Japanese Live Action DVD Review: Godzilla on Monster Island

Japan’s most famous monster is back on the big screen in Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures’ Godzilla. What better time to revisit some of the original movies starring the giant lizard?

Kraken Releasing has just released the Toho 1972 film Godzilla on Monster Island!: Godzilla Versus Gigan on DVD, and you can read on for the review.

Back Cover Blurb

When alien invaders, plans for a children’s theme park and four giant monsters with six heads between them all collide, the result is the inevitable battle for the fate of the Earth. At least, that’s how it is for Godzilla, who teams up with his former spiky foe Anguirus for a tag team match against two of his greatest adversaries: the legendary three headed King Ghidorah and Gigan, the cyborg hench-monster for insidious insect aliens whose plot to wipe out all human life is cleverly disguised as plans for the construction of a new children’s theme park.

Unfortunately for the bug’s diabolical designs, their secret monster control codes are accidentally discovered by comic book artist Gengo Kotaka, who broadcasts the master tape and brings Team Godzilla into play. It’s not going to be an easy fight, though, as the odds are four heads to two, and King Ghidorah’s one of Godzilla’s toughest opponents. With his cybernetic weaponry Gigan is equally ruthless, and his alien masters are as hard to kill as the cockroaches they resemble. Will Earth’s biggest defenders finally fall? Or will Godzilla, and insecticide, triumph over all? Find out in GODZILLA VS. GIGAN!

Audio:
The audio options are English mono and Japanese mono with English subtitles. I noted no issues with the film audio or subtitles.

Video:
The DVD is presented in 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The video quality varies from satisfactory to different levels of graininess, sometimes with white spotting.

Packaging:
The front cover features a promotional poster for the original film, featuring the monsters Godzilla, Gigan, King Ghidorah, and Anguirus along with the human cast. On the back are a few screen shots and a movie summary. No inserts are included inside the case.

Menu:
Various stills from the film are used for the DVD menu backgrounds. There aren’t many options, so it’s easy to navigate.

Extras:
The only extra included with the DVD is the original Japanese film trailer.

Content

It’s called Godzilla on Monster Island, but the film doesn’t have much to do with Monster Island at all. Only a couple brief scenes take place on Monster Island, which serve mainly as cameos for random Toho monsters that don’t otherwise play any role. The impetus for the plot actually has extraterrestrial origins, and the action, for the most part, takes place in Japan’s Tokyo region (of course).

The story begins with Gengo, an unemployed artist who finally lands a job at World Children’s Land, a theme park in the final stages of construction. However, the World Children’s Land Committee is a rather fishy group. For one, its chairman is a teenage kid who can do extremely complicated math. For another, the Committee’s supposed goal is “perfect peace,” but the main attraction of the park is a monster museum in a thirteen-story tower shaped like Godzilla. So when Gengo encounters Machiko, a young woman who claims her brother’s been kidnapped by the Committee, Gengo helps her investigate, and they soon discover that the Committee’s idea of perfect peace involves using space monsters to destroy mankind.

The plot does capture interest from the onset as our heroes search for Machiko’s missing brother and investigate the true purpose of World Children’s Land. However, the story’s not without its weaknesses. Gengo’s a little too quick to believe Machiko’s story and help her (especially since he already has a girlfriend–one with a black belt in karate), and Machiko’s tape player must have an astounding range for the monsters way out on Monster Island to hear it. But then the giant beasties make their entrance, which is probably what most viewers are after anyway.

It starts off with a kind of false start. Godzilla designates Anguirus as his errand boy to investigate the sounds from Machiko’s tape. So Anguirus swims all the way to Japan only to be repulsed by the SDF. The video alternates between actual footage of men in military vehicles and close-ups of miniatures. The models wouldn’t fool anyone, but they do make you wish you had your own tanks to play with.

Then things really get going when the bad guys summon the space monsters Gigan and King Ghidorah. The screen abounds with 1970s pyrotechnics and smashed model buildings as the two destroy Tokyo. However, the segment does get repetitive with the same flying sequences of King Ghidorah as well as the close-up on Gigan’s belly saw blade. There are also a few scenes that are so cheap they are funny. In one, the monsters demolish a room whose “human” occupants are clearly a pair of cheap children’s dolls.

Of course, it’s up to Godzilla to save the day, and he does so, swimming to Japan to do battle with Anguirus in tow. This fight is more graphic than others in the Godzilla series. During the battle at the World Children’s Land construction site, Gigan wounds Godzilla and Anguirus, splattering their blood everywhere. But even with four monsters crashing about the set, certain shots get recycled over and over, and when Godzilla finally takes King Ghidorah down, viewers must sit through the same body slam three times.

As an aside, Godzilla on Monster Island, like Godzilla Versus the Smog Monster, does carry a message of saving the environment. In fact, some of the water pollution footage in Godzilla Versus the Smog Monster gets recycled in Godzilla on Monster Island. However, the message is much more understated in Godzilla on Monster Island than in its predecessor, and this film definitely does a better job achieving its primary goal: entertainment.

In Summary

If you’re looking for a classic sci-fi movie, Godzilla on Monster Island would definitely fit the bill. With its body snatching aliens, gargantuan reptiles, and miniature sets getting knocked to smithereens, it’s got all the elements of a traditional giant monster flick. There are plot holes, to be sure, but between laser wielding aliens in their 13-story Godzilla Tower and a two-on-two battle of Godzilla and Anguirus versus Gigan and King Ghidorah, Godzilla on Monster Island provides plenty of model-smashing entertainment.

First published at The Fandom Post.

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