The War of the Gargantuas
The War of the Gargantuas (フランケンシュタインの怪獣 サンダ対ガイラ, Furankenshutain no Kaijū: Sanda tai Gaira, lit. Frankenstein's Monsters: Sanda vs. Gaira) is a 1966 kaiju film directed by Ishirō Honda, co-written by Honda and Takeshi Kimura, produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka and Kenichiro Tsunoda, with special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya. A sequel to Frankenstein Conquers the World, the film was a Japanese-American co-production; it was the third and final collaboration between Toho and Henry G. Saperstein. The film stars Russ Tamblyn, Kumi Mizuno, Kenji Sahara, with Yû Sekida as Sanda and Haruo Nakajima as Gaira. In the film, scientists investigate the sudden appearance of two giant hairy humanoid monsters that culminates into a battle in Tokyo.
|The War of the Gargantuas|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Ishirō Honda|
|Music by||Akira Ifukube|
|Edited by||Ryohei Fujii|
|Distributed by||Toho (Japan)|
Maron Films (United States)
The War of the Gargantuas was released in Japan on July 31, 1966 and was given a theatrical release in the United States on July 29, 1970 by Maron Films, on a double-bill with Monster Zero. Since its release, the film has been regarded as a cult classic, drawing admiration from artists such as Brad Pitt, Quentin Tarantino, Guillermo del Toro, and Tim Burton.
During a rainy night, a fishing boat is attacked by a giant octopus. The octopus is then attacked by a giant, green-haired humanoid monster. After defeating the octopus, the green monster then attacks the boat. A survivor is recovered, who reveals to doctors and police that Frankenstein attacked his boat and ate the crew. The press picks up the story and interviews Dr. Paul Stewart and his assistant, Dr. Akemi Togawa, who once had a baby Frankenstein in their possession for study five years prior. Stewart and Akemi dispel the idea that the attack was caused by their Frankenstein because he was friendly in their care. Stewart postulates that his Frankenstein wouldn't attack nor eat people, nor would he live in the ocean as he was found in the mountains and likely died after he escaped.
Another boat is attacked and villagers see the green Frankenstein off the coast at the same time that a mountain guide reports seeing Frankenstein in the Japanese Alps. Stewart and Akemi investigate the mountains and find giant footprints in the snow. Their colleague, Dr. Majida, collects tissue samples at the fishing village. The green Frankenstein attacks Haneda Airport, eats a woman, and returns to the sea after the clouds clear. Stewart and Akemi leave for Tokyo for a meeting with the military to discuss plans to kill the monster. Majida deduces that the green Frankenstein is sensitive to light. The green Frankenstein briefly appears in Tokyo but is driven away by bright lights. It retreats to the mountains where the military counterattacks it. Then a second Frankenstein, taller and brown in appearance, appears and comes to the green Frankenstein's aid, helping it escape.
Stewart and Akemi conclude that the brown Frankenstein is their former subject. To distinguish the monsters, the military designate the green and brown Frankensteins as Gaira and Sanda. After collecting and examining tissue samples from both monsters, Stewart concludes that Gaira is Sanda's clone. He theorizes that a piece of Sanda's tissue made its way out to sea, where it survived off plankton and evolved into Gaira. During a hiking trip, Stewart, Akemi, and several hikers run away from Gaira. Akemi falls off a ledge but Sanda saves her in time, injuring his leg in the process. Stewart and Akemi try to convince the military that only Gaira should be killed while Sanda should be spared, but the army ignores their pleas, unwilling to risk letting either monster live. After discovering that Gaira devoured people, Sanda attacks him. Gaira escapes with Sanda pursuing and heads towards Tokyo, no longer deterred by the city lights as they alert him to the presence of food.
During the evacuation, Akemi and Stewart vow to save Sanda but run into Gaira instead. Sanda stops Gaira from devouring Akemi and Stewart carries her to safety. Sanda tries to plead with Gaira, but the green monster engages Sanda in battle. Stewart tries to convince the military to give Sanda time to defeat Gaira but fails. However, the military aides Sanda as his battle with Gaira moves from Tokyo to Tokyo Bay and further out to sea. As the military drops bombs around the battling Frankensteins, an underwater volcano suddenly erupts, swallowing both monsters as they are locked in combat. Majida informs Stewart and Akemi that Sanda and Gaira's demise can't be confirmed, but nothing could have survived the eruption.
The War of the Gargantuas was the third and final co-production collaboration between Toho and Henry G. Saperstein's UPA. Towards the end of 1965, Toho informed director Ishirō Honda that his director's contract would not be renewed and Iwao Mori told him that he would need to speak with producer Tomoyuki Tanaka about each assignment. Seiji Tani, Honda's new chief assistant, spoke about actor Russ Tamblyn and Honda not agreeing on set, with Tamblyn often doing the exact opposite of what Honda instructed, Tani stated: "Honda-san had to hold back and bear so much during that one. [Russ Tamblyn] was such an asshole" Tamblyn felt his lines in the film were so bad that he improvised them all. It was co-producer Saperstein's choice to replace Nick Adams with Tamblyn, later stating, "Tamblyn was a royal pain in the ass".
The film was originally announced as The Frankenstein Brothers, then The Two Frankensteins, Frankenstein vs. Frankenstein, Frankenstein's Decisive Battle, and Frankenstein's Fight during script writing processes. The film was originally intended as a sequel to Frankenstein Conquers the World, with Honda biographers Ryfle and Godziszewski noting that the continuity between the two films was "somewhat fuzzy". The film was created quickly, with writer Kimura's final draft on the screenplay being dated 23 April 1966. Honda shot the film's dramatic footage between May 9 and June 4 with Tsuburaya's special effects crew finishing in mid-July. The American version had Honda shoot additional scenes and UPA had Toho release the negatives, outtakes and other footage such as sound and music elements. Tab Hunter was originally cast as Dr. Stewart, but was replaced by Tamblyn during pre-production.
Toho commissioned an English dub from Frontier Enterprises, a Tokyo-based company, for international territories. Referred to as the "international dub", this version is a direct translation of the Japanese version, keeping references to the monsters as Frankensteins and even having Russ Tamblyn's English dialogue dubbed over by another actor. Toho's international dub remained unreleased until late 2017 when the film and other Godzilla titles appeared on Starz's streaming service after Janus Films and The Criterion Collection obtained the rights to the films.
Co-producer Henry G. Saperstein commissioned a separate English dub from Glen Glenn Sound, a Los Angeles-based company, for the film's American release. This version omits all references to Frankenstein Conquers the World, with the creatures being referred to as "Gargantuas" instead of "Frankensteins". This version also includes additional footage not featured in the Japanese version, making the American version run at 92 minutes. Tamblyn's original dialogue soundtrack got lost during production and he was called back to re-dub his lines for the film's American release. Tamblyn had to work without a script and had to rely on improvising his lines based on the footage he was watching and due to being unable to remember his original lines. Tamblyn's voice was dubbed for the Japanese version.
The film was released theatrically in Japan on July 31, 1966 by Toho. The Glen Glenn Sound English dub received a theatrical release in the United States by Maron Films as The War of the Gargantuas on July 29, 1970, where it was released as a double feature with Monster Zero, which was also dubbed by Glen Glenn Sound. In the United Kingdom, the film was titled Duel of the Gargantuas. The War of the Gargantuas and Monster Zero were intended to be released earlier; however, distributors did not think that either film had potential until 1970, when Saperstein made a deal with Maron Films.
In 2008, Classic Media released a 2-disc DVD of the film as a double feature with Rodan. Both films included their original Japanese version and American English versions, with Rodan presented in its native full-screen scope and The War of the Gargantuas in its original widescreen ratio. This release also features the documentary Bringing Godzilla Down to Size, detailing the history of the genre and tokusatsu techniques of the genre. In 2010, Toho released the film on Blu-ray which includes special features such as an audio commentary by Kumi Mizuno, outtakes, trailers, and behind the scenes photo galleries. In 2017, Janus Films and The Criterion Collection acquired the film, as well as other Godzilla titles, to stream on Starz and FilmStruck.
American actor Brad Pitt had cited The War of the Gargantuas as the film that inspired him to pursue acting. The film inspired parts of Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill: Volume 2, such as a miniature shot of Tokyo made specifically for the film and the fight scene between Uma Thurman and Daryl Hannah, which Tarantino dubbed "War of the Blonde Gargantuas". Tarantino had screened the film for Hannah and Hannah's character uses the word "gargantuan" several times.
In an episode of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated titled "Battle of the Humungonauts", the episode parodies the film by featuring two hairy creatures similar in appearance to Sanda and Gaira, riffing the film's title, and even featuring a cover of Kipp Hamilton's "The Words Get Stuck in My Throat". American film director Tim Burton noted the film was a favorite of his and his daughter's. Mexican film director Guillermo del Toro cited The War of the Gargantuas and its predecessor Frankenstein Conquers the World as two of his top five favorite kaiju films and cited The War of the Gargantuas as an influence on the opening for Pacific Rim. The American band Devo performed a live version of "The Words Get Stuck in My Throat" in 1978. In August 2019, Michael Dougherty, director and co-writer of Godzilla: King of the Monsters, expressed interest in rebooting and adapting the Gargantuas for the MonsterVerse.
- During filming, Russ Tamblyn delivered all of his lines in English and even changed much of his lines without the knowledge nor approval of director Honda. Tamblyn's dialogue was dubbed over by a Japanese voice actor for the film's Japanese release. However, his original dialogue soundtrack was lost and Tamblyn had to re-dub all of his lines for the film's American release. Without a script and unable to remember his original lines, Tamblyn had to improvise his new lines based on the footage he was watching.
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- フランケンシュタインの怪獣 サンダ対ガイラ
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