Project G: Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)

Alternative Title: The One With the Alien Cockroaches

Godzilla vs. Gigan is… well, divisive is a good way to put it.  So, as a refresher, this is part of a string of Godzilla films that came after they intended to end the series, then decided “Nah, let’s make some cheap dumb things for children”.  Of the ones of those we’ve seen so far, All Monsters Attack was abysmal, whereas Godzilla vs. Hedorah was of the ‘so bad it’s good’ variety.  So, now we have Godzilla vs. Gigan lined up.  They’re bringing back Jun Fukuda, the guy who was behind the rather meh and definitely not Big G-feeling Ebirah, Horror of the Deep and my least favorite Godzilla film in Son of Godzilla.  Haruo Nakajima was having a hard time stepping into his long-time role as Godzilla after the death of series special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya, and this would prove to be his final time in the Godzilla suit.  And, to make matters worse, the Japanese film industry as a whole was really going through some rough times at this period, and the results show greatly here.  This film seems to have been made with a negative budget.  The actors are, even beyond the language barrier, obviously not of the highest paygrade, the sets are really sparse, stock footage is used in abundance, nearly all the soundtrack is pulled from other Toho films, and for the original footage, the returning monsters suits are all so beat up that they’re barely functional.  You can see scales peeling off of Godzilla in parts.

And yet, even with all that, you can tell they applied quite a bit of wisdom when working with their limits.  The stock footage is used far more wisely than it was in All Monsters Attack, and it doesn’t really stand out that much when shown in sequence with the original content.  And once the monster action starts, you can tell that all the skimping on sets and the extended amount of time you spent without your monster action was dedicated to make the monster action that was as big as it could be.  And hell, even the long time you spend on the human drama kind of things is pretty decent, if incredibly low-rent and cheesy.  This is a film that really rolled with the punches.

And it also introduced us to one of the Godzilla video games’ favorite monsters in the cyborg space-beast Gigan.  Take note of him.  This guy shall recur.  Even in the films’ continuity.  

So, does all that serve to elevate the film above its severely weak productive foundation in the eyes of the Aether?  Let’s dig in to find out.

So, the film opens up with out lead character, Jimmy Slacks, lazy artist extraordinaire, putting in a pitch for a manga he’s been working on, except he didn’t bother to finish his sample or even draw in the big monster that’s supposed to be its central figure and… yeah, that gets him nowhere.  So he goes to have lunch with Lady Pain.  Lady Pain is awesome.  Jimmy Slacks basically does whatever she says because she’s a black belt and her ability to kick ass is without peer.  She’s off for most of the story here, but she shows up whenever anyone needs their face inverted.  The film’s not clear on their relationship, but he treats her and she acts more like his mother and he’s nowhere near cool enough to be the boyfriend of someone as stellar as she is, so that’s what I go with.  Anyways, there’s this children’s theme park that’s looking for a monster designer, and she hooks him up with an interview there.  Jimmy Slacks shows up at their office which is inside a giant Godzilla statue, discusses the lamest possible monster designs, and even he’s honestly surprised when he gets hired.  He hears a bit of the organization’s mission statement, which is to bring peace to the world by destroying monster island and everything on it.  Which is not something I would expect a children’s theme park to be going for.  A little bit of mission drift there, it seems.

Anyways, Jimmy Slacks designs some really bad monsters, then goes to show up at the office and bumps into some girl.  She drops a tape and runs off.  He picks up the tape, then the guy that just hired him and some guards show up.  They ask him where she went, and for completely no reason, he covers for her and points them in the wrong direction, then heads into the office.  Nobody else is there, so he starts nosing around until he accidentally opens a secret door and finds the boss of the place inside.  Jimmy Slacks is apparently stunned by the boss being a teenager, but he looks older than Jimmy Slacks, so that really didn’t come across very well.  Teen boss is working on some incredibly advanced mathematics, and when asked, says that he’s charting the position of M Space Hunter Nebula.  You might have picked up by now that these guys are incredibly suspicious.  Like, they’re not even trying to hide it.  Also, nothing about them hiring Jimmy Slacks makes sense.  Like, they never need monster designs for anything, and when we do learn their plans, none of them involve anything about a homework monster or overbearing mother monster or anything else they hired him to do, so I have no idea.  Whatever, lets move on.

On Jimmy Slacks’ way home, the girl from earlier stops him and tells him to hand over the tape.  Jimmy Slacks did one thing right at least, and saw this coming, having hid the tape somewhere before hand.  He refuses, they can’t find it on him, and some beatnik comes up and sticks an ear of corn in Jimmy Slacks’ back.  Jimmy Slacks faints.  So they take him to his house and give him some TLC for a while, then he wakes up and they chat.  Turns out the girl’s brother, Dr. Computer, has probably been kidnapped by the theme park, and she thought the tape might give some clue as to his whereabouts.  Jimmy Slacks could just write them off as crazies who held him up with corn, but on the other hand, that theme park is super shady, so he decides to check it out.

So, in a lot of other movies, it’d have you sit on that mystery.  Are the shady folks doing something shady?  Or are crazies gonna crazy?  I mean, obviously, this is a movie so the corporate stooges are evil while female=innocent so we already know the answer, but the film would at least pretend.  But nope, not here.  It cuts to a scene where Dr. Computer is whining about being forced to do evil while said corporate stooges are like “you should thank us for teaching you how to computer so good!” which begs the question of why they needed to kidnap Dr. Computer in the first place.  Next day, Jimmy Slacks takes his lame monster drawings and heads to the theme park’s office and starts snooping around.  He finds a bedroom that locks from the outside, and heads in and steals a lighter.  I don’t know why.  Then his evil boss finds him and Jimmy Slacks says “Oh, I was totally looking for you and am not doing anything suspicious at all!” and then goes away.  Back at his home, he’s chilling with that one girl and the beatnik, and he shows them the lighter which turns out to belong to Dr. Computer.  Shadiness confirmed, they decide to take a listen at the tape that girl stole from company and Jimmy Slacks stole from girl.   It plays weird sounds.  None of them know what to make of it.

Hundreds of miles away, Godzilla hears it.  He doesn’t know what to make of it either.  So we get a really weird scene where the Kaiju are talking to each other, complete with goofy text bubbles.  Also, kaiju are really forgetful, apparently.  For example, Anguirus is there, apparently having forgotten that he’s dead, and also having forgotten that this same Godzilla killed him in the second movie, because he follows Big G’s orders now.  And Godzilla, forgetting that Anguirus is a huge jobber, sends him to go see what that weird noise was.  Also, shady corporate goons detect the sound, and know that the tape is being plate.  They display that they have another, but need both for whatever they’re planning to work.  

From this point, the girl and the beatnik are there, pretty constantly, but don’t actually do a whole lot except for one instance I’ll mention later.  So just keep in mind that in mind as I’m describing the following scenes.  They lurk in the background.  

Anyways, Jimmy Slacks decides to look into the weird teenager that heads up the shady company.  He takes a road trip to go visit the teen’s family, and finds them acknowledging the first anniversary of said teen’s death.  He looks at some of their photo albums, and sees the supervisor that hired him in a bunch of those photos.  Apparently, was the teen’s teacher, and died at exactly the same time the teen had.  Also, teen boss was a total fool and totally incapable of the interstellar mathematics that Jimmy Slacks saw him doing earlier.  

With nothing else to do, Jimmy Slacks just goes… back to… work… I guess.  Because after you found out your boss is an undead kidnapper, that’s what you do.  Anyways, the bedroom he found earlier is locked now, but he can talk to Dr. Computer through the door, at least confirming who he is. And then dead boss shows up, and Jimmy Slacks once again pulls the “Hey, just looking for you, not doing anything suspicious!” and dead boss says “Alright! Here’s some cigarette!  Not anything suspicious!” and Jimmy Slacks is like “Sweet! Free smokes!” and takes them.  Because he’s an idiot.  

Anguirus reaches the coast of Japan.  The Japanese Self Defense Force shows up.  And shoots him enough that he leaves.  Let me repeat that.  Humans repel a kaiju.  That never happens in a Godzilla film.  At least not without some seriously advanced tech behind them.  Anguirus, is such a jobber.

Anyways, you know those cigarettes?  Yeah, not cigarettes.  Tracking device.  So dead boss and some minions show up at Jimmy Slacks’ place with SPACE GUNS!  Things aren’t looking too good for our heroes, but luckily, Lady Pain detects there are asses that need to be kicked at this moment in time and shows up to pound the assailants into the earth so hard the planet goes oblong.  Jimmy Slacks and the crew go to the police.  Again, this is a movie, therefore of course the police aren’t willing to do anything.  Although “Help! My brother is kidnapped by some dead guys!” is mayhaps not the most provocative of pleas.  So, bolstered with confidence now that Lady Pain is on their side, they decide to just sneak into the office tower Godzilla statue thing.  So Jimmy Slacks and Lady Pain leave girl and the beatnik outside and make their way in.  They start trying to pick the lock to Dr. Computer’s bedroom prison but get caught in the process.  Lady Pain decides to take a breather and not pulverize them all to dust in that moment.

We’ve mentioned before that Jimmy Slacks is an idiot, right?  Yeah, he brought the tape that girl stole with him.  And now they have them back.  And also Jimmy Slacks never noticed that all their shadows are shaped like cockroaches.  Lady Pain has that sharp inquisitive mind that notices the obvious things, however.  All the free employees there are really aliens that killed people and took over their bodies.  They come from a planet in M Space Hunter Nebula that was just like Earth, right down to having Coca-cola because the producers used just everyday stock footage.  Except eventually, the planet got so polluted that only the cockroaches could survive!  And then it got too polluted for even them!  So they decided to come to Earth, kill all the kaiju, then pollute the planet so much that nothing but them would be able to live there.  And there.  In like three minutes, this film gave a much more coherent environmental message than the entirety of Godzilla vs Hedorah.  Anyways, they want to use their bodies to host more alien cockroaches later, so they don’t kill them now and instead lock them up in the same room they have Dr. Computer imprisoned.  Then they play the tapes, which summon two giant monsters from M Space Hunter Nebula and put them under mind control!

The first monster is the titular Gigan, who is basically the type of monster I’d draw back in like first grade.  A triple beak!  A single cyborg eye!  Hookblades for hands!  A buzzsaw in his chest!  He’s ridiculous as anything you’d ever seen.  The second monster is King Ghidorah.  Because he’s like “Mind Control?  Oh, I gotta get me some of that!” In fact, let’s do a counter.

Number of times King Ghidorah has been mind controlled: 3

They fly in, and do the world’s dumbest aerial somersault.  Then the cockroach aliens set them to destroying Tokyo.  So they do that.  Ghidorah, we get some rather familiar looking scenes, but hey, he looks great when he’s blasting stuff up.  Gigan buzzsaws a building in half, then sets to slicing stuff up with his hookhands.  Godzilla and Anguirus, back on monster island, are irritated by the weird sounds of the mind control device, so they begin making the long trip to Japan to do sum’ bo’ dat.  

Meanwhile, with our protagonists locked in with Dr. Computer, it’s up to the two randos to save the day.  So Jimmy Slacks uses a light to signal down to the girl and the beatnik in the trees outside, because apparently the children’s theme park is in the middle of the forest?  Anyways, girl and beatnik came prepared, and begin filling a giant balloon with helium.  They use it to lift one end of a zipline up to the lock up bedroom.  The aliens notice a giant random balloon floating up to the prisoners, but by the time they get in to check it out, our crew are all on their way down.  They hop in their car and speed off, but the Godzilla tower has megalasers and it destroys the car in a firey wreck!  Except they didn’t get in the car at all, and just used it as a decoy.  

Then Godzilla and Anguirus show up.  And the aliens, facing off with a fearsome, destructive beast and Anguirus, recall the two kaiju under their control.  And then it is on.  It is on!  All that movie we saw before, that was all building up, all saving money, for this.  There’s only one major monster combat scene in this movie.  But it’s a long, grand one.  Godzilla and Anguirus in tag team action against Gigan and Ghidorah.  And the monster fighting here is great.  Starts out with them posturing against each other, then a bit of early physical action.  It goes back and forth for a while, then Gigan upsets the balance by taking to the air.  Godzilla tries to blast him down, but no available, and Gigan runs a buzzsaw past him and makes him bleed for the first time since the second movie.  Ghidorah starts using his electro blasts on the prone Godzilla.  Anguirus crawls over and takes the shots for Godzilla, covering him with his shell.  Godzilla starts to get up, but Gigan flies over and claws him up.  Draws blood again.  Ghidorah starts overpowering Anguirus and Gigan knocks Godzilla back.  Then kicks him back again.  And now he’s in range of the giant Godzilla tower and its megalaser.  So the aliens begin lazering Godzilla, keeping him down.  

Meanwhile, Jimmy Slacks and the crew have caught up with the Japan Self Defense Force, who, with tag team monster action right in their backyard, are much more enthusiastic about doing something about the evil alien mind controllers than the police were.  It kind of helps that with megalasers coming from the theme park tower, there’s a bit more evidence now.  And with that, the JSDF breaks into the first floor of the tower and packs the elevator full of explosives.  Jimmy Slacks makes a drawing of the crew and pastes it in front of the explosives.  They send the elevator up to the top, and the aliens there see it and are like “It’s a horrible drawing! Shoot it!” So they do and set off the explosives and it blows up the whole top of the tower.  As the aliens die, they revert to their true forms, and.. they’re just cockroaches.  Like, no real special effect, they just filmed actual cockroaches.  

Anyways, the explosion took out the mind control device, and without it, Gigan and Ghidorah are really disoriented and don’t coordinate their attacks.  Gigan tries to take flight, but Godzilla catches him with his breath and knocks him down, where both Anguirus and Godzilla piles on.  Then Gigan works out that he’s on the same planet as Lady Pain, and books it back to outer space in absolute terror.

And then it’s just Ghidorah left.  Now, it once took a three vs one monster fight to stand a chance against him, but on of those monsters was Rodan and another was a baby.  Anguirus may be a jobber, but he’s not that bad.  And also the King Ghidorah suit is in really bad condition and can’t move that much, but I don’t know if that’s canon here.  Anyways Ghidorah and Godzilla scuffle for a bit, Anguirus joins in to put more pressure on, and eventually Godzilla gets Ghidorah good and grappled and Anguirus rams him with his spikes a couple of times, then Godzilla flips him over his shoulder three times in a scene I think was transplanted from Invasion of the Astro-monster.  

Then Ghidorah realizes he’s in Lady Pain’s proximity as well, and he can’t get away fast enough.  With the two beasties retreating back to space, Godzilla and Anguirus then head back into the sea.  Because they fear Lady Pain too.  Anyways, Dr. Computer is saved, aliens are killed, monsters scared, that’s a pretty productive week in all.

Ok, so, for you to parse my feelings on this film, it’s important to know where I’m coming from.  I’m a very sophisticated individual.  I enjoy complex narratives and psychological explorations and well-constructed sense of atmosphere in my media.  My brief history of working within the film industry has allowed me to enjoy these works on a very different level than the average consumer.  I really appreciate high production values and innate art styles and a well-designed sense of craft.  I really appreciate when really skilled creatives pour all their heart and soul into making something that pushes the bounds of what it means to be truly great.  

I also enjoy really really dumb crap.

This movie is closer to the latter than the former.

As I said in the intro, this film is set up for success the least out of all the movies we’ve covered so far for Project G.  It had so much going against it.  This should have been a horrible film.  And the fact that it’s not is something that really needs to be acknowledged.  It’s a flawed film, and the flaws are really apparent.  The incredibly poor state of the monster costumes, the bare bones sci-fi set design, the awkward actors, the weird visual representations of aliens and their world, etc.  But this is a great example of creatives working well within their limits.  The human-side plot, the one that edges into spy fiction, is a little janky and overlong but it’s clear they relied on that to save the money in the budget for the big long monster fight that takes up the third act of the movie.  The soundtrack is all purloined from other Tojo films, but the choices worked out really well, and fit the scenes rather nicely.  And the stock footage it used, other than weirdly having M Space Hunter Nebula Planet be such a carbon copy of Earth, fit in so well that if you hadn’t seen previous films you would never notice that some of the monster action is a rerun.  They mix the yoinked scenes in with brand new ones really well that it all seems fresh.  This film is so well put together that it rises above the junk that it really should be to put together something pretty decent.  Especially in comparison to how badly All Monsters Attack handled its repeated footage, this one works them in really well.

Even the titular monster Gigan himself.  He’s absolutely ridiculous, visually.  And yet he proved to have a lot of staying power.  People liked him, and they keep wanting him back.  So this is far from the last we’ll see of him.

Really, through all the goofy weirdness that is this film, it keeps moving forward at a good pace and has a nice sense of energy to it.  There’s good things in the film and obvious low points, but it’s never boring.  I’ll admit you probably need to enjoy your cheese at least a bit to have a good time with it, but that’s true of most Godzilla films.

And that monster fight at the end, I can’t understate how surprisingly good it is for the circumstances this movie was developed in.  You get a lot of creativity in how the monsters interact, and there’s a definite psychology to the action and flow in how the monsters developed.  Gigan and Ghidorah are able to work together smoothly when they’re both coordinated under the mind control, and overpower Godzilla and Anguirus then, but after the mind control gets blown up, they’re visibly disoriented and Godzilla and Anguirus’ better personal relationship allows them to better cooperate.  You see some things in the fight that you haven’t seen in Godzilla films before, and the tag team format in particular added a lot of variety to it.  So much so that we’ll be seeing it repeated in the next couple films.

Godzilla vs. Gigan is a hard recommendation, as it’s not exactly one you’d pick out if you were just in the mood to grab some Big G for the night.  Aside from introducing Gigan to the Godzilla canon, it doesn’t especially stand out.  However, if you are watching your way through the Godzilla franchise as I am, this is a solid spot for it.  

Previous: Godzilla vs. Hedorah

Next: Godzilla vs. Megalon

4 responses to “Project G: Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)

  1. This movie is kind of tragic to me. Like, on one hand the final battle is full of fun new and creative moments that are a joy for a cheesy Godzilla movie of this era… But on the other, the criminal use of all that stock footage really leaves a bad taste in the mouth regardless. Sure, wasn’t the first film to use footage from others, but it was the only one to do it in such a way where a night-time battle scene cuts to day-time so we can see Ghidorah fighting Angirius.

    • You know, as blatant as that moment is, I don’t even recall noticing it this time around. Which probably says more about my powers of observation than anything. That is rather blatant.

  2. Alright, here’s the question of the day: when King Ghidorah gets mind controlled, do you count it as one time for each individual instance of mind control of three times for a single instance on account of all three heads being controlled at once?

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