GODZILLA VERSUS DISNEYLAND or Somebody Call An Exterminator - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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GODZILLA VERSUS DISNEYLAND or Somebody Call An Exterminator

Gordon Hopkins abandons all logic.
By the early seventies, the Godzilla film series had pretty much abandoned any pretensions that the monsters made any kind of sense. In previous outings, filmmakers tried to create some sort of explanation for what the monster was and how it came into being. Not this time. Gigan is just an outer space monster and not even a vaguely pseudoscientific explanation is offered. Gigan is basically a giant cyborg turkey with a buzz saw in its belly.

Horrified by the off-the-wall Godzilla versus the Smog Monster, producer Tomoyuki Tanaka brought back director Jun Fukuda to tamp down the more outre excesses of the prior film and create something a little less weird, a little more familiar.

Unfortunately, his mission was too successful. Godzilla versus Gigan (1972) is yet another rehash of aliens using monsters to take over Earth, showing Toho Studios' creative well was possibly running dry. Which is not to say the movie doesn't have some imagination and a fairly substantial weird quotient.

In the plot, our (human) hero is Gengo, perhaps the worst comic book artist ever. He attempts to create monsters based on what kids most fear and comes up with a “homework monster.” The fact that anyone would offer this unimaginative hack a job should be cause for suspicion. Nevertheless, he is offered a job, by a non-profit company that wants to promote world peace by creating a monster-themed amusement park called Children's Land. The main attraction is a massive tower that resembles Godzilla, of course. Exactly how that is supposed to bring about peace, I'm not sure. It doesn't matter. The chronically unemployable Gengo is happy to have a regular paycheck. For a while, at least.
Despite being clueless as well as talentless, even Gengo begins to get suspicious of his new employers. Why? Perhaps it's because everyone who works for the company wears the same shade of orange. Or perhaps he becomes a bit dubious as to his employer's good intentions when he encounters Machiko, a young lady in search of her missing brother, a scientist (obviously).

In her investigations, Machiko has gotten her hands on a mysterious analog audio tape (this was the seventies, remember). When played, it sound like gibberish.

That is, gibberish to the human characters. But not to the monsters.

Godzilla hears the tape all the way on Monster Island and tells his good buddy, Anguiris, “Something funny's going on. You better check.”

Yes, Godzilla has dialogue in this movie. In a series rife with bad ideas, this might be one of the few decisions even dumber than Godzilla's son, Minilla. Godzilla and Anguiris have conversions in a gravelly, grunting voice, at least in the English dub, that makes Godzilla sound like he's had a tracheotomy. Giving the monster's the ability to talk, even if only to each other,. Doesn't even serve any purpose. They provide no narrative that wasn't already very obvious to all but the most inattentive viewer.

The tape, it turns out, can be used to control monsters. Once the aliens retrieve the tape, the summon Gigan and Godzilla's old nemesis, King Ghidorah, for a monster brawl.

Given how many times this same plan has failed, you'd think the aliens might try something different.
At this point, I should probably say something about the female characters in the Godzilla series. As a general rule, at this moment in the series' history, women exist mostly to react. Which is not to say they are not strong characters. Reacting in a monster movie usually means screaming. A lot, but by no means all, of the female characters in Godzilla movies up to this point have been intelligent women, and strong. You'd have to be not to completely fall apart when a giant monster comes crashing down on your city. They are a far cry from the dingbats and airheads and bimbos and screamers that made up most of the female cast in American-made monster movies of the day. Still, they are given relatively little to do and always require male intervention. Even Machiko, bravely searching for her brother, mostly just follows Gengo's instructions. They are not drivers of the story. The only exceptions to this rule seem to be female aliens, such as the Kilaks in Destroy All Monsters or the Martian Queen in Gidrah, The Three-Headed Monster.

There is one woman character in the movie who doesn't need a man to save her and, in fact, does most of the saving herself. That is Gengo's overbearing sister, a black belt in karate and, frankly, the only human character in this movie, male or female, that shows anything resembling common sense.

Buried in all this dumb is a bit of rather smart commentary about the machinations and manipulations of marketing.

Another element off the film that is smarter than it has any business being is the concept of the aliens, themselves. It is the old idea of aliens come to take control of Earth after their own planet was destroyed. However, the aliens that arrive on earth are not the dominant life form from that planet but cockroaches. The dominant species, which was apparently rather human-like, destroyed their planet with pollution. It is an old cliché turned punchline that, after the fall of man and the destruction of the world, only the cockroaches would survive (along with Twinkies and, possibly, Cher). Evidently, these people messed up their world so badly, even the cockroaches couldn't make it. So they come to Earth to take over before we do the same thing to our planet. Even at this late stage, the filmmakers hadn't forgotten the Godzilla series as “message movies.”

Unlike Gigan, the movie is not a complete turkey. For Godzilla fans, the best way to enjoy this movie is not as part of a binge watching marathon. It is enjoyable on it's own merits but suffers in comparison with earlier entries. Not only does the movie recycle the basic plot of prior movies, it also recycles some of the actual footage of the monster battles. It isn't as shameless as Godzilla's Revenge. Mostly, reused shots are integrated into new battle scenes to save money.
The American Version: By the time the seventies rolled around, the producers were struggling to balance the need to make a serious, scary, somewhat intense at times, monster movie with the perceived need to pander to the kiddos. The movie didn't see American screens until 1977 (the same year Star Wars came out) and when it arrived, it was in a heavily truncated version called Godzilla on Monster Island. In searching through back issue of the newspaper I now work for, I came across an ad for Godzilla on Monster Island, playing at the local theater in a “Kiddie Matinee.” Excised from the original version was a bit of mild profanity, such as when Gengo calls his sister a “hard bitch,” and a surprising amount of blood, mostly the result of Gigan's belly saw. The offending scenes were later restored by Toho for home video release under the official title, Godzilla versus Gigan.

One big difference between the American and Japanese versions is the way the monsters speak. I said Godzilla speaks with a distorted voice. In the Japanese version, Godzilla and Anguiris talk with “speech bubbles,” like the kind use in comic books. I'm not really sure which is worse.

The Denouement: The battle between Godzilla and Anguiris versus King Ghidorah and Gigan is pretty satisfying. The final defeat of the aliens by the human heroes is somewhat less so. Gengo and his pals load up the elevator in the Godzilla tower and send it to the top floor. Gengo tricks them into shooting the explosives, thus setting off an explosion that destroys all of Children's Land by covering the explosives with a hand-drawn picture of himself and the others. Apparently, the villains are fooled into shooting a bunch of explosives by a black-and-white, two-dimensional drawing. I'm usually pretty tolerant of lapses in logic in Godzilla movies, but this one is so dumb it really annoys me.

The Odds: While a different and interesting design, Gigan doesn't seem, to me at least, to have enough panache to carry a picture as the lead heavy. Gigan would never return as a main adversary for Godzilla. However, I could see Gigan as one of many monsters, bring on a whole mess of monsters, not unlike the recent American-made Godzilla: King of the Monsters. But there are other, more interesting monsters that could be brought back, first. I'm going to lay odds at 2 to 1 against.

Read all of Gordon Hopkins previous Godzilla articles here.

Gordon Hopkins is an award winning reporter and columnist for The Fairbury Journal-News, a 130-year-old newspaper in Jefferson County, Nebraska (He hasn't been working there that entire time.) He has also written a couple of crime novels (“Fraudsters” and the best-selling “Broken”) and edited a few non-fiction books.

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