Haruo Nakajima, the man inside the original Godzilla (and many other classic monsters like Mothra, Rodan, King Kong, and various Ultraman baddies) passed away on Monday August 7th, 2017. He was one of the best and bravest performers in film history, bringing to life one of the most iconic and beloved characters of the last century.
Nakajima was a founding figure in the genre, having played Godzilla for the first twelve consecutive films. Nakajima imbued rubber suit monsters with an impossible amount of emotion, personality, and humanity. He didn’t just endure the hellish conditions inside the kaiju suits (more often than not at risk of drowning, asphyxiation, and/or burns from pyrotechnics), he thrived, using his expertise to coach his fellow suit actors and choreograph the creature brawls that have thrilled audiences all over the world. He was The Man of a Thousand Monsters, and he’s directly responsible for some of the coolest shit to ever happen in cinema.
Fans from all over the world have stepped up and shared their favorite Nakajima stories, pictures, and tributes online, so I’ve collected some personal favorites here. Click through to check them out!
Let’s correct that right now! Between Ultraman and Mothra I’ve been living and breathing 60s golden age kaiju action, so this month I’m reviewing 1991’s Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah. Gimmick CGI! Time travel! Evil white people (which stirred up enough controversy to temporarily kill the series Stateside!)! This was almost a Mothra movie (co-starring fan-favorite “lost” monster Bagan!), a King Kong movie, and a Mechanikong movie! Back to the Future II directly inspired this flick (writer/director Kazuki Omori even said so!)! Ghidorah like you’ve never seen him before (or since!)!
And that’s still just a sample of the delightful (if ultimately pretty uneven) madness in this very 90s entry in the Godzilla series. We’ll talk about all that, plus the most direct (and pulpy!) Godzilla origin ever filmed, and maybe most importantly: M-11’s off-brand Terminator shenanigans. Fire up the Delorean, shit’s about to go bonkers.
How the fart have I not reviewed the original 1961 Mothra yet? I’m correcting the fuck out of that oversight in honor of “Mothra’s” Day last Sunday. Mothra is easily Toho’s biggest mon-star other than Godzilla himself, and that’s got a ton to do with how awesome and original this movie is.
This isn’t just another big bug movie, it’s a groundbreaking genre film that brought wild fantasy and colorful adventure to the kaiju formula and put the monster’s motivation and personality front and center.
It’s also a beautifully shot, well acted, tightly plotted, fun, funny piece of classic kaiju fiction with some eye-popping action setpieces and visuals. I’ll talk about all that, plus the scrapped (heh) plane crash ending (and the suicide scare it caused!), the serialized novel the movie is based on (sort of???), the fact that it’s a stealth King Kong remix, and MOOOOORRRRE!!!
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!
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!
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!