We’re at the end of June! A whole month of dads and grads! Toho was kind enough to create a Godzilla film that revolves around themes of fatherhood (dads), coming of age (grads), and general summery fun (glads). 1967’s Son of Godzilla is this month’s movie, and if my constant championing of my main man Minya didn’t tip you off, this is legit one of my favorite Godzilla movies. Son of Godzilla represents a couple important turning points for the franchise. This is the series’ hard left into kid country, and also the movie that finally completes Godzilla’s transformation from villain to (grouchy) hero: likely in response to the enormous success of TV’s Ultraman, which started the year prior. But even with a greater emphasis on colorful comedy and kid appeal, SoG has a really solid sci-fi story, and some of the coolest monster action in the early series. And also the absolutely, hilariously worst Godzilla suit ever. So bust out your lead umbrella, because a radioactive typhoon is brewing on Sollgel Island!
Here’s the US trailer for starters! Check out that washed out color! That shit is vintage. The juxtaposition of deadly serious narration and spooky music over video of Minya is a lot of fun. Props to them for embracing this movie’s wackiness and focus on a deformed little baby Godzilla. The Japanese trailer has been preserved a lot better and is like three times longer, basically telling the entire story of the movie and giving more screen time to Godzilla and Minya’s human and arthropodic co-stars. And giving Minya weird little speech bubbles.
The score by Masaru Sato is equal parts spooky monster horror and wacky Flintstones-sounding derp-a-lerp music, so like the trailer it’s an odd mix that actually captures the spirit of the movie perfectly. It also might be an earworm, because I can’t even type this without hearing this in my head. Sato took up scoring duties with the prior film, Godzilla vs the Sea Monster. Sea Monster was a changing of the guard for Toho’s Godzilla dream team: Sato took over for Ifukube, Jun Fukuda plopped down into the director’s chair instead of Ishiro Honda, and Sadamasa Arikawa took charge of special effects, with OG monster maestro Eiji Tsuburaya supervising.
Looking back I wonder why Toho split up their all-star Godzilla trio. Was Toho breaking in some monster movie newbies? Did Honda, Ifukube, and Tsuburaya just need a break from their scaly, nuke-spewing star? I’d bet on either of those, but it’s worth noting they didn’t leave the monster game all together. In the years they took off from the G-man, they teamed up for the excellent War of the Gargantuas and King Kong Escapes.
Son of Godzilla opens with a great looking miniature plane (complete with working lights) navigating a dangerous typhoon. They start picking up what sounds like dubstep on their radio, but instead of making them lose their minds to dance, it’s blocking their transmissions. Naturally, they determine that it’s some sort of “brainwave.” Before they can tell us how the hell they came to that conclusion, Godzilla, looking just the worst he’s ever looked, nearly zonks his skull on their plane. Whether he looks dumb or not, everyone on the plane is suitably shitting their pants over a close encounter with the King of the Monsters, and are relieved to see him heading towards Sollgel Island, which also happens to be the source of the brainwave. Then we’re treated to a title card that is better seen than described:
We jump to Sollgel Island and its beautiful tropical vistas. The UN is hosting some tippy-top secret weather experiments there, and we’re introduced to the scientists working there as they go about their daily duties. Worth noting, from his very first scene Furukawa is already pissy about being on the island and in the intense heat. Though in his defense, immediately following his whining about the weather, we hear crazy noises in the jungle and Furukawa and his compatriot nervously follow the sounds in the jungle with their rifles. “This isn’t a place for human beings.”
The unseen beast in the forest comes and goes, and the scientists make it back to their delightfully colorful science HQ in one piece. Kenji “Mr. Godzilla” Sahara is there as Morio, wearing his headphones like a full foot off the top of his head. I guess he didn’t want to mess up his amazing ‘do? Once we get a good feel for how things run on the island, the humming routine of the scientists is upset by an unannounced visitor: earnest, dweeby reporter Goro Maki. Maki is a good audience surrogate and a fun character in his own right, played by one of my favorite Toho regulars, Akira Kubo:
Kubo shows up in a bunch of my favorite Japanese monster movies (Matango, Space Amoeba, Destroy All Monsters, etc.), and he seems to either play likable nerds or strapping adventurers, and he’s super charismatic as either. He’s definitely more on the geeky side in Son of Godzilla, going on a fussy little hunger strike when the scientists won’t divulge their secrets. Maki won’t leave, so the scientists decide he can tag along… as long as he also works as their new janitor and cook. It’s a fun little character building scene that generates some chuckles and OH SHIT KAMACURAS IS ATTACKING!
Kamacuras (Gimantis in the English dub) is a 7 or 8 foot tall praying mantis (in this case more like a “preying” mantis) masterfully portrayed with a massive marionette. The wire-work is top-notch, with Kammy realistically stalking our heroes through the jungle on the outskirts of their camp. Its eyes glow as the terrified scientists pepper it with rifle bullets, which is enough to convince it to fuck off and shamble away into the darkness. It’s a cool sequence and sets up some of this movie’s fantastic monster villains, but it begs the question: why wouldn’t scientists care about a bear-sized mantis? How is that not a huge discovery? Scientists’ reaction to finding gigantic insects:
In-universe they don’t give two monkey dicks because their weather experiment is so important that it trumps finding bugs the size of Volkswagen bugs. In the real world context of this being a movie from 1967, the scientists don’t care because this came from an era when we still thought of the natural world as something to be conquered and used, not preserved. It’s an idea that permeates genre fiction from this time and earlier, especially any stories that involve exotic adventuring and/or “super science.” That mindset (and the genres that embodied it) seems to have faded away as we learned more about the world and how we’re affecting it.
But it’s in full swing during Son of Godzilla, evidenced later when Maki asks the scientists if his hunch is right, and if they’re working on weather experiments. They confirm his suspicions, and explain that their experiments might just allow them to terraform the “wastelands” of Siberia, Africa, and South America into useful farmland. They cite the impending population explosion (that we’re currently living in) as the reason to pull out all the stops on food production. It makes perfect sense, but it’s crazy to hear someone unironically call rainforests useless wastelands.
Vast deserts and frozen wastes are a bit of a different story, and Godzilla vs Biollante actually touched on the idea of turning those into farmlands a couple decades later. That movie’s scientists tried cooking up super plants that can be grown in harsh climates, but the result of course was a gigantic crocodile-rosebush-hellbeast. We’ll get into that another time.
With their big secret revealed, they also let Maki know that they plan to run their test tomorrow: the conditions are right, and if their calculations are correct, they’ll be able to freeze the entire island. This is great and all, but Maki bolts: yesterday when he was out farting around looking for “Sollgel spinach,” he also found a pretty hippie mystery girl frolicking on the beach. So while our party of poindexters are firing up their rainbow-colored science gear, Maki runs off in the hopes of finding the girl before she gets turned into a ladysicle.
The experiment itself comes across as surprisingly plausible and reminded me a lot of real-life cloud seeding. It’s a multi-stage affair, and despite their equipment sporting a Fruit Stripe color scheme, the miniatures are worn and weathered-looking, lending the proceedings even more credibility. And hey, the experiment goes off without a hitch! Well, until some mysterious brainwaves fuck everything up.
The brainwaves cut off communication with some key equipment, causing a reverse reaction: instead of freezing the island, they fry it with intense radiation and boiling rain. An inattentive narrator tells us this maybe a minute after the scientists do, so if you missed it the first time, they got you covered. We get some bad-ass miniature effects shots to depict the chaos: palm tries rapidly wilt, rivers of scorching rain rush through the jungle and lightning shoots through the sky. Our poor sciensteins are trapped inside their rapidly rusting HQ for days while they wait for the outside world to become habitable again, surely marinating in the humidity-induced B.O. and canned bean-induced F.O. (fart odors). When they can finally march their sweaty asses outside, they find the 9 ft. tall mantises have mutated into 200 ft. fall mantises.
As before, the Kamacurases are depicted with huge awesome marionettes, but now we get up to three of them running around at once, instead of just one cruising through the trees. Since they’re ginormous now, they’re also depicted with some pretty choice composite shots. Maki and the lead professor are trapped on a weather tower as the Kamacurases sniff around for food. They’re able to stay hidden, and watch the three big bad
beetleborgsbugs come together to dig up a rocky hill. A big ass huevo rolls out of the hill, and the hungry, mutated, burned-up mantis monsters (monstises? mansters?) start tap-tap-tapping it open.
Out spills our titular kaiju hero, the one, the only, they baddest, the beautiful, MINYA.
Minya gets a lot of flak, and I pretty much understand it. I used to think he was the (second) worst thing to happen to the series. But I got a little older and chilled out a bit, and started experiencing these movies with my funniest friends, and it became apparent that not only is Minya a hilariously weird crowd-pleaser, but he’s the reason the 70s movies are even possible. I’ll dive into that a little more at the end, but for now bask in the glory of freshly hatched greatness:
Minya looks like he smells like cauliflower farts in the shower when he first goops out of his egg, but on re-watching the movie, I really feel for sweet, stupid, gross, wonderful Minya. First of all, he’s a premie. He didn’t hatch, he was broken out of his egg by hungry monsters, and going by appearances I’d say they busted him out well before he was done developing. So Minya’s a premie born into the wilderness without parents. He then suffers serious repeated head trauma minutes after entering the world. So you know, cut him a little fucking slack maybe.
Maki and the lead professor have been watching Minya’s whole fortuitous birth, and somehow deduce that the weird gray blob getting jabbed by mantis claws is a baby Godzilla (that would not have been my first guess). Meanwhile drama unfolds at the super-science HQ, mostly in the form of Furukawa and one other dude throwing shit-fits and quitting, and on top of that the island girl (Raeko in the English version, Saeko in the original Japanese) reveals herself to the rest of the gang when she swoops in to steal some laundry.
Furukawa, just at a fever pitch of bitchiness (fever bitch?) grabs a gun and sprints for the beach, planning to swim home in a fit of rage I guess? Whatever his plan was, he ends up being the welcome wagon for a beach-bound Godzilla.
It’s a great idea for a Godzilla entrance, but that suit… Woof. I’ll quit harping on it now, because you do get used to it as the movie goes on, but yeesh. It looks like Homer Simpson and Killer Croc had a toilet baby. Godzilla plows right through the scientists’ camp to get to Minya, who is rolling around on the ground and making bizarre “waaaag-waaaaah” noises to communicate his mantis-based distress. The scientists determine that the brainwaves from earlier must have been Minya psychically(?!) calling out to Godzilla.
Godzilla apparently recognizes Minya as his weird little son, because he rolls up and starts beating mantis ass (mantass?) immediately. The wirework on the Kamacurases was already impressive, but it crosses over into borderline miraculous when Godzilla starts wrassling with one and slamming its candy ass into the dirt. One of the Kammys freaks and tries to fly off, but big man Godzilla nukes him out of the air, blasting one of the bugs’ arms off. Kammy’s flaming dismembered claw soars through the air and almost crushes our human heroes. The composite shot for it isn’t perfect, but god damn, it’s the kick-ass thought that counts.
Godzilla is doing a stellar job of fending off the marauding mantises from molesting meek Minya, but it kind of goes south when they trick him into playing boulder hacky sack. The boulder gets batted around, Godzilla deflects it, the mantises return it, it’s all ridiculous fun and games until the giant rock cracks newborn Minya in the dome.
Godzilla proceeds to just straight-up beat one of the Kammys to fucking death against the ground, giving the last one an opportunity to successfully fly away. I know I’ve been gushing about the Kamacuras props, but I just want to give one more shout out: Kammy’s wings are really well animated, especially for an already-complex puppet. A lot of Japanese monsters have stiff wings that barely move, if it all. Kammy doesn’t flap super fast or anything, but its accordion-style wings look great. With the Kamacurases (Kamacuri?) bested, Godzilla decides it’s time to fuck off and have a nap or eat a donut or something, so he just turns to leave his sloppy, floppy infant in the dirt. In another great bit of hilariousad anti-baby slapstick, G-money’s tail whaps Minya square in the face.
Luckily for Minya, Raeko:
- was nearby
- has intimate knowledge of the local vegetation
- has the best fucking jump shot I’ve ever seen
Basically Raeko skyhooks just the pick-me-up Minya needs to get his shit together.
Godzilla begrudgingly comes back for his lumpy adopted boy-creature, and Minya hops on pop for an adorable tail-back ride. After all this monster mashing madness, the movie catches its breath and gives us some character development.. Raeko gets some clunky she-Tarzan moments with Maki (including repeatedly accusing/questioning if he’s actually a woman) and he brings her to the scientist’s camp for an official, laundry-theft-free introduction. We find out that Raeko’s dad was an archeologist, and as a kid she tagged along on his trip to Sollgel. He croaked on the island, leaving Raeko stranded there with nothing but her Newt-style wits and his journal.
After the last Kamacuras comes sniffin’ around their wrecked HQ, our human heroes decide to set up shop in Raeko’s cave lair. We get some great Minya moments in the meantime: while Godzilla sleeps off his murder-hangover, Minya literally kicks rocks. After hopscotching over Godzilla’s tail, he even breaks down into a kid-style temper tantrum, rolling around on the ground whining, forcing an exasperated Godzilla to drag him off to time-out by his tail. Minya’s body language is just super on-point throughout the whole movie, conveying an incredible amount of personality, charm and emotion. Massive props to the suit actor, “Little Man” Machan, a midget wrestler who played Godzilla’s deformed little son. He reprised the role in Destroy All Monsters and Godzilla’s Revenge, and even played the mini-version of the titular monster in North Korea’s Pulgasari.
Out of nowhere, all the human characters (besides Raeko and Maki) come down with a high fever! It’s a pretty shoe-horned in sideplot, but I’m not even mad. It keeps the humans incapacitated and stuck on the island, forces them to get up close and personal with some killer kaiju, and reinforces that Sollgel Island is so deadly and wild that it might actually be a boil on the rim of Satan’s butthole.
When Minya and Godzilla were having their charming hi-jinx, they were camped out by a lake of what (horrifyingly) appeared to be boiling blood. Raeko informs us that it’s actually “warm red water” that will cure everybody’s fever. Cool tools, they’ll just go slam some shots of not-blood, right? Yeah, as long as they don’t wake
daddy“Speiga”, a.k.a. Kumonga, a.k.a. oh fuck no:
Important sidenote, in the English dub, Raeko calls Godzilla “Godzeela.” It’s almost as weird as the 70’s movies where the dub actors call him “Godziller.” Speaking of Godzeela, Raeko and Maki make it to his lakeside hangout just in time to catch him trying his damnedest to teach Minya how to breathe a hot stream of atomic death.
The sequence is awesome all around: it’s funny and sweet, and perfectly illustrates the two creatures’ personalities without relying on narration or dialogue. Godzilla is a rough and strict but ultimately caring father figure, and Minya is an excitable, easily spooked little derp. Minya’s goofy smoke rings are delightful and totally iconic.
With their death ray lessons over, Godzilla and Minya bunk down for a nap, allowing Maki and Raeko to fill up their canteens with Sollgel’s naturally-occuring Faygo Red Pop. They get back to the cave and serve up the goo on seashells because of course they do. Also no surprise that Furukawa bitches out yet again and grabs a gun yet again. I have a feeling he won’t be asked back for any follow-up missions. This time he actually shoots the lead professor (in the arm) spurring Raeko to run off again for more herbal
Maki runs after her, but this time they’re both stopped by the last Kamacuras, and the scene is depicted with a fantastic composite shot. Somehow Raeko’s mastered a Minya call (possibly by imitating the missing/unseen/deceased Bride of Godzilla?), which she does hoping to summon Minya and his rad dad. The Min-Man derps along and tries his best to fight off the hungry insect, pelting Kamacuras with smoke rings before the bug zonks him on the dome.
Minya’s pain induced breakdancing causes a minor rockslide into Kumonga’s spooky-ass lair, awakening the ancient arachnid abomination. We get some more terrific wirework as Kumo emerges out of the dirt. Minya and Kamacuras’ sissy slapfight buys our human heroes just enough to time to slip away, but Kumonga and his(her?) thoroughly eerie theme music are hot on their tails. Maki and Raeko try hiding in a little cliff-side cave, but Kumonga starts poking his leg around in there like a cat pawing under the bathroom door when you’re trying to take a dump.
I always love when they find ways to get kaiju and humans to interact with each other directly and in a meaningful way. It’s pretty rare in these movies: with skyscraper-sized monsters, how much can they really interact with people? How much can you interact with bugs? Introducing smaller monsters like Minya here or the parasites in Cloverfield are a neat way around the issue, but it is awesome when 300 ft. tall beasts up and go “Nah fuck it, this calls for a personal touch,” and go one-on-one with humans.
Raeko and Maki manage to quietly climb away to safety and run back to their cave lair, but Kumonga, being one of the deadliest and creepiest Godzilla villains, follows them there in secret. Kumo spooges the cave shut with webbing, and starts flailing its claw around in there. For some reason Kumonga’s arm sounds like that Snifit-looking motherfucker from Star Wars. Our heroes are trapped just as they got their radio back up and working again. Luckily Raeko knows a secret underwater exit so she and Maki can go set up the antenna outside without becoming spider-snacks. With the antenna up, the scientists radio for rescue, and they realize that freezing the island will be the perfect way to make sure they’re not followed home by hungry monsters. As long as Minya doesn’t regain his egg-bound Professor X powers they can trigger it remotely.
Meanwhile, Kumonga’s hanger has gotten the best of him, and he turns his attention from the webukkaked cave to Kamacuras and Minya. Both creatures are quickly overpowered and cocooned. Kumonga stabs its big mouth spike-thing into the webbed-up Kamacuras, and after a few seconds of slurping out its guts, the mighty mantis’ eye-lights go out. He is fucking dead.
At this point I can only assume Minya has shat enough bricks to build a guest house. Luckily all the explosions and balloons and sputniks that make up the weather experiment kick on and are finally enough to wake up Godzilla. G-money gets to the scene just in time to keep Kumonga from drinking his son. Snow starts to fall as the monsters tussle with each other, so our human heroes bundle up and get ready to make their escape. Kumonga is not so chill about losing 2 of his 3 meals though.
Son of Godzilla is peppered with great monster action sequences, and it’s all been building up to this final showdown. Kumonga is one of Godzilla’s toughest, strangest, and most sinister opponents, and a lot of it has to do with how cool this fight is. Kumonga (like Mothra) inexplicably (but awesomely) projectile vomits web out of his face instead of pooping it out like real spiders. But after a couple splatters of spider batter Godzilla and Minya wise up and blast his crap out of the air with their atomic fire. Rocks are thrown, Godzilla gets knocked down and breath-blasts Kumonga while he’s on the ground, and Minya even manages to save Godzilla’s ass at one point, it’s all just great. Then things get a little weird.
Kumonga’s legs sort of curl up, and it appears to be dead. Just as a last “fuck you for trying to eat my ugly kid” Godzilla flips the apparent corpse over. When he does that, he notices Kumonga’s mouth. Like Kamacuras’ mouth it’s weirdly bushy and hairy. When G-fresh looks at it, it starts moving, like rhythmically opening and closing. And for some reason, Godzilla is like… hypnotized by it? They cut back and forth between tighter and tighter shots of Godzilla’s dazed gaze and Kumonga’s flexing, furry, vertically-opening mouth. Once Godzilla is fully spaced-out, Kumonga shoots a dart out of its mouth and nails G-to-the-zilla in the eye. That last little bit makes sense, but the lead up to it?
Why did Kumonga’s mouth lull Godzilla into a daze? I have one really stupid theory, and there’s no clever or grown-up way to say it: Kumonga’s mouth kind of looks like a big hairy pussy. I mean it’s a hairy, wet, vertical mouth that the adult male Godzilla is mesmerized by. What does that sound like to you? But even if it was some weird stealth sex joke they slipped in, there’s no reason dinosaurian Godzilla would be interested in a mammal-style vagoo-goo, and there’s super no reason for a spider to have said vagánia on its face. I haven’t been able to find any insight into it online, so I’m just going to assume it’s just a weird thing that Kumonga was able to do and it doesn’t have any deeper (heh) meaning.
After Kumonga zaps Godzilla in the eye with a projectile stinger, he stands up tall on all 8 legs, revealing that when he wants to, he can fucking tower over Godzilla. The marionette looks full on amazing and even pretty frightening here. It’s absolutely one of the best images in the movie. Kumonga knocks over Godzilla, and Minya just watches in horror as the spider prepares to eat his dad. With the snow coming down heavier and heavier, Minya musters up everything he’s got and lets loose a nuclear beam that blasts back the ghoulish arachnid. Godzilla follows up with a volley of his own, and Kumonga’s eye-lights go out accordingly. No playing ‘possum, this bitch is dead for real this time. Godzilla and Minya must have saw Zombieland though, because they double-tap Kumo’s rotten bod so hard that it catches fire.
The humans are drifting away from the island in their raft as the snow piles up. Minya struggles to keep up with his dad, faceplanting in the snow drifts. Godzilla roars into the sky fruitlessly, as the air gets colder and the snow keeps pouring down around him. We get some cool optical effects as the coastline freezes and Godzilla finally tends to his whimpering, shivering son.
It’s a shockingly tender moment, and it doesn’t feel forced or trite. Never have a couple of rubber suit monsters pulled so hard on my shriveled, blackened heartstrings. It gets doubly emotional if you consider the fact that as dinosaurish creatures, this cold snap would probably kill them. Bittersweet as it would be, at least they’d go out together.
But thankfully they don’t die in each others’ arms! Haha! Don’t worry kids! The filmmakers seemed to be aware of how fucking traumatic it would be for their young viewers (and some of their 31 year-old viewers) if they implied that Godzilla and Minya froze to death, so they make sure to cut back to the humans twice to reassure us that Godzilla and Minya will be just dandy when the cold weather blows over. The humans get one last look at Godzilla and son slumbering in the snow before they get rescued by a submarine.
So why is Minya so pivotal to the series? Why is he the reason we get the 70s Godzilla films? It’s because Minya completes Godzilla’s transformation from rampaging villain (Gojira), to reluctant anti-hero (Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster), to full-on hero (Son of Godzilla through Terror of Mechagodzilla). In Ghidrah, Mothra teaches Godzilla empathy for his fellow mighty monsters. Minya though, teaches Godzilla to care for weaker creatures. Once Godzilla became a full-time protector instead of just a reluctant defender, the series opened up to whole range of wacky superhero-style stories. Sidekicks, hero and villain tag-teams, alien invaders, and robot doppelgängers all become fair game when humanity cheers for your arrival instead of your destruction.
Minya returned for Destroy All Monsters and Godzilla’s Revenge, was rebooted in the 90s movies (with wildly varying results), and (more or less) returned to form in 2004’s Godzilla Final Wars. As much of a bacne-riddled goofus as he is, Minya provided vital character development for Godzilla, and threw apart the floodgates to wildly imaginative fantasy and surreal comedy that Mothra had nudged open a few years earlier. You can call Minya whatever you want, but as far as I’m concerned, he’s truly the Prince of the Monsters.