Review Roundup - Monster mash

WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS (1966)


AKA ‘Frankenstein’s Monsters: Sanda versus Gaira’ 

How exactly this fits as a sequel to "Frankenstein Conquers the World" (Frankenstein vs Baragon) is never clear. I've yet to see that entry in monster studio Toho's back catalogue, but apparently the idea of a direct follow up was dropped somewhere during production, so you get some vague hints this is a continuation of another story but nothing solid is ever set out. Perhaps they just couldn't decide, but you can clearly make out the Japanese actors saying the creatures are "Frankensteins". Obviously they're more hairy and beast-like rather than resembling reanimated people in the vein of Boris Karloff.

Human remains are found in a ship wreck and it seems that a large creature is on the loose, emerging from the sea to feed on people. At first a peaceful giant living on a secluded mountainside is blamed; but after some debate it's decided another more evil, sea dwelling one is the problem. The green and slimy Gaira is brother to the less ugly Sanda, who is a more docile and sympathetic character. The latter has some connection with the female lead, which is hinted as being due to the previous story in a flash back but it's clearly not a scene from that film which had both different monsters and actors. In the end the plot details are not important, the audience is here to see the kaiju wrestling and Tokyo's destruction at the hands of monsters once again.


The reasons for there being two opposing creatures don't make a lot of sense - one was mutated in the sea giving him a weakness to daylight, perhaps just for variety. What you eventually get is a lot of action as the two face off. While the suits are rather messy and hair covered in comparison to the more iconic non-human style creatures, these sequences are consistently entertaining. There are some fun battles and plenty destruction along the way although the ending is far too convenient; I think they had established the "sea shore finale" by this time to avoid killing off any one creature too hastily - it meant characters like Godzilla could just be asleep under water until next time. In this case however, there was never a sequel.

As a side note this is the film that introduced the recurring "mazer" beam weapons which appear in the usual military attack scenes . The model work is up to the usual intricate standard. The evil gargantua gets some surprisingly grim moments along the way thanks to his appetite for human flesh, and it makes for a great scene when his "brother" having saved him from an army trap realises why they were attacking - you can see what he's thinking under all the makeup before preparing to give him a beating. It actually comes as the second film in a double disc set with one of Ishiro Honda's more famous monsters Rodan - but really I don't see where the popularity for this one comes from after so many appearances alongside Godzilla in better movies like Ghidora the Three Headed Monster. The flying is very stiff, the pterosaur design doesn't lend itself well to action, and the ending is an anticlimax. Not one of the best in my opinion despite a promising start. Taking this into account as a double bill it's a fun package overall.

3/5

YONGARY (1967)

(Monster from the Deep)

Yongary (sometimes Yonngary) is a Korean effort which I guess you could call ... endearing? Clearly a mix up of ideas borrowed from Japan, it's design looks like a lot of the creatures you see in the Gamera series with the glowing eyes. It even breathes fire and eats fuel like the big turtle himself. To round it off they gave it a horn that shoots beams identical to those used by Gamera's nemesis Gyaos. The destruction scenes are very cardboard looking in comparison to other contemporary output; obviously it hasn't got the same kind of budget. You can see the gas tube in it's mouth used the fire breathing effect very clearly. Other similarities include a baseball-cap wearing child determined to show everyone that the monster isn't a bad guy... and in this one you kind of see his point at times. There's a weird moment where the creature starts dancing to 50s style rock 'n' roll. I'm not even sure where the music is coming from. I don't know how to describe it.

...Yeah

The story is pretty generic stuff. An atomic bomb test  of rather vague origins causes a strange earthquake which is recorded moving towards Korea. Early on there's a space program story line which is completely dropped afterwards - they go through a lengthy rocket launch just to do some aerial reconnaissance and check out the disturbance. Don't they have satellites? Of course at the epicentre is a large creature that soon wreaks havoc on Seoul's landmarks. They say there's a folk tale of a creature from under the ground similar to this; I've no idea if that's a real story. Framing everything there's a storyline about the child actor and his nerdy scientist relative. His big invention is some kind of flash light that makes people get itchy when you shine it on them (Really). Later he will have to prove he's not a useless geek and devise an idea to stop the creature. There's also a plot thread with the kid's older sister getting married - and conveniently the groom is the astronaut from the space mission and all this trouble delays their romantic plans. Typical. You might have gathered this isn't exactly edge of your seat stuff, it just serves to tie everything together with a "science saves the day" type ending.

There are a couple of interesting scenes during the destruction as the young boy hides in the sewers, if only he was there for reasons that made more sense. Instead of him just running off like a brat they could have got some tension building from it. After the monster is done feeding it destroys a chemical store which reveals it's weakness as ammonia. They devise a plan is to bomb it with this in various mixtures until it dies. Honestly this part is kind of creepy as everyone cheers and grins while the poor thing gets burned and tries to rub off the caustic mixture they have made before it bleeds to death. It's not often you get blood in these types of movies unless it's green/blue or those occasions cyborg alien Gigan and his buzz saw are involved. It's awkward. Which kinds of sums up the whole thing; this is harmless enough but there are one too many bizarre moments. 

2/5