Saturday, February 28, 2009

Mothra(1961) (Columbia Pictures trailer)

One of the Region 1 DVD releases I am most looking forward to in 2009 is the trio of classic Toho films, The H-Man(1958), Battle In Outer Space(1959) & Mothra(1961), that will be released as a DVD set by Sony Home Entertainment.

Mothra was my father's favorite giant monster movie. He saw the film in a theater in NYC in 1962 while on a business trip.

Here's the Columbia Pictures promo trailer for Mothra:

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Godzilla Chronicles

I always like to promote Godzilla themed internet message boards whenever I can and here's an online community definitely worth promoting: The Godzilla Chronicles, which has developed a solid community of Godzilla fans. The site's URL:

You can also access the site by clicking on the title of this blog post.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Father Knows Best: Son Of Godzilla(1967)

Despite my lifelong fondness for Godzilla and the films the monster stars in I admit there are some Godzilla movies that took me considerable time(and effort) to warm up to. An example of this is Son Of Godzilla, first released to theaters in Japan by Toho back on December, 16, 1967.

In the film a group of scientists conduct research, and experiments, into a weather control device on isolated Solgel island. The device unfortunately causes a radioactive storm on and around the island. Later, the work of the scientists is interrupted by a strange signal picked up by their sensors, the signal emanating from the island itself. A short time later Godzilla arrives and makes landfall at Solgel Island. It seems the "signal" came from an egg on the island. The egg hatches and out comes a miniaturized version of Godzilla, called "Minya". Godzilla plays the role of "father" quite well as he sets about mentoring the small kaiju and it's a good thing too because both monsters and scientists must contend with the Kamikiras, a trio of giant mantises, as well as an even more menacing giant spider called Kumonga. (no other spoilers)

I bought the Sony Region 1 DVD of Son Of Godzilla when it was first released and was very impressed with how the film looked: the vibrant colors of the island really stand out. The DVD presents the film in its original 2:35.1 (widescreen) aspect ratio. What impressed me the most was the work of the Toho effects crew wire-works technicians, whose efforts brought the Kamikiras and Kumonga to life in this film. The wires, to be sure, can often be clearly seen but overall this doesn't detract from my enjoyment of this movie, a film I watch once or twice per year.

The trailer for Son Of Godzilla:

Things Remembered: Quatermass And The Pit(1967)

While I don't have every Hammer Films sci-fi and horror movie on DVD yet, I have most of them. These movies are among my favorites in my growing DVD collection, none more so than 1967's Quatermass And The Pit, aka "Five Million Years To Earth", the film directed by Roy Ward Baker and based on a story by Nigel Kneale.

The film's story: a mysterious object is unearthed by workers during the construction of an underground subway tunnel in London(UK). The local military begins uncovering the object while the site is isolated from the general public. The military and scientists, among them astro-physicist Professor Bernard Quatermass, begin an investigation into the object: what it is and where it may have come from. Tensions mount between Quatermass and his military counterpart, Colonel Breen. The colonel believes the object is an unexploded "dud" World War II "V" rocket" while Professor Quatermass and his colleagues begin to suspect the object may be a space ship.

The discovery of insect-like alien corpses inside the object would seem to confirm Quatermass' theory about what the object is. Things get even more unsettling when the object seems to come alive, and able to activate long dormant memories within select people near it, including Dr. Rooney's assistant Barbara Judd(played by veteran Hammer Films actress Barbara Shelley). These memories play out in Ms. Judd's mind, and the vision, captured on an electronic device later, reveal what appears to be a massive and chaotic event among the insectoid aliens, presumably on the planet Mars.

The ship's energy becomes stronger and more and more local citizenry are affected, which soon leads to rioting and chaos in the streets above the station, Dr. Quatermass and Dr. Roney(played by James Donald) the only two who know how to stop the ship's destructive energy projection. (no other spoilers).

Andrew Keir is very good good in this film in his portrayal of "Bernard Quatermass", a hard working and energetic man who is takes his work very seriously and who is also not shy about standing up for his beliefs in the face of withering disdain and criticism from both government officials and the lead military liason, Colonel Breen(played by Julian Glover), who is assigned to work with Quatermass in the investigation of the mystery object.

The verbal skirmishes between Quatermass and Breen are often amusing. James Donald is also effective as "Dr. Roney" and the lovely Barbara Shelley(who also starred in The Gorgon, a 1964 Hammer horror film) is always a welcome site for fans of "Hammer". The special effects won't blow anyone away but this film is not about special effects but rather is more about science. Still, the revelation of humanity's origins in this movie is at once startling and perhaps a bit disturbing as well.

The trailer for Quatermass And The Pit:

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Tortoise Interruptus: Gamera 3: Incomplete Struggle(1999)

It seems hard to believe that ten years has gone by since the third and final "Gamera" film helmed by Shusuke Kaneko was released to theaters in Japan. Kaneko set the bar refreshingly high with the first of these Gamera films, Gamera Guardian Of The Universe, which was released theatrically in Japan in 1995. This movie was followed of course by 1996's Gamera 2: Advent Of Legion.

The classic "Gamera" films made between 1965 and 1971 all incorporated a man in suit to bring the giant turtle to life, much like Toho's classic Godzilla films. The battles between Gamera and his opponent monsters in these older films are consistently gritty, Gamera often wounded, even seriously, and with gouts of blood featured as both Gamera and his enemy kaiju bleed while they battle it out. I've always liked this aspect of Gamera films because the blood and peril, even near death experienced by Gamera in his battles brings a greater(though not what I would call "great") sense of realism to these older films.

The 90's "Gamera" films don't let Gamera off the hook at all: his opponent monsters are tough, vigorously engage the giant turtle in battle and employ an impressive array of weapons all their own, pushing Gamera to the limits of its abilities and will to prevail.

Gamera 3: Incomplete Struggle, also known by its alternate title "Gamera: Revenge Of Irys", is widely considered to be among the best(if not the best) giant monster films ever made, even topping the first film in this trilogy. Is it to me? I think it's as good as the 1995 Gamera movie, perhaps better although I still prefer the first Gamera trilogy film because I've always liked the Gyaos design and monster(s) used in Gamera Guardian Of The Universe.

Gamera 3: Incomplete Struggle, is a film of often spectacular special effects, and sees the return of familiar characters from the first trilogy film.

In the the third and final installment Gamera continues to wage war and a campaign of extermination against the Gyaos, genetically engineered monsters like Gamera itself. For the first time we see some considerable collateral damage from Gamera's early aerial engagement with a pair of Gyaos, thousands of bystanders killed by the monster battle. This early dire event sets the serious tone of the film well and serves to effectively illustrate why Gamera, who may be considered the protagonist, is still considered a threat by the military and also regarded with fear and disdain by the Japanese populace.

Interrupting Gamera's war on the Gyaos: the appearance of a new genetic variant on the Gyaos, a creature hatched from an egg and quickly named "Irys" by the young lady, "Ayana" who discovers the egg. "Ayana Hirasaka"(played by Ai Maeda), has lost her parents, who were killed during Gamera's fight with the giant sized Gyaos in the 1995 film. Through a flashback sequence we see Ayana's parents killed and the resulting deep hatred Ayana develops for Gamera. Ayana nurtures and protects the quickly growing, tentacled creature she has dubbed "Irys". In time Irys bonds with Ayana and envelopes her in a cocoon. The young lady is rescued by her would be boyfriend but Irys begins to grow and eventually reaches kaiju size.

Meanwhile, "Mayumi Nagamine"(played by Shinobu Nakayama - she's the scientist from the 1995 film who first investigates the Gyaos), has her hands full with the apparent return of the Gyaos. Also enter into the mix ""Asagi Kusanagi"(Ayako Fuijitani), also from the 1995 Gamera film, and "Inspector Osako"(played by Yukijiro Hotaru), who appeared in both the 1995 and 1996 films, and we have the makings for a very welcome reunion.
Irys eventually engages the local defense forces and then Gamera, their battle taking place around and inside the absolutely enormous Kyoto subway station. (no other spoilers)

Things I liked about the film:

1. first and foremost the special effects, which were often spectacular in this film. Kudos to effects director Shinji Higuchi for making much of the action look real, which is perhaps the best thing I can say about the effects overall.

2. the appearance of Gamera, particularly in the head and face. Gamera looks more menacing in this film and his facial appearance suggests a "take no prisoners" mentality from the monster, which is certainly backed up by Gamera's actions in battle in this movie.

3. the reappearance of actress Shinobu Nakayama in this film. Forgetting for a moment how beautiful she is, I thought her role in the movie was well written.

4. the return of Inspector Osako. Osako, who came off as a bumbling, marginally competent and jittery man in Gamera Giardian Of The Universe, takes his opportunity to redeem himself and runs with it very well. Osako appears in the 1996 film as a beer factory security guard, definitely a step down on the career "ladder" from being a policeman. By Gamera 3 Osako is reduced to being a vagrant on the streets of a park in the Shibuya district of Tokyo. With the help of Ms. Nagamine, Osako regains his pride and self respect in time to help out. Give credit as well to Ms. Nagamine, who showed kindness to Osako when he was down, and never showed the former police inspector any pity or condescension.

5. Gamera vs Irys in the subway station at the film's conclusion: one of the best giant monster battles in a movie I have ever seen. The special effects, and the fighting tactics employed by both monsters, are a spectacle. Anyone who questions Gamera's toughness and willingness to sacrifice it's own existence won't after seeing this battle...I guarantee it.

6. actress Senri Yamazaki, who played government official "Mito Asakura", just because she's gorgeous.

Things I didn't like about this film:

1. the bureaucrat "Mr. Saito". Despite his marginally improved treatment of Ms. Nagamine this fellow remains in dire need of a personality and doses of humility. Saito's wooden mannerisms are annoying. Kaneko could have saved budget, I think, by simply displaying a cardboard cutout likeness of Saito in his scenes with Ms. Nagamine and used a hidden tape recorder to play Saito's lines.

2. the overall design of Irys. I don't despise it but I believe it could have been better. The facial appearance of this monster appears, IMO too neutral.

3. the video game guru named "Kurata"(played by Tooru Teduka), a creepy and leering fellow who seemed to live for an apocalyptic end to our planet. An annoying and smarmy jackass in serious need of a mule kick to his behind.

4. the ending. At first I didn't like it all. Admittedly the ending is congruent with the title of the film itself. After repeated viewings I can tolerate the ending better now. It does leave me wishing a "Gamera 4" film would get made.

ADV Films released Gamera 3: The Incomplete Struggle(1999) to Region 1 DVD in 2003.

The trailer for the film:

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Inner Changes: The Beast Within(1982)

During the late 1970's and early 1980's there was a definite spate of horror movies kicked out by Hollywood: films like The Fog(1979), Prophecy(1979), Alien(1979), Halloween(1978), Friday The 13th(1980), The Howling(1981) and Wolfen(1981). These listed seem to be among the more "recognizable" titles, but they are by no means, in my opinion, the only memorable horror films of this time. One such film comes to mind, released in 1982 by MGM: The Beast Within, directed by Philippe Mora and based on the novel authored by Edward Levy.

The film's story: on a rainy night in 1964 Nioba, Mississippi, the just married "McClearys" are on their way to their honeymoon. Eli McCleary misses a turn and tries to make a U-turn, their car getting stuck along the muddy shoulder of the dark and isolated country road. Eli McCleary(Ronny Cox) leaves his wife behind in the car in order to walk back to the service station to secure a tow truck. Result: while he's gone his wife is attacked by a hulking, mysterious, less-than-human attacker who also rapes her. Fast forward to 1981. The McCleary's son is dying or so his doctors, and his parents believe. An abnormality of some kind, deep within the teenager's body is killing him...or is it? As the film progresses the boy experiences homicidal urges, acts out on them in several violent and bloody rampages and has convulsions of such intensity as to suggest that there is something really bad inside the McCleary boy on the verge of coming out, and it damn sure isn't the measles or chicken pox. (no spoilers).

Observations: for me surprisingly good fare with the expected gratuitous gore and over-the-top violence. The makeup effects are good, in particular the transformation scene near the end, which is fun to watch and reminds me of the same kind of scene from The Howling(1981). Ronny Cox is effective as the stressed out father, Paul Clemens is serviceable as the teenager who is understandably unhappy about his glandular problems and I always like seeing veteran character actor R.G. Armstrong at work, Armstrong a sympathetic physician in this film. The score for The Beast Within is also good, and helps to intensify the growing sense of dread that builds as the movie progresses.
I saw this movie in a theater, and the scene in which the McCleary lad visits, in his dream, the basement of the house, holding a match in his hand. still creeps me out to this day. This movie is available as an MGM "Midnite Movie" release, and is presented in 2.35:1 letterbox format, with a nice 5.1 audio and theatrical trailer. Horror movie fans who have not seen this film should rent it or buy the "Midnite Movie" DVD before it becomes an OOP(out of print item). You'll be glad you did.

The trailer for The Beast Within(1982):

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Pecking Order: The Birds(1963)

I have only two Alfred Hitchcock directed films in my ever growing DVD collection, which I hope to remedy in the next couple of years. Until then I will be satisfied with the two(2) that I have, Psycho(1960), and a film released three years later, in 1963, in which the pecking order(no pun intended) between humans and our avian companions is reversed for about two hours. I'm referring to The Birds, a movie based on a story written by Daphne Du Maurier, and released by Universal Studios.

The film's story: a beautiful blonde named Melanie Daniels(Tippi Hedren) secretly follows a new male acquaintance, Mitch Brenner(Rod Taylor), north into the small, northern California seaside community of Bodega Bay. The blonde is inexplicably attacked by a single seagull. At first this incident is thought to be random, but the bird attacks become more frequent, and, unfortunately for the local populace, more savage. As the death toll mounts from the swarms of aggressive and marauding birds Brenner holes up in his house with his mother(Jessica Tandy), his kid sister, and Ms. Daniels, in the hopes that barricading the house will keep the suddenly berserker birds out. The avians, however, have other ideas(no spoilers).

Observations: a truly outstanding film. The cast, the directing, the action(and bird) sequences are stellar. The villains in this movie are (literally) foul . The DVD of this movie is also marvelous, with lots of extras, including production notes and photos, Tippi Hedren's screen test, the original ending, a deleted scene, storyboard illustrations, the theatrical trailer, a newsreel entitled "The Birds Is Coming", and a featurette about the movie. The DVD (inside) cover sleeve also has more info. One of the best DVDs in my collection, hands down.

The trailer for the film(including an intro by the movie's director, Alfred Hitchcock):

Saturday, February 7, 2009

You Are What You Eat: Jeepers Creepers(2001)

Every now and then a horror movie comes along that actually creeps me out. I can say at this point, and after over thirty years of watching horror films, that it's usually a character in a fright film, and not necessarily the effects, that gets to me.
I have long felt a dread for werewolves in movies, something I've touched on many times at my message board, Monsterland Forums. Other horror movie characters, many iconic now, have established their rightful place in my own personal pantheon of scares, including Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, Pinhead and Freddy Krueger. I've seen these antagonists many times in their respective films but the one horror movie villain that chills my heart the most is "The Creeper", as he is commonly known, and the lone, and very formidable antagonist of Jeepers Creepers, a horror film directed by Victor Salva and released to theaters in the U.S. in late August, 2001.

Without revealing any major spoilers the film chronicles the harrowing experience of Trish and younger brother Darry, returning home from Spring Break on an isolated rural highway in north Florida. Through a chain of events these two college co-eds eventually come up against a hostile and flesh eating monster who, according to the local psychic, comes out of slumber every twenty three order to eat for twenty three days. (no other details)

Many things work great in this film: the monster never speaks and very little is revealed about the creature. The beast's physical appearance is much like a man's during the first part of the movie, in and of itself creepy: the monster deliberately conceals itself in tattered clothing to conceal it's real apperance. Also, the sense of dread in this film never wavers and when I first watched Jeepers Creepers I got the impression, a correct one turns out, there would not be any campy or quasi-humorous ending to the movie. The whole film is a very grim and serious affair. The makeup effects used to render "The Creeper" are, not surprisingly, very good. Jonathan Breck, who portrays "The Creeper", looks truly like a monster from hell in this film.

Those horror movie fans who haven't seen Jeepers Creepers should check this film out. I have the movie on Region 1 DVD.

A sequel was released, also directed by Victor Salva, in 2003.

The film's trailer:

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Diamond In The Rough: Dogora The Space Monster(1964)

The year 1964 was a busy period for Toho, creators of Godzilla and all the films this legendary monster stars in. Mothra Vs Godzilla and Ghidrah The Three Headed Monster were released in Japan theatrically in April and December of 1964, respectively. In between, another Toho kaiju movie gem was also released, called Dogora The Space Monster.

This movie differs somewhat from other Toho kaiju films in that the monster can and does change form, and is also not, for the most part, the dominant part of the movie's least until later in the film. The "cops and robbers" element of the movie was no doubt a nod by director Inoshiro Honda to the popularity of these kinds of movies in Japan during the 1960's.
In this movie thuggish and sullen faced diamond thieves(including a very cool looking Eisei Amamoto) find their shenanigans interrupted by a local cop, an American diamond "secret agent" of sorts, "Mark Jackson"(played by the late Robert Dunham) and last, but certainly not least, an alien creature that has an appetite for carbon. Turns out the mysterious disappearance of diamonds around the world is not the handiwork of diamond thieves but rather the work of an alien monster. At first the creature is little more than a glowing, amoeba-like creature that can make objects around it levitate. Later in the film the monster, now called "Dogora" by the authorities and scientists, reenters Earth's atmosphere and descends to reveal itself to be an absolutely gigantic, tentacled and squid like monster. This rendering of the monster is quite interesting and the tentacled monster's attack on the long suspension bridge is one of my absolute favorite effects scenes in all the Toho sci-fi films I've watched.
The movie concludes with a skirmish between the diamond thieves and the police and one final battle with the monster which has a plausible, albeit not completely satisfying ending.
Dogora The Space Monster may be hit or miss with the younger Godzilla and giant monster movie fans. There are, to be sure, some stretches of the movie with lots of talking scenes and I would have liked seeing the tentacles, enlarged version of Dogora more in the film. Still, this movie is a very nice change of pace from Godzilla movies and was released not to long ago on quality Region 1 DVD by Mediablaster's Asian DVD label, "Tokyo Shock". The print of the movie on this DVD is outstanding, the film presented in it's original widescreen(2:35.1) aspect ratio.

The Region 1 DVD of this film is for sale at - click the text title of this blog to see the R1 DVD at Deep Discount.

The original Toho trailer for Dogora The Space Monster: