Japanese release title: Earth Destruction Directive: Godzilla vs. Gigan
U.S. release date: August, 1977 by Cinema Shares International as Godzilla On Monster Island.
Japanese audience attendance: 1,780,000
Director: Jun Fukuda
Screenplay: Shinichi Sekizawa
Sfx: Teruyoshi Nakano
Musical score: Akira Ifukube
Two U.S. versions are available on home video: the edited, cinematic version as “Godzilla On Monster Island” from Goodtimes Home Video, or the complete international version as Godzilla vs. Gigan from Star Maker Video.
An eccentric cartoonist named Gengo Kodaka, who enjoys creating comical monsters of various social significance to his youthful readers, is struggling to find work when he receives a lucrative job offer from the builders of Children’s Land, a newly constructed, elaborate amusement park. His job is to design monster-oriented rides for the children, since the star attraction at the park is Godzilla Tower, a life-size replica of the monster. However, Kodaka soon discovers what he believes to be suspicious activities occurring at the place, which begins when a young girl hands him a mysterious tape while being pursued by a group of men, and she begs him to keep the object safe. Showing the tape to his sister Seisaku, they run it to discover that it plays bizarre sounds which appear to operate on a mysterious wavelength. This sound attracts the attention of Godzilla on Monster Island (pun not intended), who asks Anguirus to travel to Japan and investigate the source of the sound. Upon arriving, however, the kaiju is attacked by the J.S.D.F. and retreats back to the island.
Meanwhile, Kodaka and his sister meet up with the girl who handed him the tape, along with her buffoonish hippie brother, and she tells him that she is a former employee who discovered sinister going-ons at the park. Thus, the foursome decide to investigate together.
They soon uncover the fact that the strange park owners are actually insectoid aliens from a planet in the Hunter M Nebula (thus being referred to as "Nebulans" by G-fans), whose dominant humanoid race destroyed the world with technology that ultimately devestated the world's biosphere via the pollution of their planet as a byproduct of their technology, resulting in their eventual extinction (actually, the polluting side effects of an industrial society have as much to do with the economic framework of a given industrialized civilization as it does with the mere fact of possessing such industry, but that is a whole other topic). The Nebulans have now disguised themselves as humans in preparation for the takeover of the Earth. Mutating into sentience by the resulting toxic wastes, and appropriating the extinct humanoids' advanced technology, the insectoids have traveled the galaxy in search of a new home, and decided to settle and conquer Earth, which is similarly on the verge of destruction due to the polluting habits of its own native human species. The aliens claim they desire to establish a world of perfect peace and harmony as the rulers of the world, and the tape they lost utilized a carrier wave to summon two starfaring dai kaiju that the aliens control: the three-headed monster called King Ghidorah and the cybernetically enhanced alien kaiju called Gigan. They also reveal that Godzilla Tower houses a deadly laser projecting device designed to kill the Earth’s protector, Godzilla himself.
Deciding to launch their plans of conquest, the aliens order King Ghidorah and Gigan to attack and ravage Tokyo. Godzilla and Anguirus are attracted by the renewed alien signals, and quickly arrive in Japan to engage the two extraterrestrial kaiju killers in battle. Severely injured by Gigan during the melee, Godzilla is lured into the park and subjected to a barrage of alien laser weaponry from Godzilla Tower, which nearly kills him. However, Kodaka and his crew outwit and escape the aliens, and they manage to engineer the destruction of the base. This both kills the aliens inside and free the two space monsters from their control. Left to their own devices, the alien monsters fight on, and Gigan makes the fatal error of throwing Godzilla into the tower. Absorbing the electrical energy within and returning to full strength, Godzilla, along with further assistance from Anguirus, rout King Ghidorah and Gigan in renewed combat, and succeed in driving both evil monsters from Earth.
This slick but low budget G-film was produced with the attempt to reclaim the glory and style of the G-films of the early '60’s, unlike the previous year’s “Godzilla vs. Hedora” (a.k.a., Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster). Thus, although Ishiro Honda refused to direct the movie, secondary veteran Jun Fukuda was back, albeit not in rare form. The human direction was mediocre and tedious, and the plot too boring for adults and too convoluted for children. Since Toho decided they wanted Akira Ifukube’s music without actually having to hire the man to produce new instrumentals, stock music from his previous scores were used, and this benefited the film. As a cost saving measure, extensive stock footage from past G-films was inserted into the battle and city destruction scenes, and this cheap maneuver was easily detectable even by the kids; for example, the scene where Anguirus locks his jaws on King Ghidorah, who then flies into the air with his opponent still gripping his leg, only to bite his neck and cause Anguirus to fall to the ground, followed by King Ghidorah landing and giving him a severe pummelling, was entirely lifted from Destroy All Monsters, and the attempt to make it appear to be occurring at night, rather than during the day via a cheap camera trick, did nothing whatsoever to detract from the fact that this footage was entirely exctracted from another film that most G-fans of all ages had already seen by that point.
In keeping with the concerns of the era, pollution was once again the main social theme played up here (as opposed to the previous two decades' preoccupation with radiation as the greatest environmental hazard), though not nearly as good as the last film’s presentation. Teruyoshi Nakano pulled the Godzilla suit used in the last three movies from the closet for the final time, and the damn thing appeared to be quite worn here. His realization of Toho’s premiere engine of terror, King Ghidorah, proved that Eiji Tsuberaya was indeed a hard act to follow. Anguirus was presented well, but he was clearly no match for the adversaries he battled; however, I, and many of the other kids in the audience, greatly enjoyed his backward leaping attack technique used to topple King Ghidorah, and this was perhaps the highlight of the movie.
The saving grace of the film was certainly Gigan, one of Godzilla’s best opponents of the Showa Series. He was a supreme challenge for the King of the Kaiju, and a major disappointment was felt by G-fans when he wasn’t revived in an updated version for the Heisei Series. The scenes of the cyborg monster drawing blood from Godzilla and Anguirus with his hand scythes and buzzsaw were quite chilling. Strangely, Gigan was shown in pre-release stills to project a laser beam from a turret located just above his one huge digitized eye, and the aforementioned turret was clearly visible throughout his film appearances. However, he is never depicted firing the laser beam in any of his big or small screen appearances, apparently because Nakano later believed the idea of the laser weapon was unnecessary given the monster’s other attributes, which was quite a shame.
Incredibly silly and intentional humor again found its way into the G-series with this movie, and this time it was something that wasn’t even done in the Gamera films, and fortunately something that was never done again in a Godzilla movie: the benevolent monsters literally spoke to each other in three different scenes! In the Japanese version, the brief scenes of speaking were accompanied by synthesizer noise replacing the monsters' usual sounds, with comic book-like word balloons appearing above them for translations (in the first two instances; the third went untranslated). In the American version, the word balloons were dubbed out and mawkish voices speaking in English were heard instead, rendered nearly indecipherable by the synthesizer noise, which remained intact. Luckily, however, no annoying child stars (a.k.a., "Kennys") found their way into the movie.
As was the case with most of the G-films of the 70's, the alien invasion motif was once again played out, though it had become entirely unoriginal and tiresome by this point. The Nebulans were interesting in that they were the only alien race to run afoul of Godzilla in the Showa Series who were actually depicted with a degree of sympathy, and not simply as fascists in space suits, though since their actions meant as much to be desired as that of the "evil" alien races featured in other G-films of the late 1960's and 70's, the end result was the same, and they didn't come off as particularly memorable. Nevertheless, the lesson the Nebulans provided in the film helped to illustrate the fact that you do not have to be outright fascistic in order to be a threat to the rights of others; the most good intentioned individuals in the universe would wreak the same amount of havoc as the most blatant fascists if they attempted to force peace and harmony upon others against their will. A better world of peace and harmony must be earned by everyone in society working together cooperatively, and never forced by a minority, no matter how sincere their intentions may be. This was a good theme that is only rarely tackled in any form of creative media for painfully obvious reasons.
Also, it was definately a bit intriguing how Toho utilzed the well-known fact that cockroaches were believed by scientists to be most likely to survive environmental devestation that would wipe out even humanity, to present the premise of invaders from a world where this was exactly what happened, and to show the cockroaches not only becoming the dominant life form of that world, but also evolving into a race of sentient beings to replace the extinct humanoids (Earth scientists in the "real" world have never postulated that cockroaches, or any species of insect for that matter, are able to develop self-awareness and individualized sentience, it should be noted). The sight of one of the film's human protagonists lurching back in fear at the sight of an Earth cockroach running through the grass after the defeat of the Nebulans offered an ominous reminder to the audience that there is a "lower" form of life ready and willing to take the place of the human race as the dominant life form on the planet if humanity destroys itself.
All things considered, this movie is hotly debated by G-fans as to its quality, though I believe that it was one of the better G-films of the 70’s. AIP intended to release the film in 1973 with its proper title of Godzilla vs. Gigan, and this was announced in various U.S. monster magazines published at the time [I personally saw it advertised in the news section of the good old Marvel horror magazine called MONSTERS UNLEASHED...does anyone remember that short-lived but memorable title?]. For unknown reasons, however, this plan failed to be realized, and the film went unseen in America for another four years. It was finally picked up by a small independent film company called Cinema Shares, which specialized in the release of independent movies that weren’t predicted to have large audiences. Probably in an effort to exploit the popular theme of Monster Island among G-fans, the movie was released with the inaccurate title of “Godzilla On Monster Island,” despite the fact that Monster Island only appears in the movie for a few short minutes, and the various monsters living there (other than Anguirus) are only briefly shown in a few quick stock footage vignettes.
Cinema Shares had already released Godzilla vs. Megalon the year before, and spent a good deal of money towards an elaborate nation-wide publicity campaign, as well as giving it a decent stateside release. Also, they released “Godzilla vs. The Cosmic Monster” earlier in 1977 with a far more limited distribution. Thus, “Godzilla On Monster Island” was released drastically out of order in America. Like "Godzilla vs. The Cosmic Monster" before it, "Godzilla On Monster Island" received only a limited stateside run for a few weeks, mostly limited to children's matinees. After Godzilla vs. Megalon, its first American release of a G-film, Cinema Shares didn't bother to give the same amount of huge publicity and broad release range of its two subsequent releases, "Godzilla vs. the Cosmic Monster" and "Godzilla On Monster Island" (now more accurately known on American home video as Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla and Godzilla vs. Gigan, respectively).
As a result of the projected target audience of this movie, the scenes of Gigan drawing blood from Godzilla’s shoulder and Anguirus’s face, as well as some mild profanity, were deleted from the U.S. release. This edited version is available by Goodtimes Home Video and on TV with the “Godzilla On Monster Island” moniker, and this version should be avoided by the serious Godzilla collector. In the late 1980’s, New World Video utilized the English-dubbed international version of the film to release a high quality, complete version of the movie, correctly titled Godzilla vs. Gigan, and this version has since been picked up and re-released by Star Maker Video (often sold in a set along with Star Maker’s re-release of Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla during the 1990's, and can now be found in a set alongside Star Maker's re-releases of the latter film and Godzilla vs. Megalon, the three G-films originally released in America by Cinema Shares, minus most of the deletions). It’s the latter version of this film which should be purchased or dubbed for one’s video library if you decide not to buy the Japanese or international version itself from Video Daikaiju.
Please note that “Godzilla On Monster Island” and Godzilla vs. Gigan are two different titles of the same movie, the difference being that the former is the edited version as originally released to American theaters, whereas the latter is the complete film as shown in Japan and abroad.
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