American Kaiju: The Website

Articles & Reviews by Mike Bogue

Godzilla vs. Gigan - Review

(a.k.a. Godzilla on Monster Island)

A Review by Mike Bogue

2 Stars - Fair

Japanese release: March 12, 1972

American release: 1977 (theatrically released by Cinema Shares)

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

Godzilla vs. Gigan Still. "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.

Godzilla vs. Gigan Still.

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 manikins.

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 flips.

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.

Godzilla vs. Gigan Still.

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 cockroach heaven.

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.

Return to 'Articles & Reviews'

A Message From the Author Buy An American Kaiju Print Today!

© Todd Tennant 2004