Tuesday, April 29, 2014

GODZILLA VS. GIGAN (1972): 30 Days of Godzilla

DAY 13


aka. Godzilla on Monster Island

Do you hear that big wet fart noise? Yup, that means it's time to talk about Godzilla vs. Gigan, a real lackluster Godzilla movie if there ever was one. Recycling plots and stock footage from better, more successful movies in the franchise, Godzilla vs. Gigan's only real redeeming factor is the introduction of the bizarre cyborg space monster Gigan.

Manga artist Gengo Kotaka (Hiroshi Ishikawa) is hired as a conceptual artist for a peace-themed children's amusement park. However, he soon comes to discover that his employers are actually alien cockroaches from Space Hunter Nebula-M who want to colonize Earth using the space monsters King Ghidorah and Gigan, whom they control by way of signals created from special audio tapes. Back on Monster Island, Godzilla and his sidekick Anguirus catch wind that something's wrong, and swim to Japan to investigate. As Gengo and his friends attempt to stop the aliens, Godzilla and Anguirus wage a bloody battle with Ghidorah and Gigan at the site of the amusement park where the aliens intend to use a devastating ray gun hidden inside a Godzilla-shaped tower to wipe out the opposing monsters.

The monsters in a rare shot not pulled from stock footage
Directed by Jun Fukuda (Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster), Godzilla vs. Gigan is a cheap, schlocky stinker, although the English dub is good for unintentional comedy. Except for the brand new Gigan suit -- an intriguingly bizarre monster with a vaguely bird-like appearance but decked out in sharp spikes, wings, mandibles, and a buzzsaw for a stomach -- everything in Godzilla vs. Gigan looks cheap or worn out. King Ghidorah doesn't move when he flies, Godzilla's suit is literally and visibly falling apart during the battle scenes, and so much of the movie is made from poorly edited stock footage that scenes inexplicably switch from day to night and from location to location. Even the musical score is cut and pasted from Toho's back catalogue while the noises Godzilla and Anguirus normally make are replaced with sounds more akin to a record being scratched. In the Japanese version, these needle scratch noises are interpreted into Japanese via on-screen word balloons, turning the monsters into walking talking comic book heroes. Everything is so completely skewed toward the cheap and bizarre that not even special effects director Teruyoshi Nakano's addition of gushing blood to the fiery monster fight scenes can make Godzilla vs. Gigan interesting.

If any still best represented the tired, worn-out state of the Godzilla franchise, it's this one.
Ironically, it's the bizarre English dub that provides the most entertainment. I recently caught a screening of Godzilla vs. Gigan in its English-language version at the Cinema Wasteland convention in Ohio, and it was profoundly funny. At one point, Gengko is dubbed as calling his girlfriend a "hard bitch," and there's an even more preposterous scene in which Godzilla and Anguirus are dubbed over with English dialogue. With the right MST3K audience, Godzilla vs. Gigan can become half-way hilarious.

Godzilla vs. Gigan, I'd argue, is an even worse film than the much maligned All Monsters Attack (1969). Unfortunately, it also marks the last time that suit actor Haruo Nakajima would play Godzilla, a role he had brought to life ever since Gojira's debut in 1954. Godzilla vs. Gigan's a flat note on which to end an iconic 18-year career, that's for sure. However, even if his last outing as Godzilla was in a lackluster movie, Nakajima continued to imbue that uncomfortable rubber costume with internationally-beloved personality.

The Man Inside the Monster

Usually, Godzilla movies tend to alternative between bad one year and then better the next, but the early 1970s were not kind to Godzilla. It was a continuous downward slide past mediocrity into sheer mind-numbing garbage. I wish I could say tomorrow's next installment of 30 Days of Godzilla is going to be an improvement over Godzilla vs. Gigan, but instead we're going to have to take a long hard look at the much derided GODZILLA vs. MEGALON.

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