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!
I’ve been cranking out Monsters Conquer the World for a little over a year now, and I noticed two glaring omissions in my output so far: I have yet to cover a “Heisei” era movie, and more importantly, I haven’t yet covered a Mechagodzilla movie. Obviously Godzilla’s robot doppelganger is a big deal, but what the hell does the current emperor of Japan have to do with kaiju movies? I’ll answer that by picking apart 1993’s Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II! Which confusingly enough is not a direct sequel to Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, nor is it even the second film to feature Mechagodzilla, it’s the third.
Plus, it’s Godzilla’s official 40th anniversary movie (despite being off by a year)! We’ll blast through a primer on the Godzilla series in the late 80s and early 90s, talk about some of Toho’s crazy unused ideas for the movie, psychics, deliciously bad CGI, singing plants, butt-brains, and more, so strap in! Mechagodzilla is go for launch!
That’s right dongers and she-dongers, I went to G-Fest earlier this month! “What’s G-Fest?!” I hear you sloppily sputter out in outraged confusion. Well, wipe the rage-saliva off your mouth and keyboard and phone and pots and pans and chairs and tables and electric screwdrivers and wigs and I’ll clue you in!
Here, this drawing of an exploding dragon flanked by names you’ve never seen before should explain everything.
G-Fest is the biggest convention for kaiju fans in North America, and probably the whole damn world. It usually clocks in at about 1000 attendees, but last year brought in around 3000 starry-eyed monster nerds (monstnerds?), and I wouldn’t be surprised if this year did that well or better! I’ve got all the sick deets plus about a brazillion pictures after the jump!
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!
Easter’s come and gone, but in the spirit of the holiday (and spring in general) I just had to review Mothra vs Godzilla. It hits all the right notes! A pastel-colored stripey egg, themes of birth, death and rebirth, more eggs, a giant pink humanoid rabbit shitting out jelly beans, and tiny singing ladies. Okay, maybe not those last two. More importantly, MvG is straight up one of the best Godzilla films, and an absolute classic giant creature feature. It takes the blueprint Toho shakily put down in the previous King Kong vs Godzilla and refines it into the now-standard monster vs. monster formula while perfectly tying together Toho’s two most famous beasts. It’s also the first Godzilla flick to make it more or less unscathed to the States, with the exception of a schlocky marketing gimmick. Steal the Reese’s eggs out of your loved ones’ Easter baskets and cuddle up with an electrified steel net, because we’re talking about Mothra vs. Godzilla!
So thanks to my friends and the Rifftrax crew, I watched the 1998 American Godzilla movie last month. While I had originally planned to put it off until later… a lot later, I figured I might as well use this viewing on the big screen as my research for MONSTERS CONQUER THE WORLD and knock out the review while it’s still pretty fresh in my mind. Depending on who you ask, the movie is either a nostalgic 90s guilty pleasure or the most disappointing movie that isn’t Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Godzilla actually has a lot in common with Phantom Menace: both were hotly anticipated, with months of hype and seemingly limitless potential to be awesome, tons of CG effects, lots of which don’t hold up today, and both made tons of money, despite being filmic diarrhea reviled by fans and critics alike. But while Phantom Menace is a complete failure at filmmaking and storytelling on even the most basic levels, Godzilla fails in ways that are less catastrophic, but just as unsatisfying.
All that said, there are flashes, glimmers, and glimpses of moments where the movie actually works. If it wasn’t pretending to be a Godzilla movie, and wasn’t so desperately mimicking Jurassic Park, it’d be a decent creature feature. We’ll talk about all that, how the movie sat in development hell since the 80s, the bitchin’ early versions of the movie we almost got instead, and that fucking Taco Bell dog. Grab your Chernobyl worms, a can of Josta, and COME WITH ME.
This post will be a little different from my previous few.
I haven’t watched my next movie yet, and that’s partially because I had some folks show interest in watching it with me, so you know, schedules and shit. Daigoro vs. Goliath is definitely next. Mainly because I’m 3 reviews in, and haven’t even touched the rich veins of camp and cheese that run through this genre. That’s okay though, because there’s a whole bunch of other giant monster shit to talk about! Come on and slam and welcome to the jam!
Oh boy, here it is. The big one. The 1954 horror classic that started it all. Gojira, a horror movie? Oh yes. True, Godzilla doesn’t whisk a screaming maiden off into a haunted castle or lurk in the shadows with a machete and an irrational hate for horny teens, but the atmosphere of apocalyptic dread throughout this movie absolutely evokes the kind of life-ending doom you’d get from any traditional thriller. Gojira didn’t quite invent atomic horror outright, but it’s easily the best example of it. While other entries in the Godzilla franchise get goofed on for hokey plotlines, hammy or wooden acting, and primitive special effects, the original seems to rise above it all. Others have written whole books on how Toho’s creative dream team brought the iconic monster to life and his impact on the world, so I’ll hit the highlights, compare it to the Americanized cut Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and make some stupid jokes along the way. Put your sunglasses on over your eyepatch, drop an Oxygen Destroyer in the fish tank, and grab Raymond Burr because I’m talking about Gojira!
So originally I wanted to post my retrospective on the 1954 classic Gojira before the new movie came out, but these take longer to write than I think, so that uh, didn’t happen. However, I have seen the brand new Godzilla in theaters twice now, and because I have the brain disease that makes me think about giant monsters all the time, I gotta rap about it. Straight up, it is not a perfect movie. That said, it just nails so much of what I’ve always wanted out of a modern giant monster movie. Not only that, but despite being a Godzilla fan since childhood, this movie managed to surprise me… a few times. Part of the credit has to go to the fantastic and minimalist marketing campaign, but the bulk of it has to go to the filmmakers, who knew just how to craft an incredibly solid and satisfying monster film. Plus, it may or may not be a rip-off of an abandoned Godzilla movie concept from the 70s! I’m going to drop spoilers left and right from here on, but if you’ve already seen the movie or are just a bad-ass that is out of fucks to give, read on!