The Godzilla 28 Movie challenge: Number 12 - Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)

Although it's not to the extent of Destroy All Monsters, Godzilla Vs Gigan utilises stock footage of both visuals and score to fill out the film and a Sci-Fi plot involving aliens using mind-control to manipulate Kaiju seems like a lazy re-hash of Invasion of Astro-Monster. The human performances aren't overwhelming and the general story seems clumsily put together. The Godzilla suit is infamously falling to bits, his most notorious foe is relegated to onlooker and we get a monster bromance with actual chit-chat. This should be one of the worst Godzilla movies but it's actually quite entertaining, mainly because it contains (arguably) the best battle scene of the Godzilla franchise so far - *and* it takes place in a theme park!



The film opens with Godzilla, it’s a great shot and he’s looking impressive (at this stage). He emerges across what appears to be a typical Toho island setting, we’re back to island bound stories now, well that's not technically true - but it's not an urban setting, the same type of landscape as the island films, but I guess the 'generic' look is necessary given that scenes from previous films will be spliced into scenes.


Godzilla Vs Gigan swiftly establishes the plot which will lead to the introduction of Gigan along with the fourth appearance of King Ghidorah (it would also be his last for almost 20 years!). Construction is nearing completion on "World Childrens' land", a theme park featuring the life-size “Godzilla Tower”. It's a place designed to teach a message of peace. The whole operation around the theme park is very James Bond-esque with its opulent premises complete with globes and large rotating desks. It's a world of important looking flashing lights on computer consoles, intimidating technology and espionage. It's the sort of place you expect ulterior motives and at the head of it all is a man with a maniacal obsession with his mission. In this case the mission is to bring “absolute peace” – and this involves destroying monster Island and all its inhabitants, including Godzilla.


The film almost touches on an environmental message, even to the extent of showing some of the stock footage of pollution from Godzilla vs Hedorah when we hear a very brief explanation as to why an alien race has come to Earth, but it's not really revisited again. The whole theme park idea seems pretty tenuous, my understanding is that the main purpose is to build a life sized Godzilla tower to house a weapon which is comparable to Godzilla's atomic breath and hope Godzilla can be lured to it. If you have the know-how to build such a weapon then why not just whack it on the back of a van and have it mobile?! I suppose it wouldn't look as impressive and the tower is an imposing building which looks out over the rest of World Children's Land.




The aliens themselves are giant cockroaches who have human form but cast cockroach shadows when the convenience of the plot demands it.


The zany aliens, their cunning plot, and a struggling manga artist hero (who has created a homework monster and a bossy mother monster) along with some manga artwork are clearly aimed at the younger audiences. 


The 'goodies' and the 'baddies' in the film are very black and white. The same goes for the Kaiju; Godzilla and Anguirus team up as a friends against King Ghidorah and Gigan. The film doesn't waste time trying to create any sort of dramatic realism, when the military are told about the cockroach people they accept it without question. Assumptions are made for the ease of moving the plot on and never challenged, military officials they say there’s no point attacking Godzilla Tower as King Ghidorah and Gigan will be quick to defend it – without actually knowing that.

There's humour in this film, mainly from the main human protagonist Gengo Kotaka who even puts in a Inspector Clouseau style performance when he leans on a massive globe only to slide onto the floor.




And is it just me, or does that corn-on-the-cob look a little phallic?!!


Let's look at the monsters. As is customary now, I'll look at Godzilla first....

...Because of the use of stock footage, we actually see different Godzillas. In one scene he looks terrible and I suspect it's the head from Son Of Godzilla being used in order to preserve the current suit from the abuses of water!


That suit stands out for looking awful but although there are varying Godzilla suits in the film, the rest at least look quite similar and most non-Godzilla fans wouldn't notice.

The suit for the new footage is a the same one from the last three films and the film is often noted for the obvious state of disrepair of the costume by now. I was specifically looking out for it and it is obvious in some scenes, especially under the arms where the rubbery external textured layer is hanging off in parts, and sometimes bits fly off - as highlighted below.


To be honest though, it really isn't overly obvious and given the amount of time Godzilla is on his back in the film, the suit fares quite admirably!

The suit has a well proportioned body and some amazing teeth! The head has been updated slightly since the last film, the eyes have eyelids which blink and the 'stare' of Godzilla seems more intense.


It's a well proportioned body and the shape doesn't look baggy or awkward and seems to have a good range of movement. This would be an apt time to mention that this is the last time that Haruo Nakajima wore the Godzilla suit after playing the great beast since the 1954 original.


We’ve seen him stroke his chin and perform various human-like gestures in the past, in this film after being knocked over several times we see him stumbling and after seeing the Godzilla Tower even slaps himself round the face in astonishment. We observe from Godzilla’s perspective and see his blurry vision come into focus as he cocks his head to one side and blinks in surprise at the thing!




Anguirus gets more screen time here than in his previous films. His mouth looks to be at a more acceptable angle now, in the past his jaw has looked too curved.




The texture of Anguirus is spot on, his colour is a rusty brown and his spines look menacing. He is pretty much the weaker of the Kaiju here but that's part of Anguirus' appeal - he always gets you on-side. He hasn't changed all that much throughout his appearances and so the stock footage doesn't really depict him looking any different.



My only niggle with Anguirus is that at times he doesn't look very natural as a quadrupedal creature because his back legs are bent so that he is walking on his knees which highlights the fact that this is a guy in a suit.

King Ghidorah is Godzilla's most celebrated foe, however here he looks neither impressive nor majestic. He doesn't look at golden as usual and he has a mangy mane of hair on his heads which just looks messy and a bit bedraggled.


The stock footage of King Ghidorah is quite obvious because in previous films he is somewhat smoother, so in some scenes he has sleek heads and in others he has hair.

Gigan is the new kid on the block. Now I usually like my Kaiju to look more organic - as though (with a lead of faith!) they could actually exist so circular saws on monsters aren't my bag. However, with Gigan, as he comes from space and seems to have an almost android look to him, it works. He feels like the result of some type of intergalactic weapons programme where technology and biology have been developed alongside each other to create a bionic mutant.


He has patches of golden scales and dragon-like wings which hint at an origin linked to King Ghidorah. In addition to his saw, he looks to have metallic armour, visor and metallic claws grafted to him. He's actually quite similar in basic shape to Godzilla but looks completely different because of his funky tech parts.


His lack of eyes give him an expressionless face and that adds to the evil feel, the mandibles allow his face to be animated though - it works really well.


The climax of this film is the beasty brawl - and what a brawl! The fight scene is prolonged by having scenes cut away to the human cast while they plan their own battle and attempt to assist Godzilla by blowing up the tower. Instead of a bit of rock chucking and strange arm movements, we get proper grappling, falling over, blood and gore! 


King Ghidorah often feels surplus to requirements to be honest, during the fight he tends to stand to one side and watch. The sceptic in me thinks his inclusion was more due to the rich catalogue of stock footage than adding to the story. The same can be said for Anguirus whose plucky personality doesn't add a great deal. Anguirus bites a bit and we see stock footage of him being dropped from a height before he actually performs some decent moves.

Anguirus' main strength his is spines, but they never seem to get used - until now! His signature move in this film is to stand on his hind legs and throw himself backwards into his foes. It's used to great effect when Godzilla holds King Ghidorah in a head lock (or should that be a 'heads lock'?) so that Anguirus can impale the lightning-spitting MoFo!

Godzilla and Anguirus are more than just allies, they really come across as friends. There are times in the film when they speak, I remember watch the dubbed version as a kid and being amazed at Godzilla speaking like a human, but in this original his noises are a series of growls and strange roars - oddly the version I watched didn't have speech bubbles which are meant to appear on the original language version. I don't know if several versions of this film are floating about out there, I have seen the speech bubbles before though and they don't look good. They aren't required, it's clear that Godzilla and Anguirus are communicating, there's no need to anthropomorphise it too much. There are some touching moments between the who friends, Godzilla crouches down to 'talk' to Anguirus and he seems most angry when he sees KG attacking his little buddy, and promptly goes over and bends his necks back!!!


I suppose a more apt name for this film would be "Godzilla and Anguilas Vs. Gigan and King Ghidorah" given that there are two definite 'teams'. The monsters couple quite nicely together....

The terrible two:


The heroic duo:


Godzilla is on the sharp end of pain - quite literally throughout the battle, Gigan flies into him buzz-saw first and slices into his arm. Gigan is a mean bitch in this film and even mounts Anguirus at one stage in order to press his blades into him. Ouch!




The length of the fight scene enables us to get a sense of Godzilla's fatigue. At one point he is even left unconscious and dragged to his feet by Gigan so that his can repeatedly stab him in the head - savage!


The use of stock footage can be incredibly effective in film, and I'm surprised how well it works here. Although I saw scenes which were instantly recognisable from past films and the lack of World Childrens' Land in some moments appears odd - they actually help to bolster the battle without it feeling dragged out. The sudden change in quality is jarring at times, but it's not unknown for differing film media to be used during different conditions so it's not strange enough to take you out of the film.

It's not just the monsters which get past appearances showcased, we also see re-use of military vehicles and weapons - for instance, both of the scenes below are ones I've seen in at least 2 Godzilla movies now.


Perhaps it's because I'm doing this movie challenge and actively taking screenshots and re-watching segments, but Eiji Tsuburaya's effects from previous films really jumped out at me. Tsuburaya's work (which perhaps enjoyed higher budgets) are more detailed with buildings looking more realistic and less like models than the newer footage. Again however, they worked with the film and if I hadn't seen the other films quite so recently I probably wouldn't have noticed. There is a scene where explosions from Hedorah are depicted and cut into new footage and it's done so cleverly that it's hard to notice what's new and what is reused.


Godzilla tower looks even more impressive when it's causing destruction - or being destroyed!


There's some interesting visual angles too, I remember during Invasion of Astro-Monster being impressed by the "human-eye-view" and seeing action from the street level. This time we get a brief moment of ground level action as we see Gigan stomp through the streets from the perspective of a shop interior. Bizarrely there are massive mannequins there (I know they're dolls, but in terms of relative scale in comparison to that car outside!)

[note - I meant to mention this originally but completely neglected it when I revisited my notes, thanks to the comment from Nick Wallace below I squeezed it in.]


There's a genuine sense of peril in this fight, usually it takes Godzilla and several others to defeat King Ghidorah and this time he also got Gigan to contend with. 
Thankfully for Godzilla, King Ghidorah isn't that tough here and is content to spectate rather than participate. Gigan is tough though, he seems both well defended and well armed. In my mind this is one of the most epic battles in Kaiju cinema, it would nice to see King Ghidorah properly defeated for once though rather than just fly off when the going gets tough.

_________________________________________________________________

Cult Kingdom rating:  3.5 / 5 

Godzilla Vs Gigan contains a plot which is too basic, relies on sloppy assumptions and only tenuously ties together different story threads. No effort is made to establish a plausible rationale for the aliens being here, or for their modus-operendi. The film still manages to be a fun watch however, but for repeat viewing you may as well skip past the first hour and focus on the build up to what is actually an amazing Kaiju battle - even taking into account the use of stock footage, it's an epic slog with bits of blood and Godzilla suit flying about! All-too-often battles have become boring rock kicks and exchanges of bitch-slapping, but the final battle in Godzilla Vs Gigan is a scrap worthy of your time and elevates a poor film into the 'must watch' category.

4 comments:

  1. I totally agree with your review. I picked this movie up in the $5 bin at Walmart within the past year and hadn't ever seen it before. I figured a movie with Gigan and King Ghidorah would be decent and it was. I watch this one with my kids and they always enjoy it. My poor wife gets called 'Mama-gon' all the time because of it! We especially like the Gigan scene where he's tearing down the buildings and you can see thru them at his feet. All the people in the buildings are Barbie dolls, my kids always point that out! 'Look Godzilla is squishing the Barbies!' Haha.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nick- thanks for your comments, it's always nice when:

    a - someone actually reads these things, and
    b - agrees! :-D

    I had a screenshot of that very scene and meant to include it in the write-up above but for some reason I never did when I looked through my scrappy notes! I've added the screenshot now and yes - they are just dolls, but considering the size of everything else, must be massive in that shop!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! I enjoy reading these reviews. I'm looking forward to the next 4 as those were a big part of my childhood :)

      Delete
  3. I look forward to these reviews, they are well written and very fair, and obviously written by someone who appreciates these films and respects them. Keep them coming :)

    ReplyDelete