Thursday, May 8, 2008
THE WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS (1966)
Tsuburaya directs Haruo Nakajima as Gaira, 1966.
THE WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS
Furankenshutain-no Kaiju Sanda tai Gaira (Toho, 1966), 88 minutes
Director ISHIRO HONDA • Director of Visual Effects EIJI TSUBURAYA
One of the most beloved of Toho's non-Godzilla kaiju eiga, THE WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS (Japanese title "Frankenstein's Monsters: Sanda vs. Gaira") was produced as a direct sequel to FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD (1965), but this connection was obscured in the US version by co-producer Henry G. Saperstein. His reasoning was that the characters did not look enough like the Giant Frankenstein from the previous film — the four-year gap between the release of FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD and THE WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS in the States, may be a better (and more logical) explanation.
The first draft of Mabuchi's screenplay featured the same trio of characters from the previous film, "James Bowen" (Nick Adams) "Sueko Togami" (Kumi Mizuno) and "Yuzo Kawaji" (Tadao Takashima), but for unknown reasons, Nick Adams was not available, and so the characters' names were changed and the parts recast, with Kumi Mizuno (MATANGO) being the holdover (as "Akemi Togawa"). Kenji Sahara, the star of RODAN (1956) and THE MYSTERIANS (1957) replaced Takashima (as "Yuzo Mamiya") and Adams was supplanted by Russ Tamblyn (THE HAUNTING) as "Paul Stewart." The rest of the cast is rounded out with the usual stable of character actors, including Jun Tazaki (ATRAGON), Yoshifumi Tajima (MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA), and Ren Yamamoto (GODZILLA).
Prominently featured in the film are the Self-Defense Forces' mobile Maser Cannons, one of the more evocative and iconic creations in the genre — a tradition that started with the Katusha Rocket Tanks in GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN (1955), the Markalites in THE MYSTERIANS, and the Atomic Heat Ray Cannons in BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE (1959) and MOTHRA (1961). The principal behind the weapon was a concentrated microwave beam, used to disrupt the cellular structure of its targets. Designed by Mutsumi Toyoshima (the unsung genius behind some of Toho's famous "mecha"), the Maser Cannons were built upon the A-Cycle Light Ray Cannons previously featured in MONSTER ZERO (1965). The Maser Cannons were also featured in GODZILLA VS. GIGAN (1972), GODZILLA VS. MEGALON (1973), and while offshoots and variants appeared in the Godzilla films of the 1990s, the originals were revived for GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA (2002) and GODZILLA: TOKYO SOS (2003).
Another element that has made the film memorable was the Gargantuas themselves and the striking use of the monster suit actors' own eyes, emphasizing the physical performances of Haruo Nakajima (as Gaira, the Green Gargantua) and Hiroshi Sekita (as Sanda, the Brown Gargantua), and allowing for a realistic and unsettling effect. This element of realism is one of the contributing factors in the film's rabid cult following on both sides of the Pacific, coupled with Tsuburaya's highly detailed studio and outdoor miniature sets (roughly 1/10 scale) which achieve a greater illusion of reality — and the furious fight to the death between the monsters — making this one of Tsuburaya's best monster films. Unfortunately, Honda's original concepts concerning the Gargantuas' growth from another's cells (adding a threat of more such creatures), and the original ending, having the undersea volcano engulfing and destroying Tokyo in flaming magma (an ironic twist that Honda wanted to punctuate the ending with), were cut from the final script. Honda later stated that shooting these destruction scenes would have run the film well over budget.
There were a number of editorial changes made between the Japanese and American versions of the film that are worthy of spotlighting: Tamblyn was given more scenes for the US version, including those only featuring Japanese cast members in the original, emphasizing his central importance in the narrative (Tamblyn was also asked to loop his dialogue to remove any references to "Frankenstein"). S. Richard Krown replaced Ifukube's repetitious military march with more suspenseful stock library music cues (including cues cribbed from MONSTER ZERO), which actually help the scenes in question. And there are additional visual effects scenes, unused in the Japanese version, which were employed to great effect, and help to make the US version four minutes longer than the Japanese. Honda told the late Guy Tucker (in his 1996 book, "Age of the Gods"), "Actually, I find [the film] a little boring. I'm glad it's popular, but [I feel that it] doesn't really have much heart."
Executive Producer TOMOYUKI TANAKA and KENICHIRO TSUNODA Screenplay KAORU MABUCHI and ISHIRO HONDA Production Design TAKEO KITA Cinematography HAJIME KOIZUMI Film Editor RYOHEI FUJII Music AKIRA IFUKUBE Visual Effects Production Design YASUYUKI INOUE Monster Design TOHRU NARITA Visual Effects Photography SADAMASA ARIKAWA and SOKEI TOMIOKA [US Version]: Producers HENRY G. SAPERSTEIN and REUBEN BERCOVITCH Original Story RUBEN BERCOVITCH Dialogue Supervisor RILEY JACKSON Film Editor FREDERIC KNUDTSON Production Supervisor S. RICHARD KROWN
Starring RUSS TAMBLYN (Dr. Paul Stewart) KENJI SAHARA (Dr. Yuzo Mamiya) KUMI MIZUNO (Dr. Akemi Togawa) JUN TAZAKI (Colonel Hashimoto) NOBUO NAKAMURA (Professor Kita) YOSHIFUMI TAJIMA (Hirai, Maritime Safety Agency)) NIDAO KIRINO (Lieutenant Kazama) REN YAMAMOTO (Saburo Kameda) and KIP HAMILTON (Nightclub Singer)