Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Godzilla VS Gigan

Gigan Counter

Godzilla VS Gigan
aka Chikyû kogeki meirei:
Gojira tai Gaigan

Japan 1972
Directed by Jun Fukuda & Yoshimitsu Banno
Toho/Criterion Collection Blu Ray Zone B

Okay, next up in my revisit of the original Godzilla films, courtesy of Criterion’s Godzilla - The Showa Era Blu Ray set, is Godzilla VS Gigan. Now, when I last watched this, maybe 25 -30 years ago on a PAL VHS tape, I seem to remember I quite liked it. Looking at it now though, I have to say it’s one of the worst in the series of films of this era although, as in a lot of them, it still has some interesting moments.

The film starts off, after a quick appearance by The Big G himself, on an opening credits sequence with a nice Akira Ifikube ostinato style credits march. As it happens, Ifikube was not actually involved with this film and all the music in this one composed by him is just needle dropped in from his previous Godzilla scores. We then get a nice, moving camera montage over several black and white comic book panels to introduce the main protagonist as an aspiring comic book artist. From this point on, though, which is only a few seconds after the opening titles, it would be fair to say the film rapidly goes downhill.

Okay, so comic book guy is not having much luck at finding employment so his... well he calls her his mother but she’s as young as he is and seems to act more like some kind of agent or sister so... I don’t know what relationship she has with him but she sends him to get a job at a relatively new company who are building a giant theme park called World Children’s Land. They even have a big tower with a lift on it built in the shape of Godzilla, at the heart of the theme park.

However, after some shenanigans with a man and woman who are, shall we say, concerned individuals... it becomes clear that the main players at World Children’s Land are all ‘space cockroaches’ who are masquerading as humans (but their shadows still show as cockroaches if you catch them in the right light). Their much publicised plan for bringing ‘Absolute Peace’ to the entire word really involves destroying Godzilla (which they fail to do) and bringing King Ghidorah and the new monster Gigan, from space, to decimate the cities of the world so they can live in peace on our planet in their cockroachy ways.

And it’s mostly painful to watch. The lead actor is almost comic in his ‘over selling’ of his facial expressions (perhaps he came from theatre, where that acting style works better than for screen acting?) and the various 'to'ing and 'fro'ing in and out of danger involving him and his new group of friends... and rescuing the brother of one of them before disrupting the plans of the cockroachy aliens... is kinda tiresome. All I will say about all that stuff is that it’s lucky his ‘sister/agent/whatever the hell she is supposed to be’ is a kung fu gal who can karate chop the aliens when they need to get out of a tight jam.

Now, there are a couple of things which are of interest. Number one is that Godzilla and his buddy Anguirus, from Monster Island, can speak to each other by crying out and then having their words translated as comic book speech bubbles filled with kanji (subsequently translated in the subtitles). So, yeah, nice but extremely silly. I think they dropped this element after this movie, if memory serves.

Another interesting thing is that Godzilla bleeds quite a lot in this one... finally. This was a response to children constantly asking why Godzilla never bleeds in battle and, I suspect, this is probably due to the more violent kaiju punch ups in rival studio Daiei’s various Gamera movies. So, yeah, when Gigan activates his front chest plates... which basically serve the same purpose as a giant buzz saw, you do finally get to see some arterial spray coming out of poor Gojira. Incidentally, Gigan doesn’t do much else in terms of fighting style to be honest. His only other move seems to be sweeping down with his sharpened arms to either swat jet fighters out of the air or bash a monster on the top of their head. I guess, because of his fighting style, I’d have to say that Gigan is pretty much the Bud Spencer of the kaiju world, for sure.

Overall, though, the film is very bad. The monster battles are made up with a huge chunk of footage from previous movies thrown into the mix... which is why the costumes and models don’t match each other from scene to scene (and why you have fights taking place at both night and day in the same scene). The model shot of Ghidorah flying whenever Gigan is in the same shot has absolutely no movement in it at all and looks just like a kids plastic model on a string... as opposed to footage from other movies where he has the full movement. You can see the budget was completely shredded for this film and also, special effects legend Eji Tsubura had died two years prior to this movie, which obviously doesn’t help. But even so, the effects still look cheap and the mismatching of the footage looks pretty bad all the way through.

Another head scratcher is... well... why the heck is King Ghidorah alive in this one anyway? We’d previously seen him killed in Destroy All Monsters (reviewed here). Well, the usual defensive explanation people seem to give is that Destroy All Monsters was set in the future and this film isn’t. Okay, fair enough but, if that’s the case, wasn’t Monster Island also started up in that same film set in the future then? Honestly, the continuity here is a bit loose at best. This would be King Ghidorah’s last appearance is a Showa era film, although he would obviously return in the various other era's movies since then. After this, he was also in a few episodes of the TV show Zone Fighter... but I don’t know anything about those.

And that’s me done on this one. I don’t think much of it, to be honest. It was supposed to be an antidote to the mis-step Toho thought they had made with Godzilla Vs Hedorah (which I reviewed here and which is, in fact, my favourite Showa Era Godzilla film) but, as far as I can see, they got something which is truly cheap and horrible as a follow up. There would be only three more Showa Era Godzilla films after this one and, yeah, I’ll be reviewing those on here very soon.

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