Tag Kaiju

Gamera Vs Viras (1968)

Gamera Vs Viras (1968)

Gamera falls under the influence of aliens using a mind control device and they order him to destroy Earth. Two young boys manage to stop the aliens and Gamera then has to fight the aliens’ leader, Viras, a giant squid.

 

Gamera, the poor relation to Godzilla (the dominant statesman of kaiju films) sees his prospects slump to a new low in Gamera Vs Viras. Released in America as Destroy All Planets, the film was no doubt re-titled to cash in on Godzilla’s highly memorable Destroy All Monsters. Calling this whatever else it wants makes no difference because Gamera Vs Viras is disappointing. It’s worse than disappointing though, it’s appalling. The Gamera series was always aimed more at the younger demographic, featuring a couple of Japanese school kids in the lead roles and being the ones to help Gamera save the Earth. As a result the films come off more juvenile and cartoony than they should and certainly dafter than the majority of Godzilla films. But I guess with this being aimed towards kids, the goofier the better, right?

The other Gamera films never had much of a budget in the first place but this entry seems to have no budget at all. Instead of using new footage to show some of the things that the plot has Gamera do, they’ve simply cut bits out of the previous films and used the stock footage. This leads to all manner of terrible continuity issues as one moment Gamera destroys a dam in glorious Technicolour and then a moment later he’s smashing up Tokyo in black and white footage. Not least there’s the problem of the minor changes to the suits in between Gamera films. And no one is supposed to notice? It’s only kids watching remember – surely they won’t fall for the oldest trick in the book to keep costs down?

The ‘aliens trying to conquer Earth’ theme is the staple diet of a kaiju film – this time they dress like surgeons and wear berets. Their ship is a couple of painted-over plastic bottle tops stuck together. Their control systems look like kaleidoscopes. And of course, they’re all Japanese-looking aliens. But again, no one is supposed to notice. It’s for kids! They are pampered by overly cutesy dialogue, the fact that the lead school kids are boy scouts and one of the most awfully ear-splitting songs ever made, the ‘fight song’ that the kids sing.

Gamera looks quite cheap again and his opponent, Viras, looks awful. The giant squid doesn’t have much movement despite the numerous tentacles. The fight scene at the end between him and Gamera isn’t bad but with limited movement from both parties, the action mainly consists of static dummies being thrown through the air. They fight on land and underwater and it’s the sort of daft entertainment that one should be getting from the Gamera films, not kids in tight shorts fending off Japanese aliens in surgeon outfits. The main problem is that Viras just doesn’t get enough screen time. Yes the suit looks awful but like all special effects, their initial effect wears off over time as the audience becomes accustomed to it. If we’d have seen a lot more of the monster, we wouldn’t have been too bothered about seeing the zipper because we’d be too focused on the monsters duking it out.

 

Gamera Vs Viras is a mess of a monster flick. Too much stock footage. Too many silly goings on. And not enough monster action. I think even the kids that this is aimed at would see right through the empty shell of this sorry kaiju.

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Godzilla Vs Mechagodzilla (1974)

Godzilla-Vs-Mechagodzilla-1974

Mechanical Titan of Terror!

When Godzilla re-emerges after a long disappearance, he seems a lot more aggressive than normal, destroying buildings and even attempting to kill fellow monster Anguirus. Then to the shock of Japan, another Godzilla appears. After the two monsters fight in Tokyo, it emerges that one of the Godzilla’s is actually a mechanical monster created by aliens to destroy the planet. Can Godzilla put a stop to their plans and defeat his mechanical doppelganger?

 

All film franchises suffer from repetition after a number of sequels. Arguments can be raised against the Bond films, the Star Trek series and it’s definitely the case for the numerous horror franchises out there. But when you have a gigantic radioactive monster that just destroys Japan for a plot, there’s not really much room to manoeuvre, is there? Having originally been mankind’s enemy, Godzilla turned into the good guy in the 60s, defending the world from all manner of extraterrestrial conquerors and the weird and wonderful monsters they brought with them. Godzilla Vs Mechagodzilla is the FOURTEENTH Godzilla film so anyone who expects anything remotely different from the preceding thirteen films had better get their head checked. Expect men-in-rubber-suits, miniature cities, 70s Japanese fashion, aliens trying to take over the world and a pulsating soundtrack.

Considering how cheap the previous couple of entries looked, it’s a bit of a surprise to see that this one at least looked like it’s getting back on the right track. Gone was the majority of the juvenile humour and silly shenanigans of Godzilla Vs Megalon (tag team monster wrestling) to be replaced by something a little more serious. Those who doubt this new direction only need to watch the fight between Godzilla and former friend Anguirus, whom he beats within an inch of his life and attempts to break his jaw. Unfortunately the majority of the screen time is spent with the silly human sub-plots and the aliens attempting to take over the world angle that had become so over-used by this point.

Granted there was a recession in Japan at the time so Toho couldn’t afford to be splashing out on loads of fancy special effects. But what we get is something like a poor man’s James Bond with Interpol agents, dumb professors and aliens who look like gorillas all thrown into the mix. Throwing around mystical mumbo jumbo, random science about space titanium and spies wearing sunglasses at night, the script isn’t shy about doing what it can to keep the viewer entertained in between monster fights. The script does a reasonable job at this task – it’s nowhere near as boredom-inducing as some of the earlier 60s efforts and the amount of daft camp on display at least makes everything suitably compelling.

Godzilla Vs Mechagodzilla sees the introduction of one of Godzilla’s most famous and successful enemies, his mechanical doppelganger, Mechagodzilla (the Japanese were not known for their originality in these films). Bringing to the table a multitude of weapons, Mechagodzilla is one of Godzilla’s toughest opponents and takes him to the limit and then some. The fights between the two are well-crafted and some of the best of the 70s. Even the design of the monster is visually rewarding and makes for an impressive sight when it’s first revealed in all of its robotic glory.

Sadly, they had to go and throw another monster into the mix. King Caesar is given a lot of build up throughout the film so when he finally comes to life and reveals himself at the end, the results are ridiculous. He looks like some big shaggy dog that needs a bath. Definitely one of Toho’s most uninspiring creations, King Caesar looks like a guy in a dog suit running around a miniature set. I know that’s all he is but the majority of Toho’s other creations at least give the illusion of something real. King Caesar brings nothing to the table in terms of the action and, despite being on Godzilla’s side, he ends up being more of a hindrance, getting in the way and just growling and slobbering all over. Stupid dog – there’s no wonder that it was thirty years before he made another appearance in the Godzilla series! Godzilla is his usual bad ass self, with the suit looking well-worn at this point but at least he still manages to get down and dirty in the fighting when it crops up.

 

For the time and the economic troubles in Japan, I suppose this is the best anyone could have hoped for considering some of the previous entries. Godzilla Vs Mechagodzilla is still one of the sillier entries in the franchise but it’s not as bad as it could be thanks to the impressive fights between Godzilla and his mechanical buddy.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Gamera Vs Jiger (1970)

Gamera Vs Jiger (1970)

An ancient statue is uncovered in Japan and taken away from the mountain to be displayed in a World Expo. This causes Jiger, a giant monster, to awaken and go hunting for the statue. It’s only a matter of time before Jiger starts destroying Japan and it’s up to Gamera to stop him. During a battle between the monsters, Gamera is injected with Jiger’s larva and a human-manned miniature submarine must go into Gamera’s body and kill the infant monster before it kills him from the inside.

 

Gamera was always a poor man’s Godzilla until the 90s came along with a kick ass reboot. Back in his heyday, Gamera starred in some of the single most appalling monster movies ever made. The Gamera films were always more child-orientated, with most of the films starring a couple of smarmy Japanese kids who would know everything and help Gamera beat whatever the monster of the moment was. Less serious, less plot-driven and more in line with a bigger budgeted kids TV show, Gamera battled some of the most ridiculously-conceived monsters ever to grace cinema in some of the most confusing, most immature and most delirious plots created. This sixth entry into the Gamera series must be about as far away from his original conception that anyone could imagine.

Gamera Vs Jiger surely has been made by some Japanese guys who were experimenting with illegal drugs at the time. There’s no other reason why the film is so weird. From the traditional city-stomping kaiju eiga antics, to colourful Jiger’s design, right down to the Fantastic Voyage-like sub plot about the mission to go inside Gamera and commit an abortion, the film continually bombards the viewer with the unexpected. There’s even a stop to the World’s Fair/Expo from 1970 complete with its unique visions of the future. Two kids form the basis of the human plot and the presence of this couple of annoying brats in the lead roles is like a kick to the nuts. These children are super-gifted and super-mature for their age.  It’s ironic that in these Gamera films, it’s not the scientists who come up with the better ideas and theories behind the evil monsters but the children. Quite why these two kids are present at ever major world meeting isn’t really important and even more so the reasoning behind two kids being entrusted with the mission to go inside Gamera and kill Jiger’s spawn.

Gamera looks the same as he did in the previous films which is to say, not very believable. The monster suit never really convinced anyone that this was a dangerous monster from the get-go and the silly sequels have done nothing to dispel that myth. It’s got a limited range of movement thanks to the physical limitations of turtles which means Gamera tends to do the same things over and over again. This means that the fight scenes are very repetitive and whilst there are some decent battles here, it’s literally the same sequence of combat. Jiger looks a lot like Barugon from the previous films only with a few more horns stuck in his head and a different colour of body paint. It has the ability to fire arrows from its head and has small rockets behind its ears which it uses to travel through the air. And yes, all of this does look as silly as it sounds. Jiger is a terrible monster but for a terrible film, what were you expecting? However Jiger’s violent demise is somewhat disturbing for such an innocent children’s movie and Gamera takes a massive beating leading to the loss of a lot of green blood.

 

Gamera Vs Jiger is yet another terrible entry into the Gamera series. I’m a fan of kaiju films but I was even struggling to get through these horrendous Gamera outings. Rightfully most of them have been shot-to-pieces on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

 

 ★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Gamera Vs Gyaos (1967)

Gamera Vs Gyaos (1967)

A mysterious giant bat-like creature is awakened by an erupting volcano and proceeds to go on a violent rampage throughout Japan. A young boy with an emotional link with Gamera summons the giant turtle to come to their rescue.

 

Formulaic springs to mind. As with the Godzilla films, once Gamera had worn out his shelf-life (which was worn out considerably after only the first film!), it was just a case of finding new monsters for him to fight. I mean, what else can you really do with a giant monster? It’s not like you can write gripping dramas or rom-coms about them falling in love with fellow giant monsters or holding down 9-5 office jobs. Come to think of it, there’s an idea someone needs to do. But anyway, the only thing that giant monsters do better than destroy Japan is to smash each other to pieces. As is the case with the majority of the kaiju films of the 50s, 60s and 70s, our heroic monster is called in to save the day when a new monster shows up and tries to take over. It didn’t matter whether it was Godzilla or Gamera, the formula was the same. Rinse and repeat.

Gamera Vs Gyaos follows the same routine. A new monster shows up, does some damage across Japan and looks to be a menace. Gamera shows up and the two monsters fight. Gamera loses the first round and retreats whilst the new monster continues its rampage and the humans step in, feebly attempting to stop the monster with tanks and planes. Then its time for the big finale where Gamera makes a spectacular comeback, fights the monster and defeats it, thus saving the day for Japan. As always, the unnecessary human sub-plots get in the way of the two monsters duking it out. Here we have some villagers trying to get more money from a new road being built on their land. Plus the ‘annoying Japanese kid who is best friends with Gamera’ makes his unwelcome debut to the series. For each Gamera film after this, there would always be a Japanese kid who was friends with Gamera. Don’t ask me why a monstrous turtle would befriend a fat Japanese schoolboy, it’s just one of those mysteries.

The obvious lack of budget in the Gamera films is reflected in the rather pitiful-looking monster suits. At least the Godzilla films had monsters which looked real (to a reasonable degree!) – the Gamera monsters always looked more like sock puppets fighting than guys-in-suits. Gyaos looks a bit cheap and has a weird angular head but I suppose once they start fighting with each other, that doesn’t really matter. He’s one of the nastiest kaijus on record and looks pretty mean, even managing to chomp down on a few humans.

Thankfully there is a lot more monster action in this film: the fights are over quick but there are plenty of them. Gyaos tends to just sit back and use his laser beam weapon (don’t ask!) which is a bit boring as prefer my monsters to duke it out and get down and dirty with the fisticuffs.  He’s arguably Gamera’s most famous foe and made a far better showing of himself in Gamera, Guardian of the Universe in the 90s reboot of the series. Gamera looks as daft as ever, with tiny hands and the rocket jets built into his shell. Conveniently, the monsters usually do battle in the middle of nowhere as opposed to the middle of the cities. The miniature sets look like Lego buildings so it’s probably a good job that they didn’t fight there as landing awkwardly may hurt!

 

Gamera Vs Gyaos is a half-decent Japanese kaiju flick and a lot better than some of Godzilla’s worst outings (Godzilla’s Revenge and Son of Godzilla for instance). Its too family friendly to be entertaining to adults wanting a kick out of giant monsters smashing Japan to bits but younger viewers may be interested in watching a giant turtle with built-in jet propulsion do mortal battle with a flying bat with a laser beams. Definitely the best of the original Gamera films.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)

Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)

The Three-Headed Monster battles Godzilla, Mothra and Rodan for the world!

Godzilla and Rodan are back on the rampage in Japan, destroying cities before setting their sights on each other. In the meantime, a massive meteor crashes to Earth and from it emerges Ghidrah, a powerful three-headed space monster intent on destroying the planet. Seeing how deadly this new monster is, the twin fairies of Infant Island summon Mothra who proceeds to communicate with Godzilla and Rodan, persuading them to work together to defeat this new menace. But with their past histories of fighting each other, can the Earth monsters co-operate long enough?

 

The fifth entry in the Godzilla franchise, Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster is arguably the one where the series ditched the seriousness and started playing things for laughs. As if seeing Godzilla and a rather flea-ridden King Kong ‘fight’ and then watching Godzilla take on a giant moth wasn’t funny enough for some, the previous films at least managed to maintain a level of seriousness and treat the monsters with a bit of respect. Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster introduces such camp daftness as the rival monsters playing rock badminton amongst other things. You would think that the most loaded Godzilla film up to this point (featuring four giant monsters!) would be an exciting thrill ride full of wanton destruction, monster mayhem and Tokyo getting smashed to pieces. Unfortunately it is not.

The main problem with Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster is that despite the inclusion of four monsters, the script doesn’t gel well enough to give them a valid purpose for being in the film. There is some footage of both Godzilla and Rodan during the opening credits but once they’re over, it’s a long time before they re-appear on screen. As with most of the earlier Godzilla films, there’s little action in the first half and lots of talking. Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster tries to lay claim to be the talkiest of the Godzilla films and I wouldn’t try and argue against that case. It takes ages for the first monsters to even appear on screen and even longer for them to do anything worthwhile.

The daft human sub-plots in the Godzilla films do take the biscuit though – this time around there is some princess who believes she’s a Martian, proclaiming to all that the Earth is doomed and who attracts the attention of an assassination who continually tries to kill her. The human sub-plot and the monsters destroying Tokyo don’t exactly gel together and run alongside each other with little connection. I’m sure the writers could have come up with some better ideas to link the two better as the film comes off as two separate films mutually thrust in a weird marriage of convenience. It seems like director Ishirô Honda is trying to hold off on the monster action in order to build up a bit of suspense like he did with the original. But if the monsters aren’t on screen then at least have the characters talking about them instead of worrying about each other.

The final battle between all four monsters is strangely disappointing given how much build-up it receives during the film. It’s nowhere near as spectacular as it deserved to be and Ghidrah has his ass kicked (not for the last time either) before deciding enough is enough and simply leaving. There’s no proper resolution – he just flies off, which could mean he simply heads off to New York or London and resumes Earth-destroying. Lots of miniature houses are destroyed in the process, though not as many as first imagined as the monsters conveniently head out of the city for the final confrontation so as to avoid any unnecessary damage to Tokyo. Most of the monster sequences are well-filmed and, as a testament to how strong they look, stock footage of the final battle and of Ghidrah laying waste to Tokyo would be re-used time and time again in the later sequels.

If there is one thing to be thankful for here, it’s the introduction of Godzilla’s greatest ever foe and my personal favourite kaiju, Ghidrah (or King Ghidorah as he would come to be known later on). He’s such an awesome-looking monster and the design and costume is fantastic. There is just something about Ghidrah that looks downright evil – you can almost feel the personal vendetta against Godzilla that the monster has here and in the future films. Ghidrah has such a mythical look about him that he’s unlike the majority of the other kaijus introduced in the series. His roar is memorable, his beams weapons deadly and he’s just one bad-ass monster (who unfortunately gets his ass kicked in every single film he’s been in!). Mothra makes her second appearance in a Godzilla film here and is confined to the larva stage for the entire film, presumably because it was cheaper to film this version of the monster than the flying version. She’s pretty useless in the film and is hardly the sort of monster you’d want by your side if you were Godzilla fighting a physical monster like Ghidrah.

Funnily enough, her participation in this film, specifically the ‘communicating’ that she does with Godzilla and Rodan to convince them that humanity is not the enemy, spelt the end for the monsters as Japan’s destroyers right up until 1984′s The Return of Godzilla. After this, Godzilla and his Earth monster comrades were protectors of mankind, defending the planet from all manner of nasty aliens and their monsters. So her inclusion served as a pivotal moment for the series although the merits of Godzilla’s transformation into some form of superhero will split fans down the middle. At least Mothra has an excuse for looking so cheap – Rodan doesn’t far too well at all. He comes off as some third-rate knock off of The Giant Claw and his battles with Godzilla during the film consist of some cheap puppet head repeatedly pecking the Godzilla suit.

 

Thankfully, there were better Godzilla films to come in the future, which included a lot more fighting between the giant monsters. Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster is certainly not one of the worst in the series and manages to keep a lid on the silliness and the camp. But it’s one of the most boring entries. The lure of four of Toho’s most popular monsters fighting sounded good on paper but it’s all a bit of a let down in the end.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Godzilla Vs Biollante (1989)

Godzilla Vs Biollante (1989)

The most terrifying monster of all time is back in his greatest movie ever

Godzilla remerges from the volcano where everyone thought he had been killed and immediately starts to destroy Tokyo, only this time he looks to be more unstoppable than ever. Meanwhile a scientist has been experimenting with samples of Godzilla’s DNA and mixes it in with those of his dead daughter and a rose. This creation grows to enormous size and eventually becomes big enough to do battle with Godzilla when the army fail to stop him.

 

The long-awaited follow up to The Return of Godzilla sees the return of Godzilla to more familiar territory – instead of taking on just the Japanese army he’s also fighting ludicrously thought-of monsters who want to kill him. The formula worked for nearly twenty years back in the 50s, 60s and 70s and after Godzilla was reborn in 1984, there’s only so many Godzilla versus humans films that you can do before you start pairing him off against other giant monsters.

Biollante is by far the biggest ever opponent created for Godzilla but doesn’t do an awful lot although the make-up and special effects for it are interesting to say the least. It’s the most unique of Godzilla’s opponents and to say that it’s a big, killer flower it certainly poses quite a menacing sight with lots of Venus fly-trap-like tentacles. It would have been hard for the effects team to bring something so complex to life in a believable fashion so the question should be why bother in the first place? Why not try something simpler and easier to animate? Godzilla is also given a meaner, more aggressive look in this one – a far cry from the feeble robot-like monster from the previous film or the superhero version from the late 70s. I’d have preferred to have seen Biollante battle Godzilla a little more but obviously the budget wouldn’t extend to too many fights, especially given the complexity of shooting with Biollante’s multiple tentacles.

The military also get another ass-kicking by Godzilla as tanks, helicopters and other vehicles are dispatched by the almighty monster. Toho has managed to work military stock footage in with the miniatures to create good illusions of the monsters fighting toe-to-toe with the armed forces. They’ve come a long way from the days of cheap plastic miniature tanks and cardboard model cities being destroyed. However the sheer number of failed ways of killing Godzilla that the army employ does get a bit ridiculous. They never learn from their mistakes and come up with all manner of weird and wonderful experimental weapons which all obviously fail.

The film has an underlying theme of ‘don’t do genetic engineering’ which wasn’t really explored much and the human plots to which the majority of the film is based are pretty bland. The problem with most of the Godzilla films is that they are basically two giant monsters fighting it out but this is usually towards the end of the film. So the rest of the film needs filling out with weak human plots to pad out the running time and keep the audience waiting for the fights. This one contains plenty of shoot outs between human characters, lots of silly things like fake countries, terrorist plots and government agencies. It’s all nonsense and quite appalling really.

Koichi Sugiyama’s score lacks the passion and likeability that Akira Ifukube’s scores had. The battle scenes aren’t the same without one of Ifukube’s rousing scores to go alongside the carnage. On the positive side it’s quite violent for a Godzilla film as not only the monsters exchange bloody thrusts but a human character gets electrocuted on screen too. It’s also got continuity with The Return of Godzilla as this one picks up straight after the events of that film. It’s something that the original series lacked and something which this later series of Godzilla films has been keen to stress.

 

I’ll give Godzilla Vs Biollante a bit of credit for trying to be a little different but one of the reasons why Godzilla has become so popular is the repetition factor – people like me watch these films knowing what to expect. And when they don’t deliver the requisite monster battles and little miniature cities in abundance, there is outcry. Just like here. It’s too easy to get lost in the mix of plots, characters and continual barrage of long-winded weapons names that when the fights come, it is all irrelevant.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Invasion of the Astro-Monsters (1965)

Invasion of the Astro-Monsters (1965)

A new planet is suddenly discovered in the solar system and the mysterious inhabitants arrive on Earth to make a deal: in exchange for the help of Godzilla and Rodan to defeat Ghidorah, who has been attacking their planet, they will provide the Earth with the cure to many of the world’s deadliest diseases. Earth agrees to let the aliens take the monsters but when they receive the cure for the diseases, they realise that it is a trick. The aliens have sent Earth an ultimatum: either agree to colonisation or they will send Godzilla, Rodan and Ghidorah to destroy the planet.

 

Invasion of the Astro-Monsters provides nothing new from the previous couple of entries, so much so that this film pretty much is a carbon copy of the previous film, the imaginatively-titled Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster. The only difference being that Mothra is not present in this one but Ghidrah still gets to tussle with Godzilla and Rodan once again (so much so that plenty of stock footage from the previous flick is used and look closely and you’ll see a little clip of Mothra). My main query with this logic is that it took three monsters to beat Ghidorah in the last film so why should two do any better considering they were both there as well?

Little nit picks aside, the film is one of the more entertaining of the earlier Godzilla films. The film has plenty of monster action but you’re going to have to wait a long time to see any. Before then we’re treated to the usual “aliens trying to take over the world using monsters” plot which became a staple of the series for the next ten years. To be fair, the plot was probably at it’s strongest in this and the next one, Destroy All Monsters, as the aliens were simply a little more campy and goofy-looking. Here the costumes are awesome, complete with matching black and grey outfits, black visors, antennas on their helmets and daft boots. Their leader, the Controller, is one of the most memorable villains of the entire Godzilla series, talking in his clipped English and making a series of weird gestures with his hands. This side of the story is more akin to the 60s spy thrillers like James Bond as the heroes race against time to uncover the fiendish plot of the aliens from Planet X. Cue gadgets, fist fights and a big hideout on an island.

American actor Nick Adams is on hand trying to blend in with the crowd but his performance is irritating and rather aggressive at times. Sadly Adams committed suicide in 1968. His inclusion was a desperate attempt to reach out to the international market and it fails because he sticks out like a sore thumb. In the original Japanese version, Adams speaks English throughout but the rest of the cast talk to him in Japanese! A bit confusing but much better than the ridiculous American dub in which everyone sounds dumb. The dubbing always added an entertaining aspect to the films which is lost during the original language version.

So apart from the goofy human-alien plot, which is a lot of fun it has to be said, there’s plenty of monster mashing as well. It takes a while for things to spice up but Godzilla and Rodan finally do battle with Ghidorah on Planet X. The fight is short but at least the alien world makes a change from Tokyo or the fields of Japan. Later in the film the action switches back to Japan as the three monsters lay waste to miniature cities left, right and centre. Then there is a final showdown which is the highlight of the film. Ghidorah was always my favourite opponent for Godzilla and the three-headed monster was and is still one of Toho’s most memorable monsters. The old-school contact fighting between the monsters adds some realism to the film instead of the ‘beam weapon showdowns’ that the 90s and 00s sequels became. I like to see the monsters getting down and dirty in the middle of Tokyo. Having said that (after laying waste to Tokyo), the monsters almost always ended up fighting in the middle of nowhere. I know it’s cheaper on sets for a couple of guys to stomp around on grassy fields but it ruins the illusion of them striking fear into the heart of Japan by toppling over a couple of mud huts instead of skyscrapers. All of this carnage to the strains of Akira Ifukube’s wonderful soundtrack.

 

It’s not the best in the series but the fights at the end should be enough to please any Godzilla fans. Invasion of the Astro-Monsters represents the quintessential Godzilla film when the budgets were still decent, the creativity hadn’t totally waned and the monsters didn’t look like they’d been dragged through a hedge backwards.

 

 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Godzilla’s Revenge (1969)

Godzilla's Revenge (1969)

A young Japanese boy who is getting bullied at school dreams that he visits Monster Island and befriends Minya, Godzilla’s son. Minya is getting bullied by a bigger monster. Together the two become an unlikely team as they learn to stand up for themselves.

 

How do you follow one of the most popular Godzilla films in the entire series with Destroy All Monsters? Well in the case of the Godzilla series, you follow it with the worst. To me it seems that Toho blew their entire bank balance on the number of monsters that they jam-packed into the previous film and were scraping the barrel for whatever leftovers they could find for this feeble, feeble outing. This is supposed to Godzilla’s Revenge, not his stand-up comedy hour.

This is by far Godzilla’s lowest ebb. Critics may say the juvenile entries where Godzilla tag team wrestled his way across Japan in the mid 70s were far worse than this but as a die-hard fan, I’ve got to disagree. At least they featured city-stomping antics, daft aliens trying to conquer the world plots and of course, plenty of monster action where Godzilla had to win to save the Earth. Here, Godzilla isn’t smashing Tokyo. He’s not battling space aliens. There’s no sign of any old school favourites like King Ghidorah, Rodan or Mothra. This time Godzilla is playing the doting father, letting his offspring grow up the hard way by learning to take the rough with the smooth and stand up to bullies. It’s not a serious science film about the perils of atomic radiation. It’s not even a silly action romp with ludicrous monsters fighting each other.

Godzilla’s Revenge is quite simply a ridiculously childish film which wouldn’t look out of place as an after school special. The story should never have been made into a Godzilla film and is the sort of childish nonsense that hampered the Gamera films. The main problem is that he isn’t even the focus: it’s his son Minya and the troubles he is facing thanks to the monster bully, Gabarah. It’s somewhat cute to have the monster and the human sub-plots actually mirror each other for a change (something which I’ve moaned on about a lot in my reviews as the sub-plots rarely seem to fit with the overall narrative) but I just wish it didn’t have to be this one about bullying. I can understand that the film wants to send out some form of anti-bullying message but why not just use Minya in his own vehicle? Why drag Godzilla down with him?

The main threat to the monsters in this one is, as I’ve mentioned, Gabarah. He’s one of the worst monsters that Toho ever created, with a daft roar and just electric hands as weapons. If he can’t even beat Minya in a battle, what chance does he have against Godzilla? Godzilla does ‘fight’ other monsters but it’s just stock footage culled from previous films. He does battle with Ebirah and Spiga but it’s just the footage we’ve already seen passed off as new material. This is a crime in itself as the film only runs for seventy minutes as it is. With padding courtesy of stock footage, there’s very little new footage of the monsters included. As far as this new footage goes, Godzilla is hardly around.

When he is on screen, he’s not smashing his way across Japan but playing the domesticated father! He might as well have had his license to destroy revoked and given an apron to wear. It’s a far, far cry from the devastating force he was in the original film. We don’t even know whether everything we see is real or not as it’s never made clear whether the action is taking place in a dream or what. Not only that but since the stock footage is from various films, Godzilla is constantly change appearances as different films used different suits. Sometimes when films come out with so many glaring problems, you wonder why they bothered in the first place. It’s a half-assed effort which does little to give credibility to the series.

 

Taken solely as a kid’s film, I’m sure that Godzilla’s Revenge ticks all of the relevant boxes with its inoffensive material, light-hearted approach and cute-factor going into overdrive. However this is not what fans of the series want to see, especially where Godzilla is concerned. Where is the bad ass monster who laid waste to Tokyo? We want that Godzilla back, not the father struggling to cope with his kid. If we wanted to see that, we’d turn in to TV soaps. We want to see cities being destroyed and other giant monsters being pummelled into oblivion. And on that note, Godzilla’s Revenge dramatically fails on every level.

 

 ★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Godzilla Vs Gigan (1972)

Godzilla Vs Gigan (1972)

Space Monsters War With Godzilla For The Earth!

Aliens land on Earth and disguise themselves as businessmen who are building a tourist attraction based on all of the Earth’s monsters. Their idea is to build this theme park and then kill the real monsters so that the people of Earth can live in peace and not fear for their lives. One of their employees begins to suspect that things aren’t as straightforward as they seem and he soon uncovers their true plan: they want to kill the monsters of Earth so that they can conquer the planet with their own space monsters Gigan and King Ghidorah. Two of Earth’s most fearsome monsters, Godzilla and Anguirus head to the theme park for a deadly showdown.

 

The twelfth entry into Godzilla’s film legacy, Godzilla Vs Gigan reflects the economic strain that Toho Studios were experiencing at the time. Japan was suffering from a heavy recession in the 70s and Godzilla was not spared financial butchering: the monster suit is in a real sorry state and makes it look like he’s been living rough for a few years. There was also a clear creative drain on the series by this point – with Godzilla having to defend Earth from a bunch of aliens who were trying to take over yet again.

This is one of my favourites from the original Godzilla series and it’s because it delivers what the shallow fans of the series like me want – plenty of monsters smashing buildings up before smashing each other up. Although it takes them a while to appear, the monsters are given a lot of the screen time in the second half. Godzilla Vs Gigan features one of the better monster fights at the end, as Godzilla and Anguirus take on Ghidorah (my favourite monster from the Godzilla films) and Gigan, some weird cyborg-chicken monster that sports a buzzsaw in its chest. In this one, Gigan is played seriously (he’d be turned into a comedic buffoon in the next film) and he’s one of Godzilla’s toughest opponents in the entire series with a real nasty streak to boot. He makes Godzilla bleed for the first time here and the pounding that the Big G takes from the monsters in this one is one of his harshest in the entire series. There is plenty of new monster action with all four monsters getting down and dirty and they all get a fair chance in the limelight. It’s time to suspend your disbelief as you witness monsters tackling each other with wrestling moves, slams, double teams and all manner of backyard brawling antics.

This is what attracted me to the Godzilla series in the first place – giant monsters fighting it out. It’s just a pity that they probably only included Ghidorah and Anguirus to re-use some stock footage from Destroy All Monsters (the stock footage shown is from a day fight whereas here the monster fight takes place at night – but no one seemed to notice when editing). The traditional ‘monsters attack Tokyo’ sequence seems to go on for ages too as Gigan and Ghidorah lay waste to the city before Godzilla shows up. The miniature sets look as daft as ever but they really get smashed to pieces and Gigan doesn’t take any prisoners when it comes to taking down planes either. There’s a really cool shot of the two evil monsters standing amidst the ruins of an oil refinery with a cloud of flames and smoke engulfing them.

Let’s not forget that there is a human side to this monster action and it’s usually overlooked in Godzilla films. The story may be pretty weak but the characters in this one are some of the best in the series. They’re not secret agents. They’re not spaceman. They’re not scientists. The characters are simply a cartoonist, his spunky girlfriend and her fat hippy friend. Hardly a trio to strike fear into the hearts of aliens but they’re all likeable. The fat hippy is a loveable oaf, always eating something. You’d better get used to them even if you can’t stand them because there’s plenty of talking. In fact there’s nary a monster in sight for the opening half of the film until Anguirus finally shows up to see what the fuss is about and is promptly zapped by some traditionally-ineffective human weapons. Thankfully the carnage at the end more than makes up for this lull. The aliens are of the usual variety – they look Japanese, dress in funny clothes and love to predict Earth’s imminent doom. Even Godzilla gets to talk in this one which has angered many fans. I don’t see why, it’s a silly gimmick and it wasn’t re-used but we’ve all wondered what he’d say to his mate Anguirus so this film just shows us!

 

It’s not high art and it’s not going to appeal to everyone but if you like the Godzilla series for its city-stomping and monster-smashing action, then Godzilla Vs Gigan is one of the most entertaining in the series. Not the best but one of the most enjoyable.

 

 ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 

 

 

Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966)

Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966)

This is one lobster you don’t want to order!

A terrorist organisation called the Red Bamboo has enslaved the residents of Infant Island in order to make nuclear weapons at their secret hideout in the Pacific. A group of shipwrecked friends decide to help by reviving Godzilla during a thunder storm after they find him in suspended animation. But in order to stop the Red Bamboo, Godzilla must do battle with Ebirah, a giant lobster who guards the waters off the island.

 

One of Godzilla’s worst cinematic efforts, Ebirah, Horror of the Deep is woeful. Nearly everything about it lacks budget, interest and above all, entertainment. Originally intended to be one of Toho’s King Kong stories (notably evident where Godzilla takes a romantic shine to one of the native girls ala Kong), the scope just isn’t what one would expect from a Godzilla film. Where is Tokyo? Where are the feeble Japanese attempts to stop him? Where is my giant monster battle giant monster action? Instead of the decent-but-flawed monster smashing efforts of the previous few films, we get a low budget camp fest where Godzilla began his downward spiral into being a goofy monster instead of real menace to Japan.

It smacks of cheekiness when a Godzilla flick hardly features the big guy but like many of his big screen outings, Ebirah, Horror of the Deep is unable to match what it wants to do with the budget it’s been given. With a lower budget, it’s the special effects that suffer and in this case, the special effects are Godzilla. Keeping him off screen as much as possible allows the limited use of miniature sets and costly suits. Smashing up Tokyo costs money and so it’s no surprise to see the island setting is sparsely populated and vegetated so when Godzilla is walking around, he’s not smashing anything apart from an odd coconut tree. It’s then down to the human story to try and interest the viewer because we get so little monster action. At least this time we haven’t got aliens trying to take over the planet. This time the human plot is grounded in relative reality with the addition of the terrorist group, The Red Bamboo. They’re like some James Bond villainous organisation complete with hideout, submarines and hordes of minions waiting to die horribly. They’re the main threat in this film. Screw Ebirah, the Red Bamboo are the ones who actually try to stop Godzilla.

There have been some weak opponents for Godzilla during his career (Gabarah from Godzilla’s Revenge springs to mind) but Ebirah is easily one of the worst. It’s not that the suit is daft. In fact I think a good job has been done given that Ebirah is a water-based monster. The problem stems from the fact that Godzilla kicks his ass comprehensively – twice! He poses no real menace or threat to the Big G and doesn’t do much during the fights except get his claws ripped off. There’s an amusing sequence in which the two monsters attempt to better each other by using rocks in some sort of volleyball match but it’s too juvenile when you consider the tone of the previous films. Godzilla even tangles with a giant condor at one point and makes mince meat out of it.

The Godzilla suit looks to be in pretty bad shape too so it’s probably a good thing that he’s not around much or else an arm or tooth might fall off. Mothra makes a small cameo appearance here but the puppet also looks very badly worn and her inclusions seemed to be a token effort to up the monster count. Compared to the monster fighting from the previous few films where Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah were all doing battle with each other, this is a surprisingly tame and lacklustre affair.

 

Godzilla is on total walkthrough mode here and breezes through the film without any hassle. You wonder why he bothered to get up this morning if Ebirah was all he had to sort out. Definitely a low point for the series.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆