Friday, July 31, 2009

Kaiju Kingdom Forums

One of the things I like to do when I first find out about an internet kaiju discussion message board is promote it: Kaiju Kingdom Forums, with nearly one hundred registered members and over 17,000 posts(at the time of this blog post). Here's the board link:

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

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Back To The Egg: Godzilla Vs Mothra(1992)

I first watched Godzilla Vs Mothra on VHS back in 1995, in widescreen and with English subtitles. It was then, as it remains now, my third favorite Heisei Godzilla film, behind Godzilla Vs Biollante(1989) and Godzilla Vs King Ghidorah(1991). I have, with the passage of time, grown more fond of this movie, which originally debuted in Japanese theaters back in December of 1992. Godzilla Vs Mothra(1992) is directed by Takao Okawara, the special effects courtesy of Koichi Kawakita, and produced by both Shogo Tomiyama and Tomoyuki Tanaka, with the score provided by maestro Akira Ifukube.

Some observations and opinions of this movie, some positive and some not-

Thumbs up:

-The score. At times majestic and particularly pleasing to the ears during many of Mothra's scenes. The score of this film is easily my favorite of all the Heisei G movies.

-The underwater battle between Godzilla and Battra: frenetic and well choreographed. I especially liked the sound effects. There's plenty of action and we get to see Godzilla fire his oral beam underwater, and many times.

-Many of the effects shots in this film are marvelous, including larval Mothra's approach by sea and her engagement with the naval forces, including the sequence where the creature plows through the warship

-Takuya Fujita, the adventurer and thief, comes clean about his theft of "The Cosmos" fairies(to sell them) to his ex wife, presumably because he wants to start over again with her and his daughter: the man finally got his priorities right!

-Takuya Fujita Vs the Marutomo "secretary" Kenji Andoh on the ship: the skirmish actually appeared to be choreographed as a fight and not two grown men attempting to square dance. Both fellows grappled, threw each other around and Fujita landed a couple of solid rights to Andoh's jaw.

-Ken Satsuma, who wore the Godzilla suit in this film: IMO he did an excellent job at projecting Godzilla's menace and generally hostile disposition

-The final battle between Godzilla, Mothra and Battra. While I thought the two winged monsters looked a little stiff at times when flying the overall battle was well choreographed and the monster action was well paced.

Thumbs down:

1. members of the cast watching the final battle from a distance without much of any implied threat to their own safety...despite the fact three huge leviathan monsters are battling it out, and not terribly far away either.

2. Kenji Andoh's use of an alarm clock to ensure he didn't oversleep while on the early Infant Island expedition with Tetsuya Fujita and Fujita's ex wife Masako Tesuka: obviously Andoh couldn't rely on the trademark morning cackle of a rooster since this animal isn't exactly indigenous to a South Pacific island, but after seeing Andoh nervously clutch the alarm clock I half expected to see this fellow produce more gadgets out of his bag, like a small electric plate warmer or portable TV set.

3. the audio of Godzilla's beam sounded a bit too high pitched.

4. Battra's roar was a carbon copy of Rodan's roar. I would have liked seeing Toho employ a distinct and original roar for this monster, perhaps a derivative of Mothra's audio.

The 1998 Region 1 Columbia-Tri Star DVD release of Godzilla Vs Mothra pairs this film with 1991's Godzilla Vs King Ghidorah, both movies cropped to 1:33.1 "full screen" and with English 2.0 audio.

Godzilla Vs Mothra can also be purchased on Region 4/PAL format(Madman Entertainment) and Region 3(, both with English subtitles option, the movie in widescreen in both R4 and R3.

The trailer for Godzilla Vs Mothra(1992):
Trailer: Godzilla vs. Mothra -- 1992 - MyVideo

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Looks That Kill: The Gorgon(1964)

For the longest time I waited for Hammer Film's The Gorgon(1964) to be released on official DVD. Last year it was, part of the Icons Of Horror: Hammer Films DVD set. Like other "Hammer" horror films, this movie is a moody, atmospheric and downright creepy affair. The movie chronicles the struggles of a small German town that is plagued by a creature, a "Gorgon", that can turn anyone looking directly at it into stone. (no other spoilers)

The cast includes Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Barbara Shelley, and is directed by Terence Fisher. Any fan of Hammer horror movies should have Icons Of Horror: Hammer Films in their DVD collection.

The original trailer for The Gorgon(1964):

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Conqueror Worms: Mothra Vs Godzilla(1964)

Recently I watched the original Toho classic Mothra Vs Godzilla(1964) on DVD, in Japanese language and English subtitles. This film is widely considered, and justifiably, among the best of the "Showa" era Godzilla films, which were made from 1954 - 1975. The movie has a serious tone, an entirely believable plot, some memorable villains and overall special effects, including animatronics, miniatures, "suit"mation and other pyrotechnic effects that, while dated compared to today's "green screen" and CGI technology, have nevertheless stood the test of time quite well. The Americanized version of the film, released theatrically in the U.S. as Godzilla Vs The Thing, also includes an additional scene in which American warships fire "Frontier" missiles at Godzilla, a scene that is very well done. For any Godzilla fan who likes seeing this monster portrayed as the bad guy, Mothra Vs Godzilla is a film for you!

More observations about this film, some familiar and perhaps a few that aren't:

Thumbs up:

1. the abundance of high speed filming used to render Godzilla's movements. This lensing technique makes the action of the monster look slower and more realistic, given Godzilla's size

2. the trio of Akira Takarada, Yuriko Hoshi & Hiroshi Koizumi who all play off each other very well

3. the score overall is IMO terrific. The main Godzilla "march" helps enhance the urgent, serious tone of the film

4. many of the miniature effects, by Eiji Tsuburaya and his effects team, are stellar

5. comic relief, though not overdone, by the gruff and no-nonsense newspaper editor "Murata"(Jun Takazi) and his affable but bumbling and perpetually boiled egg eating reporter(played by Yu Fujiki). As personalities go these two are polar opposites.

6. the overall rendering of Mothra, which I thought was outstanding. The wire works staff were no doubt very busy in helping to bring this enormous prop to life in front of the camera

7. the overall battle between Godzilla and Mothra: nothing fancy as both monsters play up to their strengths: Mothra uses her maneuverability advantage in the air, her poison powder and hurricane force winds generated by her flapping wings. Godzilla basically relies on his oral beam, the monster perhaps realizing if he used it enough he would eventually score a hit on his winged adversary(which he did)

8. the JSDF(Japanese Self Defense Force) in this movie: these guys actually planned and carried out their attacks on Godzilla with purpose, unlike in other G films where the JSDF come across as being ineffective, unmotivated dullards. In Mothra Vs Godzilla the JSDF leave no doubt of their intent to not only stop Godzilla but also to try and destroy the creature if possible

9. the rendering of the twin Mothra larvae: well done(using animatronics), the two creature's movements retaining a good degree of realism

10, the presence of some truly despicable villains, in particular "Torahata"(Kenji Sahara), a greedy and arrogant shyster who tries to rip off and subsequently jam up his own business associate, "Kumamaya", himself no upstanding individual either.

11. the "Mosugoji" Godzilla suit. No, I don't like the "wobbling lips" but, forgetting that particular shortcoming, I thought the suit looked great overall

Thumbs down:

1. the sequences of the adult Mothra Vs Godzilla battle where hand puppets are used. I have never been nor will ever be a fan of the puppetry arts

2. the battle between Godzilla and the twin Mothra larvae: I have no problem with the larvae successfully cocooning Godzilla but I do think those tasked with choreographing this battle made things a little too easy on the larvae. I would have liked seeing Godzilla put up more of a fight against the smaller creatures.

The AIP trailer for "Godzilla Vs The Thing":
Godzilla vs. The Thing trailer

Monday, July 6, 2009

Spaced Invaders: Godzilla Vs Gigan(1972)

I first saw this movie on TBS Superstation back in 1987 in the attic apartment of a friend and co-worker on a sunny Saturday afternoon. I wanted my friend "Robert" to tape the movie but his VCR crapped out. Too bad too because it would be about eight more years before I would watch this film again, in the summer of 1995.

Having watched Godzilla Vs Gigan last night(Sunday) took me back to the year 1995 when I first saw this movie uncut, in widescreen and with English subtitles, on VHS, the tape one of many I had ordered from a now defunct bootlegger catalog video company located in New York state.

Godzilla Vs Gigan is one of the few G movies I've watched in which my overall opinion of it hasn't changed, for better or worse, with repeated viewings. I've always liked many things about this movie...and always disliked many things as well.

The film's story: Mild mannered and milquetoast magazine artist/cartoonist Genko Kotaka(Hiroshi Ishikawa) begins to believe there's something very wrong with the employees of "World Children's Land", a Japan branch of an international theme park corporation whose main office is located in Switzerland. His suspicions are justified: the employees, including the leader of the park, Kubota(Toshiaki Nishizawa), and the youthful Fumio Sudo(Zan Fujita) are all roach-like insectoid aliens from the Space Hunter M galaxy with designs on sanitizing, then colonizing the Earth. The aliens are able to occupy human bodies and hence draw little attention among themselves while they effect their devious plans. A mysterious audio reel tape, earlier confiscated by a young lady named Machiko Shima, is played, by accident, by Kotaka and Machiko(Tomoko Umeda), whose brother is being held captive by the aliens.

The tape is little more than gibberish to Genko Kotaka and Machiro Ishima, but not to Godzilla and Anguirus, the two monsters able to detect and understand the tape's message. Consequently, Godzilla dispatches Anguirus to make landfall in Japan and deal with the situation. The JSDF drive Anguirus off while a short time later the space monsters King Ghidorah and Gigan, controlled by the insectoid aliens, arrive on Earth and begin a rampage of destruction, the monster's actions the first phase in the alien's plans to colonizes the Earth. Godzilla and Anguirus arrive, eventually, and square off against the alien controlled monsters. The human cast members, Genko Kotaka, his girlfriend Tomoko Tomoe(Yuriko Hishimi), Machiko Shima, her brother Takashi Shima(Kunio Murai) and her friend Shosaku Takasugi(Minoru Takashima), all work together as well to defeat the aliens...(no other spoilers)

Observations, some good and some not so good:

Thumbs up:

1. the pyrotechnic effects in this film. Teruyoshi Nakano, the special effects director for this movie really delivers with the explosions, both those resulting from the monster's rampage and also those resulting from the monster battles

2. King Ghidorah's gravity beams, which look as devastating as ever

3. the overall rendering of the cyborg monster Gigan. The monster lacks a beam weapon but is very hostile and has a scary looking buzz saw built into its chest and abdomen. It's roar is effective as well and has a mechanical quality to it

4. the battle between Godzilla and Gigan, which looks to be entirely comprised of high speed filming, which slows the monster's actions and movements down, IMO adding some realism to the sequence

5. Yuriko Hishimi, who plays Kotaka's girlfriend "Tomoko Tomoe". She's gorgeous and, skilled in karate, gets to kick some alien ass as well

6. the overall "oil refinery" battle sequence: Godzilla and Anguirus make landfall for the first time to engage KG and Gigan. This scene is one of my favorite Showa Godzilla film kaiju battle sequences.

Thumbs down:

1. the many insertions of stock footage. Most are annoying but there's one sequence where a scene(or two) from 1964's Ghidrah The Three Headed Monster is used, which looks horrendous

2. the character played by Minoru Takashima, "Shosaku Takasugi": a portly hippie, leering and sporting a half assed scruff of chin hair while constantly nibbling on a stick of corn on the cob, there were times in this movie when I would have liked sticking that corn on the cob in various orifices of this character

3. the colossal ineptitude of the aliens in this movie: despite their advanced technology they were done in by the simple, yet effective, duplicity of the human cast members, including the "mural", in which alien henchmen, believing the mural to be the actual humans, fire away with their weapons, which quickly sets off a chain reaction of explosions that destroy the theme park tower base used by the aliens

4. Godzilla's sudden resurrection after being thrown into the 50 meter tall theme tower by KG. Godzilla, weakened by the laser beam assault from the aliens(in the tower), is suddenly and inexplicably rejuvenated after crashing into the tower. My reaction to this scene remains the same now as it was back in 1987: "What the hell?"

5. some of the human like mannerisms of the monsters, such as Godzilla appearing to wipe his mouth twice, waving at Anguirus to swim off to Japan during an early sequence in the movie, and then slapping himself in the side of the head when seeing the alien's tower, which has been designed to look like Godzilla

Overall: I like this movie just fine but it's no doubt hit or miss with many G fans because of the often wildly uneven effects.

This film reached American theaters in 1977, distributed by Cinemashares, and re-titled "Godzilla On Monster Island".

In 2004 Sony Home Entertainment released this movie to quality Region 1 DVD, the movie presented in its original 2:35.1 widescreen aspect ratio and with optional Japanese language(w/English subtitles) and English language(the international English language track) selection.

The Toho trailer: