Originally released in Japan in 1972 with the title Earth Destruction Directive: Godzilla vs. Gigan and in America in 1978 under the title Godzilla on Monster Island, Godzilla vs. Gigan has always been one of the lesser entries in the Godzilla franchise, but I have always had a soft spot for the film, as I am a big fan of the cyborg creature Gigan. The movie shares a similar theme of environmentalism as the previous Godzilla movie, 1971’s Godzilla vs. Hedorah (the “Smog Monster”), which isn’t surprising, considering that Godzilla vs. Gigan started out as a sequel to Godzilla vs. Hedorah.
This movie’s plot is the typical alien-invader scenario. In this outing, the aliens are cockroaches who survived their planet’s overwhelming pollution, but these creatures soon had to abandon their husk of an orb and seek out another home. To secure the Earth for their own needs, the aliens hatch a diabolical plan. They assume human forms and began to work on a peace-themed park that they call “World Children’s Land,” the centerpiece of which is a “Godzilla Tower” that serves as a museum. These aliens, whose original location is in “Space Hunter Nebula-M,” plan to destroy the Earth by calling upon King Ghidorah and their own cyborg menace, Gigan.
Standing in the aliens’ way is Manga artist and loafer Gengo Kotaka (Hiroshi Ishikawa), when he literally runs into Machiko (Tomoko Umeda), who has stolen a magnetic tape as a bargaining chip that she plans to use so that she can find her brother, electronics experts Takashi (Kunio Murai). Machiko and her hippie friend Tomoko (Yuriko Hishimi) at first are suspicious of the artist, but soon all of them are working together. Thrown into the alliance is Gengo’s girlfriend and martial arts expert, Shosaku (Minoru Takashima).
It turns out that the magnetic tape can control the giant monsters, but it also serves to irritate the monsters living on Monster Island (the movie does offer a glimpse of various other monsters, but these creatures do not feature in the movie proper). Godzilla orders his buddy Anguirus to investigate, only to have the Japanese Army drive him back into the ocean. King Ghidorah and Gigan soon make the scene, with both monsters tearing up Japanese real estate with glee. It falls onto Godzilla, aided by Anguirus, to put a stop to the monster rampage. As the four monsters duke it out, the humans battle the cockroaches by attempting to destroy Godzilla Tower, which has some strong offensive laser capabilities and also serves as the source for transmitting the control rays for the monsters.
Upon first viewing Godzilla vs. Gigan is a fun but flawed romp of monster action. Although the human plot elements take up a little too much time, there is plenty of monster action and mayhem. Sadly, the producers rely a little too much on footage taken from previous Godzilla films for some of the action sequences—this has always been one of the film’s greatest detractions, and rightly so.
Hardcore Godzilla fans also found that the monsters “talking” for the first an only time detracted from the film. The Japanese version used comic-book-like “speech bubbles,” whereas the US version used low voices combined with some jarring effects. I did not find the “talking” to be much of a detraction, although the dialogue is really funny, especially when Anguirus asks Godzilla, “What do ya want?” in his best gangster voice.
Another quibble with the film are the fight scenes, which admittedly are dull, particularly given that Gigan is a superb monster. A cross between winged reptile and a robot, Gigan has many tools to his advantage, and he is the first monster to make Godzilla and Anguirus spurt gobs of blood (riffing of the Gamera series, I suspect), but he is not used to great advantage here. King Ghidorah is also an amazing monster, but his scenes are mostly taken from previous footage. And then there’s little Anguirus, who fared much better in Godzilla: Final Wars and here pretty much simply whines while the bad monsters stomp all over him.
Weird plot elements, bizarre directorial choices, a cool new monster, and of course Godzilla all make Godzilla vs. Gigan a must-watch for even borderline fans of the genre. Although low budget, the film still manages to squeeze as much entertainment as possible from every yen spent.
The Blu-Ray version is a hybrid of the Japanese and American films presented in widescreen. It does have the monster bleeding as well as Gengo calling his girlfriend a “hard bitch” under his breath, a surprising snipped of dialogue in a Godzilla flick. The movie looks great but the disk comes with only sparse extras, such as the original trailer and the original Japanese audio track with optional subtitles (much better than the American “dialogue”).