Godzilla is one of those film stars who just won’t stay down, whether he’s being a destroyer or a friend to humanity, and there was a time where Godzilla films were coming thick and fast in Japan. With the success of 1971’s Godzilla vs. Hedorah it was decided that another outing from the King of the Monsters was needed, and one that would be a bit less dark and grim. This is where Godzilla vs. Gigan comes in.
Released in 1972, the film began shooting soon after the release of the previous movie – a film that was the second highest grossing film for Toho that year – with the instruction that it was to be less ‘weird’ and more child friendly. Two scripts were produced by Kaoru Mabuchi, and Shinichi Sekizawa. Both of these scripts feature Godzilla and King Ghidorah, along with the new monster Gigan and an assortment of returning monsters. After several revisions and cuts the two scripts were combined into one singular story.
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The story of Godzilla vs. Gigan sees a cartoonist called Gengo (Hiroshi Ishikawa), who was recently working on the Children’s Land amusement park, being asked to help a woman track down her missing brother, who she believes was kidnapped by the park’s directors. Upon investigating Children’s Land, Gengo is shocked to learn that the people behind the amusement park are actually giant insect-like aliens from a dying planet.
It appears that the aliens have travelled to Earth with the plan to colonise the planet. However, in order to do so they need to get rid of its current inhabitants. As such, they have plotted to use the space monsters King Ghidorah and Gigan to wipe the planet clear of humanity, using giant radio towers hidden inside Children’s Land to control them. Gengo manages to play one of the control tapes, which summons Godzilla and Anguirus to Tokyo. Now the two Earth monsters are able to combat the space monsters, but who will be strong enough to come out on top?
As stated earlier, the early drafts for Godzilla vs. Gigan were set to feature more monsters, with multiple creatures being lured from Monster Island to combat the new creatures from space. However, these plans had to be changed when several of the monster suits proved to be in too bad a condition to be usable.
One of the drawbacks of this era of Kaiju movies is that the suits were simply put into storage after a movie was made, leading to monster costumes deteriorating and being unusable on a number of occasions. This means that a number of movies had to change to accommodate these issues, and Godzilla vs. Gigan was unfortunately one of them. However, the film actually works better for this, allowing more focus to be given to the four monsters, rather than being spread across the board.
Despite issues with the existing monster suits, including having to repaint King Ghidorah and replace the heads, Godzilla vs. Gigan was able to showcase a brand new creature, Gigan the alien cyborg. Gigan is a pretty odd looking monster. Whilst most of the Kaiju that feature in the Godzilla series are based on prehistoric animals, or large insects, Gigan is truly alien in design. A large, lizard-like creature that stands on two legs, he features large fins on his back, sports a single metal visor eye, metal hooks for hands, and a big circular saw in his stomach. It’s a look that is very, very different from other Kaiju, and makes for a striking figure.
The film also seems to have taken some inspiration from the Gamera films, by having Godzilla take some serious beatings throughout the movie. He’s blasted with laser cannons from the big Godzilla Tower in Children’s Land, is smashed around the head by Gigan’s huge hook blades, and is cut into with the huge circular saw in his foe’s chest. The fights are pretty brutal at times, and it was no surprise that it led to some of the younger audience believing that perhaps this would be the one time that Godzilla wouldn’t save the day.
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Upon release Godzilla vs. Gigan was received well by Japanese audiences, and had an increase in ticket sales over the last year’s Godzilla vs. Hedorah. However, thanks to American International Pictures cancelling its plans to release the movie in the US in 1973, it took several years to release internationally, and was even beaten to the cinema by its sequel, 1973’s Godzilla vs. Megalon, resulting in international audiences seeing Gigan’s debut after his second appearance.
Godzilla vs. Gigan is a brighter, more colourful film than its predecessor, with a more memorable new monster that would go on to feature in several more films, quickly becoming a fan favourite.
Godzilla vs. Gigan was originally released on 12th March 1972.