Saturday Afternoon Kaiju: The War of the Gargantuas (1966)
Blessed be the day that FilmStruck decided to stream about a dozen or so Kaiju films. Most of them are Godzilla in nature (swoon) but they also included director Ishirō Honda’s 1966 War of the Gargantuas. It’s a sequel to Frankenstein Conquers the World from 1965 so, you can watch that first, but you don’t have to, to get what’s going on in this one.
The film opens up on a small ship off the coast of Japan being attacked by some big-ass, giant squid. Just as it’s about to destroy the ship, it lets it go to fight a big-ass, hairy green man. Gaira is his name and he doesn’t like the boat, either, and sinks it. One sailor survives and manages to make it ashore. He tells the story of the big green guy, aka ‘the gargantua’, and his doctors think he’s insane, but those pesky reporters are listening too and they run with the story.
Enter Dr. Paul Stewart (Russ Tamblyn!?!) and his assistant Akemi Togawa (Kumi Mizuno). They both previously worked with a gargantua and swear up and down that their creature (who was released into the Japanese Alps) was kind and gentle. It would never hurt anyone. They also felt it couldn’t be their guy because he was a land creature and couldn’t live in the sea.
The green gargantua Gaira attacks another ship and then decides to come ashore and destroy an airport. This fucker actually eats a woman he grabs from inside a terminal! This ain’t your mum’s kaiju! Anyway, after Gaira got scared of the sunlight while at the airport and escapes back into the sea, Dr. Stewart and company head up to the mountains because someone has caught sight of a gargantua. Another of Stewart’s assistants heads to the fishing village to see if he can find evidence of the gargantua that was destroying the ships.
So, yes, it turns out Gaira can’t stand sunlight. That just means he’s ready to attack at night. He goes back ashore and attacks Tokyo. The government tells all the people to turn on their lights and this drives Gaira into the nearby mountains where the army is waiting to blast his ass. He’s pretty battered and looks to be dead but, wait, what’s this? A red gargantua comes to help Gaira and takes him back to the sea. Sanda is his name and yes, this was the creature that Dr. Stewart and his team worked with all those years ago.
Sanda tries to get Gaira to chill out and to stop eating people but Gaira’s like “Hell, no, man, humans are bad. They’re tasty, too. Nah, fam.” The military want both of these guys dead. They can’t blow them up because each released cell is a potential new gargantua so that’s right out. Dr. Stewart doesn’t want harm to come to Sandra because he’s the good brother. Eventually, of course, the two brothers have to battle it out for supremacy, destroying more of Tokyo in the process. I shan’t tell you the ending because, well, you should just see it for yourself.
This movie is a delight from top to bottom. It’s nice to see a monster who actually eats people. I mean, there is usually a lot of death and destruction in a kaiju movie, but you don’t usually see people being eaten. The miniature work in this one is strong, as always. The airport scene is just a joy to watch. Director Honda is the master of kaiju and his movies are a treat. Tamblyn looks like he accidently walked onto the set of the movie and just stayed to see what would happen. His performance is one of bored amusement and I adore him.
A word of warning if you’re about to watch this or the other awesome kaiju movies on FilmStruck; they are the dubbed versions only. Now, I know some of you only like to watch the movies in their original Japanese. Normally, I with you on that, I try to find the original versions of any movie first but in the case of kaiju movies, I don’t mind watching them dubbed. It’s how I first saw them on television all those years ago. I’ll even go so far as to say I prefer to watch them this way (apart from the original 1954 Gojira). I don’t know how long FilmStruck is streaming all these Kaiju so you should jump on these while you have the chance. If Criterion puts these all out in a box set, one of you better be sending me one as a gift. It will be an essential own.