Kaiju One Hit Wonders Volume V: The Gargantua Files – By Jordan Garren

FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER

Height: 20 meters

Mass: 200 tons

Weapons/Ablities: Able to regenerate lost body parts and has “Baragon flame” resistant skin. If the monster loses a part of his body (e.g. his hand), said body part will continue to live on and “live” independently for a short period of time! This makes Frankenstein’s Monster more or less indestructible!

First and Last Appearance: Frankenstein vs. Baragon (a.k.a. Frankenstein Conquers the World)

Origin: During the second World War, the Nazis confiscated the heart of Dr. Victor von Frankenstein’s indestructible creation. The heart was put on a submarine and taken to Hiroshima which was later nuked by the American military. Now this is where things get a little sketchy concerning the birth of the giant Frankenstein’s Monster. Theory one is simplistic: The radiation from the Hiroshima bomb mutated the heart, causing it to grow into a living being. Theory two is slightly more complicated and is more highly regarded as the true origin of this humanoid creature: The irradiated heart of Frankenstein’s creation was discovered and devoured by a poor, starving street urchin. By ingesting the heart, the homeless child suddenly began to grow to enormous size and became Japan’s only defense against Baragon.

The tale of Frankenstein and his inhuman creation is not an old one, and for decades, companies like Universal and Hammer Studios cranked out a variety of tales involving the mad scientist’s “monster.” For the most part, they all have on thing in common: A man with a twisted vision creates a being out of mixed body parts, and gives the corpse life, usually via electricity. Such was not the case with Japan’s crack at the Frankenstein myth. In Toho’s Frankenstein vs. Baragon (better known as Frankenstein Conquers the World), Frankenstein’s monster is turned from a horrifying and misunderstood creation, into a mammoth mongoloid with regenerative abilities. Only those crazy Japanese could have come up with anything like this!

In Frankenstein vs. Baragon‘s opening moments, Nazi soldiers arrive at the castle of a one Victor Frankenstein and take away the mad scientist’s pet project: The living and indestructible heart of his latest creation! The heart makes its way to Japan via a submarine, mere days before the Hiroshima bombing. The result of the irradiation of the heart is still unclear, but what is known is that a starving homeless child found said heart and quite possibly devoured it. (This conclusion was reached when it was discovered that the youth in tattered, filthy clothes was eating everything he could get his grubby hands on. Even people’s pets weren’t safe from this child’s insatiable appetite!) The child is captured and studied, but soon he begins to grow to enormous size and eventually escapes from his prison.

In the meantime, a prehistoric creature suddenly burrows up from the ground and wipes out one rural Japanese village after another. Naturally the attacks and missing people are blamed on “Frankenstein’s Monster,” and the military soon swings into action against the alleged perpetrator. Eventually, the truth is revealed about the real culprit and Frankenstein’s Monster goes from being a menace to the hero, as he battles tooth and claw against Baragon. The kaiju battle in this film is one of the most memorable and is hugely entertaining. Baragon burrows underground to throw off his opponent, performs some incredible leaps, and blasts Frankenstein’s Monster again and again with its flaming breath. Eventually Baragon is killed in battle and sinks into the Earth during a sudden earthquake, along with the victorious Frankenstein Monster.

Sadly this is the only film this odd-looking man-beast has starred in, but perhaps that’s a good thing. The design of the Monster is atrocious, and the actor portraying the Frankenstein Monster looks like a giant retarded child! However that only adds to the enormous cheese factor of the film and makes it a lot of fun to watch. Now, before I move onto the next kaiju on the list, here’s a little Frankenstein vs. Baragon trivia for you. In the film’s original ending, a giant octopus arrives on the scene and attacks Frankenstein’s Monster mere moments after he vanquishes Baragon. In this alternate ending, the giant octopus is the victor and yanks the nearly helpless Frankenstein Monster in the ocean and drowns him! This anti-climactic ending was cut for both the U.S. and Japanese release of the film and is something I’ve always been dying to see. I wonder if Media Blasters will get their mitts on this title and bring it to Region 1 DVD with the alternate ending as an extra?


GAIRA

Height: 25 meters

Mass: 1,000 tons

Weapons/Ablities: Has the ability to regenerate lost limbs and body tissue; leads an amphibious lifestyle. Gaira also happens to have a nasty habit of devouring human beings.

Gaira’s First and Only Appearance: War of the Gargantuas

Origin: There is much speculation about the true origins of this not-so jolly green giant. Scientists believe that cells from Frankenstein’s Monster (or cells from Gaira’s brotherly twin Sanda) mutated out at sea and grew into the abomination that is Gaira.

A year after Frankenstein’s Monster made his Japanese film debut, a somewhat sequel to Frankenstein vs. Baragonwas made, namely War of the Gargantuas. In this film, the lead kaiju star is Gaira, a greenish algae-coated creature that has a penchant for fighting giant octopi (Frankenstein’s Monster has his revenge!) and eating sailors. As Gaira grows a bit bolder, he ventures onto dry land at night in search of “human sushi” and begins a brief reign of terror. Eventually, the JSDF (Japanese Self-Defense Forces) manages to successfully ambush and engage the giant monster, using electrified ponds (I guess they forgot that animals live in and around water?!) and maser-cannons to bring Gaira to his knees. The foul man-eating beast is practically knocking on death’s door, when suddenly, a giant brown-haired kaiju arrives on the scene to save his green-colored kin. Gaira is cared for and guarded by his twin “brother,” until Sanda learns of Gaira’s eating habits. Then all hell breaks loose!


SANDA

Height: 30 meters

Mass: 1,500 tons

Weapons/Ablities: Has the ability to regenerate lost limbs and body tissue.

Sanda’s First and only Appearance: War of the Gargantuas

Sanda’s Complete Filmography: War of the Gargantuas

Origin: Quite possibly the offspring (?) of the Frankenstein Monster, Sanda escaped from a research facility run by kindly doctors and scientists. The hirsute creature traveled high into the mountains of Japan and led a peaceful, lonely existence until the arrival of its brother, Gaira.

Sanda is the “offspring” of the Frankenstein Monster (because he regenerated from part of the original Frankenstein Monster) and was the cuddly resident of a scientific research lab until the creature escaped and hid up in the mountains of the Japanese countryside. Sanda pretty much remained unseen until Gaira was attacked and nearly killed by the JSDF. Sanda, as I mentioned above, rescued his gargantuan brethren and tried nursing him back to health… until Sanda learned of Gaira’s dark secret. The green gargantua had recently eaten a group of tourists as a snack, and left their shredded clothes sitting nearby. Sanda discovers the clothes and chases off his once beloved blood brother, thus igniting the War of the Gargantuas! Who will win the battle and will humanity be spared?!


THE WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS

Seeing as how his brother has no regard for human life, Sanda takes it upon himself to bring Gaira to justice, kaiju wrestling style. (Though Sanda is bigger, he goes into the fight with a wounded knee. Sanda received the wound while trying to save one of the scientists that had studied him back in the day.) The fight rages through the streets of Tokyo with neither monster gaining the upper hand. Eventually the two warring beasts end up wrestling out at sea, while helicopters drop bombs on them from above. The bombs don’t do much to harm Sanda and Gaira, but they do cause an underwater volcanic eruption. Both kaiju are engulfed in the boiling seas, and are soon destroyed by the volcano.

(Trivia Fact: Originally, lava from the volcano was going to decimate the nearby city of Tokyo, resulting in zero Frankenstein Monster cells and thousands of dead civilians. However, this ending was deemed too bleak and was never filmed.) Since War of the Gargantuas only Gaira has made a few cameo appearances (via stock footage from Gargantuas in both Godzilla X Mechagodzilla and Godzilla: Final Wars) and there doesn’t seem to be any interest in bringing either “Gargantua” back. Back in 1978, producer Henry Saperstein (a big fan of War of the Gargantuas) wanted to help fund a film where a Gargantua battled Godzilla. However, this project never got beyond the proposal stage and has joined the growing ranks of unused and discarded concepts for kaiju films.

Well that’s it for now kaiju fans! The staff here at Rogue Cinema has December off, so there won’t be any new material until February, 2006! In the meantime, feel free to enjoy some of the other kaiju articles I’ve written on this site which include: My three part “50 Years of Godzilla” series, the two-part “Many Heads of King Ghidorah” series, the four previous “Kaiju One Hit Wonders” articles, and profiles of some of my favorite daikaiju, such as Mechagodzilla, Anguirus, Baragon, Gigan, and more! Have a wonderful holiday season, and have a Happy New Year, and I’ll see you in February!

Pictures and Kaiju stats courtesy of Toho Kingdom.