Gigantis, the Fire Monster (Review)
Gigantis, the Fire Monster
We start out the second March of Godzilla with the second Godzilla movie, Godzilla Raids Again! Or Gigantis, the Fire Monster, as it is known in the US. What a mess the American version of this film is. A complete an utter destruction of cinema. The Japanese version suffering from some of the faults of films of the time, but the American distributors just completely butcher the entire film. Most noticeably, Godzilla is not called Godzilla, but instead Gigantis. Now, he is technically not the original Godzilla, they make reference to the fact Godzilla Number One was disintegrated in Tokyo Bay. This new Godzilla is his brother, Marvin Godzilla, and he is actually the Godzilla that the next several movies in the series follow, as they are loosely connected. But in America, they just called him “Gigantis” because of reasons mentioned later. Joining Godzilla is the first fellow daikaiju, a creature named Anguirus. He’s loosely based on Ankylosaurs, and has a shell armored with many spikes all over his back. Crawling on four legs, Anguirus was stylistically different from Godzilla and made a good contrast for a first foe. Later monsters would get beam weapons, wings, multiple forms, but Anguirus fights with just one thing: guts!
There are some familiar faces in this film as well. Most notably, main character Shoichi Tsukioka is played by Hiroshi Koizumi, who has been previously seen here in Godzilla vs. Mothra and Ghidrah, playing Dr. Miura. I’ve met Hiroshi Koizumi, which I also mention each time he pops up in a Godzilla movie. Another big name is Takashi Shimura, playing Dr. Yemane, who he also played in the original Godzilla. He is probably best known for Seven Samurai or other Kurosawa films. Another Kurosawa veteran is Minoru Chiaki, who was another of the Seven Samurai, and here plays fellow pilot Kobayashi. All Godzilla movies need a girl, and actress Setsuko Wakayama makes her only Godzilla series appearance as Hidemi Yamaji. Directing this time is Motoyoshi Oda, who is also making his only appearance in G-history.
Both the US and Japanese versions will get reviewed simultaneously here. This is made possible because the US version is not chopped out of order, but follows the same pathway. They both deviate from the set path, as the US distributors added and removed footage, sometimes seemingly at random. The most obvious aspect aside from the Gigantis name is that the US version has narration. Lots of narration. The entire film is narrated. Every second someone is not speaking, the narrator has to talk. The Japanese version has no narrator, so is full of long moments of no dialogue, and little to no sound as the score only drops in randomly. We will note that the US version was produced by Paul Schreibman, who has expressed regrets for ruining the movie so badly. He claims responsibility for renaming Godzilla, as it was his desire to make Americans think they were getting a new monster. Other problems we will experience along the way, including the education film that makes me think Paul Schreibman must be insane.
But first: Roll call!!
Now that we got the cast list down pat, the review can begin! The American version opens first, thanks to some extra footage in the beginning. A depressing narrator explains that man has gone and made things dangerous, such as building rocket monsters with mechanical brains. I think the narrator has been indulging a little too much in the local bar, and is now on one of his political rants. The point of mankind’s blowing up stuff with missiles is we want to explore outer space, a conclusion I don’t have the foggiest idea how he drew, unless it was by throwing a dart at the dictionary. As stock shots of rockets play, the narrator asks if there are still horrors on Earth. “With each step forward does he [mankind] not take several steps back?” When we get together, do not opposites attract? Wait, sorry. He continues: “This, then, is the story of the price of progress, to a little nation of people.” That itself is hilarious now, as Japan is one of the most technologically advanced country on the planet. I guess they are just fueling their own Godzillas. Also, I wonder how much forwards/backwards you have to go to get to the point where giant freaking dinosaurs are shooting nuclear breath at your cities. Probably pretty far back.
The American credits begin, utilizing shots from later in the film of things exploding, to whet your appetite for destruction. The Japanese credits are more somber, a Godzilla roar accompanies the title, and some Akira Ifukube score starts playing over shots of nothing but credits. We then join our hero, Tsukioka, flying a plane over the Pacific. The US version has Tsukioka narrating everything from now on, but the Japanese version has dead silence for 99% of the scenes. Therefore, we will go with the American narration to help guide us along, as sometimes Tsukioka will explain things that are completely wrong that we can point out. The American distributors figured we don’t want to be subjected to long sections of silence, but as the main characters spend most of their time looking out of plans at the water in silence, so no wonder they tried to add stuff. Right now, Tsukioka’s explaining about the local fishing company, with the subtext that companies are good. Stock shots of fishing boats accompany his speech. Tsukioka’s job is to fly as a scout for a fishing company, locating schools of fish in the ocean. He manages to find a bunch, and radios in the location. The radio girl is Hidemi, his sweetheart, and they exchange some flirtations. The fellow radio operator girl is jealous of Hidemi, and wants a boyfriend also. The girls banter, and at one point the other girl tells Hidemi “Kiss me again, I’m all yours.” Which is just loaded with subtext. In Japan, they have a different conversation, with Hidemi telling the other girl “Patience, patience, you will get lucky soon.” The other girl replies “Until then, tell me everything!” and Hidemi responds “You can put money on it!” Japanese Hidemi is far more gossipy than her American-dubbed self.
Another guy is out flyng scout for the fishing fleet, his name is Kobayashi, and the Americans decided to dub him in the voice that sounds like Lenny from Of Mice and Men, or you might know the Abominable Snowman from Looney Toons better. Kobayashi lives up to this slow reputation by having engine trouble and being forced to land in the ocean. Luckily, he is in a seaplane that can make water landings. Tsukioka is radioed and he goes to search for his friend, near Iwato Island. The US version gives us lots of narration to tell us Tsukioka is concerned. Tsukoka spots Kobayashi’s plane near the island, and lands himself. The US version just cuts out the whole landing sequence, but Japan is dedicated to showing us every last second of a search and rescue operation. Tsukioka joins Kobayashi on the island, finding out he’s okay. The next part of the conversation varies between versions, so here they are. In America, Tsukioka tells Kobayashi that the radio girls were worried, and that he should buy them a present for helping Tsukioka find him. Kobayashi responds with “Trying to please a woman is like swimming the ocean.” In Japan, Tsukioka tells Kobayashi the girls are worried, and then Kobayashi says “Those crazy ladies were worried about me?” Which one is more offensive? You make the call!!
Godzilla yells! We here Godzilla roar, the sound of Big G is a most welcome sound. We also hear another roar, of a different monster. By now the two main characters are beginning to get frightened, especially when a hand puppet of Godzilla pokes his head around the corner! The two run into a crevice, as it become obvious that Godzilla is fighting someone. This someone is monster #2, Anguirus. Now, we must take a bit to chastise the American distributors again. You see, they decided that Godzilla shouldn’t sound like Godzilla, and should only make Anguirus sounds. But Anguirus would also only make Anguirus sounds. So except for one small bit here, and one slipup later, both monsters will be speaking in Anguirus roars. That just plain sucks. The monsters are too busy fighting to notice the puny humans, and their under cranked footage is played at normal speed, making them look like some sort of quick martial artists. In the Japanese version, Tsukioka quickly identifies Godzilla, but in America neither know what either monster is. The two rush to the working plane and fly directly to Osaka and the police headquarters.
Police in Japan apparently believe whenever some random dude walks in with stories of giant monsters, so they set up a conference for some brainstorming on the problem. Such luminaries as Dr. Yamane from the previous film, and Dr. Japanese Colonel Sanders are brought in to talk with Tsukioka and Kobayashi. They show the pair many children’s dinosaur books, until one of them finds the Anguilosaurus photo (drawing) to identify Monster Number 2. This makes Dr. Japanese Colonel Sanders upset. Why? He’s probably upset because of all the inaccurate science that will happen in the next few minutes. As this is long, we will stick with the American version for now, and then summarize the Japanese version afterwards, with all of its different errors.
American version: Dr. Japanese Colonel Sanders says “Horrors in the world of science are part of nature’s plan!” What the ever loving blue-eyed Thing? He continues: “One of these animals is a Gigantis born millions of years ago.” The Gigantis is what the American film will call Godzilla (never using the term Godzilla) except when the film messes up and just calls Anguirus Gigantis or vice versa. Dr. Japanese Colonel Sanders then tells us a new book came out “and we learned so much. And it was called Anguillosaurus, Killer of the Living.” Is this a book of the latest SciFi Channel movie? Dr. Japanese Colonel Sanders actually reads to us from the book, as the gripping cinematic drama of someone reading to other people has been repeated numerous times in other films as homage to this scene. Highlights from the reading include “Anguillosaurus, a monster commonly known as the Anguirus,” and “Murderers. Original plundering murderers who killed everything in their way.” Somehow I doubt that is accepted scientific writing style. “Somewhere, but it is not known when, these creatures may come alive after years of hibernation due to radioactive fallout. He has brains in several parts of his body, including the head, abdomen, and chest. He is a member of the Anguirus family of fire monsters and can wipe out the human race.” This is the greatest scientific book I have ever heard quotes from! If only Steven Jay Gould or Richard Dawkins could create prose as beautiful as this! A book with no organization, it just spouts random “facts” without order, all while managing to declare its subject to worst possible creatures in existence.
Dr. Yamane then will tell us about the “Gigantis monster of the Anguirus family.” Yes, there are only two monsters in this film that are completely distinct, but the American dubbers had trouble telling them apart! Dr. Yamane tells everyone that there is no way to stop Gigantis, and everyone gets depressed. He brings along a clip of the original Gigantis (Godzilla) destroying Tokyo from the previous film, as if none of the military men or police would have any memory of the incident. But what happens next is something the American distributors do to make this one of the worst segments, not in G-history, not in cinematic history, but in anti-scientific war crimes history! Before the reuse of shots from the original film, the distributors added a section explaining the origins of the Fire Monsters, which has absolutely ZERO scientifically correct statements in it. And it’s not stuff that was found out to be wrong in the past 50 years, this stuff was known to be wrong back when we were scratching our butts in trees. Remember those terrible short films from the 1950’s on every subject that were dry and often wrong? This is the mother of those films. It makes the previous incorrect statements from the book look like peer-reviewed articles in Science or Nature. In fact, I would go so far to say that this film is the real monster of the picture.
Let’s meet this “film.”
The “film” starts with the formation of the world, as all films that are supposed to explain Gigantis (Godzilla) attacking Tokyo would. This is recreated on screen by some prop guy waving a sparkler around in a smoke-filled room. The narrator explains that boiling pools created life that needed oxygen and nitrogen. Also, life was a cute little dinosaur puppet that pokes its head out from the dry ice-filled water onscreen now. The narrator informs us “These creatures were born out of fiery matter. Their very existence was based upon the element of fire. They breathed fire, They survived in fire. Fire was a part of their organic makeup.” Also, at this point the cute dinosaur sock puppet has been replaced with a cute frog sock puppet. Then the sun shoots radiation at the Earth and everything dried up, vegetation died, and the prehistoric monsters went underground and hibernated. Also, temperature rises caused volcanoes. Then the weather became cooler, and then hot again. It’s like An Inconvenient Game of Pong. The movie continues, informing us that ice melted and oceans turned, then the temperature went moderate. Again, what in the heck does this have to do with Godzilla? Continuing: Prehistoric monsters came out of hiding places. Some stock images of stop motion brontosaurs fighting is shown. Following that, a terrible Dimetrodon puppet is projected and flops around; and then a giant Gila monster and iguana are also displayed, from what looks like an old Bert I. Gordon movie. “They were conditioned to the horrible ordeal of fire, and became near indestructible. They lashed back at nature!” So humans are the only ones who try to kick nature’s sorry behind, these Fire Monsters also want to get in on our game. Well, screw them!! Shots of guys wearing bad T-Rex costumes and walking around are shown next, and then now it’s man’s fault. “Man filled the air with radiation. The result was the first: Anguirus!” Except the monster shown is Godzilla! I mean Gigantis! I mean, it is Godzilla, and this whole thing was pointless! Plus, Dr. Yamane then tells us that Gigantis is “A member of the Anguirus family.” Then the whole highlight real of Godzilla attacking Tokyo plays, allowing some more padding of the running time, while Dr. Yamane narrating explains how awesome Gigantis is and we are powerless before him. The movie then mercifully ends.
What is wrong: Fire is not an element. Dinosaurs are not made of fire. Dinosaurs did not go to sleep when the Earth’s temperature dropped. Dinosaurs did not then wake up, and then go to sleep again. Dinosaurs did not attack nature. Radiation does not wake up dinosaurs.
Japanese version: Ignore all that crap before Godzilla shows up on screen. Then just watch Godzilla tear up Tokyo from the previous film with no sound. Dull is not a word to use lightly, but can be applied abundantly here.
Now we are together again, and the conference is back to the round table. Dr. Yamane explains that the oxygen destroyer is no more, so they now have no weapon against Gigantis. Dr. Yamane does mention the monsters are sensitive to light, they hate it and head toward it, thus dropping flares from planes might lead them away from shores. The US version just calls them flares, but the Japanese version obsesses on this, coming up with a “light bomb” that will be used against Godzilla. “Our fate is no longer in the lap of science, but in the lap of the gods” — Dr. Yamane.
The next day, Hidemi and Tsukioka are glum. She says he’s brave, and he says “Banana oil”, which is American dubbed language for “Get me some violent porn comics!” Jets fly overhead, but the American version drowns out the original score with its own stock music. The jets are searching for the monsters. The round table of Dr. Japanese Colonel Sanders, General Head-leaned-back, General who looks like Tojo, and two other Generals are helping organize the search. Men who are dubbed by George Takei take radio transmissions of the spotters, helping to pinpoint the monsters’ whereabouts. Also, it’s a good chance to use stock footage to fill up time. Why post-war Japan has so many military vehicles is not explained. The English printed Osaka Times newspaper (you guessed right that this is the American version) gives us the same news that narrator Tsukioka also gives us, that they are looking for the monsters. Also, Japan still has a submarine fleet. Japan is better armed now than in 1941! This monster mobilization is just an excuse to bomb Pearl Harbor again. The radio tells people they should evacuate Osaka, but also tells them that Gigantis will probably bypass Osaka. So everyone, including the main characters Tsukioka and Hidemi, go out for a night on the town. The distributors leave in the Japanese singing in the nightclub, which is a surprising and nice touch. Oddly enough, the song has a similar tune to the Chipmunk’s classic Christmas song. Before the singer can say she wants a hula-hoop, good old Gigantis has to go wade nearby to trash Osaka. Monsters just can’t resist the siren song of Japanese cities.
Gigantis is in the harbor, and vehicles get into position as Tsukioka narrates what we’re seeing onscreen, in case we’ve been struck by sudden blindness. They spot Gigantis, who is still roaring with Anguirus’s voice. Flares are dropped as the city shuts down its lights (more shots of this are in the Japanese than American versions, if I am not mistaken) and it looks like Gigantis is distracted enough by the pretty flare lights to start wandering away from the harbor back to sea. Also, Gigantis actually makes a Godzilla noise at one point in this scene; the American dubbers missed a spot!
Tsukioka and Hidemi drive to her father’s place, but Kobayashi tells them that Hidemi’s father wants the two men with him at work. In Osaka. Which is being attacked by a giant monster. Only Japan would have people this loyal to the boss, as both men head back into harms way, leaving Hidemi alone. Now, to complicate things, we have a truck full of prisoners that are being evacuated. Japan transports its prisoners unrestrained, and with armed guards in the back of the truck. This is ridiculously stupid, and the prisoners take full advantage, knocking out the guards in the back, as one prisoner blocks the view of the drivers. They ask about the noise, and in America, the prisoner responds that a prisoner was making a ruckus but got stopped, while in Japan the prisoner tells the driver that a guard is sick. Either way, the prisoners escape out of the back of the truck, and the numerous guards up in the front of the truck (there must be like 5 of them, it is a clown prison car!) get out and just start shooting the prisoners in the back. Some of them are armed, and fight back, and three of them manage to escape due to their footage being speed up. These guys are like the Three Stooges, except they suck. Tsukioka and Kobayashi manage to be driving by at this time, and three police officers get a ride from them to chase a truck the Three Stooges stole. The prisoner idiots manage to crash their stolen truck into an oil refinery, starting a huge fire that can be seen offshore, causing Gigantis to see the light, get enraged, and head toward shore. Prisoners! I shake my fist at you!
Gigantis comes ashore, and missile launchers, tanks, and jets attack. Gigantis blows some of the jets out of the sky, and some nice miniatures are destroyed on this day. Just then, Anguirus also strolls ashore. The two monsters then just ignore the humans, and proceed to try to beat the crap out of each other. The fish factory explodes, because the fish were made out of gasoline or something. More likely they really produced napalm for Japan’s sneak attack on the US that was supposed to happen the next year, only it got interrupted by Godzilla and pals. Thank you, Godzilla! The town burns as Hidemi watches from a distance, and her dad the boss watches his company burn while on the roof of some random building.
Monster fight! These monsters sure like to fight! The sped up footage makes them look enthusiastic about battling it out. Oh, the three prisoners somehow managed to get out of the gigantic oil fire, only to escape into the subway, which is then flooded. I guess they are finally dead, as we never see them again. No tears shed here. The fight goes on, near the castle that gets destroyed in every other Godzilla film. As missiles, tanks, and jets are ineffective, a bunch of cops sneak up on the monsters with guns drawn. Brilliant plan! Next, we shall attack them with paper airplanes and rocks! The temple gets trashed as the monsters ram into it, this we know thanks to negative scratches on the film trying to represent structural damage. Then the model is destroyed, so all is good. Millions of yen worth of models now lie in ruins, and it is time to end the fight. Gigantis bites Anguirus in the neck, which draws blood. Anguirus falls into the sea, dead, and Gigantis cremates him with a blast of atomic breath.
We are now back to only one monster, and the TV guy tells us that the entire town of Osaka is destroyed, but at least one monster is dead. The next morning, life goes on, as the military loses sight of Gigantis. Hidemi’s father is ready to restart his fishing empire, and they transfer the surviving boats to Hokkaido. A new guy becomes the new partner, and Kobayashi is sent to lead the surveillance for the fishing boats, with Tsukioka to soon follow. Hidemi must stay behind for a bit, to look at the books. Tsukioka teases her, but she responds “All men are like fish in a woman’s net!” There is a serious gender struggle going on with the American dubbers. Relocating to Hokkaido also allows the movie to put in lots of shots of Hokkaido so we’ll be compelled to visit there and spend after tax dollars to fuel the local economy.
Kobayashi flies around, finds some fish, and waves to the boat crew. This sequence takes entirely too long. It’s like the movie restarted! Make with the monster! Hidemi then calls Kobayashi on the radio, telling him that she and Tsukioka are in town now. Kobayashi tells Tsukioka someone wants to meet him, but won’t say who. That night, they go out to eat at a restaurant. Some of Tsukioka’s former air corps buddies are there, as well as his former CO. Alas, these buddies are only former college buddies in the Japanese version, and everyone is calling Kobayashi “bridegroom” for reasons he refuses to explain. No talk of “bridegrooms” here in America, so the movie continues with Kobayashi being coy to Hidemi, who figures out he has a sweetheart now. He won’t show her a picture, of the girl, though. I thought this was because he was really in love with Hidemi or something, but no. Unfortunately, the night out is brought to a screeching halt as a ship has been sunk by Gigantis, so Tsukioka and Kobayashi must go out and search for the monster again. The UN also threatens sanctions against Gigantis or something. The UN always manages to do more in a Godzilla film that it ever does in real life.
Tsukioka is now flying scout looking for Gigantis, and won’t turn back despite his girlfriend’s insistence, because he doesn’t want to be a coward. That would be brave, if there was any history of him being a coward, which there isn’t. Meanwhile, Kobayashi asks Hidemi what presents to get a girl, which almost cemented in my mind that he really liked her (but, again, it’s not true.) Hidemi, being a girl, is happy to suggest things for guys to by her, because this is 1950’s Japan. She suggests handbags and gold rings in America, and handbags, watches, and stockings in Japan. Stockings? Is Japan still going through a sock crisis in 1954? That is why Godzilla attacks, he must destroy socks! Tsukioka spots Gigantis, and radios in. Kobayashi rushes out to join him, and leaves behind his notebook. Hidemi sneaks a peak, and sees the girl he loves, which is some schoolgirl. Yawn. Anyway, the army prepares to attack again.
Gigantis is now just standing around on some iceberg in the middle of the Pacific, and Kobayashi arrives to relieve Tsukioka. Tsukioka has devised an attack plan, which the army will listen to because there aren’t any Japanese children around to give them better advice. The air force is slow to arrive, and Gigantis is starting to wander back to sea, so Kobayashi buzzes Gigantis, distracting him and keeping him ashore. Kobayashi also says “And now you must die!” while he does this, which just sounds hilarious in his dubbed voice. The air force finally gets its act together and shows up, and starts bombing Gigantis. The special plan was just to bomb him, bombs which didn’t work before? Great plan, Custer! Tsukioka is in one of the jets as a copilot, and the bombs are ineffective. Kobayashi dives again for reasons unknown, and Gigantis flames his plane, causing Kobayashi to crash into the mountainside. This causes a small avalanche, giving the shocked Tsukioka the idea to bury Gigantis in ice. The squadron commander orders the attack to begin, but doesn’t explain to the squad to hit the ice! They instinctively know, however, and soon ice is being bombed like the jerk form of water deserves to be! Some ice falls on Gigantis, burying him partially. The jets fly back to reload.
Wave two is ready to go, as Gigantis is trying to dig himself out. Also, gasoline drums are offloaded onshore near the ice by troops, as additional things to explode and cause ice to flow all over Gigantis. Gigantis actually makes a Godzilla noise at this time. Alert the presses!! The men run back to the boat, which then machine guns the barrels, setting them off. The air force drops bombs all over the ice. Ice explodes. Ice collapses. Ice flows. Ice T. Ice Cube. Ice Ice, Baby! Gigantis manages to shoot down several of the jets, and they finish him off, burying him in ice. Tsukioka remembers his friend Kobayashi, then delivers the parting narration: “A mountain of ice where Gigantis would be buried forever!”
Yeah, until 1963’s King Kong vs. Godzilla! Thus, we end.
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Rated 5/10 (Frog dude, the fight, the plane, the castle, the dimetrodon)
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