Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)

After the strangeness that was Godzilla vs. Hedorah Toho wanted the Godzilla films to get back on track.  By getting back on track they meant more movies that could appeal to kids, while a good portion of the Japanese public probably wanted it to get back to what it was before Toho decided that Godzilla was to be a hero to children everywhere.  The first scripts for this movie did just that.  While still a hero, the movie as originally planned would have taken things at least back to Invasion of the Astro-Monster, with Godzilla and two allies (one which eventually evolved into King Shizu) battling a returning King Ghidorah and two new space monsters, Gigan and the one that would later become Megalon.  

Problem is, as much as Toho wanted to keep making money from the series, they didn't want to actually spend any money on it.  The monsters were trimmed down to Godzilla and Anguirus, with King Ghidorah and Gigan being monsters controlled, once again, by aliens trying to take over the Earth.  Despite the budget constraints director Jun Fukuda, returning for the first time after departing the series after in 1967 after directing Son of Godzilla, managed to make at least a passable kaiju film, despite hating the genre.  The effects crew was again forced to make heavy use of stock footage, even though the only shots from Godzilla vs. Hedorah to make it in are some second unit shots of pollution.  Instead, this largely follows on the heels of 1968's Destroy All Monsters, with Godzilla and all his buddies living on Monster Island.  

Gengo Kotaka (Hiroshi Ishikawa) is an aspiring manga artist who has been rejected a number of times.  His big chance comes when he is hired by Mr. Kubota (Toshiaki Nishizawa), the head of the production of Children's World, an amusement part featuring a large tower representing Godzilla.  When Kotaka goes to bring his drawings to Kubota he literally runs into Machiko Shima (Tomoko Umeda), who accidentally drops a tape.  Gengo retrieves the tape but is later accosted by Machiko and her friend Shosaku (Minoru Takashima).

It seems all is not right with Children's World.  Machiko's brother Takashi (Kunio Murai) is missing after expressing concerns about Kubota and Chairman Fumio Sudo's (Zan Fujita) plans.  When Machiko and Gengo play the tape it gets the attention of Godzilla (Haruo Nakajima), who tells Anguirus (Kôetsu Ômiya) to find out what's going on.  Anguirus is immediately fired upon by the military, and heads back to Monster Island to retrieve Godzilla.  Meanwhile, Kubota and Sudo retrieve the tape and, playing both, summon King Ghidorah and a new space monster, Gigan (Kenpachirô Satsuma).  The plan is to lure Godzilla into a trap and get him out of the way so that a race of alien cockroaches can take over the Earth.  With Anguirus's help Godzilla once again springs into action, while Gengo, his blackbelt girlfriend Tomoko (Yuriko Hishimi) and the rest of the gang try to sabotage the aliens and give the big guy an edge. 

Seven minutes of this movie is stock footage from past films, going back to Son of Godzilla.  Also, not all the weirdness from Godzilla vs. Hedorah is gone.  Godzilla and Anguirus literally talk to each other.  In the Japanese version it's record scratching with speech bubbles interpreting what they're saying, while in the dubbed version they speak English to each other.  The final song, cowritten by Shin'ichi Sekizawa, who was also responsible for the script, is even cheesier than the one written for the previous film.  There are no little children in the movie this time, but, despite some of the typical blood sprays seen in a lot of '70s Japanese films, it is still largely aimed at a younger audience.

Godzilla himself is barely in the first half of the film, but makes up for it with the final battle.  Gigan and King Ghidorah wreck Tokyo, and the two then have an extended tag-team fight with Godzilla and Anguirus.  The problem is that the Godzilla suit has seen better days at this point, with parts obviously missing, which is strange since King Ghidorah got a complete remake and looks the best he has in any of the old films.  However, Toho didn't give the effects crew enough money to properly manipulate the monster, meaning there are many scenes where he just stands around doing nothing.  The Gigan design is fantastic.  Although he doesn't shoot a beam from his eye like in the poster, his main weapon is a buzzsaw in his chest.  In some ways he looks like something Gamera would fight rather than Godzilla.  Anguirus unfortunately spends most of his time doing next to nothing. 

This means there is more concentration on the human/alien drama than normal for a good portion of the film, and it is generally interesting to follow the plot up to the point where the kaiju start talking to each other.  The remnants of the movie Godzilla vs. Gigan was supposed to be are still there, which was Godzilla helping to fight off alien monsters and things being taken relatively seriously.  Even though aimed at kids it still baffles me that so many of these films are filled with this kind of silliness, as even as a child I would have found disappointing.  I always like Godzilla as a big bad monster, and this movie stands as a reminder of why I have seen many of the earlier films so many times but largely ignored anything after Invasion of the Astro-Monster.  Once again a whole lot of potential was wasted due to bean counters and producers who had no idea what to do with the series at this point.  This also marks Haruo Nakajima's last time in the Godzilla suit, turning it over to Shinji Takagi for the next film. 

Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)
Time: 89 minutes
Starring: Hiroshi Ishikawa, Yuriko Hishimi, Tomoko Umeda, Minoru Takashima, Kunio Murai, Toshiaki Nishizawa, Zen Fujita, Haruo Nakajima 
Director: Jun Fukuda



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