Monday, July 6, 2009

Spaced Invaders: Godzilla Vs Gigan(1972)

I first saw this movie on TBS Superstation back in 1987 in the attic apartment of a friend and co-worker on a sunny Saturday afternoon. I wanted my friend "Robert" to tape the movie but his VCR crapped out. Too bad too because it would be about eight more years before I would watch this film again, in the summer of 1995.

Having watched Godzilla Vs Gigan last night(Sunday) took me back to the year 1995 when I first saw this movie uncut, in widescreen and with English subtitles, on VHS, the tape one of many I had ordered from a now defunct bootlegger catalog video company located in New York state.

Godzilla Vs Gigan is one of the few G movies I've watched in which my overall opinion of it hasn't changed, for better or worse, with repeated viewings. I've always liked many things about this movie...and always disliked many things as well.

The film's story: Mild mannered and milquetoast magazine artist/cartoonist Genko Kotaka(Hiroshi Ishikawa) begins to believe there's something very wrong with the employees of "World Children's Land", a Japan branch of an international theme park corporation whose main office is located in Switzerland. His suspicions are justified: the employees, including the leader of the park, Kubota(Toshiaki Nishizawa), and the youthful Fumio Sudo(Zan Fujita) are all roach-like insectoid aliens from the Space Hunter M galaxy with designs on sanitizing, then colonizing the Earth. The aliens are able to occupy human bodies and hence draw little attention among themselves while they effect their devious plans. A mysterious audio reel tape, earlier confiscated by a young lady named Machiko Shima, is played, by accident, by Kotaka and Machiko(Tomoko Umeda), whose brother is being held captive by the aliens.

The tape is little more than gibberish to Genko Kotaka and Machiro Ishima, but not to Godzilla and Anguirus, the two monsters able to detect and understand the tape's message. Consequently, Godzilla dispatches Anguirus to make landfall in Japan and deal with the situation. The JSDF drive Anguirus off while a short time later the space monsters King Ghidorah and Gigan, controlled by the insectoid aliens, arrive on Earth and begin a rampage of destruction, the monster's actions the first phase in the alien's plans to colonizes the Earth. Godzilla and Anguirus arrive, eventually, and square off against the alien controlled monsters. The human cast members, Genko Kotaka, his girlfriend Tomoko Tomoe(Yuriko Hishimi), Machiko Shima, her brother Takashi Shima(Kunio Murai) and her friend Shosaku Takasugi(Minoru Takashima), all work together as well to defeat the aliens...(no other spoilers)

Observations, some good and some not so good:

Thumbs up:

1. the pyrotechnic effects in this film. Teruyoshi Nakano, the special effects director for this movie really delivers with the explosions, both those resulting from the monster's rampage and also those resulting from the monster battles

2. King Ghidorah's gravity beams, which look as devastating as ever

3. the overall rendering of the cyborg monster Gigan. The monster lacks a beam weapon but is very hostile and has a scary looking buzz saw built into its chest and abdomen. It's roar is effective as well and has a mechanical quality to it

4. the battle between Godzilla and Gigan, which looks to be entirely comprised of high speed filming, which slows the monster's actions and movements down, IMO adding some realism to the sequence

5. Yuriko Hishimi, who plays Kotaka's girlfriend "Tomoko Tomoe". She's gorgeous and, skilled in karate, gets to kick some alien ass as well

6. the overall "oil refinery" battle sequence: Godzilla and Anguirus make landfall for the first time to engage KG and Gigan. This scene is one of my favorite Showa Godzilla film kaiju battle sequences.

Thumbs down:

1. the many insertions of stock footage. Most are annoying but there's one sequence where a scene(or two) from 1964's Ghidrah The Three Headed Monster is used, which looks horrendous

2. the character played by Minoru Takashima, "Shosaku Takasugi": a portly hippie, leering and sporting a half assed scruff of chin hair while constantly nibbling on a stick of corn on the cob, there were times in this movie when I would have liked sticking that corn on the cob in various orifices of this character

3. the colossal ineptitude of the aliens in this movie: despite their advanced technology they were done in by the simple, yet effective, duplicity of the human cast members, including the "mural", in which alien henchmen, believing the mural to be the actual humans, fire away with their weapons, which quickly sets off a chain reaction of explosions that destroy the theme park tower base used by the aliens

4. Godzilla's sudden resurrection after being thrown into the 50 meter tall theme tower by KG. Godzilla, weakened by the laser beam assault from the aliens(in the tower), is suddenly and inexplicably rejuvenated after crashing into the tower. My reaction to this scene remains the same now as it was back in 1987: "What the hell?"

5. some of the human like mannerisms of the monsters, such as Godzilla appearing to wipe his mouth twice, waving at Anguirus to swim off to Japan during an early sequence in the movie, and then slapping himself in the side of the head when seeing the alien's tower, which has been designed to look like Godzilla

Overall: I like this movie just fine but it's no doubt hit or miss with many G fans because of the often wildly uneven effects.

This film reached American theaters in 1977, distributed by Cinemashares, and re-titled "Godzilla On Monster Island".

In 2004 Sony Home Entertainment released this movie to quality Region 1 DVD, the movie presented in its original 2:35.1 widescreen aspect ratio and with optional Japanese language(w/English subtitles) and English language(the international English language track) selection.

The Toho trailer: