Thursday, August 9, 2012

Godzilla Pentagonal Feature! (Yep 5 of them!)

As a child I relied on the Saturday afternoon Creature Feature on Channel 20 or Monster Week on the 4 O'Clock movie to get my Godzilla-Fix.  I used to love the weekly marathons that inevitably ended with Friday's showing of Destroy All Monsters.  But as I grew I seemed to drift apart from Japan's truest fixture of cinematic entertainment.

Thanks to the technology of 2012 (namely Netflix Instant or the DVR), I've been able to reconnect with the lovable atomic fueled giant lizard.  Over the past few days I engulfed myself in GHIDORAH THE THREE HEADED MONSTER (1964), GODZILLA VS. MONSTER ZERO (1965), GODZILLA'S REVENGE (1969), THE TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA (1976), and GODZILLA, MOTHRA, GHIDORAH: GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK! (2001)

Ghidorah looks tough. 
Thank goodness Godzilla has
that larvae as his tag-team
I won't bore you with long winded reviews that delve too deeply into plots.  The Godzilla franchise never really seems to pay homage to their own movies.  Characters, plots, storylines, timelines, history, origins, who is good and who is's all just window-dressing.  Godzilla seems to stumble from picture to picture not sure if he's a friend to children or whether it's time for the people of Tokyo to get their annual wake up call so insurance adjusters can all declare bankruptcy.  And, suffice to say, when you plant a grade on a Godzilla have to understand the category of movie we're talking about.  An A+ for a Godzilla movie is probably akin to a 'C' for standard fare so please...don't breathe atomic fire onto this genre enthusiast of Japanese cinema blogger.

1) GHIDORAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER seems to have an awful lot of confusing plot for a standard monster movie.  All I remember is that it all eventually boils down to Godzilla, Mothra (the larvae version), and Rodan battling things out with the title character.  In the midst of this we get a princess with amnesia, a supposed history of Mars, a meteor monster egg, and some running, chasing, and shooting from a variety of human characters that I couldn't keep straight.  Whenever the monsters weren't on screen...I was underenthused.  And I guess I should note that if that damn larvae wasn't around, Ghidorah would have won because apparently Godzilla and Rodan don't live up to the hype when they're a tag team!  Grrr....  Godzilla Rating - 4 smashed buildings out of 10.

2) GODZILLA VS. MONSTER ZERO...OK now things get moving.  We're back to Mars only this time humans are traveling there and back...and there again.  Apparently Ghidorah is back on Mars and causing some real estate issues (Tokyo breathes a sigh of relief).  Earth (or really Japan and one token American) decide to send Godzilla and Rodan to help the martians out.  But it's all just a ploy so the monsters can be turned against us.  Luckily that one American figures it out...and along with the nerdy Japanese lab guy they set things right so Godzilla and Rodan can pummel Ghidorah, who is called Monster Zero even though he has three heads?  Shouldn't it be Monster Three?
Mars stops by to pick up Godzilla and Rodan.
    I enjoyed this offering more than the previous entry.  I found it amusing that the American actor was actually speaking his lines in English (even though he was dubbed you can clearly see that he's saying the same words...and that all the Japanese actors are merely waiting for a pause so they can deliver their lines...since they have no clue what the hell he's really saying).  It was nice that the martians decided they didn't really need Mothra.  Seriously, what drugged out screenwriter decided that a giant moth larvae would be a good monster? 
     There's also two classic moments for laughter in this entry.  First, upon defeating Ghidorah the first time Godzilla decides to dance The Jig, lots of foot work required for the big green guy...and some joyous jumping.  While watching him on a monitor the martian leader can't help but say, "Ah yes, a truly happy moment!"  Second, when the American hero (how did that ever fly in Japan) and his fiance return home, the martians are waiting for them.  In what amounts to the world's longest disintigration blast the hero watches his true love dissolve before his eyes.  His response, "YOU RATS!  YOU DIRTY STINKING RATS!"  Godzilla Rating - 6.5 smashed skyscrapers out of 10.

This picture will probably be on my Christmas
cards this year.
3) GODZILLA'S REVENGE!!!!!  This thing must have been an after-school special or something.  The movie focuses on this little fat kid who is bullied, lonely, and has far too strong of an imagination.  His no-show parents enjoy letting him spend too much time with an elderly chain-smoking neighbor, and over rice (naturally) they talk about monsters.  When Short Round goes home he appranently has a bad trip from the mushrooms Smokey mixed in with the rice and dreams of visiting Monster Island where he watches Godzilla fight The Sea Monster and a giant spider (both simply stock footage from other movies.  Then in what has to be the single funniest moment in the history of this franchise, the fat bellied lad ends up striking up a conversation with Minya (Godzilla's son) who, of course is also bullied by a big monster named Gabbra.
     Wimpy watches Minya solve his problems with a lot of biting and growling.  Then when his "trip" ends he finds out he's being kidnapped by some local thieves.  Folks, I am not making this up.  He fights the crooks off by biting and growling like a monster.  Then at the end he uses these same techniques on the local bullies...and the movies ends a few minutes before this Little Monster is obviously committed.  Godzilla Rating - 2 smashed outhouses out of 10 (solely because I laughed for two hours when this travesty finally ended).  In retrospect, I'm not really sure about that title either.  What exactly was Godzilla's Revenge?  Was it his revenge to train this annoying kid and turn him loose on the children of Tokyo?  Or is his revenge going to take place on the film-makers who greenlit this movie and practically turned the big green guy into a contestant on Celebrity Big Brother just to keep his name in the spotlight...?

A cool retro art poster.

4) THE TERROR OF MECHA-GODZILLA is the movie that my friend considers the pinnacle of the Godzilla franchise.  It's pretty good.  In a rare ode to the series, this movie actually plays as a sequel to the previous entry Godzilla vs. Mecha-Godzilla.  It involves more creepy bad guys controlling monsters and rebuilding the tituar character.  The music in this entry is solid.  Godzilla has a dynamite introduction about 45 minutes into the movie when he has to deliver a serious ass-kicking to some D-rate monster named Titanosaurous.  Then the two Godzilla duke it out.  Godzilla swims away, presumably to Monster Island to check on that fat kid, victorious at the end...of course one year later Star Wars showed up in movie theatres so immediately this entire series seemed dated and Godzilla pretty much stayed on that island for quite a while.  Godzilla Rating - 7 smashed bridges out of 10.

I like this poster.
The Japanese symbols really add
to the atmosphere of it.
Overall, a good movie too!
5) GODZILLA, MOTHRA, GHIDORAH: GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK!  This movie caught me by surprise.  It started out pretty much throwing away the entire history of the Godzilla franchise except for the original movie (and a sligh joke about the god awful US version).  Godzilla shows up and he's 100% evil.  Luckily Earth has the three-guardian monsters...Baragon, Mothra (again!?), and Ghidorah (fighting on the side of angels this time).  Now the three guardians are here to protect us...but that doesn't mean that humans and property aren't going to get a whole lot of flat before this opus is done.
     The effects in this movie walk a fine line between looking cool...and real hokey.  Literally it depends on the camera angle.  The characters are ridiculous, but the joy comes because the film makers realize this...and pretty much wipe out the entire cast.  There are some awesome deaths in this movie that had me gut busting because I just couldn't believe they were delivering them.  When you see a wounded girl in a hospital...nope...can't spoil it...suffice to say, the entire hospital goes down hard.  The battles with Godzilla and each of the monsters are well filmed, although for such a big deal I thought Ghidorah came off like a bit of a wimp, and even Mothra has a couple of grand moments which made me smile.  And frankly, that's what happened when I was watching this movie.  I started smiling and for that the Godzilla Rating - 8 smashed hospitals out of 10.  The title don't lie.  Once the monsters start showing up and the all-out attacking gets going, there's some great entertainment to be had.

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