OF THE GARGANTUAS
Review by Troy
Page 1 of 2
= Highest Rating
is a sequel not a sequel? Depends on what country you live in,
I guess. If you look elsewhere on this website, you can find
Rod Barnett's excellent review of Frankenstein
Conquers the World, a 1965 sci-fi offering from Toho (the
film company that created Godzilla), in which the heart of the
Frankenstein Monster is transported to Japan and grows into
a new, giant human boy. Toho followed up this saga the very
next year with a sequel, War of the Gargantuas.
However, if all you've ever seen of Gargantuas
has been in American theaters or TV, chances are you had no
clue the two films were related in any way. Once again, the
folks at Classic Media have stepped in to put things right,
and have given us the longed-for, first-ever stateside DVD release
of the Japanese "sequel" version of War
of the Gargantuas!
story begins, as so many Japanese giant monster films do, with
an attack on a ship out at sea by an enormous creature. In this
instance, a seagoing vessel is menaced by a slimy octopus with
glowing red eyes. The squishy attacker's meal is interrupted,
however, by the appearance of a giant with ape-like features
and a covering of green fur. The two beasts fight for the right
to sink the ship and get to the little human morsels inside.
This opening confrontation would, for Japanese audiences, hearken
back to the climax of Frankenstein Conquers
the World, which saw the titular Franken-boy also mix
it up with an octopus (a sequence that was cut from the American
release prints). In any case, Frankensteins and Octopi just
don't see eye-to-tentacle, I guess, and the green giant drives
the cephalopod away before sending the helpless ship to the
After a lone survivor
of the attack describes the events, including the green gargantua's
devouring of the rest of the crew, the trio of scientist-heroes
from Frankenstein Conquers the World
is asked to lend their expertise to this fresh crisis. The names
and most of the faces have changed for the new film: Nick Adam's
dynamic Dr. Bowen has been renamed Dr. Stewart and is played
by a lower-than-low-key Russ Tamblyn (Dracula
vs. Frankenstein, Twin Peaks), while Dr. Kawaji (Tadao
Takashima) is now Dr. Mamiya (Kenji Sahara). Only Kumi Mizuno
reprises her role as the pretty, kindhearted doctor Sueko (now
called Akemi), who nurtured the original "Frankenstein"
until his escape.
Learning that this
new emerald giant not only dwells in the sea, but also enjoys
the taste of human flesh, Dr. Stewart and Akemi refuse to believe
it can be the same gentle boy-giant that had once been in their
care. The monster's successive attacks result in the loss of
more life, prompting the Japanese army to mount a full-scale
attack against the green gargantuan. Under a massive barrage
of laser fire and electricity, the green monster eventually
begins to succumb, when suddenly there appears a second
giant... only this one is covered in brown fur! This newcomer
rescues his green look-alike, dragging the injured creature
to safety in the mountains.
Dr. Stewart and his
two colleagues figure out quickly that the brown giant must
be their original Frankenstein monster, but the origins of his
green "brother" seem to have more disturbing implications:
Stewart's theory is that the original creature (whom they name
"Sanda") has lost tissue due to injuries after his
earlier battles. This tissue fell into the ocean and generated
itself into the new creature, making the green giant (or "Gaira"
as he is now called) not so much a brother as a clone... meaning
that any future tissue loss sustained by the gargantuas could
result in even more clones. Armed with this new knowledge, the
scientists try to alert the military to the dangers of future
attacks on the gargantuas. In particular, they hope to protect
Sanda, as they believe him to still be of a peaceful nature.
Sanda and Gaira (is
it just me, or does "Sanda and Gaira" sound like a
British '60s folk act?) enjoy one another's company in their
mountain hideaway, until Gaira spots a group of humans (including
Stewart and Akemi) and hears that ol' dinner bell ring. Fleeing
from the green giant, Akemi falls over a cliff. She is saved
by gentle Sanda, who breaks his leg in the process of rescuing
her. Hobbling back to his hideout, Sanda discovers that Gaira
managed to catch a few humans and pop them into his gullet like
so many crackerjacks. Sanda doesn't appreciate his clone's taste
for human flesh, so he furiously drives him away. Now the battle
royal begins! Sanda
tries to destroy Gaira before he can reach the ocean, while
the military brings all its might to bear in the hopes of killing
both monsters, despite the efforts of Stewart's team to save
This DVD release should
of the Gargantuas
garner its due recognition as one of the very best Japanese
giant monster epics. It is, in fact, far superior to Toho's
other kaiju offering of 1966, Godzilla
vs. the Sea Monster. The classic Toho creative team of
director Ishir˘ Honda, special effects master Eiji Tsuburaya,
and musical director Akira Ifukube (whose "March" cue from Destroy
All Monsters, one of my favorite movie themes, turns up
here in an earlier, slightly altered form) lend their typical
solid efforts to Gargantuas. Still,
there are additional factors that make the film such a standout
in its genre.
First, the titular
beasts are considerably smaller than Godzilla and his cohorts,
allowing the Toho effects department to go all-out with larger,
more detailed miniatures and sets.
The results are spectacular Ś when Sanda and Gaira leap out
of the sky to destroy helicopters or hurl ships at one another,
the realism and size of the props really sells the action. A
particularly refreshing effect of the monsters' smaller size
is that is allows the military to be a real threat to them...
which is never the case when Godzilla or Ghidorah go on the
rampage. This downsizing of the monsters' scale would be used
again in 1970's Space
Amoeba, but by then all the action would be conveniently
set in the jungle (meaning less complex miniature sets to build),
as would increasingly become the case in the Godzilla series.
Gargantuas was given the kind of
budget that allowed the Toho craftsmen to utilize their full
talents and build one stunning, sprawling cityscape after another
in which the monsters could wreak havoc.
Let's face it: mass destruction of property is one of the key
guilty pleasures for fans of kaiju eiga, and War
of the Gargantuas
has carnage in spades.
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