WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS is a Japanese kaiju film released in 1966, directed by Ishiro Honda and produced by Toho Studios. It is a sequel to the 1965 film FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD and features two giant creatures known as Gargantuas, which wreak havoc on Tokyo and its surroundings. As a beloved cult classic, the movie has left a lasting impact on fans of the Kaiju genre and continues to be appreciated for its thrilling monster battles and unique narrative.
The story begins when a research lab in the Japanese countryside is attacked by a green, humanoid monster named Gaira. The creature escapes into the sea, leaving the scientists bewildered and fearful. Soon after, another, more benevolent creature known as Sanda emerges, and it becomes clear that the two Gargantuas are biological siblings.
Sanda is raised in captivity, being cared for by human scientists and developing a bond with the human world. On the other hand, Gaira, who also survived from the original Frankenstein’s heart cells, becomes more aggressive and begins to terrorize Tokyo and its inhabitants. As Gaira’s destructive behavior escalates, a scientific investigation led by Dr. Paul Stewart (played by Russ Tamblyn) and Dr. Yuzo Majida (played by Kumi Mizuno) commences to understand the Gargantuas’ origins and find a way to stop them.
One of the highlights of WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS is the impressive monster designs and special effects, characteristic of Toho’s Kaiju films. The filmmakers managed to make Sanda and Gaira distinct from each other, both in appearance and personality. Sanda, the brown Gargantua, comes across as the more sympathetic and human-friendly creature, while Gaira, the green Gargantua, represents unbridled aggression and chaos. The destruction sequences, though dated by modern standards, remain thrilling and enjoyable for fans of classic Kaiju movies.
Beyond the thrilling monster battles, WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS presents deeper themes and moral dilemmas. The film explores the nature vs. nurture debate as it showcases how the upbringing and environment shape the Gargantuas’ behavior. Sanda’s connection with humans symbolizes the potential for coexistence between mankind and nature, whereas Gaira’s destructive tendencies emphasize the consequences of unchecked aggression and the repercussions of scientific experiments gone wrong.
The performances of the human characters, while adequate for the genre, often take a backseat to the monster-centric plot. Russ Tamblyn and Kumi Mizuno deliver decent performances as the scientists leading the investigation. However, it’s the Gargantuas themselves who steal the show, leaving a lasting impression on viewers.
WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS has become a beloved cult classic in the Kaiju genre, alongside other Toho productions like Godzilla. Its influence can be seen in subsequent films and media that feature giant monsters battling it out in urban environments. Even decades after its release, the film continues to be fondly remembered by fans of classic Kaiju movies and remains a staple of monster cinema.
WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS stands as a testament to the enduring appeal of Kaiju films. With its thrilling monster battles, intriguing moral dilemmas, and captivating special effects (for its time), the movie has secured a lasting place in cinema history. Though the human characters may not be as memorable as the Gargantuas themselves, it is the colossal creatures that remain etched in the minds of viewers. As a beloved cult classic, War of the Gargantuas remains a must-watch for Kaiju enthusiasts and a delightful trip down memory lane for fans of classic monster cinema.
Unfortunately, as of this writing, this amazing film is not available in the United States on DVD or Blu-ray. In 2008 this movie was released as a double-feature with RODAN, but this is now out-of-print and demands collectors’ prices. Though this is a great set, I am hoping that in the near future a Blu-ray will be released.