Oh thank God(zilla) for Godzilla Vs Gigan. After going through the very child friendly Son of Godzilla and All Monsters Attack, through to watching whatever the hell Godzilla vs Hedorah was, I am so glad to be back in the realm of regular Godzilla films. Gone are the pre-teen characters. Gone is the horror that is Minilla. Returning to the fray is citywide destructions and actual action. I do feel that I may end up going easier on this film than I probably should. But know that this is only because of the previous three films making this look like a masterclass in monster based mayhem. Click the link below for my review.
Godzilla Vs Gigan returns to the sort of story the series had cultivated for itself prior to going on a bunch of island adventures and dabbling with LSD in the last film. A young Manga comic artist, Gengo Kotaka (Hiroshi Ishikawa) is trying to sell some character designs and goes to an amusement park that happens to have a massive Godzilla tower based attraction. He soon meets a young girl named Machiko Shima (Tomoko Umeda) who has attempted to steal a mysterious tape from Gengo’s new employers. This tape appears to just be a collection of strange sounds, but in reality it a signal intended to control two monsters from outer space, King Ghidorah and Gigan! It appears the two men running the amusement park, who seem quite preoccupied with achieving total world peace, are aliens hell-bent on destroying all human life on Earth so they can take over. Also, they are cockroaches.
So the story is still a little bit silly. But no more silly than Invasion of Astro-Monster, and I quite enjoyed that. The focus on an actual plot with a real beginning, middle and end is what has helped this film feel like a real film and not some sort of weird experiment in trying our patience. The characters may be pretty thinly realised but they at least all have a thing that defines them. Gengo is an artist. Tomoko (Yuriko Hishimi) does karate. Machiko has a missing brother she’s looking for. Also, the villains are cockroaches wearing human skin. I’m not kidding. They aren’t cockroach like aliens. They’re actual cockroaches. Ermmm spoilers.
The monster action is also a strong point of the film. Whilst there was a budget restriction when making Godzilla Vs Gigan, that forced the use of stock footage in places, it is only for incidental shots and brief transitions. It does lead to a goof where Mothra briefly appears in a shot, but we can forgive that. This is far better than the excessive use of stock footage from All Monster Attack where entire scenes were pulled straight from previous films. The new monster sequences are all really nicely shot and composed. Gigan makes a strong impact by sawing buildings apart and even causes Godzilla to bleed for the first time. The last 20 or so minutes of the film is pretty much one giant 2v2 monster battle that has plenty of cool sequences. The film does have a few weird moments where Godzilla and Anguirus are talking to each other in a way that sounds exactly like the King of All Cosmos from Katamari Damacy. In the original Japanese version speech bubbles appear in these moments, and in the original US dubbed actors voiced the scenes. Neither of those is present on the Japanese language version I watched, which just adds more confusion. The Godzilla suit used in the film has seen better days, having been used on 3 previous films. In one shot you can see parts of it falling off as he punches Gigan.
The film uses entirely stock music from previous Godzilla and other Toho films but, in its defence, they have chosen the right kind of music. There’s none of the swinging 60s upbeat jingles here. Even the original Akira Ifukube Godzilla march comes into use. This is a much more traditional and apt score for a Godzilla film than the dreck that made Godzilla seem to be drunk in Godzilla Vs Hedorah. For those familiar with Toho monster films, though, this will add to the slight cobbled together feel the film has when you see music from Frankenstein Conquers The World in one part of the film and shots from Rodan in another. Anyone not familiar with the Showa era will likely not notice the music and only feel the slightest suspicion when random shots of destruction and tanks firing weapons look of a poorer quality than others.
Godzilla Vs Gigan is a flawed film in many ways. Budget constraints and only basic plotting work to harm the overall feel of the film, but, this is such a step up from the last few films. Well, with Destroy All Monsters as an exception. I wasn’t able to source a copy of that film but I do remember enjoying it a fair bit as a kid. If I ever get a copy and it turns out to suck the big one then add it to the list of Godzilla films I have recently struggled through. Regardless Godzilla Vs Gigan is a step back into the right direction for the films of the Showa era. I only have 2 films left of this era to cover, as like Destroy All Monsters, I have been unable to obtain a copy of Godzilla Vs Mechagodzilla. Hopefully the next Godzilla film will carry on this upward trend… let me just check what it is. Oh, it’s the one with Jet Jaguar in it. The Godzilla film that was never meant to have Godzilla in it with a lead character designed by a child. Well, this is going to be interesting.