Sunday, March 29, 2009

Strength In Numbers: Destroy All Monsters(1968)

Lately I've been reminiscing about the earliest memories of my childhood. While memories from this time become a little more fragmented with each passing year there's one memory I can still recall with a little more clarity. It was in 1969, on a hot, sunny day. I went with a family member(my adoptive father at the time) to the Rialto Theater in downtown Atlanta(GA) to see a double feature. The theater was mostly empty and I remember the smell of stale peanuts. The first installment of the double bill was The Green Slime. The second film was the one I eagerly awaited to see...and it was the first Godzilla movie I ever watched: Destroy All Monsters, a Toho kaiju film originally released in 1968 to theaters in Japan.

This movie has had a lasting effect on me. Obviously compared to modern day special effects the effects in this film seem, and are dated. I've seen Destroy All Monsters(1968) widely criticized for it's "boring" talking scenes. Admittedly, this movie does not hold my attention nearly as much as it once did. That said here are some observations:

Thumbs up:

-the Soshingeki Godzilla suit, a leaner suit, weighing just over a hundred lbs, which afforded the suit actor more ease of movement. This suit had a nice four movie "run". I liked this suit but obviously there are those who don't.

-Anguirus and Gorosaurus, both monsters availing themselves well in this film, especially the final, climactic battle vs King Ghidorah

-Akira Kubo's character "Yamabe", a serious no-nonsense type and a nice change from his character in Invasion Of The Astro Monsters, who was a milquetoast, quasi-goofball inventor

-the score. It didn't blow me away but I thought it was solid overall.

-the AIP trailer for this film is very cool. I also liked the AIP English dub of this film, the opening narration by Norman Rose very easy on the ears.

-the final monster battle: not the best I've ever seen but it still entertains to some degree.

Thumbs down:

-some of the effects shots in this film left a lot to be desired. The curve in Godzilla's oral beam as he attacks NYC is one example of this.

-the continued portrayal of the JSDF as bored, detached, ineffective simpletons. As Tokyo is assaulted by multiple monsters we see several drab gray uniformed military personnel sitting at a table hardly looking the least bit traumatized and actually appearing, to me, as if preparing for a game of poker

-the rendering of King Ghidrah in this film. The monster's movements, especially its wings, look more limited. It's descent into the middle of the group of monsters near the end of the movie looked stiff.

-the obvious dummy that was thrown out a window after Yoshio Tsuchiya's character "Otani" was shown stepping out the window and falling to his death on the beach rocks below. Of course a dummy was going to be used but I thought it could have looked at least a little more realistic.

I could go on with a few more gripes but I won't. I watch Destroy All Monsters(1968) about once a year now. ADV Films has released a Region 1 DVD of this movie(with its international dub) and while the release is welcomed it has absolutely no extras of any kind. ADV Films also released "DAM" a second time and with an accompanying audio CD of the score but the primary disc has no extras. The movie is also available on Region 2 DVD(from Yesasia but in Japanese language only) and also on Region 4 DVD(Madman Entertainment and with English subtitles) and Region 3 DVD(

Here's the ADV Films R1 single disc DVD release for sale at DVD Empire:
(or click the title of this blod to see this item for sale)

The AIP trailer for Destroy All Monsters:

The original Toho trailer:

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Captain Nemo And The Underwater City(1969) On DVD

A movie I have long waited to see on official R1 DVD has finally been released: Captain Nemo And The Underwater City. Warner Brothers has released this title, a 1969 British sci-fi film, and it can be ordered online at for $19.95 plus shipping. The link:,default,pd.html

You can also see this film for sale at by clicking the title(text) of this blog.
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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Bad Hair Day: I Was A Teenage Werewolf(1957)

One of my favorite cinematic and TV monsters is the werewolf, also referred to, on occasion, as a "lycanthrope". There have been many films about this beast in cinema: some good and some horrendous. Prior to the decade of the 60's werewolf films were infrequent but among those that were produced a handful are quite good. Werewolf Of London(1935), The Wolfman(1941) & The Werewolf(1956) all provide genuine creeps and decent makeup effects. Another film about lycanthropy, from the 50's, is also a favorite I like to watch on DVD(-R) from time to time: I Was A Teenage Werewolf(1957)(American International Pictures).

The film's story: meet Tony, a likable young high school teenager who might be like any other typical high school student, but isn't. Why? because he has an explosive temper. After Tony's latest skirmish, a fight on the school grounds in which he tries to jack up and beat the daylights out of another student, the high school principal arranges for Tony(played by Michael Landon) to see a psychiatrist(played by Whit Bissell). The psychiatrist attempts to treat Tony for his aggressive behavior, but the result is hardly expected, or desired: Tony becomes a werewolf!

Tony's high school becomes a den of terror as the teenage beast terrifies students and preys on others off the school grounds, which attracts the immediate attention of the police, who obviously become tasked with stopping the creature's attacks on students and the locals.(no other spoilers).

Observations: a surprisingly effective movie, given the "cheese" factor, which is prevalent in so many of the 50's "monster-on-the loose" giant monster and horror films. Michael Landon is terrific as the moody, intense teenager with the temper, and fists, from hell, whose rage is amplified even more by his becoming a lycanthrope. The werewolf makeup effects are decent as Tony's hairy, fanged and bloodthirsty alter-ego understandably scares the hell out of all those unfortunate enough to cross paths with him. The makeup effects include an abundance of hair and generously oversized fangs and brows. The hostility and generally violent temperament of the student-werewolf clearly indicate that it is not interested at all in gym class or home economics. Bottom line: trying to send this student to the principal's office, for not having a hall pass, will definitely get you killed.

The film's trailer:

New York, New York: The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms(1953)

One of the earliest "giant monster" films in cinematic history also happened to be the first film in which the marvelous "stop motion" effects created by a then an up-and-coming special effects artist named Ray Harryhausen were used, and with great success. I'm referring to The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, directed by Eugene Lourie and theatrically released by Warner Brothers in 1953.

The film's story: as part of an Arctic Circle research project an atomic bomb is detonated near the Circle itself, resurrecting a 100 million year old dinosaur that had been entombed, and of course preserved, deep in the ice. The monster, later identified by a kindly old zoologist and his assistant as a "Rhedosaurus", moves southward, attacking and sinking a trawler, as well as destroying a coastal lighthouse during it's transit while authorities try to track and determine just exactly what the hell it is. As part of that very effort a small bathysphere is lowered down into the predicted location of the monster, in this case off the coast of New York. The monster predictably arrives to trash the bathysphere, killing the zoologist and technician inside it.

The enormous Rhedosaurus makes landfall in NYC and all hell breaks loose. The monster takes in the town, so to speak, much to the chagrin of New Yorkers who flee in terror and the local police force which gamely shoots at the monster with sidearms and shotguns, to no effect. Later the creature is wounded by a shell fired from a 3-inch mini-howitzer and a final confrontation between the authorities and the 50 ton monster takes place at the Coney Island amusement park(no spoilers).

Observations: this film was actually the first time that Ray Harryhausen had total control of the special effects, and he sure doesn't disappoint. The score and special effects overall are marvelous. The pacing is brisk and the characters all work well within the story's framework. The story itself, including the conclusion and how the beast is finally brought down,is entirely plausible and believable. The WB R1 DVD of this movie is also very good, including a "Making Of" featurette and giant monsters gallery that includes this film and other movies that showcase Ray Harryhausen "stop motion" monsters. This movie is one of my all-time favorite American giant-monster movies, a true classic that still stands the test of time.

To see the Region DVD of this movie for sale at click the title of this specific blog.

The film's trailer:

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Lambs To The Slaughter: Feast III: The Happy Finish(2009)

I recently got around to watching Feast III: The Happy Finish(2009) on DVD. The third installment in the "Feast" films, directed by John Gulager, son of veteran actor Clu Gulager(who also stars in each of these movies), picks up right where Feast II: Sloppy Seconds leaves off: the motley group of survivors, fighting to stay alive from the raids of the marauding, bloodthirsty humanoid monsters that have invaded their town, continue the struggle. There's not much new in this third "Feast" film: a couple of new characters appear, neither of which ultimately can change the fate of any of the survivors. The dialogue between the human cast remains mostly confined to profanity and other bits of verbatim presumably meant to remind the viewer of this film how much these survivors dislike each other.

The film itself is a bloodbath, even more so than Feast II Sloppy Seconds. Perhaps director John Gulager wanted to try and sicken even the most die hard gory horror movie fans. I doubt he succeeded but, judging by the absolute butchery of humans in this movie, I think it's safe to say it wasn't for lack of effort.

I wouldn't have considered it possible that director John Gulager could outdo himself regarding the gore and carnage in the second "Feast" movie but he did it in Feast III: the movie's gratuitous and over the top gore is steady and unrelenting, the various deaths of the human cast violent, sometimes sudden and always bloody: there are gruesome impalings, dismemberments of limbs, the periodic claw hammer strikes used on the monsters by one of the biker girls, and an abundant amount of sequences in which both victims and monsters are disemboweled, their intestines and other internal organs falling out into plain view. There's also a scene that might bring bile to the viewer's throat: one of the monsters manages to have anal sex with a surviving male cast member, a truly vile scene with an even more repulsive consequence a moment later.

Personally, I like the first "Feast" film the best. The second and third films in this trilogy ramp up the bizarre, campiness and occasional injection of black humor into the story lines, something I can do without. Still, "gorehounds" and other fans of gory horror movies should like Feast III: The Happy Finish just fine.

I've heard that a fourth "Feast" film is in the works. All things considered, and after watching Feast III, I hope it doesn't happen.

Here's the third "Feast" film on R1 DVD for sale at Amazon:
(you can also see this film for sale on DVD by clicking the title of this blog)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Animal Attraction: Frogs(1972)

I have always enjoyed watching documentaries about the natural world on cable TV. The Discovery Channel is, I admit, one of my favorite channels. Today there is a wider variety of programming on cable television regarding animals and wildlife, shows like Animal Rescue, which showcases the efforts of the various big city ASPCA's to catch those guilty of animal cruelty, and another show that chronicles a type of animal cruelty of it's own: When Animals Attack. This television show is a compilation of footage of often violent and bizarre encounters between man and the various members of our planet's animal kingdom.

Though "When Animals Attack" was not inspired by the movie that is the topic of this blog, it no doubt could have been. The film I am referring to is Frogs, a horror movie released in 1972 by American International Pictures and produced by James H. Nicholson and Samuel Z. Arkoff.

The film's story: Jason Crockett(played by Ray Milland) is a surly and generally miserable millionaire who has gathered family and friends to his isolated island mansion for a party. Crockett displays a blatant disdain for many of his guests, including the non-human kind, much of his dislike for the local animallife manifest in the rampant pollution on the island. Despite grumbling from some of the early arrivals at his mansion, Jason Crockett is determined to have his party. The problem: the local animal life has decided to attend the party as well. The island becomes overrun with, of course, frogs, but also among the animals who have decided to join Crockett's gathering are aggressive rattlers and water moccasins, several alligators, a small army of lizards, birds, tarantulas, and even one very large and formidable-looking loggerhead turtle.

One by one the guests begin having very unpleasant encounters with these critters, including old man Crockett himself (no spoilers).

Observations: This film is a an early, somewhat simplified effort to show the "nature run amok" movie motif. Does it work? I think so, even if not on a grand scale. The attacks of the various critters in this movie are often exacerbated by the stupidity of the victims, their own actions(or inactions) contributing to their demise. The "tarantula" scene was creepy, and would definitely give arachnophobes goosebumps. The acting is serviceable: Sam Elliott is decent enough as the photographer Pickett Smith, and Joan Van Ark looks great! Ray Milland's portrayal of the sullen, self aggrandizing and perpetually cranky "Jason Crockett" is the best of the group.

The DVD of this movie is presented in either full frame or widescreen(1.85:1) options, and includes scene selection and a theatrical trailer. Fans of campy horror will like this one, which I recommend. If you are a casual horror movie fan and have a Netflix queue to burn use it on this older classic. I think you'll be glad you did.

Click the title of this blog to see the MGM Region 1 DVD of this movie for sale at or copy and paste this URL into your address bar:

The theatrical trailer for Frogs(1972):

Monday, March 9, 2009

Back To The Future: Godzilla Vs King Ghidorah(1991)

As is my custom on late Sunday afternoons or early evenings I make it a point to watch a Toho film. This week's fare: Godzilla Vs King Ghidorah, originally released to theaters in Japan back in December, 1991.

In recent years many of my DVD copies of Heisei Godzilla films have been largely ignored and I've decided to revisit the Heisei era of G movies.

One of the things I like best about this 1991 film is simply that two of Toho's most powerful monsters square off, not once but twice. Godzilla and King Ghidorah are both portrayed here as colossal and supremely powerful creatures, neither afraid of the other, and both fairly evenly matched, as the battles illustrate.

Godzilla Vs Biollante(1989) is still my favorite Heisei Godzilla movie. That said Godzilla Vs King Ghidorah is a fairly close second. It's a film I like to watch about every eighteen months to two years.

Thumbs up:

1. the overall special effects, which I thought looked quite good. As always there are those sequences that could look better but taken as a whole the effects get it done for me.

2. the bulked up appearance of Godzilla in this movie: the monster is a barrel chested, 100 meter tall juggernaut and the high speed filming, used extensively in this movie, as well as the audio effects used for the monster's foot steps, both help project the monster's size, power and intimidation "factor".

3. the ship of the Futurians: domed and with a pulsating, strobe like pulse flashing along the bottom part of the craft, this ship indeed looked like something from the 22nd century

4. Anna Nakagawa, who plays "Emi Kano", for simply looking gorgeous

5. the effects of KG's gravity beams: KG's beams look terrific and their effect on anything they come in contact with is devastating, buildings blasted apart in often spectacular explosions of debris

6. the two battles between the monsters: a nice combination of close in grappling and beam exchanges. Both Godzilla and KG use their respective powers to full use: KG uses his greater bulk to try and stomp down on Godzilla, as well as trying to strangle Godzilla with one of his necks. Godzilla relies on his primary weapon, his oral beam, as well as his nuclear "pulse". I liked the battle between Mecha KG and Godzilla somewhat more because the fight took place in the city(Tokyo), the absolute demolition of surrounding buildings by these two monsters a reminder of the collateral damage their fighting causes

Thumbs down:

1. the time travel plot. I've never been, with an exception here and there, a fan of films that heavily incorporate time travel into their story lines. Godzilla Vs King Ghidorah does nothing to change my overall disdain for time travel movie plots.

2. the uniforms of the two principal, male Futurians: their suits look like a cross between Sears Roebuck knockoffs and pajamas.

3. the scenes with the American actors on the US Navy warship: the spoken dialogue between these two fellows was laughable. Let us all be thankful that Kent Gilbert never took up acting as a full time career.

4. the roar(s) of the dinosaur on Lagos Island: this creature may have been a dinosaur but the audio used to render this creature's roars would suggest it's also part Rodan and part Gamera as well.

5. the piano intensive parts of the film's score. For some reason I just don't like it very much. Other parts of the score were fine for me, to be sure.

6. the sequence where Mr. Shindo stands watching the first G Vs KG battle: this scene has always made me wonder how exactly he's able to view the battle to begin with...perhaps via a satellite dish on top of his office tower?

There is continuing debate and discussion about what the next Godzilla film should be like. Sometime down the road I would love to see Toho remake Godzilla Vs King Ghidorah with updated effects.

Here's a short "Making Of" featurette video:

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Monster Mash: Ghidrah The Three Headed Monster(1964)

In the event that I live to be an old geezer I'm inclined to think there will be perhaps fifty or so films on DVD that I'll still fully cherish, and for no more than sentimental reasons. Ghidrah The Three Headed Monster, originally released in Japan to theaters in December of 1964, is one of these films. I have lost count of how many times I've watched it, either as a television broadcast, on VHS, and then DVD. This movie doesn't enthrall me like it did when I was a kid but still manages to cheer me up to some degree every time I watch it, in itself an achievement considering how stressed out and fatigued I often get from day to day aggravations in life.

Like other Sunday evenings I spent this one watching the original language, widescreen, English subtitled version on the Classic Media DVD.

Some observations, many of which may look familiar from earlier posts...and some that aren't-

Thumbs up:
1. each monster in this film, Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra and King Ghidorah, each have outstanding entrance scenes.

2. the gravity beams of Ghidrah, which have never looked as destructive as they do in this film. With each impact these beams absolutely blast buildings and other structures to bits.

3. the sequence in which Ghidrah forms in the airborne fireball

4. the onscreen rivalry of Godzilla and Rodan: despite my disdain for some effects flaws in the battle sequences between these two monsters, the rivalry and animosity these two leviathans share is never more evident than in this film.

5. many of the effects sequences in this movie, and during the kaiju battles, are all time favorites of mine, including:
-Godzilla attempting to square up on Ghidrah and being promptly driven back into the bridge
-Rodan lifting up Godzilla and then dropping his rival onto the electrical tower
-Rodan using himself as an airborne battering ram in colliding head on with
-Ghidrah's gravity beams blasting larval Mothra about, the smaller creature tossed upwards by the blasts like a ragdoll
-the initial assault by Ghidrah, from the air on the city, a nice combination of the destructive effects of the winds generated by the the monster's wings and the withering blasts from the Ghidrah's gravity beams

6. larval Mothra's solo assault on KG: obviously very brief and unsuccessful but give the monster credit for trying to take on an opponent despite virtually no chance to win

Thumbs down:
1. the various firearms employed by the bad guys, who are tasked with assassinating the Princess. While I didn't expect these guys to brandish .44 caliber revolvers their sidearms looked and sounded like pop guns.

2. the visibility of wires is fairly common in this movie, something that, for better or worse, only die hard G fans can probably tolerate without a lot of sniping.

3. the way the carrying case for the Infant Island fairies was often handled. From what I could see it would appear the pair of tiny women no doubt, and at times, had to hang on for dear life inside the case, which was not always exactly handled with their safety in mind by Naoko(the reporter)

4. Looking at Susumu Kurobe's skin complexion in this film makes me wonder if he spent some time poolside sunbathing just before the lensing of this movie.

5. the Rodan suit: the neck appeared to be overly long

6. Godzilla appeared to suffer from an overbite, judging by the head of the suit

7. various sequences where hand puppets were used: I'm not a fan of the puppetry arts and I'll leave it at that.

Overall: this movie still warms my heart. I suspect it will continue to do so for a long, long time.

The Toho trailer for Ghidrah The Three Headed Monster:

The American trailer:

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Japanese Monster Movie Festival in San Francisco-Summer, 2009

A Japanese Monster Movie Festival will be held in San Francisco, CA this summer from August 21-23, 2009 at the Castro Theater. The special guest of honor will be the original Godzilla suit actor, Haruo Nakajima! For more details on this event, including updates, check out the website Shock It To Me! - the site URL: - you can also access this site by clicking on the image or by clicking the title of this blog!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Getting Stoned: The "Daimajin" Trilogy Of Films(1966)

Daiei Studios, in addition to producing the classic "Gamera" films from 1965-71(and 1980's Gamera Super Monster), also produced a nice trilogy of films that, set in medieval(and feudal) Japan, feature a giant stone god come to life to take revenge on the various malevolent warlords who try to further empower themselves at the often bloody expense of others. The stone god, called "Majin", is a force to be reckoned with once he is awakened and, as we like to say here in the south, opens up a serious can of whoop ass on the bad guys.

I can remember watching the first film in the trilogy, called Daimajin, or its alternate(American) title of "Majin Monster Of Terror", on some channel at an ungodly hour while I was a pre-teen kid(the AIP version).

These "Majin" films were all made in 1966, the second installment called The Return Of Daimajin(aka "The Return Of Giant Majin") and the third(and final) film entitled The Wrath Of Daimajin(aka "Majin Strikes Again"). All of the films are shot in 2:35.1 widescreen aspect ratio.

I own the original ADV Films DVD set which includes all three films, which are presented in their original aspect ratio and with English subtitles. ADV Films also released these three movies on VHS as well.

The trailer for The Return Of Daimajin:

The trailer for The Wrath Of Daimajin

The trailer for Daimajin

The ADV Films DVD set of the three films can be found at by clicking the title of this blog or at this URL: