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!
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!
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!
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 without a holiday or pop culture fiasco to relate to, I came into February a free man, able to write about any monster movie my secret, greasy heart desires. After months away from the Godzilla franchise I knew I needed to head back that way, but something about Rodan grabbed me first. Rodan joins up with Godzilla and Mothra Avengers-style after this one anyway, so I figure it’s close enough.
I personally tend to overlook Rodan because it’s sandwiched between Gojira and Mothra and doesn’t have any monster-on-monster action, but that’s a mistake: this beast is a joy to re-watch, and represents Toho really hitting their stride with kaiju. It’s their straightest attempt at monster horror, and it’s a blast. Rodan was the highest-grossing sci-fi movie of its time, and is still one of the most beloved icons in the genre right alongside Mothra and Godzilla. Plus the US version features voicework from everybody’s favorite Star Trek officer turned Facebook super-star George Takei! So burst out of your egg, break the sound barrier, and snack on some newlyweds, because it’s time to go-dan with Rodan!
The name of my blog is Monsters Conquer the World, and this month I’m reviewing Frankenstein Conquers the World. You probably won’t drop your monocle into your brandy in astonishment when I say that Frankenstein Conquers the World is one of my favorite giant monster movies, and with Halloween right around the corner, what better time to talk about this delightfully insane monster mash? That’s right, in Conquers the World, Toho’s Godzilla team gave The Modern Prometheus the full kaiju treatment: an atomic origin story, gigantic size, a city-wide rampage, and damn it, you better believe they found a way to make him fight a man-eating dinosaur at the end! That plot synopsis might sound like word salad, but director Ishiro Honda, suitmation and special effects guru Eiji Tsubaraya, and everybody else associated with the production play it mostly straight, and the whole thing amazingly comes together. We’ll talk about that, the Frankenstein monster’s (sort of) lost battle with a gigantic land-octopus, and the movie’s long road from concept to completion, replete with traditional showbiz backstabbing! So dig up a radioactive monster heart to chow on and keep reading!
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!