Godzilla Goodness: GODZILLA VS. GIGAN (1972)
By Witney Seibold on May 13, 2014
Witney Seibold has still seen all the Godzilla movies, and Godzilla Goodness has been running them all down. Today, he has to contend with the ultra-weird creature Gigan. #13: Godzilla vs. Gigan.
The 1970s were simultaneously glorious and totally off-the-wall for Godzilla. As I mentioned in my review of Godzilla vs. Hedorah (a.k.a. Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster), the Toho monster makers seemed to be entering the “innovate or die” mentality, constantly reaching further and further in order to make weirder and weirder monsters. Indeed, in the next film, we’ll have a kaiju created by a fan in a monster creation contest. But more on that later.
Today, the weird monster in question is Gigan. Gigan is a bird, I think. It’s a robot bird with a metal beak and a red glowing LED light for an eye. It has metal hooks for hands and a buzzsaw running down its stomach. It can fly. It’s also scaly on parts of its body, and feathery on others. All the previous monsters, for however weird they’ve been, have at least been largely animal and/or biological. Even the golden dragon King Ghidorah made a little bit of sense. Gigan is the first time we’ve had a monster that’s also a robot… maybe. Gigan’s true makeup is actually never discussed in this film, and his origins won’t be openly talked about until Godzilla: Final Wars.
Gigan is also, like King Ghidorah, typically an antagonist to Godzilla. He’s like the second banana villain of the Godzilla series, and will often team up with King Ghidorah to beat up our heroes. As such, Gigan will often be subjected to the mind control of evil aliens, forcing him to attack our beloved G-Man. Oh yes, that oft-used Godzilla plot point is back in Godzilla vs. Gigan. Evil aliens have returned, and evil aliens always have mind control devices.
The story is a little odd: Godzilla and all the monsters now live peacefully on Monster Island, and humanity knows better than to eff with them. A cartoonist (Hiroshi Ishikawa) and a reporter (Yuriko Hishimi) discover malfeasance at the local amusement park, as the reporter’s brother has gone missing. The park is building a new attraction: a life-size Godzilla statue. The CEO of the park (Toshiaki Nikizawa) seems to be smarter than most people, and uses technology that hasn’t been invented yet. Hm… No points for guessing that the CEO is actually an alien in disguise. Although I would be surprised if you could guess that he was a hyper-intelligent cockroach in disguise. Which is what he is.
I don’t recall what the evil space cockroach wants with monsters, but he uses his widgets to summon King Ghidorah and Gigan out of their space prisons, and they begin to wreak havoc. I just re-read that sentence, and I laughed a lot. Perhaps because he senses his archenemy is back, Godzilla leaves Monster Island to fight with the two new monsters. He brings Anguirus with him, whom we first met in Godzilla Raids Again. If you see the English dub of this film, you’ll hear that Godzilla and Anguirus have a brief scene of psychic dialogue. This will be the only instance in any Godzilla film where we hear monsters (other than Minilla and Mothra’s fairies) speak. It’s also really strange to hear Godzilla speaking English. Usually he only knows one word and its “SKREEONK!”
Godzilla, despite a few cuts from Gigan’s tummy blades, manages to make short work of his enemies, as he so often does. Godzilla will never lose a battle, but that doesn’t mean it’s ever less than thrilling to watch him fight. I love the nuclear breath, I love the rock throwing, the stomping and the kicking. Godzilla will also blow up the life-size tower of himself that the evil space cockroaches built. Only room for on Godzilla on this planet.
The overall tone of Godzilla vs. Gigan skews a little more childish than usual. It has the same sugar-buzz 9-year-old-boy energy that makes the series so appealing, but it seems a little less focused. Like the 9-year-old only recently heard of Godzilla, and is making things up with only a mild interest. In the next film, we’ll succumb to outright fan pandering, and experience one of the worse Godzilla films.
A note: Actor Haruo Nakajima has played Godzilla in most of the films up to this point. Yeah, the guy in the Godzilla suit. Godzilla vs. Gigan will be the last instance that he played the monster.
Up next: Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973)