Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973)

Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973) movie poster

director Jun Fukuda
viewed: 06/09/2017

I have vivid memories of Godzilla vs. Megalon from 1976. I was 6 or 7 when it came to town and I totally remember the excitement of going to see a Godzilla movie in the theater. I loved monsters and Godzilla was my favorite. I also recall being somewhat disappointed with the movie. I always thought that Megalon was pretty cool, but it seemed like forever waiting for Godzilla. I think I liked Gigan and Jet Jaguar, more or less. Probably before Star Wars, this was my biggest movie thrill.

Over the years, the kids and I have worked our way through the Shōwa period Godzilla movies, but at that point I couldn’t get my hands on Megalon. The kids both fell asleep though this one.

It’s super-silly, even by super-silly standards. That a lost Atlantis-like world called Seatopia is disturbed by underground nuclear testing and sends Megalon and eventually Gigan to attack the surface-dwellers. They put a lot of focus on a robot developer, his pal, and kid brother, roping them into the hijinks. There is a lot of really bizarre stuff in here like the dolphin paddle boat thing the kid rides (which looks pretty cool despite also looking totally non-functional).

But really the weirdest leaps in logic are related to would-be kaiju king Jet Jaguar, who was apparently designed by a kid in a contest and originally planned to be the star of the thing. First, he develops his own will and cognizance, to only a mild surprise of his creator. Then, he magically wills himself from human-size to Godzilla size, which is explained as something he just decided to do.

Really, you should just embrace the whole thing and not really question it.

The fight sequences are indeed reminiscent of professional wrestling, more than most kaiju flicks I can think of. And, you know, as dumb as it is, it’s still moderately entertaining.

Destroy All Monsters (1968)

Destroy All Monsters (1968) movie poster

director Ishirō Honda
viewed: 12/28/2014

My childhood favorite Godzilla movie.  The title itself is just plain awesome.  But the real reason that this movie was a childhood favorite was because it featured “all of the monsters” (more my perception at the time).

It’s not just Godzilla versus so-and-so but it’s got Rodan, Mothra, Anguirus, King Ghidorah, Varan, Baragon, Minilla, Manda, Gorosaurus, and Kumonga!!!

Okay, half of those you’re probably not going to know who they are or where they came from.  Part of what’s cool and funny about the movie is how all of the characters recognize them like movie stars: “Look! It’s Manda!”  (This Manda appeared in Atragon “Undersea Warship” (1963) — I didn’t know.  I’m taking Wikipedia’s word for it.)

I had actually seen this about 10 years ago while on hiatus from the film diary, so I hadn’t written about it at the time.  So, I’d kind of learned that this wasn’t really the “best” Godzilla movie of all time (though it still gets credit for concept and title).

All of the monsters are living on “Monsterland” or “Monster Island” depending on the translation.  That’s when an alien race appears and takes control of the monsters’ minds and has them attack spots around the globe.  Eventually, they besiege Japan, of course.  When the humans take control of the monsters, the aliens bring in space monster Ghidorah and at the end, we get an all out monster battle.  But it takes a while to get there.

I think the best Godzilla movies are typically the ones with Ghidorah (Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964) or Monster Zero (1965) or the ones with MechaGodzilla (Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974) or Terror of MechaGodzilla (1975)), but this one still deserves some kudos.

It had been a while since the kids and I had watched a real Godzilla movie.  Oddly enough, Destroy All Monsters and Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973) were the two of the original Godzillas that I couldn’t get my hands on via Netflix back in the time we originally were watching them.  Now, those two are on Fandor.  And interestingly enough, Christmas weekend, Roberto Rodriguez’s El Rey television network was having a kaiju-fest, featuring a lot of Godzilla movies, but these two were not on the list.

Go figure.

Godzilla (2014)

Godzilla (2014) movie poster

director Gareth Edwards
viewed: 05/17/2014 at AMC Metreon 16, SF, CA

Call me old fashioned, but a Godzilla film features a man in a rubber monster suit duking it out with other guys in rubber monster suits.  Call me crazy but this new 2014 Godzilla would certainly have benefited from this approach.

The one good thing that director Gareth Edwards and the team behind Godzilla 2014 did was make the “King of the Monsters” the good guy as he has been in the majority of his cinematic work.  The movie will probably earn a fair amount of comparison to the 1998 Roland Emmerich flop of the same name.  And fair enough.  They are the American/Hollywood Godzillas and they are both pretty awful, though by quite different measures.

Gareth Edwards brings a human slant to the kaiju film, not unlike his first film, Monsters (2010).  Sadly, this is entirely beside the point.  This is a Godzilla movie.  We came to see Godzilla, not all the people fretting about the end of the world.  The characters and story development are supposed to be the dull stuff you muddle through to get to the monsters.  If you realized that you needed Godzilla to be a hero and for him to have evil monsters to fight, how could you screw this up?

The only interesting actor in the film, Bryan Cranston, dies early on.  Aaron Taylor-Johnson?  His name bores me.  I don’t care what happens to him.

Sure, I’ve seen worse films, but I was pretty disappointed with this.  I had hopes, however unfounded they were.

The kids, though, enjoyed the movie.  Only time will tell if that’s what they really think.  I think it’s been high time to revisit the classic Godzilla movies anyways.  They’re fun.  Heck, the original Gojira (1954) is actually a pretty great sci-fi horror film, no camp joy needed.

Actually, last comment.  This movie had some seriously goofy bad dialogue.  I wondered if it was meant to be some sort of homage to badly dubbed Godzilla movies of yore.  The goofiest that comes to mind is:

Admiral William Stenz: This alpha predator of yours, doctor, do you really think he has a chance?
Dr. Ichiro Serizawa: The arrogance of men is thinking nature is in their control and not the other way around. Let them fight.

It’s this cheesy weird bad science, dumb as a bag of hammers.  Maybe they should have gone further that way.  Maybe that could have worked out.

 

Godzilla vs. Hedorah

Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971) movie poster

(1971) director Yoshimitsu Banno
viewed: 10/22/2011

Godzilla vs. Hedorah (a.k.a. Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster) is certainly not Godzilla’s strongest moment.  It’s also probably not his weakest moment either.  It’s about ecology.  Pollution.  It’s “The Lorax” of the Godzilla franchise.

For my money, Godzilla’s best villains were Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964) (a.k.a. Monster Zero (1964)) and Mechagodzilla (Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974)).  But whether you’re fighting King Kong (King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)) or Mothra (Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964), sometimes you have to take on the likes of Ebirah (Godzilla Versus the Sea Monster (1966), or Megalon, or, in this case, Hedorah.  Whereas Ebirah (the Sea Monster) is a giant crayfish, prawn or lobster, Hedorah is a mutated pollywog.  Mutated to love toxic fumes.

Godzilla himself is the result of toxic poisoning, mutated from a dinosaur egg by radiation from nuclear testing.  In some ways, Hedorah is a kindred spirit.  Only by this time, Godzilla stands with the people, not against them.  He’s no longer a resultant nature attacking the humanity that spawned him.  He’s now out there doing the social service of putting down this mutant amphibian, working with the humans (whose own technology to clean fix the problem fails them.)  His radioactive breath kick-starts the electronic blasts that manage to dehydrate Hedorah to death.

Of course, the question is posed again at the end: Is this the only Hedorah?  Or will there be more?

Hedorah, with his glowing red eyes and his inside body of muck, is moderately cool.  He’s cooler than Ebirah.  I ended up watching this one with Clara and the two girls from upstairs who had never seen a Godzilla movie before.  I had to assure them that it wasn’t going to be scary and that basically the good monster was going to beat up the bad monster in the end.  Really, that’s what all Godzilla movies are about, right?

Over the last 3 years, we’ve watched a number of the original series, the Showa series, of Godzilla films and I’m still keen to finish out the cycle.   There are a couple that aren’t available from Netflix (they haven’t been for whatever reason) so we’ve still got a couple outstanding.  For our Halloween “horror”-fest, at least one good movie featuring guys in rubber suits duking it our it a requisite.  And we have met it.

Godzilla Raids Again

Godzilla Raids Again (1955) movie poster

(1955) director Motoyoshi Oda
viewed: 11/12/10

I’ve been watching Godzilla movies with my kids for about 3 years now.  So far, all the original Showa series.  And though it began as a bit of an experiment, with much younger kids, this latest viewing was requested by my daughter.  Not the film itself, but “a Godzilla movie”.  And we were down to three left of the original series that are available on Netflix.  Oddly, a few are missing from availability.  And I haven’t figured out what to do about that.

The funny thing about Godzilla Raids Again is that I’d never seen the darn thing.  The second of the original Godzilla films, coming hot on the heels of the original Gojira (1954).   Actually, it’s a little less odd in some ways.  For some odd reason, when it was released in the US originally, Godzilla Raids Again was re-packaged as Gigantis, the Fire Monster.  So despite being the only other black-and-white Godzilla film and being the first to feature a battle between two titanic beasts, Godzilla and Anguirus, this one somehow eluded me for many years.

As in watching these films with the kids, we watch the dubbed and re-edited American versions.   The only exception I made was in watching the original Gojira, which I did without them, and allowed myself to watch it as a foreign film with subtitles.  It certainly can and does make for a different experience.  And in the case of Godzilla Raids Again, it’s probably fairly detrimental to the film.  It’s ripe for comedy quite a bit.

In this one, hydrogen bomb testing unleashes the two dinosaurs and they find their way to Japan to wreak havoc.  Interestingly, they wreak havoc in Osaka, not Tokyo, for a change.  And initially, the monsters are only interested in battling one another.  That is, until Godzilla kills Anguirus and then just has Osaka to take his aggression out upon.  He meets a rather interesting doom, buried beneath an avalanche.

The kids really enjoyed it.  For Clara, it’s hard for her to remember back 3 years ago when she was 3 and we were first testing the waters with giant rubber-suited Japanese monster movies.  Felix was 6, so he remembers the movies a little better.  They’re actually keenly interested to re-watch a couple of favorites, but I told them that I’d like to get through the other two films left in my Netflix queue before back-tracking.

I, of course, grew up with Godzilla myself, this same series of films, some of which were still being released new at the time.  And Godzilla was my favorite monster for whatever reason.  We haven’t been watching them in any particular order over time, which served our purposes for watching whichever seemed to tickle a fancy at the time, but it might have been interesting to watch the evolution of the creature from villain to hero.  And I’m a little bummed because I really would like to watch Destroy All Monsters (1968) (a personal favorite from childhood), All Monsters Attack (1969), and Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973), but Netflix doesn’t carry those titles.

We do have a couple left to go, so, depending on the kids’ whims and fancies, you’ll see more of those Godzilla flicks here in coming weeks.

If you’re interested in seeing a list of all the Godzilla movies we’ve watched, click here for the whole bunch!

Godzilla’s Revenge

Godzilla's Revenge (1969) movie poster

(1969) dir. Ishirô Honda
viewed: 05/21/10

The kids wanted to watch another Godzilla movie.  Who was I to let them down?  We started watching Godzilla movies, which I grew up on, about 3-4 years ago with a mixed to positive range of response.  And, while it had been surprisingly an entire year since our last Godzilla movie (Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975)), I was glad to resume our foray into Japanese cinema (such as it is).

We’ve not been watching them in any particular order, though we’ve been working our way through the catalog of the original Shōwa series.  Actually, this film was my first consideration back when we first started watching these films.  I had always remembered liking this one as a kid, but in my modicum of research had seen that it is derided  by many fans of the series.  It’s the most kid-friendly or kid-oriented of the Godzilla films, an anomaly for sure, but when you think about guys wrestling in big rubber monster suits, you have to think that they are all pretty kid-oriented.

Godzilla’s Revenge, or as it is also known, All Monsters Attack or Minya, Son of Godzilla tells the story of a little boy growing up on the rough industrial side of Tokyo, a latchkey child with a rich imagination and a series of bullies.  He “dreams” himself into a trip to Monster Island, home of Godzilla, Minya, and many other monsters, where he meets up with Godzilla’s son who talks (!) (and who sounds quite a bit like Gumby’s sidekick Pokey).  Minya has a tormentor, too, the hyena-laughing Gabera (who shares a name with the dreaming Ichiro’s bully).  Like Ichiro, Minya is being taught the lesson of “fighting one’s own battles”.

And if this wasn’t enough oddball plotline, there are also two goofy bankrobbers who are hiding out among the rundown industrial buildings, who end up kidnapping Ichiro, too.  The whole thing gets a little Home Alone (1990).

Despite the fact that the English dubbing is perhaps a series-worst and the silliness quotient is so high, the film is actually kind of enjoyable.  The soundtrack is virtual surf rock, the effects are cheap but sort of trippy and surreal.  And the general lack of drama, lack of a big battle scene, fact that seemingly several sequences are actually replicating sequences from other Godzilla movies, the whole thing works pretty well for the kids.  It’s funny because they sort of recognize the silliness too, that none of the monster sequences are happening outside of Ichiro’s fantasies.

But the film is directed by Ishirô Honda, who directed the original Gojira (1954), as well as many of the other better films in the series. Actually, when I started off showing Godzilla movies to the kids, Clara was 3 and Felix was 5, so maybe this would have been a better choice at the time than
Son of Godzilla (1967), from which this film borrows footage. But you know, it’s kind of fun watching these films with them since they like them.

Terror of Mechagodzilla

Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975) movie poster

(1975) dir. Ishirô Honda
viewed: 05/08/09

The final of the “original” Godzilla film series, known as the Shōwa series (1954–1975), The Terror of Mechagodzilla wasn’t actually a film that I had seen before, even in my youth.  But as my kids and I have been going through the Shōwa series, a reflection on my childhood love of Godzilla and a sampling of the variety of films that I like to screen for them, it ended up being our latest return to Godzilla.

Oft-considered one of the peaks of the original series, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974), which I had never seen in my youth, sadly, was one of the first of the films that I watched with the kids, going back now a couple of years.  I’ve tried to show them things that I like and hope that they’ll like, but don’t try to follow up on anything that doesn’t really wash with them.  Oddly enough, Godzilla’s been a moderate hit.  Growing up in the 1970’s with Godzilla is one thing, but here in the 2000’s, clearly something else, or at least possibly something else.

The film follows the story of Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, with the Earth scientists searching for the head of the robot Godzilla to learn from the alien science.  Their search trips up Titanasaurus, a pretty cool, colorful fellow, a dinosaur who crushes their ship.  It turns out that the aliens have teamed up with a disgruntled scientist who has learned to control creatures by mind-control and his cyborg daughter (imagine me explaining this to the kids, if you will), and with the mind-controlled dinosaur and the reconstructed Mechagodzilla, plan to take over the world, Tokyo first, mind you.

While there’s a vague “the humans have destroyed their planet” eco-message, mostly the intrigue, narrative, and adventure are played out with some fairly standard-issue tropes that bored the kids senseless.  To be honest, the kids played and paid little attention even during the climactic battle scenes, but when queried afterward said that they’d enjoyed it.  They were the ones who’d asked for another installment of Godzilla.

My take is this: not the best, not the worst, but definitely not the most inspired of the series.  Godzilla’s best adversary besides Ghidrah, mechagodzilla has a lot going for him, all robot-like, with tons of weaponry, a mirror image of the now heroic dinosaur.  The film even includes a rather drawn-out re-cap of Godzilla’s story, how he came to be a friend of the Earth rather than a terrorizor.  Actually, the kids most enjoyed his “dance” that was from a prior film, re-shown in the opening sequence.

Will I finish out the Shōwa series with the kids?  Will I show them some of the later films?  I have to say, of the outstanding films I am most eager to show them Godzilla vs. Megalon simply because it’s one I remember seeing when it came out, but it’s not actually available from Netflix except on some Mystery Science Theater 3000 DVD.

I try to leave it up to them, as much as I try to show them things I think are cool.  Oddly enough, it’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) that Felix has requested.  And while he’s seen that film already, he’s most influenced by his love for “Lego Indiana Jones”, his favorite Nintendo Wii game that he has, no doubt.

After that one, I’ll see what Clara wants.  Recent experience tells me that it might well be The Little Mermaid (1989), which for some reason has become her most recent point of interest.  While I try to show them things outside the norm, I will always listen to what they want.

Mothra vs. Godzilla

Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964) movie poster

(1964) dir. Ishirô Honda
viewed: 11/21/08

Unlike going through most franchises of filmographies, Felix and Clara and I are hitting Godzilla at random and on request.  It’s only a little problematic in that I picked of the first ones to show them the ones that I thought they would like the most: Son of Godzilla (1967) and Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974), and then was letting them pick from the title bout match-ups.

But since this turned into a bit more of a steady and on-going thing, I’ve backed up a bit and have been thinking of returning to the earlier films and then working our way back.  Besides, they don’t have any real clue about order (not that it really impedes on any of the films’ narratives other that when Godzilla went from being a villain to a hero).  So, I picked Mothra vs. Godzilla, which wasn’t one of the ones that I remembered so well.

I always found Mothra to be pretty lame, and I was (as a kid) annoyed that he is portrayed as a hero and a champion better than Godzilla earlier on, too.  Godzilla was my favorite,…what took the Japanese so long to figure it out?  Whether he is a giant colorful moth (so scary!) or a crawling caterpillar (even less scary, wouldn’t you say?), he’s never had anything on the big green dinosaurish, radioactive breath-spewing behemoth.

Like many of the films, this one features a pretty well-spelled out anti-war anti-nuclear testing theme, environmental destruction, and responsibility implied.  Mothra comes from an island largely devastated by nuclear testing.  It’s not clear if he is some pre-existing spiritual god or a mutant.  I guess that is part of what these giant monsters are all about anyways, a mixture of traditional mythology with modern day sci-fi coolness.

The battles are not top notch.  And the story, which I actually found to be a bit more well-constructed than usual, bored the kids with the long build-up to the action.  A giant egg washes up on a beach after a major tropical storm.  Evil capitalists “buy” the egg and want to exploit it, refuse to return it to the miniature women who represent Mothra, and then Godzilla pops up.  The people have to turn to Mothra to save them from Godzilla.  As I’ve read it, this was Godzilla’s last full-on “bad guy” role in the original series of films.

I do have to say that both the kids were pretty into it, Clara included.  Felix expressed his frustration with the lack of action, but it wasn’t until pretty far into the film.  Clara is pretty funny watching these films, the way she talks about the action and the events, waiting for the giant egg to hatch (which does take its damn time!)  It’s fun.  I’m sure there will be more.

Gojira

Gojira (1954) movie poster

(1954) dir. Ishirô Honda
viewed: 05/25/08

The giant rubber monster movie that started it all, Gojira (a.k.a. Godzilla), was released with some pomp a couple of years ago with its original Japanese name and all of it’s orginal footage and dialog with subtitles for the non-Japanese speakers of the world.  As a kid, growing up with Godzilla, we had Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (1956) with a lot of added footage with Raymond Burr showing up to handle the narrative and the dubbing.  It’s been years, but it must be said that this is a very different film.

Gojira is a striking horror film, shot with shadowy efficacy in black and white.  The monster is far more menacing and strange in his looming darkness, less campy and cartoony than in his color features.  The story, said to have been somewhat inspired by the Ray Harryhausen The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) (another giant dinosaur attacks the city film), is loaded with clear and eerie references to the atomic blasts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki only 9 years prior.  It’s a cultural phenomenon, this film, its legacy, and the film itself is surprisingly effective.  I say that because it is far more like a horror film in and of itself than what it begat as its legacy.

Godzilla is, of course, a lost dinosaur, aroused by the atomic testing in the sea and empowered with his own radioactive breath, unleashes his vengeance on Tokyo and the people of Japan.  Echoes of a legend of his origin touch back to some reckoning of tradition and nature, mutated into a new form of destruction.  His footprints are radioactive.  People are getting killed, but they are also getting radiation poisoning.

It’s also interesting that the scientist who creates the method of destroying Godzilla, a method more dangerous than the atomic bomb, destroys all knowledge of his massively lethal creation and commits suicide in killing the monster in the end.  His awareness of the devastation that his invention can create and the fact that he only uses it to destroy the monster is in itself somewhat of a commentary on the scientists who developed the technology of the bomb, whose legacy has been one of great devastation.

But what is also interesting, and still seemingly quite representative of Japan itself, is the evolution of Godzilla from apocalyptic monster to a hero, a defender of Japan, through film after film, he becomes the good guy.  And a huge cultural artifact, an international celebrity of sorts.  It’s a strange and bizarre legacy, but interesting, certainly.

Going back to this original film, though, was quite satisfying.  I didn’t watch it with the kids because I wanted to watch it in Japanese and to hear the language and keep the pacing.  I am a little unsure of how to approach this film with them.  But that said, there is an awful lot else out there for us to see.

Monster Zero

Monster Zero (1965) movie poster

(1965) dir. Ishirô Honda
viewed: 04/18/08

The latest foray into the original Godzilla series with the kids was queued up with the title of Invasion of Astro Monster, but since we watched the dubbed version, the original U.S. release of the film, we saw the film that I recalled from childhood as Monster Zero, the second Godzilla film to feature Ghidorah, the three-headed monster, the king of Godzilla villains.

This film, a direct sequel to Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964), recaptures both Godzilla and Rodan to battle Ghidorah, but this time under the shennanigans of the villainous machine-controlled aliens of Planet X.  These folks seek to take over the Earth by tricking them into allowing them to bring Godzilla and Rodan to Planet X to defeat “Monster Zero” (a.k.a. Kind Ghidorah), but then using mind-control, sic Godzilla and Rodan, alongside “Monster Zero” on Earth.

All said, though, the combination of the art design (waaaaayyy 1960’s) and narrative actually make for one of the most enjoyable films of the series.  There is a lot of narrative preamble, less out and out fight scenes, but a more cohesive and fun film of the Godzilla series.  Again, one of my childhood favorites holds up.

That said, being that I end up watching all of these Godzilla films in their dubbed English versions because I am watching them with the kids, I don’t get the interesting contrast of seeing them in their original Japanese.  So, for this film, once the kids were in bed, I skimmed a good chunk of the film in comparison.  Largely, the film is pretty shot-for-shot the same, using American actor Nick Adams in an integrated way so that it creates a more consistent crossover of actors and translation.  But what is really interesting and mostly significant is the translation of the Japanese in the subtitles in comparison to the orginal English diaglogue that had been put in place in the film’s 1970 American release.  It’s more clear, less silly, and makes a lot more sense.

The silliness of the dialogue in Godzilla movies is often the camp factor that cuts down the films (that and the special effects of obvious miniatures standing in for the real world).  Oddly, had they taken a more literal translation, the film would have seemed that much more interesting.

Definitely, though, one of the better films of the original series.