Film Review: Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)

Also known as: Chikyû kogeki meirei: Gojira tai Gaigan, lit. Earth Assault Order: Godzilla vs. Gigan (Japan), Extermination 2025 (France), Godzilla on Monster Island (US alternate title), Frankensteins Höllenbrut (Germany)
Release Date: March 12th, 1972 (Japan)
Directed by: Jun Fukuda
Written by: Takeshi Kimura, Shinichi Sekizawa
Music by: Akira Ifukube, Kunio Miyauchi
Cast: Hiroshi Ishikawa, Tomoko Umeda, Yuriko Hishimi, Minoru Takashima, Zan Fujita, Toshiaki Nishizawa, Kunio Murai

Toho, 81 Minutes

Review:

“Two monsters… One of them is Ghidorah. The other one is new. A completely new sound.” – Commander of Defense Forces

I’m just going to put it out there, this chapter in the Godzilla franchise is going to get a high rating from me. I know that it isn’t anywhere near the best that the franchise has to offer but it has always been a Godzilla film that I have loved and it features my two favorite Godzilla villains of all-time: the debuting Gigan and the always badass King Ghidorah.

Plus, this deals with an alien race of cockroach people that have a sinister plan that involves building a Godzilla branded theme park where their headquarters is actually a big building made to look like Godzilla himself. It’s crazy and bizarre and really encompasses all the things I love about ’70s Godzilla and Jun Fukuda’s run on the series.

On top of that, this teams Godzilla up with his oldest enemy, now ally, Anguirus.

This film is just incredibly bizarre but in a great way. Of course, you have to be a fan of kaiju movies and classic tokusatsu to truly embrace the madness but this really is a tokusatsu epic for its time. And ’70s Godzilla films almost feel like Ultraman episodes without Ultraman in them.

The weirdest thing about this picture is where Godzilla and Anguirus talk to each other. These bits work better in the original Japanese language version of the film. In the English dubbed version, which I grew up with, their voices are hilarious and it’s impossible not to laugh at it. It’s absurd but it’s enjoyably absurd and strangely enchanting.

I think I always connected to this chapter because the main character is a manga artist. When I was a kid, I was an aspiring comic book artist, so I always thought this part of the film was really cool. Plus, you get to see the inner workings of a manga company when this character makes his first appearance.

Another big plus about this film is that it has a ton of action. The big tag team battle royale seems to go on forever and it is actually a bloody affair, as Gigan literally has a buzzsaw for a stomach and the filmmakers had to emphasize the danger of that by cutting into the heroes.

Gigan is just a fantastic monster: one of the best kaiju ever created, hands down. He’s bizarre, deadly as hell and not a friggin’ pushover by any means. Granted, Gigan and King Ghidorah flee the scene like two little bitches at the end of the movie but the showdown between these beasts is incredible if you are a fan of classic kaiju battles.

I love this film. Always have. Always will. It’s not my favorite but it is the best from its decade.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: Other Godzilla movies from the ’70s: Godzilla vs. MegalonGodzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, Terror of Mechagodzilla and Godzilla vs. Hedorah.

Film Review: Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974)

Also known as: Gojira Tai Mekagojira (Japan), Godzilla vs. The Bionic Monster (US alternate title), Godzilla vs. The Cosmic Monster (another US alternate title)
Release Date: March 21st, 1974 (Japan)
Directed by: Jun Fukuda
Written by: Hiroyasu Yamamura, Jun Fukuda, Shinichi Sekizawa, Masami Fukushima
Music by: Masaru Sato
Cast: Masaaki Daimon, Kazuya Aoyama, Akihiko Hirata, Hiroshi Koizumi, Kenji Sahara

Toho, 84 Minutes

Review:

“When the red moon sets, and the sun rises in the West, two monsters will appear to save the people.” – Saeko Kaneshiro

In 1974, the Godzilla franchise had really run its course. Well, at least as far as audiences were concerned. Frankly, I’d take one of these movies every year and be happy about it. And yes, I mean the ones where the monsters are men in rubber suits because this is still the superior way to create kaiju action.

Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla came out just a year after Godzilla vs. Megalon but it is a huge step above that film and sort of got the ship back on course. While I don’t have an issue with the Megalon flick, many people did as it was very kiddie and lacked in the budget department. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla had a larger budget, however, and it feels like a more grandiose movie overall.

This was the second to last of the Shōwa era Godzilla films but it was also the first part in a great duology that also included the final picture, Terror of Mechagodzilla.

While this chapter in the film series introduces audiences to the friggin’ awesome Mechagodzilla, it also was the debut of one of the coolest Toho kaiju of all-time, King Caesar. Unfortunately, Caesar would not appear in a ton of films like Mechagodzilla (and his many incarnations). Regardless, Caesar has a great introduction in this movie and he brings a much quicker and more athletic style to the Toho kaiju universe. While most monsters are slow hulking brawlers, King Caesar is like a rabid jackal on crack. Bouncing around and jumping onto his opponents.

The film also features one of Godzilla’s best allies in Anguirus. Even though I’ve seen this picture more than a dozen times, the scene where Mechagodzilla (posing as Godzilla) rips Anguirus’ jaw apart with his bare hands until blood spews out, still gets me every time. Anguirus is a fan favorite and seeing him brutally squashed is still a sad sight to see but it sets up just how vicious and strong Mechagodzilla is. Without the help of King Caesar, Godzilla would have had a much tougher time besting his robotic doppelgänger.

Coming as late as this did in the original run of films, it’s surprising that it is as good as it is but this is definitely one of the best Godzilla films of all-time. The monsters are all great, the plot isn’t fantastic but it is engaging and the Okinawa setting and culture added a new dimension to the series. Did I mention how cool King Caesar is? Did I mention how cool Mechagodzilla is?

The story deals with an alien invasion, which was a typical threat in these films. The aliens this time were the Simians (also known as Black Hole Planet 3 Aliens) and as their name implies, they were apes and a very obvious ripoff of The Planet of the Apes franchise, which was hugely popular, at the time. Unlike most alien races in the Godzilla mythos, the Simians would return later in Terror of Mechagodzilla. The Simians controlled Mechagodzilla in an attempt to get Godzilla out of their way in an effort to conquer Earth.

This picture features some Toho regulars: Akihiko Hirata, Kenji Sahara and Hiroshi Koizumi. All three of them have been in several Toho movies, especially in the Godzilla film series.

Jun Fukuda, the second best kaiju director after Ishirō Honda returned to direct this film and he is just on a different level, as far as framing shots and staging some great action and creating a rich atmosphere. One scene in particular that really stands out is when you see Godzilla marching up and over some hills. It is a fantastic shot and one of the best in the entire film series.

Additionally, the night battle where the true Godzilla confronts his disguised doppelgänger, as the ground is in flames around them, is spectacular. It is one of my favorite sequences that Fukuda has ever directed.

The music in this chapter was handled by Masaru Sato. It is pretty unique and adds an interesting tone to the film. Sato’s score carries the spirit of the early Godzilla themes composed by Akira Ifukube but it has its own identity and gives this film a nice boost.

Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, at this point in the franchise’s long history, shouldn’t have been as good as it was. It was a perfect storm comprised of several elements that just came together and worked incredibly well. Looking back, this should have reinvigorated the series but unfortunately, there would only be one more movie before Earth’s favorite kaiju would be shelved for almost a decade.

Film Review: Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973)

Also known as: Gojira tai Megaro (Japan), Godzilla 80 (France)
Release Date: March 17th, 1973 (Japan)
Directed by: Jun Fukuda
Written by: Takeshi Kimura, Shinichi Sekizawa, Jun Fukuda
Music by: Riichiro Manabe
Cast: Katsuhiko Sasaki, Hiroyuki Kawase, Yutaka Hayashi, Robert Dunham, Kotaro Tomita, Ulf Ootsuki, Gentaro Nakajima

Toho, 81 Minutes

Review:

“Get Godzilla! You’ll find him on Monster Island!” – Inventor Goro Ibuki

Godzilla vs. Megalon is the first Godzilla film that I ever owned. I remember buying a copy on VHS at Walmart in a discount bin for about $4 in the late 80s. While it wasn’t the first Godzilla film that I saw, it always held a special place in my heart, being that I bought it with my own money and that I watched it more than any other Godzilla film when I was a kid.

It was also cool seeing it riffed on Mystery Science Theater 3000, as only one of two Godzilla films to get that treatment. The other was Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster a.k.a. Ebirah, Horror of the Deep.

This is a Godzilla film that came later in the original Shōwa era run. It is often trashed by fans of classic Godzilla pictures but I actually quite enjoy it for the cast of monsters in it and for the extra helping of cheese. Who doesn’t like extra cheese? Apparently many Godzilla fans and critics are lactose intolerant.

The thing is, I discovered Godzilla movies when I was a young kid, so cheesiness wasn’t even an issue. Godzilla vs. Megalon really only works if you can just kick back, enjoy a tag team giant monster slugfest and laugh your ass off at some of the absurdity: like when Godzilla does his infamous tail slide maneuver.

The film not only gives us Godzilla and the new monster, Megalon, it also introduces the robot Jet Jaguar and brings back one of my all-time favorite Godzilla baddies, Gigan. Also, Jet Jaguar was created by a small child when Toho held a contest that allowed school children in Japan to submit ideas for characters. While he is obviously inspired by Ultraman and similar tokusatsu heroes that were ruling television, he is very much his own character and kind of cool. Besides, Godzilla had teamed up with Mothra and Rodan so many times that a new ally was needed to keep things fresh, thirteen films into the franchise.

At this point, Godzilla had fought alien threats so often that Toho changed things a little bit. Here, we see the world come under attack by a subterranean group called the Seatopians, who are a civilization that grew out of the survivors of an ancient continent that was swallowed by the ocean. The Seatopians control the beetle-like Megalon and send him to Earth to cause havoc, as the Seatopians are sick of how humanity treats the planet. Jet Jaguar gets involved, summons Godzilla and then the Seatopians call for reinforcements in the form of Gigan. What we end up with is a two-on-two tag team smackdown.

Godzilla vs. Megalon is a fun film with some great monster action. It also has a pretty good score even if it wasn’t done by Akira Ifukube and didn’t feature any traditional Godzilla tunes. The style of the film was pretty cool, especially the house that the scientist lived in where Jet Jaguar was built. Our heroes even drive a pretty sweet buggy and tangle with mafioso types from Seatopia.

This certainly is not the best Godzilla film ever made, far from it, but like almost every Godzilla picture, it entertains and is a positive experience. You can’t expect these films to be flawless epics with dazzling effects, at least not from this era.

Godzilla vs. Megalon is hokey kaiju fighting at its very best though. It excels with its silliness and by this point, these films were being made for kids. It works for kids. But it also works for adults who saw this as kids or who can just chill out, relax and appreciate this for what it is: mindless fun with giant monsters.

Film Review: Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966)

Also known as: Gojira, Ebira, Mosura Nankai no Daikettō (Japan), Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster (US)
Release Date: December 17th, 1966 (Japan)
Directed by: Jun Fukuda
Written by: Shinichi Sekizawa
Music by: Masaru Sato
Cast: Akira Takarada, Kumi Mizuno, Chotaro Togin, Hideo Sunazuka, Akihiko Hirata

Toho, 87 Minutes

Review:

Like Son of Godzilla, which came out one year after this, Ebirah, Horror of the Deep is a Godzilla island movie. Due to budgetary reasons, Toho did a string of Godzilla and other kaiju pictures on islands or in other wilderness expanses. While primarily filmed indoors like other kaiju flicks, these movies didn’t require sets made up of miniature metropolitan areas. Typically, the movies used a lot of water and just rocks, mounds of dirt and fake shrubbery. Some people disliked Toho cheapening out, I actually love these movies for providing the genre with a nice change of pace, environmentally speaking. There was just something cool and primal about seeing kaiju duke it out in nature.

This was originally written as a King Kong film but Rankin-Bass, the studio who owned the rights at the time in the U.S., rejected it. Unfortunately, this deprived fans of seeing King Kong tangle with Mothra. Toho altered the script to feature Godzilla and the rest is history.

In this, the seventh of the Godzilla movies, we see a group of men get shipwrecked after a storm and tangling with a giant crustacean creature. On the island, they meet a girl who has escaped from being enslaved like some of her other people. The island is controlled by an evil military terrorist group called the Red Bamboo. While hiding out from the evil men, out heroes discover Godzilla hibernating in a cave. Our heroes end up waking up the King of Monsters in an effort to crush the Red Bamboo and to help defeat Ebirah, the giant crustacean that won’t let anyone leave the island. Mothra also shows up to help rescue the enslaved people who came from Infant Island, where Mothra is worshipped as a deity.

Godzilla doesn’t really do anything until after the halfway point in the film. It doesn’t matter though, as the human story regarding our heroes and their run-ins with the Red Bamboo is entertaining enough. Godzilla showing up later is just a really cool bonus. Ebirah is also a cool monster, even if he isn’t as bizarre or as iconic as some of the other Toho kaiju baddies.

Ebirah, Horror of the Deep is a really fun movie. That isn’t hard to achieve, being that Godzilla is in this thing, but it is fun with or without the legendary monster. It would have been cool to learn more about the Red Bamboo or to have them show up in a later movie but this was a one-off for them, as most sinister groups in Toho films aren’t around for more than one picture. It seems like a missed opportunity though. Instead of several villainous groups, Toho could have had a consistent evil organization like Spectre or Hydra or Cobra.

I love this film. Something about it just resonates with me. I like the island Godzilla movies a lot. Maybe it is because I grew up in a coastal tropical area or because of my love for all things Tiki or South Pacific.

Film Review: Son of Godzilla (1967)

Also known as: Kaijū-tō no Kessen Gojira no Musuko, lit. Monster Island’s Decisive Battle: Son of Godzilla (Japan)
Release Date: December 16th, 1967 (Japan)
Directed by: Jun Fukuda
Written by: Shinichi Sekizawa, Kazue Shiba
Music by: Masaru Sato
Cast: Tadao Takashima, Akira Kubo, Bibari Maeda, Akihiko Hirata, Yu Sekida, Seiji Onaka, Akihiko Hirata

Toho, 86 Minutes

son_of_godzillaReview:

Minya (or Minilla) is the son of Godzilla. Many fans hate Minya with intensity. I don’t hate him. I’m one of the weirdos that actually likes Minya. It probably has to do with the fact that I discovered him when I was at a really young age. So like the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi, I accept him even though he is an extremely childish character made only to appeal to six year-olds. Besides, its not like he’s Jar Jar Binks or anything.

There have been other Godzilla “juniors” over the years. Minya, even if he does look like the lovechild of the Pillsbury Doughboy and a gum eraser, was the best of the Godzilla spawn. Sure, Junior from the Heisei Era was cool but only once he got full grown. His earlier appearances were some of the worst moments in the Godzilla franchise.

I’m not going to lie, Son of Godzilla is a cute movie. At this point, Toho knew its audience was young kids. So introducing a child for Godzilla wasn’t really a “jump the shark” moment but more of an acknowledgement that the franchise had left behind its horror roots and was embracing its bread and butter.

Son of Godzilla also came out during a string of Godzilla pictures that were set primarily on tropical islands or in vast expanses of wilderness. This was mainly because of budgetary reasons and this is also something many old school fans hate but I really like the Godzilla island movies.

First of all, the island films have a sort of vintage tiki vibe to them. They feel like a 60s beach party even if there is no beach party. Also, they come with a good adventure scenario for the human characters trapped on the island with giant monsters.  This is why I really like Son of Godzilla. Granted, I much prefer Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (also known as Godzilla Vs. The Sea Monster).

In this movie, we see a team of scientists and a photo journalist partake in experiments that alter the weather and radiation levels on the island. This causes physical changes in some of the creatures that call the island home. There are three praying mantises that are already human size that then grow to giant proportions. There is also a giant tarantula named Spiga, who is the big enemy in this kaiju picture.

The giant praying mantises end up breaking open a giant egg. Inside the egg is Minya, Godzilla’s infant son. Godzilla quickly arrives to defend his baby from the jerk mantises. The remainder of the film shows Godzilla being a father to Minya and trying to turn him into a man that can fight his own battles. This all comes to a head with the big showdown between Spiga and the two Godzillas.

Ultimately, this is a really fun film. The human story is exciting and the tale between kaiju father and kaiju son is endearing. While Son of Godzilla lacks good villains, it makes up for it in seeing Godzilla become more human-like. While this aspect of Godzilla’s character in the later films is frowned upon by some, I always loved kid friendly Godzilla because I discovered him when I was a kid.

This film also has some really beautiful parts. The final few shots are marvelous and even though you know everyone will be okay, there is something truly sad about the finale. In those final moments, Godzilla displays his parental affection for his son, as they fall into hibernation.

Son of Godzilla isn’t even close to being the best in the franchise but it is still a really enjoyable movie.