Direction: Jun Fukuda
Screenplay: Shinichi Sekizawa
Music: Akira Ifubuke (stock music from Mr. Ifubuke's previous film scores)
Special Effects: Teruyoshi Nakano
Producer: Tomoyuki Tanaka
"They’re cockroaches from space!” one of the film’s protagonists
exclaims during a key moment. But while the notion of oversized roaches may sound like something out
of a 1950’s B flick, 1972’s Godzilla vs. Gigan is firmly entrenched in the 1970’s.
First things first: Is the movie as bad as some G scholars and fans claim? Or is it
simply the victim of the meager budgets Toho allotted the Godzilla series
during the 1970’s? Evidence points to the latter, though the film has some
problems that have nothing to do with budget.
The basic plot has aliens from Nebula M Space-Hunter constructing a supposed
recreation park called Children’s Land in Japan. With the park’s built-to-scale Godzilla Tower, the
aliens hope to destroy Godzilla, and thus presumably ensure their victory over
the earth’s pesky human inhabitants.
A novice cartoonist, his karate-chopping girl friend, the worried sister of a
computer technician held against his will at Children’s Land, and her portly compadre
all get mixed up with the aliens. The E.T. bad guys reveal that they are from a
planet that was polluted by a species much like the human race; the pollution grew
so severe it killed off this human-like species.
However, the aliens survived, even in their planet’s
toxic environment – not surprising since they reveal themselves to be giant cockroaches
“cloaked” in human receptacles. But now the pollution on the aliens’ planet
has gotten so bad that even the cockroaches are unable to inherit their world,
so they have turned their designs upon Earth. They apparently feel little if
any guilt because they say our world is headed for the same over-polluted state
that has befouled their planet.
Of course, like any self-respecting hostile alien species in a post-1964 Toho G movie,
the roaches enlist the aid of a kaiju or two – in this case new monster
Gigan (a cyborgian kaiju) and perennial baddie King Ghidorah. The
aliens summon the two monsters from the depths of space, but their respective debuts
are, well, less than awe-inspiring.
After demolishing much of Tokyo, Gigan and King Ghidorah come to blows with Godzilla
and Angilas, the “good guy” monsters defending truth, justice, and the daikaiju
way. After a spectacular battle in an oil refinery, the four-way beastie
battle lumbers to Children’s Land. There, it appears that Godzilla Tower’s blue
lasers may blast Godzilla into kaiju history. But the human
protagonists along with the Japanese military intervene, blowing up Godzilla Tower and thus
putting an end to both the blue lasers and the alien roaches. Godzilla and
Angilas then send Gigan and King Ghidorah literally packing off into space.
Many critics decry Godzilla vs. Gigan’s plentiful use of stock footage, and the
recycled visuals are a major weakness for the film. It also seems
unnecessary. For example, several original destruction sequences were filmed
for Gigan’s and King Ghidorah’s attack on Tokyo, and they really aren’t bad. For example, Gigan’s
rampage has some nice touches, such as when the interstellar kaiju kicks
in a storefront window, crashes through a bridge, and topples a tower. However,
when mixed in with destruction scenes from better films such as The Last War, Ghidorah, The Three-Headed
Monster, Monster Zero, and Destroy All Monsters, the newly shot effects often don’t hold up.
Nevertheless, Angilas’ nocturnal appearance at Sagami Bay is nicely-staged. The miniatures aren’t bad, and
there’s an effective scene of tiny soldiers matted into the foreground while
Angilas lurks in the bay. Again, the insertion of stock footage simply isn’t
necessary; it proves more distracting than helpful.
Of course, the worst mixture of old and new footage is that which gives life to
King Ghidorah. The impoverished space dragon of Godzilla vs. Gigan is
smaller and considerably less impressive than the regal three-headed kaiju villain
of Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster and Monster Zero. In fact,
the footage from these two films doesn’t at all match with Ghidorah’s new
scenes. It’s quite obvious when we’re seeing the “new” space dragon and the
“old” Ghidorah -- the 1960’s King Ghidorah is so much better-realized that it
simply makes the newly-refurbished monster seem shabby.
The most depressing newly shot scenes occur when we first see Gigan and King
Ghidorah in outer space. Totally unconvincing, both monsters appear corpse
stiff. Things don’t improve when the two kaiju reach earth and start
orbiting Godzilla Tower, still more lifeless than most department store
And yet, the newly shot monster scenes when Gigan and King Ghidorah clash with
Godzilla and Angilas are, for the most part, satisfactory. The extensive battle
in the oil refinery is first-rate, punctuated by spectacular pyrotechnics and
serious kaiju combat. Things devolve a bit later when “monster humor”
inevitably creeps into the fray. The silliest monster moments occur when
Godzilla strong-arms King Ghidorah while Angilas flings himself backwards so
that his spiny carapace crashes into King Ghidorah’s torso. Ouch! Then for
good measure, Godzy treats the hapless space dragon to a few slow-motion judo
Of course, Godzilla vs. Gigan is also the movie in which The Big G
literally talks with Angilas – in English in the dubbed version. But
given that the series was striving to reach younger audiences in the 1970’s,
this literal monster talk really comes as no surprise. It is silly, of
course. But one can rationalize it to an extent if we pretend (?) that both
Godzilla and Angilas are monster mutants whose intelligence levels continue to
increase with the passage of time. After all, in 1967’s King Kong Escapes,
the great ape understood English as though it was his native language!
In addition, and perhaps paradoxically, Godzilla vs. Gigan is also notable
for tossing in a bit of gore during its monster battles. Gigan’s chest-mounted
buzz saw causes blood to spurt from both Godzilla and Angilas in a couple of
scenes, and one of Gigan’s scythe hands relentlessly pounds Godzilla in the
noggin until blood appears. This wasn’t a complete precedent (we did see a
tiny amount of kaiju gore in Destroy All Monsters), but it
does appear to be an attempt to imitate Daiei’s Gamera films, in which spurting
blood was almost as common as irritating children. Odd that blood-letting
would be considered “kid stuff” though.
As for the “human” plot, it seems to have been hastily thrown together. The
aliens maintain almost no security for Godzilla Tower, as the protagonists often go in and out at will.
Why the aliens need the cartoonist isn’t really clear either.
The idea of giant cockroaches as extraterrestrials is interesting. In fact, maybe
the film’s most effective sequence occurs in Godzilla Tower when the
lights dim and shadows reveal the aliens to actually be human-sized roaches.
However, this sequence is offset by the almost
humorous handling of the roaches’ fate – after Godzilla Tower is blown
to bits, the two alien leaders find themselves trapped under fiery wreckage.
Both have reverted back to their true insect forms, and each seems incredulous
that their plans have gone awry just before an explosion blasts them to
Probably the best thing about Godzilla vs. Gigan is the movie’s score. No new
music was composed; instead, Akira Ifubuke works from such films as Godzilla
vs. The Thing, Atragon, Frankenstein Conquers the World, Battle
in Outer Space, and others were employed to surprisingly good effect.
Godzilla vs. Gigan was a product of its era and of the hard times the Godzilla
series endured during the 1970’s. It features plenty of silly stuff. But it
also has several pleasing set pieces. Not as bad as most critics claim, the
film demonstrates Toho filmmakers (director Jun Fukuda, SPFX supervisor
Teruyoshi Nakano, writer Shinichi Sekizawa) doing the best they could with what
little they were given.