Ishirō Honda’s The War of the Gargantuas is a fun giant monster (or Kaiju) film, but it makes one thing absolutely clear: If you have giant humanoids attacking people, buildings, and each other, they will look way more like drunken monsters. I’m not sure how to break this down into a neat formula, but you’ll have to trust me. Yes, The War of the Gargantuas inevitably seems like a silly movie, but it would be hard to sell a story like this as serious. Right?
Take the giant squid/octopus scenes near the beginning. It’s actually a pretty well done moment, and a little bit freaky, but the popular imagination still likely finds such fare zany. This is despite having definitive proof that the giant squid actually exists, with the largest one being about 43 feet long! However, have a giant squid fighting a giant humanoid called a “Frankenstein” and the whole thing becomes comedy (rather than sheer terror) real fast. That being said, The War of the Gargantuas is a fun movie, and actually more influential than one might first assume.
The War of the Gargantuas: The monsters
As stated earlier, this is not just a killer Kaiju film about a giant octopus or squid. It’s actually about two different Frankenstein monsters. The kinder, gentler, browner one is named Sanda (Yû Sekida), while the greener, meaner one is named Gaira (Haruo Nakajima, who played Godzilla and other Kaiju). To my memory, it’s never quite explained how Sanda was originally captured or if he was actually created by a scientist named Frankenstein, but it is speculated that, somehow, Gairo was born from one of Sanda’s skin flanks, which grew after feeding on plankton.
The War of the Gargantuas: The eccentricities involved
I’ve long maintained that Kaiju films have spelled good for relations between America and Japan, bridging some cultural gaps between the two nations. I’ll use myself as an example here: Aside from meeting a few Japanese students and taking Japanese language classes in college, much of what I know about Japan comes from mainstream media. I would need subtitles, or things like Google translate to understand most Japanese words or text. Still, you know something I can readily understand, maybe even without subtitles? A giant humanoid Frankenstein monster duking it out with a squid!
It may be complicated to bring two separate houses together (America and Japan), but who wouldn’t like to see buildings get smashed by giant monsters — be they reptilian, moth-like, robotic, or naked humanoids? And yes, despite the “Gargantuas” being nude (that is, apparently not wearing underwear), we are spared any scenes of their dangly bits scraping up against buildings, or anything like that (it’s actually rated G!). One might also find significance in one giant representing the land and the other a water-based beast.
It isn’t scary, but it is influential
Probably no kid will be afraid to search the basement after watching The War of the Gargantuas. In fact, it’s my view that these two giants seem less frightening than Godzilla or King Kong. Nevertheless, fans of the film include Tim Burton (here he is talking about it), Guillermo del Toro,
Quentin Tarantino and Brad Pitt reflected positively on the film in a segment during the 2012 Academy Awards, suggesting the movie was impressive to him as a child and partly inspired him to break into the movie business later on.
When Tomoyuki Tanaka co-created the Godzilla franchise, he likely had no idea just how big it would become, or how many other Toho creations would emerge from Godzilla’s shadow. It’s a reminder that, so long as people are inspired by them, a giant monster returns, as if our laughs and screams literally attract a monster’s attention.
You can beat them, shoot them, stab them, sometimes seemingly actually kill them. However, they always seem to rise again and can travel great distances and influence many people who applaud their mighty roars and destructive capabilities.
What are your thoughts on The War of the Gargantuas? Let us know in the comments!