Review of “War of the Gargantuas” (1966/1970)

trailer from YouTube

This is our latest Saturday night pizza and bad movie offering. I have to confess, after so many movies that I’ve found unpleasant recently, this is the kind of bad movie worth buying pizza for. Silly plot, people running and screaming through the Japanese countryside and then through Tokyo, unconvincing special effects—it was so much fun.


One dark and stormy night, a giant octopus with glowing orange eyes attacks a fishing vessel. If that weren’t enough, a huge, humanoid greenish creature (Haruo Nakajima) attacks the octopus. Is he a savior? Alas, no. He sends the ship to the bottom. The crew tries to swim away. Only one (Ren Yamamoto) survives. All that remains of the others is their torn clothes.

The survivor’s tale is barely believed. What were they doing there? Are they smugglers? Nevertheless, the Coast Guard (or, depending to which English version one watches, the Maritime Safety Board) calls Dr. Paul Stewart (Russ Tamblyn), “a Frankenstein expert.”

Dr. Stewart and his assistant, Akemi Togawa (Kumi Mizuno), admit they once had a young “Gargantua” as a scientific experiment. It escaped to the mountains five years earlier. It was a gentle creature and could not be the one causing the havoc.

At the same time, the lab has receives reports from hikers in the Japanese Alps of a Gargantua. Stewart and Akemi head to the mountains while their colleague, Dr. Yuzo Majida (Kenji Sahara) goes to the sea to collect tissue samples from a second unfortunate boat.

The monster attacks Tokyo International Airport from the sea, seizing and (ICK) eating one woman. He spits her clothes out. When sun shines through parting clouds, he runs back to the sea.

The Japanese Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) step in with spotlights and “Maser cannons.” Tank fire does little more than to irritate an already foul-tempered monster. When he’s suffering, a brown Gargantua (Yû Sekita) appears and helps him escape.

Only when the brown Gargantua sees torn clothing lying around and does he realize his fellow monster eats humans. He uproots a tree and slams it into the other’s stomach. The war is on.


According to Wikizilla, the film was inspired by an ancient Japanese story about two brothers, “The Sea-Boy and the Mountain-Boy.” The two Gargantuas are related, but this is hard to pick up in the film. Cells from the original benevolent brown Gargantua (a Frankenstein offshoot, relating to an earlier film, 1965’s Frankenstein vs. Baragon) sluffed off and grew in the sea.

In the original Japanese version, the two monsters had names. The violent green Gargantua from the sea was named Gaira, and the gentle brown Gargantua from the mountain was named Sanda. Sanda had known a loving environment. Gaira did not and thus turned violent.

While the film is slow at points, it is a lot of fun. The green Gargantua picks up tanks (obvious toys) and throws them into model houses. He gets burned by the Maser cannons—not to mention annoyed—but is hardly mortally wounded. He goes from fearing light to figuring out light indicates “snacks here.”

In one scene, Stewart and Akemi are hiking in the mountains to find Sanda. Faced with fleeing hikers, they realize they’ve met the green, human-munching monster. Akemi slips down the cliffside and hangs from a branch! Stewart says something like, “Hang on. I’ll come to get you,” as he makes his way down.

The brown monster catches her as she falls and places her safely back up on the cliff. Yes, it’s melodramatic, but it contrasts nicely with the green monster’s treatment of the poor woman at the airport.

As must happen, the monsters fight with the military trying to kill them. The military forces focus on the green one. (Empty) buildings crumble around them. The monsters end up in Tokyo Bay. (Slow) splash! Helicopters drop explosives around them. It’s spectacular.

I realize this is not everyone’s cup of tea. I enjoy these and laugh in delight, not derision. Special effects need not be sophisticated to be enjoyable. The special effects are secondary if the filmmaker is telling a good story. On the other hand, no amount of booms and boobs will make up for a lousy story.

Even with all the death and destruction in this movie—a monster eating people—ICK—the story’s moral is one of innocence: treat people with kindness, and they will treat you with kindness in return. The monsters are genetically the same. They behave differently because of how they experienced the world growing up, not because one is inherently evil and the other inherently good.

A corollary moral is: if people hurt others, you have a duty to intervene.


This movie can be watched here.

Title: The War of the Gargantuas (1966/1970)
Original title: Furankenshutain no kaijû: Sanda tai Gaira

Directed by
Ishirô Honda

Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)
Reuben Bercovitch…(story)
Ishirô Honda…(writer)
Takeshi Kimura…(as Kaoru Mabuchi)

Cast (in credits order)
Russ Tamblyn…Dr. Paul Stewart (as Rasu Tanburin)
Kumi Mizuno…Akemi Togawa
Kenji Sahara…Dr. Yuzo Majida
Nobuo Nakamura…Dr. Kita
Jun Tazaki…General
Hisaya Itô…Police Chief

Released: Original Japanese release: 1966. English version: 1970
Length: 1 hour, 32 minutes
Rating: G—even with all the death, destruction and people-eating.

Published by 9siduri

I have written book and movie reviews for the late and lamented sites Epinions and Examiner. I have book of reviews of speculative fiction from before 1900, and short works in publications such Mobius, Protea Poetry Journal, and, most recently, Wisconsin Review and Drunken Pen Writing. I'm busily working away on a book of reviews pulp science fiction stories from the 1930s-1960s. It's a lot of fun. I am the author of the short story "Always Coming Home," a chapbook of poetry titled "Sotto Voce," and a collection of reviews of pre-1900 speculative fiction, "By Firelight."

12 thoughts on “Review of “War of the Gargantuas” (1966/1970)

    1. There’s a long history there. We were going to a place called Pizza Project. It was a sort of make-your own. We could also get a salad there. They were sold to some new folks. The salad went away, and the prices skyrocketed. I asked the guy at the register one night if the new prices reflected a raise in pay to the workers, too. I didn’t realize he was one of the new owners.

      They closed. It’s kind of spooky, You can look in the window and the place it still set with condiments. I feel bad for the workers who lost their jobs. So, we’re back to it Dominos. The dearly beloved and I split the pizza because I can’t stand mushrooms.

      I didn’t mean to make you sorry you asked.

  1. This movie was so much fun! I was surprised that the plot wasn’t too bad, and the special effects were good. The only downside is that the movie was a little too short. I would definitely recommend watching it!

  2. I love this paragraph! It made me laugh out loud: While the film is slow at points, it is a lot of fun. The green Gargantua picks up tanks (obvious toys) and throws them into model houses. He gets burned by the Maser cannons—not to mention annoyed—but is hardly mortally wounded. He goes from fearing light to figuring out light indicates “snacks here.”

  3. I have not seen this movie since I watched it (I think…twice?) when it was aired on Miami’s then-indie TV station WCIX (Channel Six) in the early 1970s. I must have liked it okay then, because (a) I watched it at least twice, and (b) I remember it.

    Also, now I realize why Russ Tamblyn looked SO familiar when I saw West Side Story (1961) on TV for the first time back in the 1980s!

      1. He did a decent job as the leader of the “American” Jets gang; he had played the role of Tony (West Side Story’s “Romeo” avatar) and could sing and dance well. However, producer Saul Bass, who had a “stable” of voice singers (including Marni Nixon, who dubbed over Natalie Wood’s songs) decreed that someone else do the singing via a dubbed track.

        He should have sung a lullaby to the Gargantuas!

      2. Oh, that would have been fantastic. He was, I thought, quite wooden. He made the Japanese miliary commander (generally not known for their dynamism in these movies) seem like Bruce Lee.

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