japanese version was in keeping with the comic book idea that they had with the main character being a manga artist but it's still something that comes out of nowhere and is very out place. You could certainly say the same for Godzilla vs. Hedorah but the weird stuff in that film, like the random cartoon sequences, the LSD hallucinations, and the black and white switching to color, didn't have an impact on the actual narrative (save for Godzilla flying, of course), which it does here. And when you do that, it would be best for you to provide something of an explanation for it in the context of the narrative. Godzilla's sudden ability to fly was never explained but since the rest of the movie was so bizarre and unconventional, it didn't feel like an explanation was really needed. Here, despite the plot being about cockroaches from outer space trying to take over Earth with space monsters, we're trying to play it straight for the most part and to get away from the weirdness of the previous film... and then, we have this happen a couple of times with no explanation given as to why. Before, I always made the excuse that playing the aliens' tape had that effect on them since, at the very least, Godzilla and Anguirus are able to hear it all the way on Monster Island. I've since dropped that idea because it's grasping at straws, especially in context with the Japanese version. You could ignore the speech bubbles in there and just accept that they're simply communicating but even then, for no reason, their roars are replaced with sounds of a tape recorder that's being rewound and fast-forwarded back and forth (that's why I developed the aforementioned theory I once held onto). The actual voices placed on top of those sounds in the English version make it even harder to do so and what's more, in both versions, there's a moment near the end of the big fight where Godzilla's roar is replaced by that sound without the accompaniments that each version provides, making it all the more distracting. Like the thing with Monster Island, it may not ruin the movie but it's still a rather inexplicable and dumb idea that flies in the face of the attempt to restore the series' traditional feel. At least the weird stuff in the previous film was interesting in its surreal nature; this is just plain stupid.

Godzilla's characterization in this film is virtually unchanged from how it was in Godzilla vs. Hedorah; he's not as embittered about mankind as he was at the end of that film but other than that, he still comes across as an anti-hero who, as in the previous movie, senses that something is threatening the Earth and sets out to stop it. On the flip side of that, he's not as much of a loner here as he was in the previous film since he hangs around with Anguirus and the two of them do seem to be friends, especially during the big battle, suggesting that they've been together through similar skirmishes before. Also, at the end of the movie when they manage to drive King Ghidorah and Gigan away, Godzilla is infinitely more happy that he's victorious than he was after he destroyed Hedorah and he and Anguirus seem to have some celebratory banter between each other before they head home. If I have a complaint about Godzilla in this movie, it's that I wish he didn't come across as so weak during a majority of the battle. For most of the fight, he and Anguirus get their asses kicked, especially Godzilla, who gets sliced and bludgeoned by Gigan, zapped and blown around by Ghidorah's lightning and winds (since they use this footage from Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, we're to believe that Ghidorah once again targeted Godzilla's crotch), and almost killed by the lasers from the Godzilla Tower. I know he's up against two monsters and some aliens who are actively trying to kill him so they can invade more easily, and his partner isn't able to help him much (as we'll see, Anguirus is virtually useless in this battle) but still, when you watch how he fought and handled himself in some of the previous films, it's surprising to see Godzilla having such a hard time. Even as a little kid I was thinking, "Man, Godzilla, what's wrong with you?" You could make the argument that since Ghidorah and Gigan were being controlled by the aliens during the majority of the battle, they were much trickier to beat but even after the Godzilla Tower is destroyed and the aliens are killed, their fighting tactics don't change. And while Gigan is able to really hurt Godzilla because of his weakened state after being blasted by the tower's lasers so much, after he gets thrown into the tower, utterly destroying it, Godzilla then suddenly gets his second wind and turns the tables on the space monsters (although Gigan does still manage to injure him a bit here). Tomoko even comments that, "Godzilla's strong again!" Um, okay, why is he now suddenly able to kick some ass? And why was he so incapable of doing so beforehand? I've never understood that.

Godzilla is literally starting to look a little worse for wear here. The Destroy All Monsters suit is used for the fourth film in a row here and it's very obvious in some shots that it's had its day because you can see pieces of it hanging off the body, especially the arms (as a kid, I just thought that Godzilla was shedding his skin like any other reptile). Even if you can't see pieces hanging off of him, Godzilla still looks more than a little ragged throughout a majority of this film, so it's a good thing they retired this particular suit after this movie. As they'd done before, they used an older suit for the scene where Godzilla is swimming and since I guess no others were left, they had to use the Son of Godzilla suit (they had used the suit first used in Godzilla vs. Monster Zero in the previous movie for water shots and for when Hedorah covers Godzilla in his sludge, which probably finished it off). That sucks, too, because that suit looks so unlike the one used throughout the rest of the film and as a result, even though there aren't many water scenes in this movie, it's very jarring, particularly when they cut back and forth between the two suits. Since I wasn't as familiar with Son of Godzilla when I had this movie as a kid, I always wondered why Godzilla looked so strange in those shots. And while we're on the subject of the suit, I must mention that we have to bid adieu to another core member of the Godzilla team. After playing Godzilla for 18 years and having been the first to wear the suit altogether, Haruo Nakajima retired from the role and from suit-acting altogether after this film. Even though he wasn't even 50 at the time and was still in good physical condition, after the death of Eiji Tsuburaya in 1970, Nakajima lost his enthusiasm for it all. You can sort of see that in his last two performances as Godzilla because he doesn't have the energy and feisty tenacity that he once had. While that worked to give him a more weary and embittered feel as a result of the situation in Godzilla vs. Hedorah, here all it does is make it seem like Godzilla is really weak for some reason. It's truly a shame that Nakajima decided to step down, particularly since there were only three more entries in the original series after this one, making you wish that he had stuck around and done those last three. After he left, Godzilla never felt quite the same. In any case, after leaving Godzilla behind, Nakajima's only other film appearance before he departed from the business completely was as a bit part in The Submersion of Japan in 1973.

Anguirus (Koetsu Omiya) is a complete wimp. I know he has a lot of fans and, as I've mentioned before, I do like his loyalty to Godzilla and his never give up attitude (he also looks pretty decent here) but that doesn't change the fact that he spends most of this movie being a doormat (which really sucks because I'd say that this is the film where he's featured the most prominently, even more than in Godzilla Raids Again). Not only does he get pounded by Ghidorah and Gigan, especially the latter, during the big fight but early on, after they hear the signal from the aliens' tape being played, Godzilla sends to Japan to figure out what's going on and what happens? He arrives, gets shot at repeatedly by the military, and then just leaves. Okay, what did that accomplish? As a kid, I even felt that scene was completely pointless and didn't amount to anything. It must have accomplished something, though, because both he and Godzilla later leave Monster Island for Japan again in order to deal with the aliens but that said, I don't know what he could have told Godzilla. And incidentally, I have a feeling that Anguirus didn't tell Godzilla about how he got driven away by the military because I don't think Godzilla would have taken him with him if he did. I sure as hell wouldn't if I were a monster that, like him, can withstand an onslaught of missiles and machine guns (yeah, the firepower from the military didn't really seem to be hurting Anguirus but he ran away regardless). Lo and behold, it seems like it wasn't a good idea for Godzilla to take Anguirus with him because, again, for most of the fight, he just gets his ass kicked by the two bad guy monsters and doesn't do much to help Godzilla. He has some moments, like when he and Godzilla bounce a rock to Gigan's head and with how, when Godzilla's getting zapped to death by the tower's laser beams, he does try to help but for the most part, he comes across as useless, whiny due to his honking roars and cries, and downright stupid. He charges straight at Gigan, even though the cyborg has a buzz-saw his chest, and gets his head cut open, and later tries to sneak up on Ghidorah while the dragon is distracted by watching the severely weakened Godzilla... and accidentally knocks a rock with his foot and gets a bolt of lightning as a result. For a monster that supposedly has a brain that extends into his carapace, Anguirus doesn't come across as particularly smart or agile, which he's supposed to be. It's only when Godzilla gets his second wind and begins to beat on Gigan that Anguirus finally gets some moments but, while he does help Godzilla in giving the dragon a beatdown, it's mainly just stock footage from Destroy All Monsters when Anguirus grabs ahold of one of Ghidorah's necks then takes off and eventually drops him, and a moment before that when Anguirus grabs one of Ghidorah's tails and gets flung backwards after doing so. Not much to write home about. All in all, I can't say that I've ever been impressed with Anguirus in this film. His intentions are good and he tries but sometimes trying isn't enough and that's definitely true when your friend is getting the crap kicked out of him and you're not doing much to help.

Remember back in my review of Destroy All Monsters when I said that King Ghidorah (played here by Kanta Ina) didn't feel like the same dragon that we'd before since it wasn't acting as hyper and chaotic and just barely used its lightning bolts during that movie's big climactic fight? Well, if this film does indeed take place years before that movie, Ghidorah must have had a pick me up before that fight because here, it's almost catatonic. When it and Gigan are attacking Tokyo and fighting both the military and Godzilla and Anguirus, a lot of the footage of Ghidorah is stock footage from Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster and Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, where it was violent, hyper, and unpredictable. In the new footage here, though, Ghidorah barely moves and when it does, it's very sluggish. While it does use its lightning bolts much more here than it did in Destroy All Monsters, Ghidorah is so lethargic in the material shot specifically for this film that the stock footage from those previous movies would, as David Kalat says, make you think that there are two Ghidorahs: one taking part in the fight and one that's watching from the sidelines. And yes, while there is new footage here of Ghidorah blowing up some military vehicles and tangling with Godzilla and Anguirus, at some point during the big fight, Ghidorah stops taking part in it altogether and just watches it from afar. Other than when Gigan has it fling Godzilla into the remnants of the tower, the only reason it even rejoins the fight is because Anguirus makes a sneak attack on it. I think the reason why Ghidorah is so unlike itself in this movie is because by this point, the suit was in pretty bad shape, especially after the thrashing it took in Destroy All Monsters, and they were afraid if they got too rough with it, they would damage it and if that happened, they would have been screwed because they didn't have the budget to repair it. Indeed, Ghidorah, like Godzilla, does seem ragged in some shots, especially the heads, and if this is the case (I read somewhere that it is), it's a shame that they were unable to fix the suit up in order to make a more fitting final battle between Godzilla and his most popular opponent in the original series.

The much more impressive antagonistic monster in this film is Gigan himself. Like I said earlier, this guy instantly became a hit with fans of the series, selling a lot of toys, and it's easy to see why just by looking at him. His design is one of the most memorable and inspired ever. He's a cyborg creature that has a body shape similar to that of a bird but has reptilian features and scales to him as well as big, sharp hooks for hands, long, pointy feet, a wide beak with mandibles, one enormous, visor-like red eye, webbing-like wings on his back, spines on the back of his neck and on top of his head, and, most striking of all, a freaking buzz-saw sharp enough to cut Godzilla's skin in his chest.  Some may find his design to be absurd and over the top and while I can't deny that, I also just think it's downright cool. Posters, comic books, and other merchandise featuring Gigan typically show him firing a laser from his forehead but he never does that here; in fact, he never did that in any movie  until Godzilla: Final Wars. The only moment where you see something like a laser come from his head is when he gets knocked in the face with a rock and you see a quick flash of blue light. (I've heard that he was originally supposed to have that power in this film but they couldn't get the effect to work. I can't confirm that, though. His roar, which is a piercing, raspy sort of screech, is also pretty cool and unique, and like Hedorah before him, Gigan is able to clearly laugh whenever something amuses him. Speaking of which, Gigan is played by Kengo Nakayama, who had played Hedorah as well, and he was clearly relishing being able to move much more quickly and fluidly than he had ever been able to while wearing the extremely heavy Hedorah costume. He gives Gigan a very specific personality, which is one of a violent and rather sadistic monster who's more than happy to take on any opponent... as long as the odds are in his favor. Throughout the fight, Gigan mainly beats on Anguirus, who isn't able to do much against him because he's on all fours, and at one point he actually taunts him by standing between him and Godzilla, who's getting zapped to death by the tower's lasers, and activating his saw, as if he's saying, "You want to help him? Gotta get by me, first." He usually attacks Godzilla by flying, only coming down to fight him on the ground whenever Godzilla is injured and not as capable of defending himself. After he slices Godzilla's shoulder, Gigan continuously flies down and hits him in the same spot and later on after Godzilla has nearly been killed by the tower's lasers, Gigan sadistically pounds on him and bludgeons his head until he begins bleeding. Gigan also tends to chuckle at the other monsters' injuries and predicaments, showing that he truly is a sadistic bully. Once Godzilla gets his second wind, though, Gigan mainly goes on the defensive and after a while, tries several times to fly off and leave Ghidorah behind to tangle with Godzilla and Anguirus by itself. That's the core of Gigan's character: he's a coward who only attacks when the odds are in his favor but will run away and even abandon his partner otherwise. We'll see more of this behavior on his part when he comes back in the next film, Godzilla vs. Megalon.

The special effects work in Godzilla vs. Gigan is a mixed bag. Some of it is pretty good, but some of it is pretty freaking bad. On the plus side, I've already gushed about how much I love Gigan's design, Anguirus looks pretty good too, the miniature buildings and vehicles look pretty good, the pyrotechnics are top notch and you can tell that Teruyoshi Nakano was getting to show off this specialty of his, which he hadn't quite been able to do in the previous film, I think the design of the miniature set for World Children's Land, especially the Godzilla Tower, is really good, and I like the design of the aliens' headquarters inside the tower, with all of that special equipment and whatnot. Unfortunately, for as good as these effects are, the bad ones are just as much so and are glaringly obvious. For instance, when Ghidorah and Gigan are flying in space and when they fly towards the Godzilla Tower upon arriving on Earth, the marionettes used are stiff as a board. The monsters don't move their heads or limbs at all, which makes Ghidorah look especially bad since it's not even flapping its wings, and the camera gets far too close to them as well, making this look even sloppier. What's more, there are shots where the monsters are moving while flying, like one where Ghidorah is moving its heads and cackling while flapping its wings and Gigan moves his mandibles when he screeches, and it's apparent in those shots that what you're seeing are the suits rather than the marionettes. The suits are more detailed and realistic than those models as well, especially in Ghidorah's case, with its marionette having lifeless, glowing red eyes rather than the more alive, normal-colored ones of the suit. Really shoddy work there. Even worse than that is a shot during the beginning of the Ghidorah and Gigan's attack on Tokyo where you see the inside of some sort of store as Gigan's foot crashes through the front window. There are two dolls inside this miniature set, one of which gets crushed by Gigan's foot and I used to think that these were meant to department store mannequins. They don't look anything like them but I never faulted it for that because in these type of movies, you kind of have to play along. But, the more I look at this miniature set, I see that it doesn't look much like a department store and those dolls are not positioned in the way you normally would position mannequins: looking directly at each other with only a few feet in-between them and standing right near the entrance. Now, I'm really hoping that those were just in fact simply meant to be store mannequins and not real people because, if they were... then, low budget or not, that is inexcusable. I can deal with some not so realistic effects in Japanese kaiju flicks because it's kind of a staple of the genre but something like this, especially when you have the camera lingering on them for a full three or seconds, is just plain bad and something you'd expect to see out of one those really bad Korean monster movies like A*P*E (don't worry; we will get to that some time). And as I already mentioned, the suits for Godzilla and Ghidorah look pretty worn out by this point and you can see pieces of the Godzilla suit falling off in some shots.

Because of the low budget, which was smaller than Godzilla vs. Hedorah (hardly a massive production in and of itself), the filmmakers had to resort to extensive use of stock footage in the scenes involving the monsters and the military. I don't know if there is as much or less stock footage here than in Godzilla's Revenge but the number is up there. You see a lot of shots from Destroy All Monsters, be it for the montage of Monster Island near the beginning of the film to the scenes of the military vehicles deploying and getting into position, as well as for when Anguirus gets carried off into the sky and dropped by Ghidorah. Some stuff from War of the Gargantuas is also pulled for shots of the maser cannons from that film, the military traveling through the city streets during the big monster attack, and the shots of Gaira crawling through the underbrush in order to avoid maser cannons to make it look like Gigan is doing so. And extensive footage from Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster and Godzilla vs. Monster Zero is used for the majority of the scenes where Ghidorah is attacking Tokyo and fighting both the military and Godzilla. As before, the stock footage creates both a sense of deja vu and some continuity errors. While Godzilla's appearance does shift a lot due to the stock footage, it's not as bad as it was in Godzilla's Revenge when they used stuff from Son of Godzilla, with that film's suit making the shift even more noticeable as a result. What does hurt it, though, is, one, the aforementioned difference in Ghidorah's behavior from the stock footage to the new stuff, and two, the time of day when the footage is shot. Even though this big attack and battle is supposed to be taking place at night, a lot of this stock footage was shot in broad daylight and even though they darkened it to try to make it match, the blue sky and white clouds in those shots are still plainly visible, making the effort useless. Personally stock footage is another staple of the original series that I've always accepted and, therefore, it's never bothered me but I can see how it would hurt the film's entertainment value for other people since they're seeing stuff they've already seen before and because the differences between it and the new footage can make it feel very amateurish.

Godzilla is the very first thing you see once the movie starts. We see him on Monster Island as he walks up to the camera and shoots his atomic blast right at the screen, leading into the title and the opening credits. After that, discounting the montage of Monster Island created with stock footage from Destroy All Monsters and Son of Godzilla, our next monster stuff comes about 18 minutes in, when Godzilla and Anguirus hear the signal from the aliens' tape being played, leading into that first bizarre moment when they talk to each other and Godzilla sends Anguirus to Japan to figure out what's happening. Anguirus swims to Japan but just when he's about to arrive, the military realizes that he's coming and deploy to meet him at Sagami Bay and prevent him from coming ashore. We then get a montage of footage from Destroy All Monsters, War of the Gargantuas, and Mothra vs. Godzilla in order to show the troops heading out to intercept Anguirus, and we also get some evacuation footage from the latter film meant to show people hurrying to get out of the way of the upcoming battle (and that's also where we get our first conflict between the nighttime setting of the new footage and the daytime one of the stock footage). The ensuing scene isn't much to talk about. Anguirus arrives, stands in the shallows of the bay while scanning the defense force that's gathered to meet him, all the while honking and droning. The soldiers then turn on the searchlights in order to get better shots at him and, as he puts his front feet up in front of his face in an effort to block the light from his eyes, that's when something bizarre happens with Anguirus in-between shots. His look drastically changes when it cuts from him first reacting to the lights to more shots of the lights scanning him and then back to Anguirus. Now, he's suddenly uglier, with a big black spot on top of his head, cloudy white eyes, and yellow-green splotches here and there on his body that look a bit like seaweed. I, for the life of me, don't know why he suddenly looks like that, if it was because the suit got messed up in-between shots and they didn't have time to clean it or what, but it was something I definitely noticed back when I was a kid and unlike the pieces of the Godzilla suit hanging off, I couldn't come up with a way to justify it. I still can't. In any case, Anguirus tries to come ashore and that's when the soldiers open fire on him, blasting with an enormous amount of missiles and gunfire. As I said, they don't really seem to be hurting him, although his constant pitiful honking and whining would make you think otherwise, but rather just seem like a huge annoyance. After taking a lot of abuse from the weapons, including the maser cannons, Anguirus turns around and retreats back into the ocean, heading back for Monster Island. Freaking wimp.

Not too long after that, we get a brief glimpse of Godzilla and Anguirus on Monster Island as they head for the ocean in order to meet up with and battle the oncoming alien threat. Again, I don't know what Anguirus could have possibly told Godzilla from that botched investigation of his that could have made Godzilla think they need to head out but I guess he can just sense that something bad is coming. I would say that the two of them hear the action-signal tape being played by the aliens again but this comes before they actually start doing so. Speaking of which, the aliens, after receiving the pilot signal from Nebula M Space Hunter, beginning playing said tape, which travels from Earth out into deep space and summons King Ghidorah and Gigan, who emerge from a glowing red orb and large blue-white diamond respectively. As Godzilla and Anguirus head for Japan, Gengo and Tomoko head inside the Godzilla Tower in order to try to rescue Takashi but, while Tomoko manages to knock out a couple of guards, the three of them end up being captured by Kubota and some other guards. After taking them to the control room, we get into the explanation of why the aliens are on Earth and we see a montage of the pollution that destroyed their home planet, a lot of which is from Godzilla vs. Hedorah (I had already seen that movie by this point as a kid and when I saw that footage here, I was terrified that Hedorah was going to show up!) After a random moment where some unexpected lightning knocks out the lights in the tower and the aliens' emergency lighting reveals the shadows of their true cockroach forms, the military's radar spots Ghidorah and Gigan as they approach the Earth (I like this little moment where the commander recognizes the cackling of Ghidorah over the laser radar speaker but doesn't recognize Gigan's cries since he's never been to Earth before) and the troops are deployed once again, leading into more stock footage from War of the Gargantuas and Destroy All Monsters, as well as some stuff from Godzilla vs. Monster Zero and possibly Mothra vs. Godzilla. Ghidorah and Gigan arrive and begin circling the Godzilla Tower, which is where we get some really bad close-ups of the stiff, fake-looking marionettes that we'd mostly been seeing up to this point (also, note that the tower dwarfs them when they're flying around it but in later shots, they're basically the same size). After the aliens point the monsters out to their prisoners, the chairman orders them to begin attacking Tokyo.

Gigan begins the attack by landing in the midst of the city and smashing some buildings with his claws, as well as smashing through the window of that store with the dolls with his foot, with shots of buildings crumbling and exploding from the big attack in Destroy All Monsters edited in to make it look as if those are the results of the cyborg's attack. We then get footage from Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster and Godzilla vs. Monster Zero as Ghidorah begins its part of the attack. After that is a nice moment where Gigan activates his saw for the first time and uses it to cut right into a building before finishing it off with his hooks, as well as with some helpful lightning bolts from Ghidorah. We then get more stock footage from Ghidorah as the dragon continues flying around and blowing stuff up with its lightning, interspersed with new footage of Gigan stomping through the city and smashing buildings with his hooks and feet, at one point kicking an overpass that has some abandoned cars sitting on it, with Ghidorah assisting him here and there with its lightning. Gigan smashes more structures like another overpass and a gas station with his feet and takes out a tower and another building with his hooks (I think you see some stock footage from an apocalyptic early 60's war movie called The Last War at a couple of points) before proceeding to crush some cars while Ghidorah flies around behind him. The next few scenes are made up primarily of more stock footage from War of the Gargantuas and even Rodan (which had already been pilfered before) as some troops move into the city to combat and most of the footage of Ghidorah fighting them is from Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, although the effects shots of the tanks getting set ablaze by its lightning bolts are new as well as some footage of the dragon cackling while doing so. Gigan then buzzes his saw a little bit and screeches at some burning buildings before walking away, leading into some shots of Godzilla and Anguirus as they continue swimming for the mainland.

Back at Tokyo, we get some actual new footage as Ghidorah and Gigan attack the port. Actually, believe it or not, Ghidorah does most of the work here, blowing up a ship and some surrounding buildings, while Gigan mostly just watches. All the cyborg really does here is kick and smash a burning, docked boat. The air force then attacks and while a lot of the shots of the jets are taken from Mothra vs. Godzilla and Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster, we do get new shots as well and we get to see Gigan jumping and smashing some of these models in mid-air, sending a couple of burning jets heading straight into the ocean, where they explode upon hitting the water (there are some repeated shots here, though). The aliens watch the attack on the video monitors in the Godzilla Tower, with Kubota commenting the plan is going perfectly, with no errors. Ghidorah and Gigan then move into the countryside, where they're attacked by some maser cannons. Gigan is actually brought to his knees when he gets zapped by one of them and he quickly takes cover in the brush, leading to the footage from War of the Gargantuas when Gaira does the same (you can see bits of Gaira's limbs in these shots if you look carefully). The maser cannons then turn their attention on Ghidorah, who retaliates being blasted by blowing up the cannons with its lightning bolts as well as melting some tanks in the same manner, which are some very nice pyrotechnics (again, Teruyoshi Nakano is really getting to show off here). Ghidorah and Gigan then begin marching through the countryside as Ghidorah continues blowing up military vehicles and equipment left and right, which is an innovative shot but the final effect is a bit awkward. After another shot of Godzilla and Anguirus, and a little scene inside the room where three of our human leads are being held, we see Machiko and Shosaku driving back to the Godzilla Tower after getting the necessary stuff to save their captive friends, hearing on the radio that Ghidorah and Gigan are continuing to destroy oil refineries and other industrial areas along the coast. We then see the two monsters doing just that, with Ghidorah igniting sections of the refinery with its lightning (we see some more shots from Godzilla vs. Hedorah here). Godzilla and Anguirus finally arrive, rising out of the water in front of the refinery and instantly catching the space monsters' attention. The aliens note their arrival as well, revealing that they plan to lure Godzilla to the tower so they can kill him.

After the two pairs of monsters square off with each other, Godzilla comes ashore and heads straight for Ghidorah, who just stands there and allows Godzilla to tackle it to the ground. Godzilla rolls over and gets back to his feet to square off against Ghidorah again, who blows up a tanker between him and Gigan with a lightning bolt. Anguirus moves in to join Godzilla (what was he doing this whole time?) as Ghidorah blows up another piece of the refinery in front of him. The pairs square off again, with Gigan doing some sort of weird battle stance against his enemies. As Godzilla moves toward him, Gigan takes to the sky but Godzilla immediately grounds him with an atomic blast, causing the cyborg to fall right in front of him with an explosion. Godzilla moves in to try to attack the momentarily helpless Gigan but Ghidorah hits him with some lightning, causing him to fall to the ground and miss his chance. Godzilla gets back up and Ghidorah takes the opportunity to zap him again as well as blow up other parts of the refinery, creating more fire and smoke and making it harder for the other two monsters to fight. Godzilla and Anguirus face Ghidorah but then Gigan comes in from the side and knocks Godzilla down with a cheap shot before proceeding to hold Anguirus down so Ghidorah can hit him with some lightning. Gigan then repeatedly beats Anguirus with his hooks while Godzilla tries to roll over to get back up. Ghidorah then begins spraying the area around them with its lightning, hitting Godzilla and Anguirus here and there while Gigan gets out of the way of the ensuing explosions. With fire and constant explosions all around them, Godzilla staggers back up on his feet and uses Anguirus as a means to balance himself while the four-legged dinosaur tries to get his senses back as well. While that's going, Machiko and Shosaku sneak up to the base of the Godzilla Tower and, letting their friends know that they're there by using a flashlight to flash a signal, send a balloon with a zip-line attached to it up to the tower's eye, which is where they're being held prisoner, and they use the line to slide down to the ground. I like that during this entire scene, you can hear the ongoing monster battle in the distance. It's a nice touch. They're almost caught when the balloon explodes and the guards proceed to shoot down the zip-line but all five of them manage to escape. Figuring that they still might try something to ensure their destruction, they send their car flying down the road and the aliens, sure enough, use the tower's lasers to blow it up. Having now ensured their escape, our main characters slip away through the brush.

When we cut back to the monster battle, we get a repeat of the scene from Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster where Godzilla grapples with Ghidorah and the dragon shoves him backwards onto a bridge, causing him to almost get buried in an ensuing landslide (if you look closely at the beginning of this shot, you can see a little bit of larval Mothra). With the battle bringing Godzilla closer to the tower, the aliens prepare to use its lasers to zap him to death. We then see Godzilla tangling with Ghidorah, while Gigan picks on Anguirus and kicks him under the chin, whacks him on the head, and then kicks him in the side, sending him crawling over to Godzilla. The way he whines at Godzilla and then motions towards Gigan when he gets his attention is what makes Anguirus look less a combat ally for him and more like a big, whiny baby who can't do anything for himself. With Godzilla and Anguirus both facing him, Gigan kicks a big rock towards Anguirus who bounces it to Godzilla who then smacks it towards Gigan, knocking him right in the head with it. Ghidorah responds to this by blasting the ground between Godzilla and Anguirus, causing them to fall to either side. Gigan proceeds to laugh and clap his claws together in delight before going over to Anguirus, who's now laying on his side and helpless, and smacking his leg and then kicking him in the back, causing him to fall over in the other direction. Time for more stock footage. We see a mixture of stuff from Godzilla vs. Monster Zero and Ghidorah as Godzilla gets to his feet, kicks rocks at the dragon, gets shot in the crotch again, and does the Muhammad Ali shuffle again in order to dodge an onslaught of lightning bolts before going up to Ghidorah's heads and boxing and grappling with them. Meanwhile, Gengo and Takashi go to the Defense Agency to inform the commander that the people at World Children's Land are aliens and that if Godzilla gets too close to the tower, they'll kill him with the laser beams. When the commander says that they're unable to attack the tower since Ghidorah and Gigan would immediately attack them, Takashi suggests that they blow it up from the inside, which isn't as tough as the exterior.

Ghidorah, meanwhile, is using the wind that its wings can generate to make it hard for Godzilla to walk and keep his balance, giving Gigan the opportunity severely injure him. He takes off, flies right for Godzilla, and uses his buzz-saw to slice Godzilla's shoulder open, sending out a huge spurt of blood (something that was never allowed beforehand when Eiji Tsuburaya was in charge of the special effects). Godzilla falls backwards and rolls down a hill, as Ghidorah continues blowing its wind. Godzilla gets back up but then, before he can do anything, Gigan come flying back in and knocks him down again. He does this two more times, the last time just managing to knock Godzilla off-balance. Godzilla staggers away from his enemies in order to regain both his balance and his vision, which is blurry from Ghidorah's windstorm and from the hits he took to the head. Wandering into the World Children's Land amusement park, Godzilla smacks himself in the eyes to try to make them regain focus and as they gradually do, he's baffled to see the Godzilla Tower for the first time. Not sure what to make of what he's seeing, Godzilla approaches the tower, wandering right into the line of fire. The chairman orders the attack to begin and the lasers fire, hitting Godzilla right in the head. Godzilla staggers over to the side and falls to the ground, as the tower then begins a relentless assault on him, zapping him again and again and exploding the ground around him. Gigan and Ghidorah watch with delight as Godzilla is overwhelmed by the lasers, while at the same time, our lead human characters and some troops sneak through the brush towards the tower, realizing that they need to hurry. Godzilla continues to get blasted by the tower and although he does manage to get to his feet, he's unable to do anything before he gets zapped in the head again and sent back to the ground, with his tail smashing a ride in the process. Gigan, meanwhile, decides to taunt Anguirus, who's suddenly showed back up after being who knows where for quite a while now in order to try to help his friend. He stands between Anguirus and the helpless Godzilla and activates his buzz-saw, daring the dinosaur to take him on. As the humans begin filling the elevator that goes to the top of the tower with TNT, Anguirus decides to go for it and try to get around Gigan in order to help Godzilla, who's almost dead from the onslaught of laser fire. As I've said, I appreciate the effort on his part but Anguirus goes about it completely the wrong way and charges right at Gigan, cutting his head open with a big spurt of blood on the buzz-saw.

After attaching a large drawing of the main characters to the TNT boxes in order to give the aliens something to shoot at, our leads and the troops send the elevator back up before quickly getting out of the tower. With Godzilla almost dead and Anguirus helpless to save him, the aliens are confident that they've succeeded. Upon hearing that the elevator is coming up, Kubota assumes that it's our leads and orders a group of guards to meet the elevator and to shoot to kill. The henchmen do so and very stupidly open fire on the black and white drawing once the elevator opens up (I guess cockroaches are unable to perceive color or depth), igniting the dynamite and blowing the entire top of the Godzilla Tower to smithereens. The head of the tower proceeds to fall apart and inside the burning control room, the mortally wounded Kubota and chairman revert to their actual cockroach forms before dying (the effect is nothing special; it's just footage of a cockroach superimposed over the background, although the flames in the foreground do look nice). The head of the tower then completely explodes and some pieces of it hit Godzilla, waking him up from his unconscious state. The other monsters watch as Godzilla, weakened and barely able to see, tries to get up but has a hard time in mustering the strength and balance to do so. While the space monsters are distracted, Anguirus tries to sneak up on and attack Ghidorah, but he accidentally knocks a rock with his foot, alerting Ghidorah's right head to his presence. The head blows up the ground in front of Anguirus, the explosion knocking him over on his back. Gigan, showing what a sadistic bully he is, walks up to Godzilla and kicks him in the side of his leg. Godzilla gets up momentarily but then falls backwards, still very weak. Gigan then kicks him in the back of the head and then grabs ahold of him and lifts him up before pounding and digging into his head, causing him to begin to bleed. Gigan knocks Godzilla back to the ground and drags him away by the shoulders, dumping him to the ground at Ghidorah's feet. Gigan then motions towards Ghidorah and the dragon proceeds to use its strong necks and heads to whack Godzilla and send him flying towards what's left of the tower, completely destroying it in the process. Gigan and Ghidorah both laugh at Godzilla's misery and then Gigan begins heading towards Godzilla in order to attack him again. However, little does he know that Godzilla's gotten his second wind, which he shows by pounding on his chest

As Gigan comes at him, Godzilla swings around and whacks him on the chest with his tail, sending falling onto park decorations. Godzilla then beats Gigan relentlessly (this is where you can really pieces of the Godzilla suit flying off) until the cyborg manages to knock him off of him and down to the ground. As Gigan attempts to take a swipe at Godzilla, who's on his knees, Godzilla puts his hand on Gigan's back and shoves him over to the ground. After a brief shot of Anguirus getting back on his feet, we see Gigan manage to kick Godzilla and send him rolling onto the ground. Getting back up, Godzilla lets Gigan follow him to where he takes cover behind one of the park buildings and after he destroys it while trying to get to him, Godzilla shoves himself down along with Gigan and the two of them begin smacking and flipping each other on the ground. While watching this, Anguirus then decides to attempt that sneak attack on Ghidorah again. This time, the dragon is too busy watching the fight between Godzilla and Gigan to notice him and Anguirus is able to creep up behind it and grab one of its two tails. The left head immediately swings around when Anguirus does this and upon seeing him, very easily flips him over onto his back. We then get some footage from Destroy All Monsters, showing Ghidorah fly towards Anguirus and land on his back, followed by Anguirus grabbing onto the right neck, Ghidorah taking off with Anguirus hanging off of it, and the middle head biting the dinosaur, forcing him to let go and fall from a great height. Godzilla, meanwhile, is sitting on top of Gigan and jumping up and down on top of the cyborg before smacking either side of his face. Upon hearing Ghidorah, Godzilla gets off of Gigan and stomps up to the dragon and pounds on its side, with Ghidorah, again, barely reacting to this at all. Seeing that Godzilla's back is turned, Gigan takes to the air to try to fly into him but Godzilla manages to get out of the way and Gigan ends up crashing into Ghidorah. Enraged, the middle head blasts Gigan, and as the space monsters argue, Godzilla walks over to Anguirus and says something to him, which is where we inexplicably get that tape recorder sound in place of Godzilla's roar. I still don't know why they decided to do that. After doing so, Godzilla and Anguirus get on either side of Gigan and Ghidorah, who are still arguing over that little mishap that Gigan had.

Getting behind Ghidorah, Anguirus gets up on his hind legs and flings himself backwards, slamming into Ghidorah's back with his spikes and causing the dragon to fall on top of Gigan and knock him to the side. Gigan attempts to fly away again but Godzilla blasts him and sends him crashing on top of a building. Godzilla then atomic blasts the ground next to Gigan for good measure and when the cyborg manages to get up and attempts to fly away again, Godzilla once again brings him down, this time causing him to fall on a bridge. Godzilla then turns around to see Ghidorah blasting Anguirus, prompting Godzilla to stomp up behind the dragon, grab the front of its necks from behind, and pull them back around. With Ghidorah unable to do anything, Godzilla gives Anguirus the signal to fly backwards into its chest again, which he does three times in a row. Godzilla then flips Ghidorah over by its necks three times in a row, with Anguirus all the while watching like, "Hell, yeah!" We then get our last bit of stock footage, which is again from Destroy All Monsters as Godzilla stomps on one of Ghidorah's necks while Anguirus watches (for some reason, they put in a shot of him getting up and shaking off some dirt, even though he hadn't been smacked down). After Godzilla that neck several times, Ghidorah has decided that enough is enough and flies away, joined immediately afterward by Gigan, who takes to the sky as soon as Godzilla turns around and looks at him. Godzilla and Anguirus watch as their enemies fly away, with Anguirus swiping his front right foot in the air as if he's saying, "Good riddance!" In the last shot of the space monsters leaving, it almost sounds as if they're arguing with each other again. After roaring victoriously and apparently bantering with each other for a little bit, Godzilla and Anguirus head back to the ocean and swim home into the sunrise, ending the movie.

Akira Ifukube gets credit for the film's music score but the truth is that he had no involvement with this film at all. Just as numerous past effects shots were used to keep costs down, the film's score was cobbled together from music that had been composed by Ifukube for a number of past films. Not only do you hear music from past Godzilla films like Mothra vs. Godzilla, Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, and especially from Destroy All Monsters but there's also stuff from Battle in Outer Space, AtragonFrankenstein Conquers the World, King Kong Escapes, The Birth of the Japanese Islands, and even some music that Ifukube composed for the Mitsubishi Pavilion at Expo '70. Because this was one of the earliest Godzilla movies I ever saw, this was also the first time I heard a lot of this music and it wasn't until many years later that I learned that it all came from other movies. However, even though there's no new material here (save for a song at the end of the movie, which I'll get to), I think the music they chose works well in the spots where they put it. Of course, the classic combination of Ghidorah, Godzilla, and Rodan's themes that first appeared in Godzilla vs. Monster Zero (they're using the Destroy All Monsters version of it here) are perfect for the city attack scenes and for various sections for the big monster battle, as is the stuff from Mothra vs. Godzilla, with the rather somber-sounding follow-up to Godzilla's theme from that film working very well with the images of Godzilla and Anguirus getting beaten by Ghidorah and Gigan during the first part of the fight, enhanced even more by the explosions going on around them. The main theme from Destroy All Monsters works well for the scenes where the military is deployed to deal with the monsters and I like the use of the creeping, ominous suspense theme from that film used in the confrontation between the military and Anguirus early on. They do use the Monsterland theme from that film whenever we get some scenes taking place on Monster Island. The music from Battle in Outer Space works for when Godzilla and Anguirus are first swimming towards Japan and the same goes for the music from Expo '70 for the opening credits and when Godzilla turns the tide on the space monsters near the end of the movie. I'm not sure what film it comes from but there's some really sad music that plays when Godzilla is getting overwhelmed by the tower's lasers and some very soft, somber music that plays after the tower is blown up from the inside that does a good job in getting across how weak and helpless Godzilla is there. And I can't forget the eerie music from Frankenstein Conquers the World that plays when Gengo first meets the chairman and when the aliens explain why they came to Earth. The one bit of new music here is a song called Godzilla March that plays at the very end of the film when Godzilla and Anguirus are swimming home. Some have criticized the singing by Susumu Ishikawa in that song as sounding drunk and congested but I don't think it sounds that bad, even though it is kind of strange. I actually don't mind the song because I like the actual music that goes along with it. I think it's a nice way to end the film and feels fitting of the footage of Godzilla and Anguirus swimming off into the sunrise, heading home after a very tough battle. (What's really amazing is that the music for the song was composed by Kunio Miyauchi, who did the bizarre and annoying music for Godzilla's Revenge. Trust me when I say that this song is infinitely better than the awful one that opens the Japanese version of that film.)

A newly formed company called Cinema Shares bought the American distribution rights to this and the next two Godzilla movies and released it in the USA in 1977 as Godzilla On Monster Island (a very redundant title since the total amount of stuff on Monster Island in this movie adds up to just about a minute). Cinema Shares retained Toho's international dub of the film, as would be the case with the rest of the films in the original series, and made very little changes. They, naturally, changed the title card to read Godzilla On Monster Island, a laser beam effect used for the opening credits in the Japanese version was removed and replaced with standard credits, they removed the song from the film's ending and simply lifted the footage of Godzilla atomic blasting the screen from the beginning for him to now do so and for the blast to spell out THE END, and in order to get a G-rating, they removed some strong profanity, like when Gengo calls Tomoko a "hard bitch" under his breath in the international version, and the violent shots of Godzilla and Anguirus getting sliced by Gigan's buzz-saw and bleeding profusely. The international version is also where they put actual voices in place of the speech bubbles for the moments where Godzilla and Anguirus talk to each other. I, however, have never seen this altered version of the film. The version that I had on video for years was the complete uncut version that was retitled Godzilla vs. Gigan, which was first put out on home video by New World Pictures in 1988 and has since become the version that has always been released by subsequent companies on video and DVD. While the dubbing in the international dubbing is, as usual, rather flat, it, which is the same for the dubbing in the remaining Showa Godzilla movies, it's not as bad as some of the ones that have come before it and I've never minded it, even when I was a little kid. What's really weird, though, is the so-called Japanese version of the film that they put on the TriStar DVD in 2004. The English version there is the one that's always been available but the "Japanese" version there is something of a hybrid because it has the original Japanese dialogue with subtitles but it's still missing the laser effect during the opening credits and only retains the sound (I didn't even know what people were talking about until I saw the actual Japanese version), they remove the speech bubbles as well as the English voices during Godzilla and Anguirus' talking scenes so all you hear are those weird tape-recorder sounds, and you get the international version's blue THE END title screen at the end of the movie instead of the Japanese one over the film's remaining footage, which is how Japanese films usually end. In other words, this "Japanese version" is simply the international version with the English dialogue replaced by the original Japanese language, which is really strange. I don't know if the same goes for Kraken Releasing's Blu-Ray and DVD releases of the film.

Godzilla vs. Gigan is certainly not a highpoint for the series in terms of originality and, in some cases, technical skill. There's a lot of stock footage used, which can get tiresome after a while, the plot is the same "alien invasion" story done again, the music score has no original compositions save for the song at the end of the movie, and the grade of some of the effects, like the Godzilla suit falling apart and the stiff marionettes used for the space monsters when they're flying, among others, is pretty bad. However, that said, I think the familiar feel to this movie is one of the reasons why it appeals to me, because it's kind of the last time you would more or less get the look, sound, and feel of the Godzilla series' heyday back in the early to mid-60's. It also doesn't hurt that this is one of the films that I watched a lot during my early childhood and I still get enjoyment out of its city destruction scenes and the big monster battle during the film's second half, as well as some of the eerie, mysterious moments during its first half. Plus, as I talked about, Shinichi Sekizawa wrote some very subtle, interesting satire into the film too. I can understand why some don't like the film because they get a feeling of, "been there, done that," from it and also because of the technical problems I already mentioned but this is one that, its flaws aside, I've always enjoyed and will continue to enjoy. It's not perfect but it's entertaining, which is all that matters to me.

2 comments:

  1. Fantastic, blow-by-blow account. This makes me want to watch the movie itself. I might do so sometime. Meanwhile, I still consider Godzilla 2014 a good watch.

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  2. I'm glad that you enjoy my description of the monster battles. For a while, I'd thought that I was probably going a little overboard and far too detailed, making these reviews longer than they should be. But, I'm glad that people are actually enjoying them.

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