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!
Things you’ll find at the North Pole: snow, maybe a ringed seal or two, ice, a jolly magical chubster distributing toys based on a vague morality system, some polar bears… oh yeah and King Kong’s gigantic robotic doppelganger chilling with his evil creator, “that international Judas” Dr. Who!
“Wha-huh?” I’m talking about 1967’s King Kong Escapes! The Toho/Rankin-Bass (the company best known for bringing Rudolph and Santa to stop-motion life) co-production that pits a suitmation King Kong against his mechanical twin! I love to tie my reviews to the season, but until somebody makes Attack of the 50ft Krampus, Kong’s James Bond-inspired adventures at the North Pole are as close as we get to seeing Christmas on Monster Island.
Happy Halloween month! It’s my favorite time of year: the crisp cool air, the beautiful colors of changing leaves, dark nights perfect for horror movie marathons, candy, pumpkin spice everything, apple pie, costumes, Halloween parties, all that shit! Last year I had a perfectly Halloweenish kaiju movie, the delightfully bizarre Frankenstein Conquers the World. This year I just have to follow up with its superior sequel, 1966’s terrific War of the Gargantuas!
Of course, just how much of a sequel it is will depend on what cut you’re watching, but we’ll get to that later. What’s important to know right now is that in spite of its wet-fart of a leading man, Gargantuas delivers a simple and satisfying sci-fi story and some of the absolute best monster mayhem committed to film. It’s a cult favorite in an already cult genre that’s secretly influenced some of the heaviest hitters in Hollywood. So put down that giant octopus, spit out those shredded shirts, and get the words unstuck from your throat, because we’re going to war with the Gargantuas!
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!
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!