The War of the Gargantuas
|The War of the Gargantuas|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Ishirō Honda|
|Music by||Akira Ifukube|
|Edited by||Ryohei Fujii|
Maron Films (United States)
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 science fiction kaiju film directed by Ishirō Honda, with special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya. The film stars Russ Tamblyn, Kumi Mizuno, Kenji Sahara, with Yû Sekida as Sanda and Haruo Nakajima as Gaira. The film was a Japanese-American co-production; it was the third and final collaboration between Toho and UPA.
The film is a sequel to the 1965 film Frankenstein Conquers the World and tells the story of two giant, hairy humanoid monsters that were spawned from the discarded cells of Frankenstein's monster from the previous film. A green one raised in the sea named Gaira (ガイラ, from kai, "sea") is violent and savage, while a brown one who resides in the Japanese Alps, named Sanda (サンダ, from san, "mountain") is friendly and docile. The film follows the investigation and military engagements of these creatures until their ultimate confrontation in Tokyo.
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.
As the film opens, a small boat is seen chugging through stormy seas. A giant octopus appears from the ocean and seems bent on killing the sole crew member on deck. Suddenly, the octopus releases the man and retracts its tentacles from the boat. Relieved, the sailor peers out the porthole, only to see Gaira, a large green humanoid creature, fighting the octopus. After easily defeating it, Gaira turns his attention to the boat and sinks it.
When the sailor is recovered from the ocean, he tells his tale of the large gargantua (Frankenstein in the Japanese version) to his doctors, who believe he is in shock and spouting nonsense. The press picks up on the story and interviews Dr. Paul Stewart (Russ Tamblyn) and his female assistant, Akemi Togawa (Kumi Mizuno), who once had a baby gargantua in their possession for study five years prior. Dr. Stewart and Akemi try to dispel the idea that the attack on the boat was caused by the gargantua they knew and studied because it was very gentle while in their care. Stewart postulates that the gargantua he studied would not live in the ocean as it was found in the mountains and probably returned there when it escaped from his laboratory five years ago.
Another boat is attacked and the people of a fishing village see the gargantua off the coast at the same time that a mountain guide reports seeing the gargantua in the Japanese Alps. So, Dr. Stewart and Akemi go to visit the mountains and send their assistant, Dr. Majida (Kenji Sahara), to look at the evidence in the fishing village. Dr. Majida finds tissue stuck to the side of the fishing boat while Dr. Stewart and Akemi find giant footprints in the snow.
In the meantime, Gaira comes ashore and attacks an airport. As he munches on a woman he has pulled from inside a building, the sun appears from behind the clouds. Apparently, the gargantua does not like bright light and runs back to the sea. After Gaira attacks Tokyo at night, the residents are urged to turn on all of their lights and open their shades to drive him out of the city. He begins to retreat to the mountains and is met by the Japanese Self Defense Force, who use giant spotlights and bonfires to corral Gaira into a valley. Although conventional tanks, artillery, and machine guns have little effect on him, a newly constructed weapon — maser cannons — badly injures Gaira. Bloodied and bruised, Gaira falls into the river and appears defeated. Suddenly, another gargantua, brown in appearance, comes to his aid. Sanda, as he is known, pulls Gaira from the river and away from the military.
It turns out that Sanda is the gentle gargantua that Dr. Stewart and Akemi have studied years ago. This is confirmed when the scientists encounter Sanda in the mountains and he rescues Akemi from falling to her death, risking his own life and breaking his leg in the process. However, he has become leery of humans after seeing Gaira's horrific injuries and quickly vanishes once again. Later, he catches Gaira feasting on some boaters and attempts to kill him to stop the carnage. Unfortunately, he is hesitant about harming his brother and this, along with his broken leg, allows Gaira to overpower him before escaping to the sea. Dr. Stewart attempts to convince the military of Sanda's innocence and that blowing them up would simply scatter their cells all over the place, leading to the possibility of thousands of gargantuas, as the monsters can regenerate from even a tiny piece of tissue. The press and military remain skeptical.
Gaira reappears in Tokyo, no longer afraid of the city lights, and corners Dr. Stewart and Akemi. Sanda arrives to save them once again and attempts to placate his brother, but Gaira is beyond reason and the confrontation escalates to a violent brawl, causing great destruction in the process. The battle eventually leads out to sea, where the military begins an aerial bombardment. Unfortunately, the bombs disturb a giant underwater volcano, and the two monsters are engulfed in smoke and fire. By the time the volcanic cloud dissipates, both monsters have disappeared without a trace.
- Russ Tamblyn as Dr. Paul Stewart
- Kumi Mizuno as Akemi
- Kenji Sahara as Dr. Yuzo Majida
- Nobuo Nakamura as Dr. Kita
- Jun Tazaki as the Army Commander
- Hisaya Ito as Police Chief Izumida
- Kipp Hamilton as a club singer
- Yû Sekida as Sanda
- Haruo Nakajima as Gaira
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 Ishiro 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 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 and 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.
Alternate English versions
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 Frankenstein Conquers the World 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 exclusive footage not included in the Japanese version, which includes introducing Dr. Stewart earlier and visiting the boat survivor in the hospital, 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.
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 double billed 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 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 fullscreen 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 "gargantua" 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 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.
- List of films featuring Frankenstein's monster
- List of Japanese films of 1966
- List of killer octopus films
- 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 had to improvise his lines based on the footage he was watching and due to being unable to remember his original lines.
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