War of the Gargantuas | Varied Celluloid

War of the Gargantuas

Posted by Josh Samford On September - 10 - 2010
The Plot: When a ship is attacked off the coast of Japan, one man is left to tell of what he saw. He claims that on the night his ship was destroyed, he saw a giant octopus like creature arise from the belly of the ocean. Although that in itself is weird, it gets even more strange! After the octopus arrived, a giant Frankenstein monster popped out of the water as well! The Frankenstein beast destroyed the octopus but then turned his eyes toward the ship. As this man and his crew escaped, Frankenstein began to chase after them and he proceeded to eat the remaining crew members fleeing for their life. We skip forward as the naval officers call on the help of Dr. Stewart, a western doctor based in Japan who helped create a Frankenstein-like creature. His monkey-like Frankenstein however was thought to have escaped to the mountains and could never have survived underneath the ocean. As the doctor goes in search of his Frankenstein, his young apprentice investigates this ocean creature. As it turns out, there are now two Frankenstein creatures! It seems that whenever this monkey-like Frankenstein loses a piece of his DNA through an attack, that piece of fur/flesh can grow into another beast! Now it seems Dr. Stewart and his crew will have to figure out a way to destroy this monster!




The Review
Although this essentially goes without saying, there are some very simple reasons that I found myself drawn to War of the Gargantuas. None of these reasons are particularly “smart” or “intellectual“, but do you really expect that from me? War of the Gargantuas is a Kaiju movie (you know, big rubber suit monster movies such as Godzilla, Mothra or Rodan) about a giant Frankenstein. Not only ONE giant Frankenstein either, we are talking about TWO very large monkey looking Frankenstein monsters. Like I said, it may not be the most intelligent way to research your cinematic diet but I’ll tell you this much, it is effective! Not only did I get my giant Monkeystein monsters, but I discovered a well made and completely fun piece of cinematic weirdness! War of the Gargantuas is actually a sequel to the equally as obscure Kaiju classic Frankenstein Conquers the World and although I was wary of watching the sequel first, believe me, structure-wise you aren’t going to miss much.

Directed by famed monster-creator Ishiro Honda, who is best known for being the man who gave the world Godzilla, the movie is actually very strong. The reason that this may be is because the filmmakers at no point stop to ever wonder whether this project is as “silly” as it probably seemed. The drop dead serious demeanor that the film takes aim at the subject matter actually somehow manages to work. Where you might think this attitude would lead to many unintentional laughs throughout, and granted that may be the response from some viewers, instead I found myself thoroughly drawn into the movie. There are even some relatively creepy moments throughout. Honda really handles the darkness and flashes of light very well and makes the best of his budget, as the movie simply feels enormous. I know that sounds rather ridiculous when you are talking about a movie with giants attacking Tokyo, but believe me, there are some audacious moves made in this picture.

Along with that large scope, the pacing for War of the Gargantuas is utterly ridiculous! The movie starts off with an immediate jump into the action, as we see a gigantic octopus monster being tackled and beaten by the water based Frankenstein monster. Literally, Frankenstein is in action within the first four minutes of the films running time. After that, the movie takes us to the peaks of Mt. Fuji and to the middle of the ocean. The film simply runs through every obstacle, jumping from topic to topic and situation to situation. This is probably the best aspect of the movie, as it adds to the general excitement that the film manages to create. There are bizarre moments throughout, such as a song and dance routine performed by a Western woman who is immediately picked up by Monkeystein and then randomly dropped to the concrete. I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a reference here to King Kong, but if there was I couldn’t make the connections.

There are a lot of really fun moments like that throughout, including a sequence where we see the earth-based Frankenstein as a young child in which he closely resembles Chaka from Land of the Lost… only without the decent makeup effects. In truth, the gigantic monster Frankenstein’s suit looked far more plausible than this baby Frankenstein creature. Another classic moment shows a group of fishermen out on the sea when one of the men looks overboard and sees the ocean-based Frankenstein staring and waving at him from under the water. Despite it seeming impossible that a body of water could be so clear that one could see that far under the water in order to make out the details of Frankenstein’s body, the shot is effectively creepy to say the least. Just another of a myriad of moments that simply shouldn’t work as well as they do!

A great deal of this success should probably be attributed to the score, as provided by Akira Ifukube. Ifukube is a highly influential film composer who had nearly three hundred credits to his name for his soundtrack work. He is probably best known for his work within the Godzilla franchise, but he also contributed music for the Zatoichi series, Chusingura, Battle in Outer Space and so many other films! The soundtrack here is actually very traditional in terms of the Japanese film industry. If you were to build a time capsule of seventies-era Japanese film sounds, you could throw in the theme to War of the Gargantuas right next to the theme to Battles Without Honor or Humanity and you probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference unless you are a big fan of either movie. It has that very jazzy influence, but with the whirring screams of random saxophone playing. It actually gives the movie a very epic scope due to how big the sound is at it plays throughout. You add the massive number of sets and the extreme pace, and you have one very BIG Kaiju movie!


The Conclusion
I haven’t mentioned it so far, but if I have to fault the movie in one area it would be the actual conclusion. Where the pacing is lightning fast and the scope is so massive, the ending for me felt like a bit of a let down. The way in which the world is saved (and it shouldn’t be a spoiler, did you really expect the world to just explode or something?) seemed a bit rushed, which is unfortunate. Also, if you go into this with the wrong expectations you may walk away a bit disappointed. This isn’t a laugh-a-minute piece of bad cinema. It’s far too well made for that and although there are some pretty humorous moments (“It was…. FRANKENSTEIN!”) this one is a rather engaging cinematic oddity. It’s worth searching out and many consider it to be one of the very best of the genre, but overall I feel as if I have seen better. I give it a three out of five, but it was close to getting a four up until that finale.



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Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.

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