The War of the Gargantuas (フランケンシュタインの怪獣 サンダ対ガイラ, Furankenshutain no Kaijū: Sanda tai Gaira, lit. ’Frankenstein’s Monsters: Sanda vs. Gaira‘) is a 1966 kaiju film directed by Ishirō Honda, co-written by Honda and Takeshi Kimura and produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka and Kenichiro Tsunoda with special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya. A sequel to Frankenstein Conquers the World, the film was a Japanese–American co-production; it was the third and final collaboration between Toho and Henry G. Saperstein. The film stars Russ Tamblyn, Kumi Mizuno and Kenji Sahara, with Yû Sekida as Sanda and Haruo Nakajima as Gaira. In the film, scientists investigate the sudden appearance of two giant hairy humanoid monsters that culminates in a battle in Tokyo.
During a rainy night, a fishing boat is attacked by a giant octopus. The giant octopus is then attacked by a giant green-haired humanoid monster. After defeating the giant octopus, the green monster then attacks the boat. A survivor is recovered, who reveals to doctors and police that Frankenstein attacked his boat and ate the crew. The press picks up the story and interviews Dr. Paul Stewart and his assistant, Dr. Akemi Togawa, who once had a baby Frankenstein in their possession for study five years prior. Stewart and Akemi dispel the idea that the attack was caused by their Frankenstein, postulating that their Frankenstein was gentle, would not attack nor eat people, nor would he live in the ocean as he was found in the mountains and likely died after he escaped.
Another boat is attacked and villagers see the green Frankenstein off the coast at the same time that a mountain guide reports seeing Frankenstein in the Japanese Alps. Stewart and Akemi investigate the mountains and find giant footprints in the snow. Their colleague, Dr. Majida, collects tissue samples from the second boat. The green Frankenstein attacks Haneda Airport, eats a woman and returns to the sea after the clouds clear. Stewart and Akemi leave for Tokyo for a meeting with the military to discuss plans to kill the monster. Majida deduces that the green Frankenstein is sensitive to light. The green Frankenstein briefly appears in Tokyo, but is driven away by bright lights. It retreats to the mountains, where the military counterattacks it. Then a second Frankenstein, brown-haired in appearance, appears and comes to the green Frankenstein’s aid, helping it escape.
Stewart and Akemi conclude that the brown Frankenstein is their former subject. To distinguish the monsters, the military designate the brown and green Frankensteins as Sanda and Gaira, respectively. After collecting and examining tissue samples from both monsters, Stewart concludes that Gaira is Sanda’s clone. He theorizes that a piece of Sanda’s tissue made its way out to sea, where it survived off plankton and evolved into Gaira. During a hiking trip, Stewart, Akemi and several hikers run away from Gaira. Akemi falls off a ledge, but Sanda saves her in time, injuring his leg in the process. Stewart and Akemi try to convince the military that only Gaira should be killed while Sanda should be spared, but the army ignores their pleas, unwilling to risk letting either monster live. After discovering that Gaira devoured people, Sanda attacks him. Gaira escapes with Sanda pursuing and heads towards Tokyo, no longer deterred by the city lights as they alert him to the presence of food.
During the evacuation, Akemi vows to save Sanda, but runs into Gaira instead. Sanda stops Gaira from devouring Akemi and Stewart carries her to safety. Sanda tries to plead with Gaira, but the green monster engages Sanda in battle. Stewart tries to convince the military to give Sanda time to defeat Gaira, but fails. However, the military aids Sanda as his battle with Gaira moves from Tokyo to Tokyo Bay and further out to sea. As the military drops bombs around the battling Frankensteins, an underwater volcano suddenly erupts, swallowing up both monsters. Majida informs Stewart and Akemi that the monsters’ deaths could not be confirmed due to the intense heat, but stresses that nothing could have survived the eruption.
The War of the Gargantuas was the third and final co-production collaboration between Toho and Henry G. Saperstein‘s UPA. Towards the end of 1965, Toho informed director Ishirō Honda that his director’s contract would not be renewed and Iwao Mori told him that he would need to speak with producer Tomoyuki Tanaka about each assignment. Seiji Tani, Honda’s new chief assistant, spoke about actor Russ Tamblyn and Honda not agreeing on set, with Tamblyn often doing the exact opposite of what Honda instructed, Tani stated: “Honda-san had to hold back and bear so much during that one. [Russ Tamblyn] was such an asshole” Tamblyn felt his lines in the film were so bad that he improvised them all. It was co-producer Saperstein’s choice to replace Nick Adams with Tamblyn, later stating “Tamblyn was a royal pain in the ass”.
The film was originally announced as The Frankenstein Brothers, then The Two Frankensteins, Frankenstein vs. Frankenstein, Frankenstein’s Decisive Battle, and Frankenstein’s Fight during script writing processes. The film was originally intended as a sequel to Frankenstein Conquers the World, with Honda biographers Ryfle and Godziszewski noting that the continuity between the two films was “somewhat fuzzy”. The film was created quickly, with writer Kimura’s final draft on the screenplay being dated 23 April 1966. Honda shot the film’s dramatic footage between May 9 and June 4, with Tsuburaya’s special effects crew finishing in mid-July. The American version had Honda shoot additional scenes and UPA had Toho release the negatives, outtakes and other footage such as sound and music elements. Tab Hunter was originally cast as Dr. Stewart, but was replaced by Tamblyn during pre-production.
Toho commissioned an English dub from Frontier Enterprises, a Tokyo-based company, for international territories. Referred to as the “international dub”, this version is a direct translation of the Japanese version, keeping references to the monsters as Frankensteins and having Tamblyn’s English dialogue dubbed over by another actor. Toho’s international dub remained unreleased until late 2017, when the film, Rodan and several Godzilla films appeared on Starz‘s streaming service after Janus Films and The Criterion Collection obtained the rights to the films.
Co-producer Henry G. Saperstein commissioned a separate English dub from Glen Glenn Sound, a Los Angeles-based company, for the film’s American release. This version omits all references to Frankenstein Conquers the World, with the creatures being referred to as “Gargantuas” instead of “Frankensteins” or by their names. This version also includes additional footage not featured in the Japanese version, making the American version run at 92 minutes. Tamblyn’s original dialogue soundtrack was lost during production and he was called back to re-dub his lines. Tamblyn worked without a script and had to rely on improvising his lines based on the footage’s lip movement due to him being unable to remember his original lines.
The film was released theatrically in Japan on July 31, 1966 by Toho. The Glen Glenn Sound English dub received a theatrical release in the United States by Maron Films as The War of the Gargantuas on July 29, 1970, where it was released as a double feature with Monster Zero, which was also dubbed by Glen Glenn Sound. In the United Kingdom, the film was titled Duel of the Gargantuas. The War of the Gargantuas and Monster Zero were intended to be released earlier; however, distributors did not think that either film had potential until 1970, when Saperstein made a deal with Maron Films.
In 2008, Classic Media released a two-disc DVD of the film as a double feature with Rodan. Both films included their original Japanese version and American English versions with Rodan presented in its native fullscreen scope and The War of the Gargantuas in its original widescreen ratio. This release also features the documentary Bringing Godzilla Down to Size, detailing the history and tokusatsu techniques of the genre.In 2010, Toho released the film on Blu-ray, which includes special features such as an audio commentary by Kumi Mizuno, outtakes, trailers and behind-the-scenes photo galleries.In 2017, Janus Films and The Criterion Collection acquired the Frontier Enterprises English dub of the film, as well as Rodan and several Godzilla films, to stream on Starz and FilmStruck.The Frontier dub was made available on HBO Max upon its launch.
color, widescreen, 92 minutes, DVD-R comes packaged as shown in color DVD case, wrapped in plastic!