A recent viewing of War of the Gargantuas inspired me to jot down a few things that make this film completely awesome.
1. The Green Gargantua. Call him Gaila, Gaira, or just "the green one," this is one of Toho's most irredeemably evil monsters. He eats people and spits out their clothes; he turns on his "brother" who is just trying to help; he's mad at the world. The flashback scene where Gaila is swimming after the sailors is really unsettling. It sets the tone that this is one malevolent (and unforgettable) being.
2. The Plot and Pacing. Going in, you know there are two Gargantuas, but everything is set up in such a way that there is still a sense of surprise when Sanda shows up. The film never goes for long without showing a Gargantua in action, which is a plus.
3. Really Special Effects. This is a no-brainer, of course, but the effects are so good in War of the Gargantuas that they deserve special mention. Part of the quality has to do with the fact that the Gargantuas are not, in fact, gargantuan, which means that the models they destroy are larger and more richly detailed than most. The Gargantua costumes are weirdly anthropomorphic and enhanced by the visible eyes of the actors, which adds tremendously to their realism. I also love the scene where the maser tanks are mowing down the forest as they attack Gaila, and the trees fall over in a laser-straight line. Perfect!
4. Mizuno, Sahara, and Tamblyn. It would easy to pan Russ Tamblyn's performance as the world's most non-committal scientist, but I say it takes hard work to project such ambivalence. OK, I'm kidding. But there is this ambiguity between him and Kumi Mizuno that is just barely resolved near the end, all done very tastefully. And while Tamblyn and Mizuno are out taking walks in the woods, Sahara's character stoically does all the real research and fieldwork. Poor guy.
5. The Words Get Stuck In My Throat. The only way this scene could have been improved is if Gaila had actually eaten Kipp Hamilton, thereby becoming stuck in his throat.