Godzilla vs. Gigan: An Unnecessary Trip to Monster Island
Godzilla Movies Finally Show Rubbery Legs
The tail end (no pun intended) of the original run of the Godzilla franchise was painful to watch. Son of Godzilla and Godzilla vs. Megalon were among the least appreciated films in the franchise. However, for sheer low budget, dare it to be said, dreck, you would have a hard time finding a more unnecessary Godzilla film than Godzilla vs. Gigan....aka Godzilla on Monster Island.
As a six-year-old kid, I loved the classic Godzilla movies and enjoyed their repeat airings on television. However, when this entry in the series showed up on UHF television, even my young mind knew I was watching a cheap, pale imitation of the brilliant films that previously contributed to the Godzilla legacy.
The Glory Years of Godzilla Movies and Toho Films Fade Away
Godzilla truly was an impressive sight in the 1960s. The radioactive dinosaur evolved from the dark, cautionary atomic bomb metaphor of its two 1950s films and entered into the 1960s as Toho's main movie monster during a wonderful era of escapist science-fiction.
Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972) was the 12th film in the Godzilla franchise. Godzilla vs. Gigan was an attempt to follow a basic plot centering on a save the earth scenario. The film is very simple and straight forward in its goal to showcase Godzilla battling old and new foes. In other words, it is dull and cheap, making among the worst of the Godzilla movies.
To help garner some interest, the legendary Godzilla villain King Ghidorah returns as does Anguirus, a former foe of Godzilla that now acts as a friend. Anguirus teams with Godzilla to fight King Ghidorah and a new monster that makes its debut in this film, Gigan.
The plot revolves around aliens from outer space, taking over a children's theme park. (Que?) These aliens are insect creatures that can don human form. Once they do, they gain control of King Ghidorah and Gigan to destroy humanity and conquer the world. A few humans discover the plot and inadvertently alert both Godzilla and Anguirus of the plot. The hero monsters descend on the theme park to battle the aliens and King Ghidorah and Gigan.
Really bad. Ironically, the film did not originally start out this way.
Even Giant Japanese Monsters & Godzilla Movies Have to Deal with Development Hell
The lame plot of the film was an attempt to get the Godzilla franchise back to its original roots of quality science-fiction. 1968 saw the release of one of the very best of all the Toho monster films; the monster rally Destroy All Monsters. 1970 saw the release of the excellent War of the Gargantuas. Then, in 1971, we would see the version of (for better or for worse) Godzilla vs. Hedorah or, as it was known in the USA, Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster.
Godzilla vs. Hedorah is a campy classic with over the top environmental and anti-pollution and a nutty theme song. Hedorah is a creepy monster, and the final fight scene with Godzilla is entertaining.
Toho, it seems, was not entirely pleased with the result. The company was also not pleased with what appeared to be waning interest in the series. So, creative minds went back to the drawing board to come up with a more effective entry in the series that would help set the stage for a 1970s rebirth. The original concept would be another sort of monster rally with Godzilla and Anguirus teaming with Varan. This giant squirrel creature had made a brief cameo in Destroy All Monsters . Varan first appeared in an underrated film many years before. Several new monsters were set to debut in this film, but things did not work out as planned. The budget for the film would have been too costly, and Toho seemed to want to save money.
An alternate film was also planned, which would be called The Return of King Ghidorah, but it received a rejection stamp. Ultimately, a bunch of puzzle pieces from these film ideas was all thrown together: Ghidorah, Anguirus, Godzilla, and one new monster: Gigan.
Gigan is a really cool kaiju eiga (giant monster), and he has an attitude. His nasty hook hands and buzz saw in his abdominal region makes him one of the more violent of the adversaries Godzilla faces. Actually, edits had to be made to this film for its US release to cut out some bloody sequences during the monster fights. Releases of Godzilla videos restore the cut scenes.
Gigan proved a popular enough create that he would return in Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973) and many, many years later in Godzilla: Final Wars (2004). Gigan also made an appearance with Godzilla in the television series Zone Fighter in 1973.
Unique monster villains such as Gigan did breathe some life into the series. However, the lower budgets and declining ticket sales and an overall disinterest in giant monster movies would slowly kill off the series as the early 1970s wore on.
The Original Run Starts the Inevitable Path to Hiatus
To say the budget of Godzilla vs. Gigan was frugal would be a dramatic understatement. The film is targeted towards very young children that made up the bulk of the fans of the Godzilla series when this film was initially released. In truth, it seems only little kids had much interest in these films as the quality of the series started to collapse.
The film sold nearly 1.8 million tickets in Japan during its 1972 run. That was not an awful figure, and it was definitely enough to continue the series for three more films. Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973) and Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974) would continue the series' death march. The Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975) was easily the best Godzilla film to be released in years and, ironically, did the worst at the box office. The series ended until the flop of Godzilla 1985. In 1989, the series would once again launch a successful multi-year run with the release of Godzilla vs. Biollante.
What happened with Godzilla vs. Gigan in the United States? Not much.
It did not receive a release in the United States until 1978 when it was briefly hit drive-ins and matinée showings under the name Godzilla on Monster Island. The title is misleading as the movie does not primarily take place on Monster Island, but who is keeping tabs?
Shortly after the original theatrical showings, it would be released to syndicated television. That really shows how the series had declined. As late as 1974, drive-in theaters were still running triple bills of the old, classic Toho films. Recent television airings of the film are the original international version that bears the original Godzilla vs. Gigan name. This version is uncut and restores scenes trimmed from the original US release.
The International Version Arrives in the USA
In 2002, the original version of Godzilla vs. Gigan debuted on The Sci-Fi Channel (now SyFy). This presentation of the film is much better than the old, worn-out Monster Island prints most had seen. The international version is worth checking out if you are a hardcore Godzilla fan. You might even be interested in the uncut Godzilla videos of this odd film.
News Flash: The American version of Godzilla is getting a sequel. While it won't take place on Monster Island or feature Gigan, Godzilla 2 will possibly co-star Ghidorah, Rodan, and Mothra.