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Thread: A Celebration of Showa Godzilla Cinema

  1. #51
    Criterion time DFA1979's Avatar
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    That one is decent at best for me. I do agree that is when the series became campy. The Godzilla dance rocks.
    Horrorfest 2020

    And as he lay there
    Playing games with his pain
    He felt his choice of jobs
    Was such a mistake
    He could have been a doctor
    In a soft easy chair
    Instead he chose three stars
    A territorial affair

  2. #52
    Director bac0n's Avatar
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    Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966)



    Turns out, Godzilla vs. Ebirah wasn't originally supposed to be a Godzie flick at all. Originally pitched to Rankin/Bass as a King Kong vehicle, it was rejected by them, I guess too much a departure from their Rudolph films, after which it wound up in the hands of Toho, who basically swapped out Kong for Godzilla and went with it. Curiously enough, this wasn't the first Godzilla film that was not originally penned for him (that honor would go to King Kong vs. Godzilla, which was originally supposed to have Kong fighting Frankenstein), and it wouldn't be the last, either.

    Aside from that, this movie also represents the largest shift in tone from previous Godzilla flicks up to this point, as it had an entirely different crew behind the camera from before. Most, notably this would be the series debut of Jun Fukuda, who would direct all but three of the remaining movies in the Showa series, and he brought with him much faster pacing, brighter cinematography, and an overall lighter, dare I say, tongue-in-cheek tone than his predecessor Ishiro Honda.

    Not only that, the special effects got a new helmsman, Sadamasa Arikawa, previously Eiji Tsuburaya's chief cameraman, now calling the shots, and bringing with him not only the knowledge he had garnered working under the master, but also a few tricks of his own that he learned from his television days. Tsuburaya was still listed as the Director of Special effects, but he was so in name only, spending most of his time on other projects and only dropping in occasionally to advise.

    Finally, and perhaps most noticeably, Akira Ifukube was gone, his thundering anthemic marches replaced by the more jazzy, surf-rock inspired music of Masaru Sato, who seems to have dreamed up the score after watching a few too many episodes of Batman. Might sound ridiculous, but, it actually works. This is a much more light hearted romp than the over the top, more-is-more approaches to the previous films, which were starting to quake under the opposing forces of shrinking budgets, coupled with the need to outdo the movies that came before them.

    In front of the camera, though, a lot of familiar faces return. Akira Takarada, star of the first Gojira film, returns as a dashing Nathan Drake type, a bank robber who finds himself stranded on an island in the middle of the sea, trying to keep himself and a few knucklehead teenagers out of the clutches of The Red Bamboo, a secret military organization who have established a secret base there where they are finishing up creating a nuclear bomb. And one can only assume that since they are using kidnapped Infant Islanders (Mothra's home) as forced labor, one can only assume that this nuclear bomb is not gonna be used for charity.

    And of course The Red Bamboo was populated by a lot of familiar faces from the Toho stable: Akihiko Hirata (Dr. Serizawa in the original Gojira) played a Red Bamboo captain with a very important looking eyepatch, the prolific Hideyo Amamoto, who played Dr. Who in King Kong Escapes, the friendly next door neighbor in Godzilla's Revenge, and a whole slew of other bit parts, played another captain; Hisaya Ito, the alien boss from Astro Monster; Jun Tazaki, always some position of authority was playing the same role he always played, almost all of the usual supporting actors were there.

    To be perfectly honest with you, it took me a LOOOOONG time to finally get to watching this film for the first time. All I knew at the time was that the film took place on a tropical island, and movies with that setting didn't exactly have a spectacular track record in my eyes, my least favorite films in the Showa era taking place on, you guessed it, tropical islands. Further, I knew then as I do now that the leading factor in choosing the tropical islands for settings was budget. Less buildings we need to blow up means less money for special effects. But of course, less buildings blowing up means, well, less buildings blowing up. And I want buildings blowing up! Coconuts blowing up just aren't the same.

    And worst of all, Godzilla's adversary in the film was basically a giant lobster. Not a three headed dragon that breathed lightning, not some huge cyborg alien creature with swords for arms, just a giant lobster. Didn't even breath any fire or shoot any lasers out of its eyeballs. In a word: BORING. The thing looked more delicious than it did threatening - if I was Godzilla, I woulda tried to lure it into a volcano, and then throw a shitton of butter on top of it, grab a bib, and, bam, you got yourself some good eats right there. In the end, what motivated me to watch Ebirah more than anything else was completionism. I watched it basically so I could say that I had finally gotten to every film in the Showa Era.

    So, imagine my surprise when I found myself quite enjoying this film, despite my initial reservations. Really, in the end, my preconceived notions on Ebirah proved correct: Ebirah is a boring AF monster, and the confrontations between him and Godzilla were, despite a silly game of volleyball involving a boulder, pretty forgettable. But here's the thing - the monsters are the backdrop to a silly, pulpy Indiana Jones meets Man from UNCLE style adventure, and that is what provides the bulk of the entertainment value, and it is only accentuated by Masaru Sato's genre-defying score, that made all the action, particularly Godzilla fighting off the Red Bamboo jets, a light-hearted frenetic dance.

    And Godzilla - a couple of things to bear in mind here are, first, that, although since Invasion of Astro-Monster, he has been leaning towards a more benevolent role, as of this film he is still very much as an unknown quantity, still played by stalwart Haruo Nakajima as a monster who could either help you or incinerate you with his atomic breath. As a result, the heros spend just as much time trying to keep away from Godzilla as they do the Red Bamboo, making for a few tenuous situations. I wouldn't go so far as to say tense, this movie doesn't take itself nearly seriously enough for that, but there are a few situations where I was wondering just how the shifty Takarada could get himself and his team out of harm's way.

    Another interesting takeaway is that, when you think about the fact that Godzilla's role was originally written for King Kong, you notice him taking on a lot of King Kong traits: throwing rocks and waving his arms around as a show of dominance - there's even a scene where he makes the moves on a lady! Well, that might be a bit exaggerating - he doesn't exactly grab some blonde and climb up a building, but he does take keen interest in an Infant Island native who finds herself stuck between a relaxing Godzilla and some pursuing evil henchmen. The henchmen of course take one look at the big green guy, promptly shit their pants and run away, but the girl, cowering against a rock, can only cower as Godzilla... leans over and stares at her, pretty much in the same way that you would look at a caterpillar.

    This is pretty much the first direct human/Godzilla interaction in film, now that I think about it, and the fact that they both got out of it unharmed would lead me to think that it could have gone a hell of a lot worse.

    And finally, the suit, which was re-used from the previous Godzilla movie, Invasion of Astro-Monster, was a bit problematic. As you could guess, a significant portion of the Godzilla parts took place in the water, which really beat the thing up, and by the end of the film, the suit, particularly Godzilla's eyes, which always seemed to be looking up as if sleep walking, was looking pretty droopy, especially in the third act where Godzilla stomped through Red Bamboo HQ with what looked like a case of cataracts. But, hey, that is small potatoes compared to the problems that would arise in films to follow, so I guess I can't complain much.

    In the final analysis, this film is much better than it has any right to be, and represents the fast-tracking of the series into more action packed, light-hearted affairs. The series won't always be this way - Honda has a few films in this series left - but Fukuda's take is definitely a shot in the arm and, dare I say, a more self-aware approach to Daikaiju Cinema, where the focus was more to entertain the audience than to challenge them.

    Next: Son of Godzilla
    Losing is like fertilizer: it stinks for a while, then you get used to it. (Tony, Hibbing)

  3. #53
    Criterion time DFA1979's Avatar
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    I saw Ebirah in October for my Horrorfest and I really enjoyed it. I liked that Godzilla fought a giant lobster.
    Horrorfest 2020

    And as he lay there
    Playing games with his pain
    He felt his choice of jobs
    Was such a mistake
    He could have been a doctor
    In a soft easy chair
    Instead he chose three stars
    A territorial affair

  4. #54
    Director bac0n's Avatar
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    Son of Godzilla (1967)



    The bad news for Toho coming out of Ebirah's release was that the box office returns for Godzilla films were on a steady decline from the heights they had achieved a few years before with the likes of King Kong vs. Godzilla and Mothra vs Godzilla. The novelty of giant monsters running amok was simply not what it used to be. I guess not everybody in Japan is exactly like me. The good news, however, was that Ebirah was made for peanuts, cheap enough that even if it were to have a marketing budget equal to its USD 1.2 million production budget (which of course it didn't), we're still looking at a 50+ percent profit margin with the box office returns. Certainly enough for Toho to greenlight another one of the films.

    However, Toho understood that the monsters themselves were no longer gonna fill seats, so they needed an angle. Problem was, though, their A-team (Director Honda, Special Effects Guy Tsuburaya, and Composer Ifukube) were busy working on King Kong Escapes (great movie, btw), so what's a fella to to? In steps Jun Fukuda, who helmed Ebirah Horror of the Deep, with an idea: these date movies are all the rage, man, why don't we make the next Godzilla film a date movie! And how ya gonna do that? Lets make Godzilla a dad, and give him a son!

    And thus, this fucking thing came into existence.


    Did someone slip some LSD in those mangos?

    The idea was, if we could make something that looked kinda like Godzilla, but also like a human child, the girls would find that adorable and yada yada yada. Call me culturally insensitive, but something inside me doubts that a thing that looks like Godzilla had sex with a potato and grunts like a donkey when it's in trouble would be the sort of thing that would result in a love connection in Japan in the late 60s, and there wasn't any sort of spike in the birth rate in Japan until the early 70s, so the data I fastidiously collected over the course of a 2 minute internet search backs up my claim.

    Just as big an offender as the design of Minya for this film, perhaps even worse, was the design of the Godzilla suit itself. In an effort to make it look more kawaii, they tried the old lets make the eyes big AF trick. Unfortunately, what they accomplished was more kowai than kawaii. Lets see if any kotakus pick up that reference. Anyway, the end result of the design had Godzilla's eyes sticking out the top of his head like ears on a corgi, with a permanent sort of squint to them that made it look like he was really, REALLY baked.


    Hey! Who wants to order dominos?!?

    And take a look at those tiny carnie hands! Are you gonna breath atomic fire at me or pick my pocket? At any rate, the end result was a Godzilla that was really hard to take seriously, but I doubt that was the intention to begin with.

    But even worse than the misbegotten aesthetics of the thing was the practicality of the suit. In order to give it its more "maternal" (their words, not mine) look, they created a suit that was much more bulky and heavy than its predecessors - so bulky, in fact, that Godzilla stalwart Huruo Nakajima was only able to shoot two scenes in the damn thing. And his replacement broke his hand while wearing it during filming. Finally, a third, much bigger and stronger suit actor was able to finish the Godzilla scenes without injury. Here's hoping that, once filming was done, they dropped the thing into the Mariana Trench, never to be seen again.

    However, not all was a total shit-show with this film. If you're able to ignore the cheesy Minya bits, there is a nice silly jungle adventure to be had here, with a team of scientists messing with nature and learning a horrible lesson. Akihiko Hirata, who by now you could be forgiven to think that he was contractually obligated to be in every Godzilla film ever made, gives his most prominent performance since his turn as Dr. Serizawa in the original, and it was nice seeing him front and center once more. On a more somber note, he's smoking in virtually all of his scenes, which given that he would years later die of lung cancer, well, you know..

    Another enjoyable performance was Akira Kubo, who shows all the pluck and spirit in this film that would make him an excellent leading man in Destroy All Monsters a few years later, a big shift from his role as a nerd in Invasion of Astro-Monster a few years before.

    Behind the camera, Jun Fukuda was at it again, speeding up the pace and brightening up the colors, with Masaru Sato again delivering a light hearted genre-defying soundtrack, something one would expect to see in a Roy Rogers Western. Hell, there were even the clip-clops of horse hooves playing, I shit thee not. On a Tropical Island. What is this, Rancho del Coconut?

    Working the special effects again was Sadamasa Arikawa, now actually credited as the Director of Special effects for the first time. And interestingly enough, it should be noted that this film stands out as the only film in the Showa Series where none of Godzilla's adversaries were men in monster suits - the giant mantises and spider were all marionettes, the spider being the most impressive feet of puppetry in the entire Showa series, requiring as many as two puppeteers for each of its eight legs. Coordinating the almost two dozen puppeteers to move that thing must have been quite the feat.

    Still, all that wasn't enough to make this film a success, its box office returns down about 30% compared to Ebirah before it. Apparently the whole idea of Minya as date movie fodder didn't quite fly with the fans. Who knew? And I agree with the fans. While the plot of the movie itself is serviceable, it is the design choices of Minya and Godzilla that really kill my enjoyment of this film. It's not Minya's existence in and of itself that bothers me - the Heisei Era Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla has a baby Godzilla, and its adorable without being obnoxious - it's just that... I mean, look at the fuckin' thing. It looks designed by committee, micromanaging the finer points of what people want without regard to how they work together. Just because I like tomatoes and I like chocolate, doesn't mean I like them together.

    Still, I got to give this film a bit of props, if for nothing else than the fact that its disappointing performance in the box office made Toho about ready to pull the plug on the whole franchise. And that, my friends, would result in my favorite Godzilla movie of all time. But that, intrepid reader, is a topic for a separate post.

    Next: Destroy All Monsters
    Last edited by bac0n; 12-30-2020 at 10:01 PM.
    Losing is like fertilizer: it stinks for a while, then you get used to it. (Tony, Hibbing)

  5. #55
    The Pan megladon8's Avatar
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    Yay!! This thread is back!!

    Love it! Son of Godzilla I was never too fond of. I think your write up is better than the film itself.

    Wasn't the son named something like Godzookie?
    I'm not being dramatic, I just feel like I'm going to throw up my heart and my head is going to fly away like a bird.

  6. #56
    Director bac0n's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting megladon8 (view post)
    Yay!! This thread is back!!

    Love it! Son of Godzilla I was never too fond of. I think your write up is better than the film itself.

    Wasn't the son named something like Godzookie?
    Glad you're enjoying the write-up more than the movie, tho admittedly the bar is pretty low.

    In the Showa films, depending on who you ask, the name of Godzilla's kid is either Minya or Minilla.

    Gadzookie is actually a character in the 70s Hanna Barbara Godzilla Cartoon which I obsessed over every Saturday morning. And yeah, he was Godzilla's son in that cartoon.
    Losing is like fertilizer: it stinks for a while, then you get used to it. (Tony, Hibbing)

  7. #57
    "Hey! Who wants to order dominos?!?" Bwahaha

  8. #58
    The Pan Scar's Avatar
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    I’d have to be drugged and tied up to watch Son of Godzilla.
    I have a very busy head. I have inside voices that I have learned to contain.

  9. #59
    The Pan Scar's Avatar
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    We might witness maximum Bac0n with Destroy All Monsters.
    I have a very busy head. I have inside voices that I have learned to contain.

  10. #60
    The Pan megladon8's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting bac0n (view post)
    Glad you're enjoying the write-up more than the movie, tho admittedly the bar is pretty low.

    In the Showa films, depending on who you ask, the name of Godzilla's kid is either Minya or Minilla.

    Gadzookie is actually a character in the 70s Hanna Barbara Godzilla Cartoon which I obsessed over every Saturday morning. And yeah, he was Godzilla's son in that cartoon.
    Thar's it! Yes! Remembered the name but not that it was from the cartoon.

    I need to track that cartoon down to revisit...
    I'm not being dramatic, I just feel like I'm going to throw up my heart and my head is going to fly away like a bird.

  11. #61
    Criterion time DFA1979's Avatar
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    Ok so I liked Son Of Godzilla
    Horrorfest 2020

    And as he lay there
    Playing games with his pain
    He felt his choice of jobs
    Was such a mistake
    He could have been a doctor
    In a soft easy chair
    Instead he chose three stars
    A territorial affair

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