Roach Infested

Alien cockroaches from outer space leave their polluted planet, head to Earth, and build a children’s theme park. That’s kooky material, even by 1970s Godzilla standards.

Godzilla vs Gigan embraces the weird. It’s small, contained, and lacking, if with some purpose. It’s a story of a manga artist hunting for work; post-WWII, industrialized society left artisans scrambling. Godzilla vs Gigan brings parable to their level, a generation that feels ostracized and lost, decades before eastern art broke through to the west.

During the Vietnam war, this generation protested Japan’s US support. Therein come Godzilla vs Gigan’s space cockroaches. They speak of permanent peace; the kids see through that. The villains represent the controlling government, getting involved under the guise that a win will settle all conflict. For the cockroaches, that’s their assumption too – obliterate Earth, and remnants will bring things to calm.

Outlandish fits, but Godzilla vs Gigan gives Japan’s beatniks a platform

In terms of protest films, Godzilla vs Gigan is among the wonkiest. These characters – a corn cob-eating hippie, the manga artist, his black belt girlfriend – save the planet, with Godzilla’s support. Outlandish fits, but Godzilla vs Gigan gives Japan’s beatniks a platform. Like Godzilla vs Hedorah, there’s a visible shift away from traditional values. Both films want to celebrate identity, no matter how weird that seemed – or still does.

Godzilla isn’t anything other than a hero now. Rather than feared, people cheer when he arrives. No longer does the nuclear past seem relevant. In 1966, Japan opened their first nuclear power plant. For this protest generation, that was their experience with radiation. And thus, this was their Godzilla.

The end result is embarrassingly threadbare though. New monster Gigan pairs with Ghidorah, if only so Toho could kill time with Ghidorah: The Three Headed Monster stock footage. Never mind the constantly changing day/night cycle between old and new scenes. The Godzilla suit itself, a leftover since Destroy All Monsters, visibly loses pieces during the fights. His partner Angilas looks as if paint was splashed onto the suit’s face haphazardly to hide rot.

Those quirks aside, Godzilla vs Gigan composes an elaborate oil refinery battle. Reused Akira Ifukube themes add a grandiosity the visuals alone cannot convey. And, there’s a lot to take in as the last act is almost entirely made from a bloody, dynamic fight. That makes for shoddy, if socially cognizant sci-fi that finds the young needing to cope with decisions made by their elders.

Video

Released to Blu-ray prior by Kraken Releasing, Criterion’s disc changes little. Criterion brings over the same master, marginally expanded vertically, but also revealing editing splices from the release print used as the source. Intact grain cleanly resolves, managed well even as smoke and dust become the aesthetic.

Moderate definition brings texture in small bursts. The best results from monster close-ups, for better and worse. It’s readily apparent how tattered the old suits are. Wide shots bring enough sharpness to appreciate miniature work. A softer cinematography style prevents hardened detail in close.

The winner overall is color, vivid and naturally warm. Explosions flare up with excellent intensity. Gigan’s green breaks free of dreary backdrops, and even Ghidorah’s golden scales (aged and dirty as they are) reflect well. Plus, both night and day bring depth. Pleasing contrast helps lift lesser black levels.

Audio

Japanese only DTS-HD struggles in presenting Ifukube’s themes. Highs warp or strain at their peaks. That’s more likely on the source, utilizing already aged stock materials. Add on a few decades, and Godzilla vs Gigan plays what it can, sounding as if reflected from a can.

Its all in balance at least. Action does well to keep itself clean. Monster roars, explosions, and other sounds equalize.

Extras

Nothing.

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Godzilla vs Gigan
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An utterly goofy monster movie, Godzilla vs Gigan gives the series to a new generation and turns into a distinctive protest film.

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