Ticket sales were dropping below the million sold mark, critics were less than favorable in their reviews and fans were beginning to miss the fun Godzilla flicks of the 60s. Toho knew it was time to go back to the more established alien invasion plots and familiar monsters. Enter director Jun Fukuda to bring the 12th Godzilla film to life with Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972). However, nailing the storyline down was, in itself, a task worthy of Godzilla himself.
Originally, the next movie was to have been called Godzilla vs. The Space Monsters: Earth Defense Directive and was going to feature as many as six monsters, including Megalon and a Daimajin-inspired creature. Some of the plot ideas would be shelved and used later when plans shifted to highlighting King Ghidorah. The number of monsters was reduced again when it became clear that a smaller budget meant a tighter script and less special effects. What remained was a story more closely resembling a traditional Godzilla film than the two previous entries. Aliens from a dying planet in Space Hunter Nebula M plan to conquer Earth (apparently ignoring that all previous attempts have ended in failure). They hide out among the construction of a new amusement park called World Children’s land, which proudly displays the Godzilla tower. They plan to bring Gigan and King Ghidorah to Earth to wipe out humanity. Enter Godzilla and Anguirus on Monster Island, who hear a space signal and know something is wrong. Godzilla orders Anguirus to leave and investigate (I guess the fences aren’t in effect yet or maybe we just gave up that idea). And yes, we actually get to hear Godzilla talk. Enough said about that poor idea the better. It isn’t used much and thankfully becomes part of the past as the series moved on. What follows is a nice battle between the monsters. Sure, it’s scaled down a little from Destroy All Monsters a few years earlier but at least it’s not a dream sequence. The monsters are at least recognizable and not made up of pollution. I’m even willing to overlook the airplane like maneuvers of Ghidorah as it’s still one of my favorite monsters.
Ticket sales would see a slight improvement but critical response seemed to be a little more favorable as some believed the series was making a move back towards being taken more seriously. This would also be the last time the legendary Haruo Nakajima would wear the Godzilla costume. Amazingly, at the time of this writing, Nakajima is still alive at the age of 84 and planning to make a rare U.S. appearance at the Mad Monster Party convention in Charlotte in March 2013. His credits also include The Seven Samurai (1954) and The Hidden Fortress (1958).
The movie didn’t see release in North America until six years later when it was renamed Godzilla On Monster Island (which actually works for me despite very little action on Monster Island actually happening in this movie). A few scenes of violence were cut but the movie closely resembled the original and frequented creature feature rotations around the country, including my own in Kansas City. However, by 2002, the international print has become the standard. Sadly, this too has fallen out-of-print, so keep those wallets open if you so desire to add this entry into your Kaiju collection. Check out the trailer to whet your appetite while you shop around. Then brace yourself, because one of the most controversial Godzilla films was next in line to either bring the big guy down for good or give him one of the biggest successes at the time.