It’s been a long time coming, gang! I’ve teased it the last few months, did a dry run (of sorts) with Redman, and even did some special scheduling and pre-planning to boost my chances of even pulling it off: this month, I’m punching myself in the wiener as hard as I can reviewing the original Ultraman series! All thirty-nine (Jesus Christ) half-hour episodes!
Or at least, that was the original plan!
The hectic holiday season and the sheer volume of content at hand means I bit off way more than I can chew here. To give Ultraman his due, MONSTERS CONQUER THE WORLD is gonna do something a little different for the next couple months. To start, this post will provide a brief intro/background on the series and then take an in-depth look at the first episode. In the coming weeks I’ll nibble away at the monumental first series in bite-size chunks until I’ve devoured every single episode of Ultraman! (Too many food metaphors, sounds like you’re going to eat him.-Ed.)
Considering my time management skills, am I still biting off more than I can chew? Maybe! Is it ridiculously overdue and absolutely worth it? You bet your beta capsules, baby!
Alongside Batman and Star Trek, Ultraman forms a triumvirate of hugely influential science-fiction/fantasy television shows that exploded into homes in 1966. Eiji Tsuburaya, the special effects warlock that gave us Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, and King Ghidorah (and therefore the Japanese monster boom of the 60s) birthed this bionic bad-ass and redefined the giant monster genre in the process. It’s a big ol’ slice of TV history… and a still-thriving multimedia/merchandising empire that rivals (and in some cases surpasses) Godzilla’s! Let’s find out what exactly is so Ultra about this man!
Welcome to Part Deux of my reveux of Gamera: Guardian of the Universe! If you haven’t read part 1, click here to massage your brain with all the appropriate words, pictures, and hyperlinks. Or don’t! It’s a free fuckin’ country, baby.
How about a little mood music to get you back in the swang of thangs?
Aw yeah, now we’re talkin’! In Part 1 I left us on a cliffhanger! Gyaos was on the verge of eating two of our leads (PLUS LITERALLY A RANDOM BABY), Gamera showed us his altruistic streak, and Asagi showed us the heavy toll she’d have to pay for that altruism! All that plus Roger Ebert’s weird-ass review and my stupid dick jokes await! What a time to be alive!
Looking back on the unmitigated diaper fire that is 2016, I noticed I’ve only done one Gamera review this year! I’ve got something ultra special planned for next month, so I had to squeeze in some more titanic turtle before the year is up! Being November, I naturally picked one where our chivalrous chelonian roasts some turkeys!
Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (or its Japanese title Gamera: Giant Monster Midair Battle) was unleashed in 1995 and successfully rebooted the Gamera series. Directed by Shusuke “GMK!” Kaneko, scored by Kow “GM-FUCKING-K!!!!” Otani, with special effects by Shinji “did the fighter jet scene in GMK!” Higuchi.
I really really like GMK, and Gammy here is what most of that dream team was doing pre-GMK. If you’re playing a drinking game where you take a shot every time you read GMK, please call 911. If you’re still conscious, great! This movie is a ton of fun, gave Gamera the second chance he always deserved, and in a lot of ways outshined Toho’s Godzilla output of the time. Keep reading to find out how!
Holy shit guys, there’s a brand new Godzilla movie! Shin Godzilla, straight from Toho Studios. The first Japanese Godzilla flick in twelve years, it made a big splash in Japan critically and commercially, and it came to the States for a limited engagement.
If you’re a monster fan like me you’ve probably peeked at some production art and promotional stills, checked out the trailers, and wondered how it all fit together while trying (and in my case failing) to dance around spoilers. Godzilla himself looks particularly shocking, with an aggressively ghoulish, gruesome design that evokes charred, burning flesh and exposed bloody muscle. He looks like Burning Godzilla and Lord Zedd had a baby and then peed on it. I truly mean that as a compliment.
It’s a look that wouldn’t work for a kaiju-battling hero monster or a majestic beast meant to be an agent of natural chaos, but it works pretty perfectly for an unsettling, looming horror monster. But despite all appearances, Shin Godzilla isn’t the full-on creature-horror experience I was expecting. It’s something substantially drier and denser, with a surprising amount of wry humor.
It’s all spoilers all the time from here on in, so if you’re okay with that read on! If you’re not okay with that, I guess like… you could go play Frog Fractions. Oooh, or Wonderputt!
Most of the movies I review on MONSTERS CONQUER THE WORLD have been/will be from Japan or Hollyweird, usually in that order. And while those two chunks of planet Earth put out the most giant monster movies, I really get a kick out of seeing what the rest of the world chips in to the genre. This month I trek to impossibly picturesque Norway for the 2010 found-footage horror-comedy dark fantasy Trollhunter. Or Troll Hunter. Or Trolljegeren. You get the gist.
Trollhunter takes the familiar formula from movies like Ghostbusters and Men in Black and makes it uniquely Nordic. Stoic deadpan, Scandinavian social satire, down-to-Earth working people, and OH YEAH GIGANTIC FUCKING TROLLS take center stage in this kick-ass movie.
Bundle up, turn all the lights on, and don’t say your prayers, because we’re digging in to Trollhunter!
Guys, I’m fucking pumped. This month I’m reviewing one of my all-time favorite movies: Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (or GMK for short). It’s a movie as rad as its title is long. Directed by Gamera wunderkind Shūsuke Kaneko, this 2001 movie masterfully mashes together monsters, magic, and mystery. It stars a deliciously evil Godzilla, bolstered by heady themes, spectacular visuals, engrossing human characters, and slam-bang oh-shit monster wrassling insanity.
Let’s pick apart what makes it so fucking awesome, find all the juicy little Easter egg-y nuggets, talk about how we almost got Godzilla vs. The Mutated Spaceman instead, and reveal which GMK star spent the 70s shredding in a funk band! Kick over some little statues and absorb some souls, it’s time to All-Out Attack!
So far on Monsters Conquer the World I’ve covered a substantialchunkofEijiTsuburaya’swork. Tsuburaya is the monster maestro that pioneered Suitmation, giving us a fantastical world of gigantic monsters and heroes portrayed with live actors and scaled sets. So with Tsuburaya kicking ass over in Japan, what was happening in the western world? Did Hollyweird just settle for compositing close-ups of iguanas in with footage of actors? Yeah, sometimes! But also no! When the studios gave a shit (and for whatever reason didn’t want to go with practical props/puppets), that’s where one mister Ray Harryhausen would step in!
Harryhausen, like Tsuburaya, took an established method of visual effects, innovated the bejeezus out of it, created some of the bitchingest sci-fi/fantasy films of the pre-Star Wars era (and a couplepost-Star Wars), and inspired entire generations of filmmakers. Harryhausen’s stop-motion animated critters are fucking rad, so this month I’m finally reviewing one of his colossal creations: 20 Million Miles to Earth! The 1957 creature classic is super-duper straight forward, but its bad-ass visuals and even a little bit of soul make it a Harryhausenian slam dunk. Grab some sulfur to snack on and prep your eyes for THE MIRACLE OF DYNAMATION!
I’ve mentioned Ultraman before on Monsters Conquer the World: it’s the groundbreaking, genre-defining superhero television series dreamed up by Godzilla special effects mastermind Eiji Tsuburaya. While Ultraman’s monster-battling antics achieved moderate success here in the States, it was a huge hit in other parts of the world, especially its home country of Japan. There Ultraman is a beloved character, pop culture icon, and merchandising juggernaut, and for good reason. Just like Star Trek or Doctor Who, the series has been running in some form or another since its debut in the 60s, constantly finding new generations of devoted fans. Basically, it’s ridiculous that I haven’t reviewed this yet.
And I’m still not reviewing it yet! I plan to before the end of the year, but for now I’m reviewing Ultraman’s mysterious, cheap-o, dirtbag cousin Redman. Ultraman spawned plenty of knock-offs, some made by Tsuburaya Productions themselves, but Redman is different. Simply put, there is a hilarious, accidental darkness inherent to Redman and his chintzy production values. Monster fans on both sides of the Pacific have found that the intended superheroics play out a lot more like giant monster snuff films. Take a deep breath, because this month I’m reviewing Kaiju Cold Case FilesRedman!
I thought I was so cool, I had the next few months’ reviews all planned out. Then out of nowhere, Godzilla fan and all around cool internet person Chickenman456 gives me the hook-up on Half Human, the BANNED monster movie Ishiro Honda, Eiji Tsuburaya, and Tomoyuki Tanaka collaborated on immediately following Gojira. Not just the gutted American version (which itself is not particularly easy or affordable to come by), but the borderline impossible to find Japanese original as well! It’s something I always kind of casually kept an eye out for, but never really expected to find… kind of like this movie’s heroes and its titular titan!
We’ll find out why it got banned in its homeland, how the Hollywood release chopped it from 94 minutes to 63 (despite adding a bunch of shit!), and more! Put on your parka, it’s time to dig into Half Human!
Earth Dayand4/20 were this month, so I had to review 1971’s oddball eco-conscious epic, Godzilla vs. Hedorah! This seems to be a love it or hate it entry in the Godzilla series. It boasts artsy weirdness, scenes of kid-friendly wackiness immediately contrasted with people-melting mass-murder, a gelatinous dookie beast from outer space, trippy cartoon segments, and I’m gonna go ahead and spoil it because it’s so fucking rad: Godzilla shoots his atomic breath at the ground to take flight. Seriously, if you haven’t seen the movie, you gotta at least watch this 30 second clip of the best thing in the universe.
If you haven’t guessed already, I fall squarely in the “love it” camp. I have good company, too! Legendary film critic Roger Ebert listed it as his favorite Godzilla film. Series producer Tomoyuki Tanaka wasn’t so pleased: upon viewing the rough cut, he fired Hedorah writer-director Yoshimitsu Banno. We’ll talk about that, how the suit actor portraying Hedorah had to get surgery–while still in the monster suit!–how Hedorah indirectly spawned 2014’s Godzilla, and all kinds of other fun insanity! Get on the floor-ah, here comes Hedorah!