My Top 5 Underappreciated Horror Films

People are preparing for one of the best times of the year – what I like to call Spooky Season. Spooky Season is that short period of time that occurs between the official end of Summer and Halloween. For many people, Halloween is just as much of a season as it is a holiday, and spooky nerds like myself like to joke that Halloween starts right after Labor Day. However, I think most folks would agree that once the air begins to chill, and the leaves on the trees begin to change, that we are officially in Spooky Season.

What makes Spooky Season so special is that it’s the perfect time for horror fanatics to revisit some of their favorite films. I don’t consider myself a film buff, or even a horror buff – but I like movies and I really like horror movies, which means I’ve developed opinions about them. I’ve been a fan of horror films for most of my life, having watched movies like Tremors as a child. I’ve watched nearly all of the Friday, the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street films before I was ten-years-old. I’m old enough to remember how amazing it was to go to your local video rental store and rent a couple of movies for the week. My local video rental store had this awesome deal where you could rent five movies, for five days, for five dollars – as long as they were older titles that were labeled as such. This is how I was introduced to film franchises such as Child’s Play and Puppet Master. Since I could rent up to 5 movies at a time, I liked to find entire franchises to watch, and this is how I’ve grown to love the genre.

This isn’t about me though – but I can almost guarantee that my story sounds familiar to some. More than likely, it reminds you of yourself. This is how some of the most obscure movies in cinema history have been able to garner cult followings. Weird kids and teenagers like myself would go to the video store and take chances on goofy horror films, simply because the box art looked wicked sweet. Apparently, there were enough of us out there who loved these movies that there is entire community built around it. Over time, I’ve watched some horror films that most of the people in my everyday life have never heard about.

Of course, if everything that I’ve said up until this point doesn’t apply to you, then this list of recommendations is for you. If you like horror movies, but never really went past some of the classic, I would like to give you my list of what I consider to be underappreciated films. The criteria for this list is largely arbitrary. These are movies that I have personally seen, and I admit there are a lot of great hidden gems that I’ve never gotten to. Additionally, these movies will range wildly in terms of themes and quality. Before composing this list, I researched each movie’s score on Rotten Tomatoes, and only one of them scored above a 70% with critics. With that in mind, some of these recommendations will actually NOT be for you. I am aware that you might not find anything in here to enjoy. I will do my best to explain why this film works for me. However, I will be proceeding from this point forward assuming that you have at least a mild interested in Horror films. There is a reason why these films are not considered all-time classics. I just want to shine a light on these films that make me happy. Grab some popcorn, a soft blanket and turn off the lights, because it’s Spooky Season!


5. Demonic Toys (1992)

I really wanted to start this list of with this movie for a few very important reasons. First and foremost, I love this movie way more than it actually deserves, and I’m not entirely sure why. Secondly, this movie has the lowest audience score of all the movies on this list which makes it a great starting point. It only goes up from here, baby!

Demonic Toys starts us off with a couple of undercover cops who botch an arms deal bust, leading to one of the officer’s deaths. It is revealed that the two officers are a romantic couple, and the female cop, Judith, is carrying their child. Judith chases the dealer into a toy warehouse, where the injured criminal bleeds onto the floor, accidentally resurrecting a sixty-six-year-old demon. In order for the demon to be reborn into the living world, he seeks to take over the body of Judith’s unborn child. The demon animates some of the toys in the warehouse to help carry out his dastardly plans, by trying to subdue Judith and kill anyone else who gets in the way. We’re introduced to the “main” toys of the film, a smart-mouthed baby doll, a vicious Jack-in-the-box, a deadly toy robot and very hungry teddy bear. Judith, along with a hapless delivery boy, fight for survival and for the soul of the Judith’s unborn child.

Now of course if you ask me if Demonic Toys is a “good movie” in a traditional sense – like how Shawshank Redemption is a good movie…. Then the answer is absolutely not. It is a terrible movie. However, this movie just oozes with just enough schlock that it’s just so dang charming. Demonic Toys actually takes itself pretty seriously, which actually works in the movie’s favor.  Each of the toys have their own personality too. Baby Oopsy Daisy is the only toy to have a voice actor, and she swears up a storm through the whole movie. Oopsy acts as a comic relief too, as she mercilessly taunts her victims before killing them, complete with the catchphrase “Play Time!”. Jack Attack is a vicious Jack-in-the-Box that is able to leave his box entirely, and crawl around like a snake. Mr. Static is a toy robot that can shoot deadly lasers at his targets. Grizzly Teddy is final demonic toy of the bunch, and is shown to have razor sharp fangs. He is typically shown biting and eating his victims. In the climax of the film, Grizzly Teddy is the final toy standing and grows into a human-sized killing machine.

This movie is fun, plain and simple. The movie itself doesn’t have a lot to say, but everything in it is just wonderful. It’s definitely not one of those movies where it’s “so bad, it’s good.” It genuinely tries to tell a pretty solid story, and it gets about halfway there. The conflict between the demon and Judith’s unborn child is actually very well done. We actually get some beautiful scenes showing the spiritual fight between the two entities. Plus, out of all the “killer toy” movies out there, I genuinely think this is one of the better ones. This is why Demonic Toys gets my Underappreciated Horror film stamp of approval.


4. House (1985)

I fully admit that I have not watched House since my teenage years, which means many of the details are fuzzy on me. However, what I do remember about this film is that it’s actually pretty awesome, it can be pretty funny, and it’s definitely underappreciated. Honestly, many fans of the horror genre are familiar with House, since its VHS box art is so iconic. This was a video store staple, and people would recognize the look of it without even watching it.

Our main character is Roger Cobb, who is a horror novelist, suffering from writer’s block. He can’t seem to continue with his latest book, a recollection of his time spent in Vietnam. The fans are eager but they want horror, not some war story. On top of all this, he is also dealing with a divorce and coping with the mysterious disappearance of his son. Depressed, he moves to his aunt’s house, from where his son vanished and in which the old lady hung herself. Roger runs into a flurry of distractions in his new adopted home. The first of which is a pesky neighbor, name Herold, who can’t seem to stay out of Roger’s business. Then there are the more malicious distractions – monsters, ghosts and ghouls who all appear at night. Eventually Cobb discovers an entry into a sinister other-world through the bathroom medicine cabinet and is pulled into the darkness, where he fortuitously locates his lost son. Cobb manages to escape with Jimmy but is soon confronted by an undead Big Ben who wants revenge on him. Ben was taken prisoner and tortured before dying in Vietnam, and he blames Cobb for failing to save him. Cobb confronts Ben, no longer afraid of his fears, and destroys him with a grenade as he and his son escape the burning house.

What makes House such a wonderful film is that it can be enjoyed by nearly everyone. The movie actually acts just as much as a comedy as it does a horror, similar to movies like Tremors (1990). However, those horror elements are still there, and we get great scenes with horribly disfigured monsters. The movie doesn’t overdo itself though, and can be enjoyed by nearly everyone. There isn’t much in the way gore which is a small subversion of classic 80’s gorefests. However, we do get a lot wonderful monster designs using some great practical effects. The monsters that appear in this film are so incredibly recognizable, that even though I’ve watched this as a child, I still remember them today.

Many folks who have watched this film revere it as one of the best B-movies of its time. It is often lumped in with other cheesy cult classics such as Evil Dead. However, so few people I’ve talked to have every given it the chance that it desperately deserves. I would describe House as a “family” horror movie. Which means that there is at least a little bit of something to like for a lot of people. The difference in quality from Demonic Toys is certainly noticeable. So, if you’re taking my recommendations at face-value, you can easily hate the other movies on the list, but might enjoy this one. I didn’t want to put this one higher on the list simply because I didn’t start writing this with a fresh sense for the movie.


3. Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)

I don’t think it’s hyperbolic of me to say that Bubba Ho-Tep has one of the cheesiest premises for a movie of all time. I say this knowing that a movie called Sharknado became a cultural phenomenon. However, whereas movies like Sharknado are incredibly aware of how dumb they are, Bubba Ho-Tep will actually keep you wondering whether or not you should be taking it seriously. This movie functions primarily as a comedy, but there are certainly some really creepy and disturbing elements in there for horror fans to enjoy. I was made aware of this movie when director Don Coscarelli announced it as his next project. Coscarelli also directed another movie that will appear later in this list which I absolutely adore, so I was eager to eat just about anything he could cook up.

Bubba Ho-Tep tells the “true” story of what really became of Elvis Presley. In this movie, Elvis is played by Bruce Campbell, and is now old and wasting away in a retirement home in Texas. Our “real” Elvis switched places with an impersonator after growing tired of the fame and glory, wanting to slow down and live a normal life. Before he could switch places again and resume his role, the impersonator died, leaving our “real” Elvis to continue living out his years in obscurity. One rainy night just outside of town, a cargo van carrying an ancient Egyptian casket drives off the road and into a river. The river carries the casket down stream just outside of the retirement home, and it is here where the mummy inside is revived. Being in the casket for thousands of years, the mummy is weak and needs to feed on the souls of humans to regain strength. The folks at the retirement home are the perfect prey, as they are too old and weak to stop the mummy from extracting their souls. However, since each soul doesn’t have much life left in them, the mummy must return frequently to feed. Elvis’ best friend in the home is an elderly black gentleman, who consistently insists that he is John F. Kennedy in disguise. Elivs and his buddy “JFK” are the only two residents who see what is really going on, and they devise a plan to take down the mummy in an epic encounter involving a walker and a riding scooter.

I told you this movie sounds absolutely insane. Don Coscarelli does an absolutely outstanding job at making this silly premise not only fun to watch, but honestly kind of believable (except for the mummy part). The audience is really lead to believe that this is the real Elvis, but we are kept from being certain since we never really trust that his friend is the real JFK. To the nurses, they’re just a couple of crazy old men who don’t even know who they are anymore. This create a bit of tension, since neither of them can ask for help in fighting the mummy since they’ll just get laughed at. Elvis is such a wonderfully sympathetic character, who starts out as pathetic but gradually becomes the hero of the film.

Given the absurdity of it all, Bubba Ho-Tep is actually played pretty straight. The comedy comes directly from the characters, and not from the situation. The film is shot in a way that makes us want to believe that this isn’t as dumb as it sounds. Since most of movie takes place at this one location, we also get a ton of wonderful character moments. We grow to love these characters, which helps set the stage for a genuinely emotional climax. There aren’t any massive explosions or bit set pieces. In many ways, this movie is anti-Hollywood. Small and intimate, with just the perfect amount of cheese.


2. Critters (1986)

The last two films in this list are both really close to being considered “mainstream” according to most horror fans. However, both Critters and the next film have just enough of a cult following to be well-known, but never had their day to shine with the likes of Halloween or Gremlins. In fact, most casual moviegoers believe that Critters is a cash-grab on Gremlins. They both feature somewhat adorable fuzzy creatures that cause destruction and mayhem in a small town. Critters released after Gremlins, but what most people don’t know is that the script for Critters existed long before Gremlins. Critters sat on the shelf for a few years in development purgatory, and because of that it is an oft forgotten film. Now, I’m willing to admit that most people have at least heard of Critters. However, I maintain that it is still an under-appreciated classic that needs just a little bit more praise.

Critters is movie about a group of small extraterrestrial murder monsters that escape imprisonment, hijack a spaceship and crash land on earth. The creatures emerge hungry and ready to feed. The little guys are referred to as Crites, and they terrorize a small rural family who tries to defend their home from the furry monsters. Two shape-shifting bounty hunters from outer space are hired to hunt down and eliminate the Crites. The hunters travel across different points of the terrorized town, haplessly destroying anything that stands in the way of their mission. In the movie’s finale, one of the Crites grows to an abnormal size and kidnaps one of our protagonists. Before the ship can take off, a Molotov cocktail is thrown inside which detonates some explosives, causing the ship to crash.

Critters was recently popularized 2018 when YouTube channel Red Letter Media talked about it in a review-style episode. Red Letter Media is a successful channel with over 1.2million subscribers. They praised the film, saying that they grew up watching it and the sequels.  I have no doubt that this episode created a ton of new viewers of the film – and yet Critters remains a seldom-talked-about classic.

Critters is a type of movie you can tell that the people making it really loved what they were doing. It’s a film with a lot of heart. It has some humor in it, but the horror aspects are played fairly straight. The Crites are quippy and nasty – and will often go out of their way to spite our protagonists. The entire bounty hunter subplot is what makes this movie better than it normally would be. It gives the scenario ton of depth, which helps it stand out to other small creature films like Ghoulies or Gremlins. The special effects are modest but effective, and it helps create one of the most charming cinematic experiences. Please make time to check out Critters!


  1. Phantasm (1979)

Saving the best for last, Phantasm is one of my all-time favorite horror movies. It is even considered one of the best horror movies by fans of the genre. This movie is so unbelievably close to being main-stream, but only misses the mark by an inch. Most fans of horror have at least heard of Phantasm, but its market-wide appeal was very limited. Many of the concepts in the film are very dream-like, and the film can be very hard to follow, which might turn off the causal movie-goer from watching it. Despite that, this film has carried its weight and garnered a bit of a cult following. Phantasm is directed by Don Coscarelli, the same director as Bubba Hotep which appears lower on this list. This was Don’s first film, and many consider his magnum opus. The film was locally sourced and filmed by a group of amateurs in a small town. Yet, the film gained so much popularity that many who were involved went on to enjoy modest careers in film. With all that said, why haven’t you watch Phantasm yet?

Phantasm is a film about a teenage boy, named Mike, who is horribly conflicted after the death of his parents. Mike is only has his older brother Jody, and he is terrified that Jody will leave him too. After the mysterious death of one of Jody’s friends, Mike decides to follow Jody around and spy on the funeral. That’s when Mike see the film’s antagonist, The Tall Man, pick up the casket with his bare hands and take it away. This starts a series of investigations that leads Mike and Jody directly into the path of the Tall Man. When Mike sneaks into the mausoleum, he is attached by the Tall Man’s henchmen, some small hooded creatures and a flyer silver sphere. The Tall Man chases Mike, which results in Mike cutting off the Tall Man’s finger. The amputated finger convinces Jody and their friend Reggie, an ice cream man, that the Tall Man must be stopped. The trio meet at the mausoleum to fight the tall man head on, and discover a portal to another world. Reggie closes the portal as Mike and Jody escape. Later, Mike and Jody devise a plan to lure the Tall Man into an old mine shaft, and trap him by causing a rockslide. The climax concludes after the Tall Man is trapped and Mike wakes up from a dream. Reggie comforts Mike telling him it was all a dream and that Jody had died in a car crash. We are left wondering if it really was just all a dream.

Phantasm is the type of movie that leaves everything about it up to interpretation. Almost nothing about the movie is made clear… This movie excels for this reason. It’s original and imaginative. It invokes some of the strangest feelings inside of you. When you watch this movie, it will be impossible to guess what will happen next. With all of that said, this is part of why Phantasm is so hard to recommend. Phantasm is a subversion of everything you think you know about horror movies, and is confusing even on multiple watches. It isn’t much of a casual film, and demands that you leave your mind open. It won’t hold your hand and doesn’t apologize for being what it is.

Phantasm is a surprisingly well-done film, given the low budget and amateurs that made it. Film is considered one of the best films that horror has to offer, and yet it is awkward and strange enough to keep itself in obscurity. However, I do solemnly promise that if you even like horror movies a little, you will find something to like about Phantasm. If you’ve heard about it, but never gave it a fair sake, now is your chance.


Thank you for reading through my picks of 5 under-appreciated horror films. I know that my recommendations all vary wildly from each other, but if you want to watch them, I promise you’ll find something you like. If nothing else, I do recommend Phantasm as the best movie on the list. However, if you want to make a game out of it, try picking a film at random, and go from there. Honestly, I would be flattered if even just one person watched just one of these movies.

From the deepest darkest parts of my heart, I wish you a happy Spooky Season!

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Godzilla Reviews: Week Ten – All Monsters Attack (1969)

All Monsters Attack

All Monsters Attack is quite possibly the most interesting film in the entire Godzilla franchise. At this point, I may beating a dead horse in my reviews by saying that each Godzilla film has drifted further from the original. In this case, we have officially landed in the polar opposite side of the spectrum. Whereas the original Gojira film was a serious allegory for the dangers of nuclear warfare, All Monsters Attack is just a plain kids movie that could have come right from Disney.

As I mentioned in my previous review, Destroy All Monsters was originally intended to be Godzilla’s swan song. However, the film saw just enough success that it convinced Toho that Godzilla had some juice left in him. Around this time, there was another kaiju series that competed directly with Godzilla. Daiei Motion Picture Company would make several low budget kaiju films in the 60s and 70s specifically geared towards kids. These movies starred Gamera, a giant fire-breathing turtle, that would protect earth from other monsters. Gamera would become known as the “friend of all children,” in Daiei’s marketing for the character. The movies were made with an extremely low budget, which made them profitable enough when marketed towards a younger demographic.

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Toho saw this as a great opportunity to shift gears entirely, and start making movies specifically for children. This is what lead to All Monsters Attack. The two major characters of the film are a young Japanese boy and Minilla. All of the monsters in the film take place inside the imagination of the boy, adn he becomes friends with Minilla. Together, they learn to stand up to their bullies, and be courageous in tough situations. The movie does include Godzilla and a handful of other monsters, but many of the scenes are stock footage of prior films, particularly Destroy All Monsters and Ebirah, Horror of the Deep. All of these elements is what helps make All Monsters Attack the most bizarre film in the franchise.


 

Our story revolves around young Ichiro Miki, a latchkey kid growing up in an industrial part of Japan. His father works long hours as a train conductor, while his mother works at a small inn. Everyday, Ichiro returns home from school to an empty apartment. Our movie begins with Ichiro walking home from school with his only friend, a girl named Sachiko. Along their stroll they run into Iciro’s bullies, a group of several boys lead by a kid named Gabara. The bullies pick on Ichiro until he hands over a small electronic piece he’s been carrying. Gabara and his gang continue to pick on Ichiro until he gives up and runs all the way home.

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Once Ichiro makes it back to his apartment building, he stops in to see his neighbor, a toy-maker named Shinpei. Shinpei lets Ichiro play with his latest invention, a kids computer. Ichiro tells Shinei that he should upgrade the computer to include facts about Monster Island and all of the monster roars. As Ichiro returns to his own apartment, Shinpei gives the recommendation some consideration. He accidentally steps on a hot soldering tool, and yelps. Ichiro runs back into the apartment and asks if he is working on monster roars, but leaves disappointed that Shinpei only burnt himself.

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Back in his own apartment, Ichiro takes out a device he has been working on and begins toying with it. The device is a make-believe transmitter that allows Ichiro to communicate with Monster Island. Ichiro calls out to Monster Island, and lets his imagination take him away. Ichiro appears on Monster Island, and runs into all sorts of monsters. He see Manda, Gorosuarus, Anguirus and Godzilla. It doesn’t take long before Ichiro sees Godzilla fighting some Kamacurus. After the fight, a Kamacurus starts chasing Ichiro, and Ichiro falls down into a pit. He tries to climb out, but fails. Just then, a vine rope is extended to him and he climbs out. It turns out that Minilla helped Ichiro escape. In this imaginary sequence, Minilla is the same size at Ichiro and the two can talk to one another. Ichiro and Minilla lament that they both are bullied by a Gabara, and they are each too weak and cowardly to do anything about it. On Monster island, Gabara is a giant green toad-like monsters that bullies Minilla.

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Ichiro is woken up by his neighbor Shinpei. Shinpei received a phone call from Ichiro’s mother stating that she will need to work overnight, and Ichiro can come eat dinner with Shinpei. After that, Ichiro goes outside to play but runs into Gabara and his gang. He takes off running and hides inside of an abandoned factory. When the coast is clear, Ichiro does bit more exploring and picks up a few souvenirs, which includes some old vacuum tubes, a headset and a wallet. Ichiro decides to return home when he hears some police sirens.

The police are out in full force looking for two bank robbers who are on the run. They have stolen a car, and ditched it near the abandoned factory. As it turns out, the wallet that Ichiro found belonged to one of the robbers. Before they can make their escape, they decide to kidnap Ichrio and get the wallet back.

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Ichiro and Shinpei have dinner together and talk more about Monster Island, before Ichiro returns home. When he is back inside his apartment, he falls asleep again and dreams about Monster Island. Ichiro reunites with Minilla, and they adventure around the island. They watch Godzilla get into a fight with Kumonga and then some invading jets. Once Godzilla destroys all of the jets, he calls Minilla over for a lesson in fire-breathing. Godzilla blasts one of the wrecked planes, and instruct Minllla to do the same. Minilla can only muster up a smoke ring, but Godzilla stomps on his tail which causes Minilla to breath fire out of surprise. After Godzilla and Minilla celebrate, Ichrio is abrubtly pulled back into reality when the robbers grab him. Ichiro is taken hostage, and the robbers retreat back to the abandoned factory.

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Once the robbers are back inside their bunker, one of them leaves to secure an escape vehicle while one stays with Ichiro on lookout. Ichiro falls asleep again, and reunites with Minilla. This time, the pair team up to take on Gabara head-on. Just as Gabara begins to wallop Minilla, Godzilla shows up. Godzilla encourages his son to stand up for himself and continue fighting. Once Minilla gets knocked down a few time, Gozilla finally steps in, seemingly approving of his son’s courageous effort. Ichiro and Minilla escape while Godzilla and Gabara tussle. Gabara gains the upperhand in the fight and chases after of duo of kids. Minilla and Ichiro hide on a side of a cliff, and wait for Gabara to step onto a leaning tree trunk. When he is positioned right, Minilla jumps from the cliff, landing on the other side of the fell tree, launching Gabara into the air. When Gabara lands, he lays there defeated. Godzilla and Minilla look to Ichiro standing victoriously.

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Ichiro is awakened abruptly by the robber, and they prepare for their escape. While the two robbers are discussing their plan, Ichiro slips away into the abandoned factory. The robbers chase after him, and begin Home Alone style manhunt. Ichiro uses the lessons  he had learned from Minilla and Godzilla to fight off the robbers. He gains the courage to fight back, doing what he can to outwit them. Just outside the building, Shinpei notices that it was his car that they had stolen, and he calls the police. The police arrive just in time to arrest the criminals. On the following day, Ichiro finally uses his newfound courage to stand up to his bully, Gabara, and wins. With his new-found courage, Ichiro plays a prank on a nearby painter and runs off, leaving Gabara and his gang to take the blame. Our movie ends there.

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All Monsters Attack is almost unanimously considered the worst Godzilla movie ever. This sentiment is shared among fans and casual critics. Many initial reviews around the time that it had released called the movie “lazy” and “downright painful.” There are innumerable elements in the film that just make it an awful experience for many movie-goers.

The first and obvious issue is that All Monsters Attack misses the entire point of why people like watching Godzilla movies. Fans hated Minilla ever since his introduction, and now he is given a spoken role in the film. When you add that in with the  other goofy childhood adventure aspects of the film, you’re left with a lot to be desired. All of the monster interaction takes place within Ichiro’s imagination, which calls into question whether or not these monsters even exist. This is the first and only movie into the entire franchise where the monsters don’t act as a direct threat, or really contribute to the climax. In a weird way, this movie could have easily existed in the real world, and Ichiro could simply be daydreaming of Godzilla movies he has seen. Which brings up the next important point.

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All of the Godzilla footage in the first half of the film is stock footage from other movies. This makes the movie feel even cheaper than it already is. Even in my personal experiences; after watching each consecutive movie before this just recently, it was frankly quite boring reliving scenes that I had just seen. The fights with Kamakurus, Ebirah, the giant condor, Kumonga and even the jets were all done using stock footage. The biggest problem with this is that different Godzilla suits were used in each film, so Godzilla actually changes shape throughout the movie. Add on top of this, the fight with Kumonga was sloppily edited so that props were put over top of Minilla which appeared in the original film. Even worse than that, the editors forgot to cover Minilla in one of the shots and we get to see Minilla covered in webbing as he was in Son of Godzilla. The attempts to stay cheap are just plain embarrassing at some points.

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Plainly put, All Monsters Attack just isn’t a Godzilla movie. Godzilla has almost nothing to do with the plot, Minilla looks and sounds awful, and only about half the movie is new footage. In a review for the Escapist, film critic Bob Chipman said, “the infamous ‘quickie’ Godzilla, composed almost entirely of stock footage from previous films. Even as a kid, this is the one I’d skip.” I would agree with this sentiment for many years. Even as a kid myself, watching this movie was an insult. Even though the movie was geared towards kids, I had development my love for Godzilla through epic battles and city destruction. Watching this movie was a let down, even at the young age that this movie was supposed to appeal to.

With all of that said, I now have mixed feelings about the movie, to the point that I would almost give the movie two different ratings. First, let me be clear: as a Godzilla movie, All Monsters Attacks fails on almost every lever. However, this movie becomes tremendously more enjoyable once you convince yourself that this just isn’t a Godzilla movie. All Monsters Attacks is my guilty pleasure of mine. This movie plays out like a bad Disney movie, and I find myself enjoying it the same way that I enjoy other bad movies.

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Not to mention, this movie is great for kids, and it is currently my daughter’s favorite Godzilla movie. My daughter and I have watched All Monsters Attack several times, and I cherish those moments to death. She likes to make believe that she beats up on Gabara.

In a weird way, I find myself enjoying this film more than some of the others that I have already watched for my review series. I can typically only handle watching Destroy All Monsters or Invasion of Astro-Monster once every few years, but All Monsters Attack is good for quick a cheesy laugh. The way in which I enjoy All Monsters Attack is very similar to the way I enjoy The Room, starring Tommy Wiseau. It’s like a train wreck that you just can’t look away from. However, in the case for All Monsters Attack, the childhood adventures make the film much more nostalgic. It reminds me of a film like Pete’s Dragon, we’re a kid finds solace in his imaginary pet monsters. It can be very endearing at moments.

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Snapping back to reality for the review, my critical mind looks poorly on this film. I can’t really imagine giving this any other rating than the worst of all the series. For the purpose of my review series, I’m going to give this a 3/10. This rating does comes with some stipulation, however. I do revisit this film frequently,. Much more than some of the other entries I’ve already covered. I just that merit alone I’m going to give this a biased fan score of 5/10. Based on my personal tastes, the wacky adventure it treat with my young daughter. I’ll just leave it at that.

We have now officially reviewed the first 10 Godzilla movies! Admit some of the other chaotic things going around in the world, I have stuck to my guns and continuing forward with my reviews. I have admittedly slowed down over the past month, which I hope does not continue. I will be working hard to go back to one review a week. My goal is to finish the series before Godzilla vs Kong hits theaters. I have 22 more movies to go!

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All Monsters Attack 3/10 (but secretly 5/10)

 

 

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Godzilla Reviews: Week Nine – Destroy All Monsters (1968)

destroy all monsters

If you have been following my reviews over the past few weeks, you would have noticed that the Godzilla franchise has gone through some major changes, some for the worse. Ever since Invasion of Astro-Monster, the overall quality of each film decreased drastically, culminating in one of my least favorite films, Son of Godzilla. With that in mind, you might be excited to hear that Destroy All Monsters is a return to form, and is a drastic improvement for the series.

Destroy All Monsters was actually intended to be the last Godzilla movie ever, and as such, Toho decided to load this movie with as many of their monsters as they possibly could. Not only does this movie bring back Godzilla veterans like Mothra, Rodan, King Ghidorah, Kumonga, Angurius and Minilla; but also brings in monsters from their other properties. We get Manda from Atragon, Varan from Varan the Unbelievable, Baragon from Frankenstein Conquers the World, and Gorosaurus from King Kong Escapes.

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Many fans regard this film as quintessential, and required-watching for anyone who even has a mild interest in classic monster films.  Destroy All Monsters is referenced heavily in popular culture, containing many iconic scenes and even musical compositions. Many of the original Godzilla production team returns, which is felt throughout the film. However, none is more obvious than Akira Ifukube returning as the musical composer.

Unfortunately, Destroy All Monsters saw poor returns at the Box Office, barely getting back what they spent on production. Meanwhile, the reviews ranged from anywhere between lukewarm to generally positive. Many of the criticisms for Destroy All Monsters point out how sluggish some parts of the movie are, and how the alien invasion plot is ripped straight from a comic book. However, most of the positive comments towards the film hailed its extraordinary scope, it’s amazing monster destruction sequences and the absolutely amazing final battle with all of the monsters.

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Destroy All Monsters is absolutely massive in scope. Not only are their tons of monsters, but the plot takes us all over the world, and even out of our world. The movie takes place in 1999 (which is 30 years after the movie was released). The entire world have finally achieved world peace, and work harmoniously through the United Nations. The United nations has set up bases on the moon, and on “Monster Island.” All of the world’s monsters were corralled onto Monster Island, where they are kept safe and contained from the rest of the world. The United Nations use special force field technology that keeps the monsters from leaving the island. The base is lead by Dr. Otani.

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While the scientists on Monster Island are communicating with the UN base on the Moon, the Monster Island base is attacked and all communication is lost. Almost immediately after this, major cities around the world report attacks from each of the monsters. Mothra is sighted in Beijing, Godzilla in New York, Rodan in Moscow, Manda in London and Gorosaurus in Paris.

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In desperation, Dr. Yoshida of the UNSC orders Captain Yamabe and the crew of his spaceship, Moonlight-SY3 to return to Earth. Their first task is to investigate the Monster Island base. They find that Dr. Otani and his team have all been put under some sort of mind control, and they are introduced to a strange alien woman. The woman explains that she is the leader of the race alien call the Kilaaks. She reveals that they are in direct control of the monsters in the same way that they are controlling the Monster island team of scientists. She goes on the explain that the Kilaaks are an advanced race with technology that far surpasses that of Earth. They demand that the human race surrender, or be annihilated by the monsters. After receiving the threat, Yamabe and his team kidnap Dr. Otani and escape back to Japan.

We learn that the Kilaaks had sent the monsters to other parts of the world so that they could build a control station at the base of Mt. Fuji. Our team begins by interrogating Dr. Otani, but to no avail. Under the Kilaak’s control Dr. Otani attempts suicide by jumping from a window. A group of mind-controlled scientists attempt to collect Dr. Otani’s body and remove the control device from him. However, they fail and our group of heroes learn that the Kilaaks are able to control others through a radio transmission. The Kilaaks are displeased with their discovery and order a monster attack on Tokyo. Godzilla, Manda, Rodan and Mohtra converge on the city and cause mass destruction. The attack on Tokyo was the worst of all the major cities, leaving little more than rubble.

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Determined to bring an end to the Kilaaks, Yamabe and the gang develop a way to track the mind control signal. Traveling around the world, they discover transmitters that were stashed away in various areas such as streams and mountainsides. With all of the transmitters in their possession, the Japanese government devises a plan to storm Mt. Fuji. Before the base and be raided, the military comes face to face with Godzilla, who is protecting the area. We learn that the Kilaaks developed a fail-safe control base on the moon, and that the monsters are still under their control.

Yamabe leads his team aboard the Moonlight-SY3 to attack the Kilaak base on the moon. The team uses a mining laser to break through the Kilaak defenses. Once our team of heroes fight their way through, the temperatures inside the base begin to drastically decrease. The Kilaak’s begin to shrink and revert to a rock-like form. We discover that the Kilaak’s cannot live when exposed to cold temperatures, and return to a hibernation state similar to a mineral. Yamabe grabs one of the Kilaaks, then begins looking for the mind-control device. Once found, they use the laser to cut the device from its pedestal and they return to Earth.

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Back on Earth, the United Nation uses the mind control device on the monsters, and orders them to attack the Kilaak base at Mt. Fuji. The first to arrive is Minilla, shortly followed by Godzilla and Mothra. Soon we start seeing the rest. Manda, Bargon and Varan appear in the distance. Then Rodan, Gorosaurus, Kumonga and Anguirus make their entrance. Before Godzilla can lead the army of monsters on their attack, the Kilaaks pull out their fight, King Ghidorah.

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King Ghidroah starts taking on the monsters, blasting them with his gravity beam. King Ghidorah gets knocked over, and while he’s down Anguirus latches onto his neck. King Ghidorah takes off to the skies with Anguirus hanging from his neck. King Ghidorah reaches around with one of his other heads and pries Anguirus off, throwing him to the ground. King Ghidorah then returns to the ground to fight more. The monsters surround him, and Gorosuarus lands a powerful kangaroo kick, knocking Ghidorah down again. The monsters begin to dog pile the three-headed monsters. Anguirus bites down on the right neck, while Godzilla grapples with the left head. Minilla blows a smoke ring around the middle head, and Mothra and Kumonga spray their webbing to trap the monster. King Ghidorah is defeated.

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Refusing to admit defeat, the Kilaaks reveal one more monster that they call the Fire Dragon. The Fire Dragon appears to be a giant ball of flying fire. First it burns Rodan out of the sky, then it latches itself onto the Moonlight-SY3, and they enter a short dog fight. Captain Yamabe manages to shake the Fire Dragon off, and it is revealed that it is actually just a burning Kilaak ship. The team shoots the ship out of the air. Durring the fight, parts of the Kilaak base are revealed on the side of Mt. Fuji. Godzilla leads a charge on the base and kicks in the roof. Exposed to the air, the Kilaaks revert back to their hibernation state. The monsters and mankind are victorious. Our movie ends with all of the monsters back on Monster Island, returning to their happy monster lives.

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You’re probably thinking that Destroy All Monsters would be one of the best Godzilla movies out there. It has all of the monsters, with epic global catastrophe. The easiest comparison we can make is to something like Marvel’s Infinity War. However, I personally believe that Destroy All Monsters struggles with a handful of things that keep it from being truly great.

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One of the bigger problems with Destroy All Monsters is that it fails to give equal and loving treatment to all of it’s monsters. Not all Godzilla movies are jam packed with bombastic action, but Destroy All Monsters was marketed as a all-out monster bash. Add in the fact that it was also marketed as the last Godzilla film, then you can understand why the final product is a little disappointing. In a roundabout way, Destroy All Monsters ended up being what many fans of the Marvel films feared Infinity War and Endgame would be. The fear was that the movie would be too ambitious for its own good, and the filmmakers would struggle to find a perfect balance. Many monsters in the film have their time limited to just minor cameos. The combined screen time of monsters like Varan and Baragon are each under one minute. This doesn’t kill the movie, of course. However, it does leave fans wanting more.

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I personally find that to be a minor complaint, but honestly it’s made worse by long stretches of boring human plot. The alien invasion plot in Destroy All Monsters is remarkably similar to the one in Invasion of Astro-Monster, but only half as interesting. We learn so little about the Kilaaks that it almost feels like the movie could have existed without them. It’s also a shame that the rest of the human characters are largely uninteresting. Most of the movie is just scenes of humans reacting to what the monsters are doing. This movie exudes very little fun without the monsters on screen.

With those two complaints out of the way, there are few good things to talk about. The first is that this is still one of the better Godzilla films in the first era. It is miles above movies like Son of Godzilla or Godzilla Raids again. In many ways, Destroy All Monsters is a strong return to the Godzilla formula that fans loved. The bigger scale allows for awesome monster destruction and fun battles. Destroy All Monsters feels more of a natural progression for the Godzilla franchise, and is a stronger natural sequel to Invasion of Astro-Monster.

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This return to form is felt through many returning production members from the earlier years. Like I mentioned above, the most obvious of these is the return of Akira Ifukube as the composer. Destroy All Monsters has one of the strongest orchestral pieces of all the Godzilla films. The movies main theme will stick with many fans, and you will immediately recognize it as truly being Godzilla. The soundtrack does a wonderful job at making everything in the film feel bigger and more epic. This feeling was sorely missed in the last couple films.

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Even though the monster action was limited, that didn’t stop it from being amazing. The attack on Tokyo is one of the best Godzilla destruction scenes in any of the movies. I also genuinely loved seeing all of the awesome monsters from the other movies. Manda sticks out most to me, since he actually got quite a lot of screen time. Seeing the snake-like dragon wrap himself around structures was just awesome to see. In addition to that, it was awesome to see Gorosaurus be heavily involved in the final fight with King Ghidorah. Speaking of King Ghidorah; his appearance was appreciated but underwhelming. The problem of course was that he was severely outnumbered one:eight. However, the battle was still fiery and epic. King Ghidorah actually dies as a result! That’s dedication!

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For the first time during all of my reviews, I would like to take a quote from another reviewer, Steve Biodrowski from Cinefantasique. Destroy All Monsters “”is too slim in its storyline, too thin in its characterizations, to be considered a truly great film […] But for the ten-year-old living inside us all, it is entertainment of the most awesome sort.” I think sentence here perfectly encapsulates me overall opinion on the film. When I watch Destroy All Monsters, the child in my jumps for joy and cheers when I see the monsters. However, the rest of the film is too bland to really keep me hooked. In today’s day an age, it’s hard sit through without checking my phone for something more interesting. I think that’s a real shame.

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Destroy All Monsters lands somewhere in the same area as Invasion of Astro-Monster and King Kong vs Godzilla for me. While I think those two movies are generally entertaining the whole way through, the awesome monster action of Destroy All Monsters does a lot of the heavy lifting. I’m going to give this film a solid 7/10!

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That’s it for my Destroy All Monsters review. I had to slow down a bit over these past couple weeks to get over some sickness. This review will publish a week late than originally intended, but I’m still moving forward. There’s still a lot going on in the Godzilla franchise down the road, and I’m excited to get to it. Keep checking back for more content!

-LoaphMeat

 

 

 

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Godzilla Reviews: Week Eight – Son of Godzilla (1967)

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Of all of the films in the Godzilla franchise, Son of Godzilla was one of the few that I wasn’t particularly looking forward to reviewing. Luckily for me, I’m not alone in having poor opinions on this film. Son of Godzilla is considered by many fans to be one of the weakest films in the franchise, mostly because of the title character. Godzilla’s son Minilla (also known as Minya in English dub) is considered one of Toho’s greatest mistakes. However, this film did receive some critical acclaim for it’s humor and special effects. Some critics found the movie particularly endearing, as Godzilla tried to adopt his new role as father.

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By this point in Toho’s tenure, Godzilla was no longer taken seriously by critics and movie-goers. This lead Toho towards making Godzilla films more and more geared toward children and date-night causal movie-goers. To appeal more to people who liked cute things, Toho would give Minilla child-like features. We have also witnessed Godzilla’s silly evolution through all of the films up until this point. Each new film added more goofiness than the last. King Kong vs Godzilla added some humor, Mothra vs Godzilla added magical fairies. Invasion of Astro-Monster even took Godzilla into outer space! Son of Godzilla honestly felt like the next natural step. Even other franchises would produce movies like Son of Kong or Son of Frankenstein. In addition to creating a lovable baby Godzilla, Toho would also redesign Godzilla to also look more human and paternal

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In the same year that Son of Godzilla was being produced, Toho would also work on King Kong Escapes. This meant that many of the Toho’s top filmmakers were sent to work on their Kong film, and Son of Godzilla got the scraps. This is partially why Toho decided to make Son of Godzilla another island adventure, just like Ebirah, Horror of the Deep. All of these elements gave Son of Godzilla a very casual feeling in scope. Needless to say, Son of Godzilla was another radical step away from Godzilla’s roots.


 

Son of Godzilla opens up to  a scene of an airplane attempting to navigate a storm. While the pilots are trying to orientate themselves, their navigation systems go haywire. They determine that something is interfering with their reception. Just then, Godzilla pops out of the ocean, and our pilots quickly steer clear of the giant monster. This scene ends with a shot of Godzilla traversing the storm.

Later in an all new location, we’re introduced to a handful of characters; a team of scientists on a remote landmass named Solgell Island. The scientists are lead by  renowned researcher Doctor Kusumi who is there working on a weather-control system experiment. Our team of researchers aren’t the only ones on the island, however, as they are frequently pestered by giant praying mantises that are nearly the size of humans.

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Not very long into our film, our group notices an incoming plane. Although some of the scientists mistake the plane for a supply drop, the plane actually contains reporter Maki Goro, who jumps from the plane as it flies by. Goro explains to the researchers that he is eager to travel the world and look for amazing and wonderful stories to report on. he explains that his journalistic sense brought him to Solgell Island. No one is particularly thrilled to have an unwanted visitor, especially someone who intends on snooping in their business. However, the group allows Goro to stay once he agrees to become their new cook.

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The following day, Goro wastes no time in getting to work. He starts by heading into the jungle to find fresh ingredients for a good meal. However, Goro’s adventurous disposition leads him further into the island, where he begins taking photos. Eventually he comes upon a small lagoon, and he notices a native woman swimming. When he positions himself to get a better look, he accidentally alarms the woman and she disappears.  At the base, Dr. Kusumi and the team prepare for a test run for their weather control experiment. Their experiment begins by spraying a cooling agent into the air, while a balloon with a Radioactivity Sonde is sent into the atmosphere. Goro tries to find the woman and warn her before the experiment concludes, but fails and is forced to return to base. The island begins to cool, but before the Sonde can make it to the right altitude, the control devices start to malfunction. The same disturbance from earlier causes the Sonde balloon to pop which causes rapid heating of the island.

For the next several days, the island is bombarded with intense radioactive storms with boiling rain. During that time, our scientists conclude that the energy wave that interrupted their experiment was coming from the center of the island, and they decide to get to the bottom of it. When our team emerges from their bases, they are met with quite a treat. The radioactive storms mutated the human-sized mantises into enormous kaiju. They decide to rename the manties Kamacuras. They notice that the Kamacuras are migrating to the center of the island towards the location of the disturbance. A team of three Kamacuras begin to dig into a small rocky hill. They soon uncover an egg from an unknown species. The mantises begin to claw at the egg until it begins to crack.

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Just as we get to see what is inside the egg, Godzilla appears on the island. He makes a speedy rush to the location of the egg, and during his blitz he destroys most of the research base. Once the egg fully hatches, our team immediately identifies the newborn as a baby Godzilla. The baby Godzilla is weak and helpless, and the mantises claw at it for a bit before Godzilla gets there. Godzilla corners the three Kamacuras, while protecting his new son. The three Kamacuras take turns attacking Godzilla. The first Kamacuras gets torn apart and slammed on the ground by Godzilla. The second Kamakuras get’s set on fire as it attempts to fly past Godzilla. The third Kamacuras realizes that it is outmatched and retreats entirely. While Godzilla is finishing his battle, Godzilla’s newborn crawls to the sidelines where he meets the native woman. The native woman befriends the baby, giving him the name Minilla (Minya in English), and feeds him some tropical fruit. Godzilla finds Minilla, and allows his son to hop on his tail for a ride as the pair look for a safe place to hide.

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Dr. Kusumi and the gang run into the native woman, and it is at this point that we learn that her name is Saeko Matsumiya. It turns out that she is actually Japanese, and that she traveled to the island with her father who was there to conduct research. Her father passed away on the island, and she had been stranded there for some time. Now that our team no longer had a base to call home, Saeko invites them back to her cave to set up a new base. They all scavenge what they could from the wreckage and bring it with them. Some of the crew members begin to go delirious from the heat, a symptom of what Saeko calls “Sollgel Fever.” She says that the only cure for the fever is to drink water from a special red spring in a remote part of the island. Saeko and Goro set out to retrieve it.

In a safe location on the island, Godzilla begins to teach Minilla the ways of being a monster. The first lesson is radioactive fire breathing. Godzilla begins by breathing fire into the red spring, and nods a Minilla to do the same. However, the only thing Minilla can spit out is tiny rings of smoke. Godzilla gives him some encouragement, and just as Minilla takes a breath to try again, Godzilla steps on his tail. Surprised, Minilla is able to spit out atomic breath just like his dad. Minilla screeches with excitement and Godzilla pats him on the head. The two wonder over to crevice to take a nap. When the cost is clear, Saeko and Goro grab some spring water. Saeko distributes the water and the researchers begin to recover.

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A few days later, Saeko goes out foraging for fruits when she is attacked by the Kamacuras. She calls out to Minilla for help before being knocked unconscious. Minilla rushes to help, but he is hilariously bullied by the Kamacuras. During the rumble, Minilla drips and kicks some rocks into a nearby valley. As it turns out, this is the resting location of Kumonga, a giant spider that calls the island its home. Kumonga stirs awake and begins climbing out of the valley. Godzilla rushes in to protect Minilla from Kamacuras, and the Kamacuras escapes. Godzilla drags Minilla back to their outcrop. However, once Kumonga arrives, it sees Saeko and Goro, and traps them in a small crevice in the side of a mountain. Kumonga tries to trap them with its webbing, but the duo break free and climb out the back.

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Saeko and Goro make it back to the cave, and warn the others that Kumonga has awakened. Dr. Kusumi pays no mind to the bad news, and instead explains that he is almost ready to try the weather experiment once again. He says that if he is able to perfect it this time, they will be able to freeze the monsters and they can escape the island. Kumonga makes it way near the new base, and Minilla rushes in to protect Saeko from it. As we know by now, Minilla is practically helpless and is quickly overwhelmed by Kumonga who ties him up in webbing. Before Kumonga can kill Minilla, Kamacuras flies overhead and Kumonga traps it in its webbing. Kumonga wraps up the last remaining Kamacuras and kills it by injecting a spike into its skulls. Just as Kumonga turns its attention back to Minilla, Godzilla shows up and two monsters fight. Minilla tries to help, but mostly just squeals in fear.

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As the fight between the giant monsters nears its conclusion, our team of researchers launch their experiment again. This time it is successful and begins to cool the temperature of the island rapidly. It begins to snow. Godzilla manages to overpower Kumonga as it begins to slow from the extreme cold. Godzilla and Minilla breath atomic breath together and burn Kumonga into oblivion. While our two heroic monsters are victorious, the snow on the island begins to pile up very quickly. Godzilla and Minilla rush to find a safe place to stay. Minilla has a hard time keeping up, and trips in the snow repeatedly. Eventually, Minilla gives up and lays face down in the snow exhausted and crying. Godzilla turns around and comes back to Minilla. The two monsters sit quietly in the snow and snuggle for warmth. Our team of human characters row out to sea towards a rescue ship. Goro comforts Saeko saying that Minilla and Godzilla will be fine, and they will just hibernate until the snow melts. Our movies ends here.

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Now is the time for my opinions!

I don’t love Son of Godzilla, and I barely even like it. As I mentioned near the beginning of my review, I was dreading my re-watch this film. I remember watching Son of Godzilla as child very vaguely. I can remember seeing the VHS box art sitting on the display case at my local video rental store. However, I went over ten years without watching the film again. During my teen years, I started collecting all of the Godzilla movies on DVD, and managed to find Son of Godzilla in a box set with Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla and Godzilla: Tokyo SOS. When I re-watched Son of Godzilla at that time, I was actually surprised by how bad the movie actually was. I had such a negative experience with this film as a teenager, that I would go another 10 or so years without watching it again. As an adult, Son of Godzilla was one of the first Godzilla movies I watched with my daughter. She seems to like it, and that’s good enough to me.

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I managed to watch Son of Godzilla this week whiling giving it my full attention. I came into the movie with some fresh eyes since I have only ever watched it a handful of times prior to this. Unfortunately for me, my experience was roughly the same this time as it was the last few times. Son of Godzilla struggles very hard to keep my attention. Not only do I generally find this movie much more boring than many of the films before it, but it is just ugly. Minilla looks like a dopey pile of mush that looks nothing like Godzilla. The fact that our human characters were able to identify Minilla as a baby Godzilla baffles me entirely. Even the suit design on Godzilla is awful. According to some trivia about the production, Toho decided to make Godzilla look more human and fatherly, but I think they made Godzilla look like a cross between Barney the Dinosaur and the Toxic Avenger. I am beyond ecstatic that this suit design never returns to another Godzilla film, with the exception to stock footage.

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I already mentioned that many fans consider Minilla one of Toho’s greatest mistakes, and I certainly fall into this category. I think this could have worked much better if they actually made Minilla cute, and at least a little less annoying. Instead, Minilla is rough to even look at. To top that off, they remix donkey noises for Minilla’s screeches. It sounds awful and almost as bad as nails on chalk board. Even worse, Minilla is not even useful the entire movie. There are very few moments where Minilla does anything in the movie but get beat up by the other monsters and cry. I guess this makes sense since he is a literal baby/toddler. However, Minilla is supposed to be the titular character. I sorely wished that this would have been the monster version of the coming of age story.

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There are a few scenes in the film that save it a little bit. Son of Godzilla contains a substantial amount of humor, particularly centered around Minilla. The scene in which Godzilla teaches Minilla how to breath fire by stepping on his tail is definitely funny. It was one of the rare moments in the film that humanize the monsters in a way the the rest of film severely lacks. There’s one other scene like this that sticks out to me, but it borders between being funny and annoying. When Godzilla tries to get Minilla to follow him back to their safe haven, Minilla throws a fit and flails on the ground, just like an actual child. An annoyed Godzilla just grabs Minilla by the tails and drags him home. This scene is only made a annoying by Minilla’s awful donkey noises when he cries.

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I will admit that there is one scene in the movie that evokes real emotions. Near the conclusion of the film when Godzilla and Minilla are huddling for warmed during the snow storm, I was actually left feeling bad for them. It does genuinely tug at your heart strings when you see Minilla trip and fall trying to keep up with Godzilla in the snow, to just eventually give up and cry. If our characters didn’t narrate that Godzilla and Minilla would hibernate, I would have just assumed that they sat there and froze to death. This scene was put together very well.

The last couple positive things I have to say about Son of Godzilla is that the puppetry is top notch. The Kamacuras and Kumonga look and move great. The puppeteers did an absolutely stellar job at making them move like insects, with each limb moving in roughly the proper way. This helped make the fight and action scenes more enjoyable. The monsters were great to watch. Since they felt like monsters that would genuinely live on the island, they felt like real threats to our characters, Godzilla and Minilla. Even though Kumonga is just a giant spider, it does come across as an actual threat and welcomed addition to the roster of Godzilla monsters.

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The human characters are largely forgettable. I think Ebirah, Horror of the Deep had one of the most interesting cast of characters in a Godzilla film. Since Son of Godzilla is a similar island adventure film, they are easy to compare, and Son of Godzilla is just inferior in nearly every way. Not a single member on Dr. Kusumi’s team has any personality except just  being generic scientists. Goro is okay as a goofy and lovable character, but since very other character in the movie is a stinker, there weren’t many opportunities for him to shine. Saeko is similarly weak, especially since they set her up as the love interest to Goro. It was nice to have Saeko as the cohesive glue that connected the male characters with Godzilla and Minilla, but that is really the only function she serves.

I don’t have a lot to say about the sound track, other than is it surprisingly appropriate. Since Son of Godzilla is a goofy film that I don’t take seriously, the soundtrack fits right up that alley perfectly. The wind and brass instruments used give the movie a fun and wacky feeling, and can be immediately identified with Minilla. The opening credits sound like the opening credits to Gilligan’s island; as if the movie were about to watch was a sitcom. I don’t hate the score necessarily, but since I generally dislike the movie, I also just don’t care to think about it much more than I already have.

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My opinions on Son of Godzilla should be taken as my opinions alone. I do think that this film could be an excellent movie to introduce Godzilla to small children. It has all of the elements of a goofy kids movie, and I think that was generally the point. I’ve already mentioned a few times in a few of my reviews that the Godzilla franchise has changed to appeal to more kids than adults, and think they achieved that with this movie. Unfortunately, that means that anyone who isn’t a child probably won’t enjoy this film as much. Or at least, won’t enjoy this film in the same way that we could enjoy just about any other Godzilla movie. I think Son of Godzilla could be a good movie to watch periodically for fans who just want to revisit some of the classics. However, most of what makes the film enjoyable is laughing at how bad it is.

As I do with many of my other reviews, I like to look up what others have to say about each movie. This typically gives me an idea of things I should touch on that perhaps others haven’t, or even gives me things to think about that I might not have otherwise. One thing I do want to touch on briefly is how divisive this film is in general. My review might be one of the more negative ones out there, because I genuinely don’t really enjoy the film. However, there are plenty of people who have found a lot of joy in Son of Godzilla. People who view this movie positively find enjoyment in the goofier aspects of the film, and are able to just sit down an enjoy a nonsensical ride. I admire that a lot, and I’m glad Son of Godzilla has found a home in some people’s hearts. I would probably enjoy the film a little more if I wasn’t constantly comparing it to other films in the franchise. In that context, Son of Godzilla is definitely one of the weaker ones. However, I admit that it has its own merits, and my opinions shouldn’t stop you from liking the movie for what it is.

As an adult fan of the Godzilla franchise, I enjoy Son of Godzilla the same way I enjoy The Room or Troll 2; where the movie is so bad that it is good. Son of Godzilla has a lot of good meme potential, and the Godzilla fandom does actually milk this film for all sorts of laughs. If I were to recommend this film for anyone, it would be for some people who like to have a few beers and laugh a dumb stuff.

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Rating this movie is relatively easy for me. I rate Son of Godzilla below everything that I have watched up until this point, including Godzilla Raids Again. However, after watching each movie with a critical eye, I found a few things to enjoy about Son of Godzilla. I might end up watching it about as frequently as Godzilla Raids Again; perhaps once every five-to-ten years. Until I watch the rest of the films in the series, I won’t be entirely sure if I could rate anything lower than Son of Godzilla, so I’m going to give it a solid 4/10. This movie is propped up at 4 with the few good things that it has going for it, but is completely devalued by it’s boring plot, ugly setting and stale atmosphere.

This concludes my review for Son of Godzilla. Even though I have poor opinions on the film, I still enjoyed watching it for what it was. Watching each movie in order of release has been a nice trip down memory lane, and I’m happy to relive the moments. Luckily for me, Minilla only appears two more times, and honestly both films are superior in my opinion. This might shock some fans of the series, since there is one film coming up that most find to absolutely awful on all levels. However, that won’t come until a couple more films. The next film in the series is Destroy All Monsters, which is considered one of the most legendary monster films in history. I’m excited to talk more about it once I have watched it again, but I will leave you with this thought: Destroy All Monsters is to the Godzilla franchise what Avengers: Endgame was to the Marvel franchise!

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Son of Godzilla: 4/10

 

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Godzilla Reviews: Week Seven – Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966)

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Invasion of Astro-Monster was considered one of the better films in the original series of Godzilla films. However, that didn’t stop it from receiving mediocre returns at the box office. This would force Toho to make some substantial budget cuts for some of their upcoming films. Ebirah, Horror of the Deep is the first Godzilla movie to be affected by this. However, budget constraints aren’t the only thing that makes this film unique.

Ebirah, Horror of the Deep is considered by most fans as a film that lands firmly in mediocrity. Many have lukewarm feelings toward it, but it’s easy to see why. The scale of the movie pulls back tremendously when compared to the previous titles. Most of the film takes place on a remote island that is only inhabited by a terrorist organization named the Red Bamboo. This makes Ebirah, Horror of the Deep the first Godzilla film where no monsters rampage through civilization.  The island setting also lends itself more to a fun and adventurous change of pace.

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Ebirah, Horror of the Deep was also put together by an all new crew which included a new director and new musical composer. This is felt in several ways. First, from this point forward, Godzilla movies would be more heavily marketed towards kids. This meant that the settings and plot were whimsical and adventurous, without a particularly tight narrative. This was also the first in the Showa-era of Godzilla where the film has no direct ties to the films before it. The only callbacks to previous films were the returning monsters, Godzilla and Mothra. Nearly every film from this point up until Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla can be watched in any order.

One of the most interesting pieces of trivia about Ebirah, Horror of the Deep is that it was actually intended to be a King Kong film. The decision to replace Kong with Godzilla was made very late in development, and as such the film retained most of the original script. This meant that Godzilla acted out of character in several areas, such as finding an interest in human characters and throwing rocks as a means of combat. This also explains why the main antagonist monster is just a giant lobster. The theme of giant animals is more akin to King Kong, while the Godzilla franchise contained prehistoric monsters and space dragons.

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Ebirah, Horror of the Deep opens up by introducing us to Ryota, who is on a mission to find his missing brother, Yatta. Yatta is a fisherman whose ship was lost out at sea, but not traces of him or his ship were found. Ryota catches word that there is a dance contest where the winner will receive a yacht. However, when Ryota gets to the dance hall, the competition is nearly over, but he meets up with two of our other main characters Nita and Ichino. Nita and Ichino see that Ryota is distressed, so they drive him to a nearby dock so they can look at some boats to cheer him up. The gang decides to get a closer look, and boards one of the docked yachts. While snooping around, they meet with Yoshimura who claims to be the owner of the boat. Yoshimura agrees to let the three trespassers stay the night in the Yacht. The next morning, Yoshimura, Nita and Ichino wake up to find that Ryota has piloted the yacht out to sea. The trio tries to talk Ryota into returning to land, but Ryota is dead set on finding his brother. Our gang of misfits decide to continue forward with their adventure.

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During their voyage, a radio announcement states that the yacht they are occupying has been reported stolen, and actually belongs to an American businessman. It turns out that Yoshimura is a bank robber that has stowed away on the yacht after stealing millions of yin from the nearby bank. Shortly after this is revealed to our other characters, a storm approaches the ship. While our crew struggles to keep the ship from capsizing, they see a giant claw reach out of the ocean. Right before the claw smashes their ship, our crew jumps into the ocean, saving themselves.

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They are washed up on a mysterious island with nothing left from the ship. They scavenge around for food, before noticing  a ship approaching the island. The ship is seen spraying a yellow liquid into the ocean around it. Once docked, our characters notice that slaves are being transported off of the boat, while hazardous materials are being transported onto the boat. Some of the captives attempt an escape, but as they make their way out into the ocean, Ebirah the giant lobster appears and eats them. During the commotion, a captive woman escapes and runs into the other characters. The escapee introduces herself as Daiyo, and explains that the terrorist group known as the Red Bamboo has been capturing natives from Infant Island and using them as slaves. Our group runs from Red Bamboo soldiers, and finds a safe place to rest inside a cave. While collecting themselves, they notice Godzilla is there in the cave with them fast asleep.

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Our protagonists decide to go on a mission to infiltrate the Red Bamboo base in the hopes to rescue some of the captured Infant Island natives. During their attempt, they are found and chased off the premises. During the chase, Ryota gets his food tangled in some rope that is tied to a weather balloon, and is lifted off into the sky. Ichino is captured and placed in the camp with the other slaves. Daiyo, Yoshi and Nita escape and make their way back to the cave. They devise a plan to wake Godzilla from his slumber, hoping that he will destroy the Red Bamboo while they try to save their friends. They plant a sword in a nearby hill and run a metallic wire from the sword down to Godzilla, hoping that an electric shock from an oncoming storm will wake him. The plan works, and Godzilla bursts from the side of the mountain.

Meanwhile, Ryota’s balloon descends and lands on Infant Island. Once there, he is immediately reunited with his lost brother, Yatta. Ryota and Yatta tell the natives that they will travel back to Letchi Island to rescue their friends and the other slaves. In the slave encampment, Ichino introduces himself to the others. They explain to him that they are tasked with creating a yellow liquid from fruits, and that the liquid is used by the Red Bamboo to stave off Ebirah. Ichino tells the slaves to throw out all of liquid, so that they can make a new batch of phony liquid.

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A newly awakened Godzilla makes his way to the sea shore where he confronts Ebirah for the first time. Godzilla begins by throwing rocks at Ebirah, and the two monsters play beach volleyball for a bit before one of the rocks flies past Godzilla destroying a watch tower. Godzilla wades into the water and uses his atomic breath. Ebirah drags Godzilla underwater, but after a few good hits from Godzilla, Ebirah retreats. Once Godzilla makes his way back on land, he crosses paths with Daiyo who was separated from the group when the Red Bamboo chased them off. Godzilla hunkers down and forms an infatuation with Daiyo for a moment before a giant condor attacks. Godzilla blasts the condor off the side of the cliff, but before he can rest again, the Red Bamboo sends in fighter jets. While Godzilla destroys the jets one by one, Daiyo escapes back to safety with her friends.

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Now with Godzilla irked by constant interruption, he makes his way to the Red Bamboo base and starts stomping around. The leader of the organization activates a self-destruct sequence, stating that the impending nuclear explosion with vaporize the entire island, Godzilla with it. The terrorists board their ship and attempt and escape. However, since their ship is equipped with the phony yellow liquid, Ebirah appears to stop them. Godzilla notices that Ebirah is back and goes in for round two. The two monsters fight for quite some time, with most of the fight taking place under water, a first for the series.

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Back on the island, our team scrambles to rescue the salves that were left to die. Once they are let out, they begin to build a large net from vines and tree parts. Daiyo and the other natives plan to make their escape by appealing to Mothra, and the net will allow her to carry all of them off the island. Meanwhile, Godzilla gets the upper hand in his fight with Ebirah by ripping off both of Ebirah’s claws. A wounded Ebirah gives up and swims back out to sea. Triumphant in his victory, Godzilla turns back to the island, but notices that Mothra has appeared. He tries to pick a fight with her, but Mothra quickly knocks him over and then scoops up our team of heroes and the rescued slaves. Godzilla watches as Mothra flies off, and slowly meanders over to the water’s edge. Right before the island explodes, Godzilla jumps in the water, saving himself. Our movie ends with all of heroes and friendly monsters safe, and the Red Bamboo completely destroyed.

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Ebirah, Horror of the Deep is considered by most to be one of Godzilla’s most forgettable films. It is definitely not a bad movie, but the smaller scale of everything generally makes the whole experience less interesting. Ebirah is one of the most obscure foes to ever cross paths with Godzilla. The only thing special about him is that he’s a giant lobster. Godzilla himself is alright in this film, but as I mentioned earlier, the script was written for King Kong which means that Godzilla feels very different than usual. Also worth noting is that this was around the time that Toho started to gear their movies more towards children. This helps explain why this movie is a little more whimsical and light-hearted than the rest.

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Personally, I actually really like this movie, but the drastic shift in tone and direction is completely jarring. The most noticeable difference to me is how Masaru Sato handled the musical tracks. Almost every musical piece in the film uses a steel guitar, which gives a surfer dude vibe. The deep and guttural orchestra of the previous films are completely gone. This isn’t so much a bad change, but it is different. I do appreciate that the music adds to the fun nature of the film.

The characters are pretty fun. I find a lot of joy in knowing that all of the characters meet in weird ways, and they form a band of misfits. You have a fisherman who meets with two townies, who take him to a boat yard where they meet a bank robber, and they go on a crazy adventure to an island where they meet a native woman. None of that should make any sense, and yet the movie makes it happen and it works. The standout performance in all of this is Yoshimura. The character is calm, collected and methodical. He consistently plays off that he’s actually a robber, and dismisses the assertion every time a character brings it up. His interactions with the rest of the bunch had me chuckling a few times.

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The weaker parts of the film are honestly when Godzilla is on screen. He doesn’t even show up until after the one-hour mark, but he doesn’t really do too much. The nice thing is that he is a constant presence in the rest of the film once he is awake and walking around. The problem is that his fights and interactions with everything else is boring as hell. The fight with the giant condor is a hot mess and hard to follow. Plus, it ends almost as soon as it begins, and I’m left wondering why they even decided to keep it in the film. His attack on the Red Bamboo base is also pretty lacking, since the destruction pales horribly in comparison the city destruction in previous films. His encounters with Ebirah are pretty neat, but there’s nothing about Ebirah that is particularly interesting. It’s kind of funny that the two monsters hit rocks back and forth. I will also say that I really enjoyed the under-water fights between the monsters. It was an interesting perspective that I honestly wished more Godzilla films would commit to.

There was one part of the movie where I laughed hysterically at something that was just so stupid. During the battle between Godzilla and the red Bamboo fighter jet, the musical score just takes off in a weird direction that says nothing about what is happening on screen. A fun little jam played while Godzilla was blowing planes out the air, and I was expecting Elvis Presley to show up and do a little dance. Even though this was as goofy as it was, I’m so happy that this little moment was in the movie. I laughed to hard that my wife even came to check up on me. It just kind of hit me in the right mood.

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I remember watching this movie as a kid and kind of hating it. A lot of that had to do with how forgettable it is. My little kid brain was not content with a giant lobster, and having Godzilla show up past the half-way point. I confess that before I begin writing my reviews each week, I watch movie review on YouTube to see how others have structured their thoughts. What I found is that even long-time fans of the Godzilla franchise have only ever watched this films once or twice. I honestly believe it is because people just forget it exists. Ebirah, Horror of the Deep was actually one of the first Godzilla movies I owned, so I watched it a few times in my youth. However, I would go almost 15 years before watching this movie again. I did watch this film once about five years ago when it was released on Blu Ray for the first time. Now I watched it for the review.

Like I said before, I do actually kind of like this movie. in fact, I kind of feel like having Godzilla in it makes it a less enjoyable movie, since the characters are so much fun and interesting. I was actually just more interested in the plot with our heroes stumbling upon a terrorist organization and destroying them. Godzilla existing in this movie is actually kind of coincidental. With everything said, I will probably go another 15 years after this moment before I remember this movie exists again.

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Ebirah, Horror of the Deep is almost right in the middle. I would put it a slight step above Godzilla Raids Again (which wasn’t a fun film at all), but definitely put it below everything else I have review so far. As such, I’m going to award this film a modest 6.0/10

The next film on the list is one that I remember hating with the a deep passion. There’s a part of me that hopes that going into the movie with my critical eye will change my mind like it has with some of these other movies. However, I think I’m in the majority when I say that Son of Godzilla is one of Toho’s biggest mistakes. When you check in next week, you’ll get to see more on how I feel about that!

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Ebirah, Horror of the Deep: 6.0/10

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Godzilla Reviews: Week Six – Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965)

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Invasion of Astro-Monster is the sixth film in the Godzilla franchise, and the last consecutive film to be entirely comprised by the original production team. Invasion of Astro-Monster was renamed for its North American release to Godzilla vs Monster Zero. This film was made one year after Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster. Since the previous film saw some mild success, Toho would bring back most of the same monsters. However, due to some budget cuts, they decided to leave out Mothra this time.

Invasion of Astro-Monster is one of the best-known Godzilla movies, since it was co-produced with the American studio UPA. It is mostly noted for co-starring American actor Nick Adams. This made the film much more marketable in the United States. For many Americans, this movie acted has either an introduction to Ghidorah or an introduction to the Godzilla franchise as a whole. In the Godzilla fandom, this movie receives mixed opinions. Some hold this film dear to them as one of the classics; while others resent this film for taking the Godzilla franchise in a more childish direction. However, this film is important for many reasons, and top among them is that it is the last direct sequel for a long time. From this point forward, Godzilla films become an anthology primarily geared towards kids.

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Glenn and Fuji. Guess which is which.

The movie doesn’t waste much time before putting us right into things. We are immediately introduced to our two main protagonists, Glenn and Fuji. They are astronauts sent on an expedition to investigate a newly discovered planet near Jupiter named Planet X.

We are then introduced to Fuji’s sister Haruno, who is dating a down-on-his-luck inventor named Tetsuo. Tetsuo has been working on a device that emits a loud screeching noise comparable to a cybernetic cat passing a kidney stone. It is supposed to be a personal alarm system, but it becomes an important plot device for different reasons. Tetsuo receives a phone call from the toy company World Education Corporation and they offer to buy the invention. Tetsuo meets with business woman Ms. Namikawa, where she offers him a contract for his device. According to the contract, Tetsuo will receive a several million dollar payment once the company finds a way to market the device.

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Aliens or a new wave band?

Meanwhile, Glenn and Fuji finally make their way to Planet X. Once on the surface, Fuji takes off to plant a Japanese-American Flag; and while he has his back turned, Glenn and the ship go missing. It is soon revealed that they were taken by the inhabitants of the planet, a race of aliens called the Xilians. Our characters meet face to face with the leader of Planet X, who is plainly called The Controller. The Controller explains to our explorers that their race was forced to seek refuge underground when their planet was attacked by a giant monster that they call Monster X. At that exact moment, plot convenience kicks in and Monster X shows up. Glenn and Fuji immediately recognize the monster as King Ghidorah, the three-headed monster.

The Controller explains to Glenn and Fuji that their civilization has tried everything they had to drive the monster away, but to no avail. He then tells Glenn and Fuji that Planet X would like to strike a deal with Earth. The Xilians want Godzilla and Rodan to come to Planet X to drive off King Ghidorah, and in return the Xilians will give Earth the cure to all disease. Since this bargain is a win-win for planet Earth, Glenn and Fuji eagerly make their way back to report to HQ.

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Back on Earth, the Japanese military immediately begins searching for Godzilla and Rodan. Tetsuo has been trying to contact Namikawa for several days, wondering if her company had found a use for the device, hoping he could get paid. Glenn and Fuji meet with Tetsuo and Haruno at dinner. Fuji disapproves of his sister dating a loser like Tetsuo, especially since he hasn’t received payment for his invention yet. During the dinner, Glenn excuses himself so that he can meet up with his new girlfriend, who is revealed to be Ms. Namikawa.

Later, Fuji and Glenn begin to speculate that the Xilians may have some ulterior motives. Their suspicions are realized when they discover that Xilians were already operating on Earth. Three spaceships appear, and The Controller steps out to strike negotiations. The Controller reveals that they have already located Godzilla and Rodan, and that their ships were uniquely capable in neutralizing the monsters and transporting them across the solar system. After negotiations are complete, the Xilians grab Godzilla and Rodan, preparing them for transport. Both Glenn and Fuji are invited back to Planet X to receive the miracle cure.

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Near the exact moment that they arrive back on Planet X, King Ghidorah launches another attack. Except this time he is met with two of his strongest foes, Godzilla and Rodan. A good ole’ monster battle breaks out, except now IN SPACE! Just like in the previous film, Rodan takes to the sky to peck at Ghiorah, while Godzilla sticks to the his ground game of tackling and atomic breath. While all this cool monster action is going on, Glenn and Fuji get a little nosy inside of the Xilian base. While poking around they discover that all of the planet’s women look exactly like Namikawa! The two astronauts are eventually caught, and scolded. They are given a recording that contains the formula for the cure and are asked to leave immediately. Before they go, Godzilla and Rodan continue to beat up on King Ghidorah. At one point, Godzilla uses the lower gravity to pull off a body slam. This proves too much for King Ghidorah and he flies off. Then we get one of the most infamous scenes in Godzilla movie history; the Godzilla victory dance! Once the coast is clear, Glenn and Fuji take off back to Earth, and our two lovable monsters watch the ship leave in resentment.

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Victory Dance

Back on Earth, Glenn and Fuji play the recording for the Japanese government. Instead of containing the cure to all disease, it is a recorded warning to the people of Earth. The Xilians ask that humans surrender themselves to the Xilians, and allow Earth the become a colony to Planet X. The Xilians also reveal that King Ghidorah was under their control the whole time, using a special magnetic control system that links the monster to their computers. Also, now Godzilla and Rodan are under their control using the same method. If the Earth does not comply to their request within 24 hours, the Xilians will unleash the monsters onto planet Earth for complete planetary destruction.

During this time, Tetsuo follows Namikawa to an isolated location. While snooping around the property, he is trapped by Xilians who are using the property as their base. The Japanese government begins to research ways to interfere with the magnetic control system. Fuji meets with his sister who has become deathly worried about Tetsuo who is now missing. Glenn goes off to find Namikawa to confront her. Namikawa admits to Glenn that even though her people were here to conquer Earth, she has developed real feelings for Glenn. She begs him to return with her to Planet X and become part of her civilization. Just then, a gang of Xilians show up. They vaporize Namikawa on the spot and capture Glenn, locking him away in the same cell as Tetsuo.

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Glenn and Tetsuo begin to brainstorm ways to escape. They realize that their cell was made sound proof, including the bars. They soon figure out that the Xilians must hate loud noises. Like a light bulb going off, Tetsuo realizes that the Xilains wanted the plans for his invention because the noise it created hurt them. Through more plot convenience, Tetsuo reveals that he kept the prototype for the device in his pocket. The two prisoners activate the device while two guards are near, swiping the key from them and making their escape. Meanwhile, Fuji is hard at work helping create a device that will intercept magnetism with a disrupting ray.  However, before Fuji and the Japanese government can use their device, The Controller learns about the escaped prisoners, and immediately order that the monster be let loose. In classic Godzilla fashion, the monsters start to mow down towns and cities.

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Glenn and Tetsuo meet up with Fuji, while the military helplessly tries to stop the monsters. Our team of heroes begin working on a plan to stop the Xilian invasion. They realize that they can use their two devices together! Our team hijacks the radio airwaves in all of Japan to give specific orders to every listener. They ask that everyone turn the volume on their device as loud as it can possibly go, saying that the unpleasant noise they are about to hear is not a mistake. They then play Tetsuo’s awful alarm over the airwaves. This stops the Xilians in their tracks, but it doesn’t free the monsters from their mind control. However, with the Xilian defenses down, this allows the military to get close enough to blast their disruptor.

It doesn’t take long to free the monsters from their mind control, and Godzilla and Rodan turn to face off against King Ghidorah. Seeing that they have lost control of the monsters, The Controller instructs the Xilians to escape into the future. However, when the Controller goes to activate the time travel button, the ship explodes. One by one each Xilian ship explodes from the screeching sound. Godzilla and Rodan make quick work of King Ghidorah. Rodan grabs Godzilla by the shoulders, and the two monster ram face first into Ghiodrah. In a whirlwind of monster mayhem, the three monster plummet into the ocean. Ghidorah emerges and flies off into space. Our heroes look out to the ocean, relieved that they have saved the planet from an alien invasion. Our movie ends there!

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To be completely honest, I have pretty mixed feelings on this film. As I mentioned above, many fans of the franchise regard this film with same set of mixed emotions. My opinions towards Invasion of Astro-Monster have only evolved and matured over time. In fact, until I recently watched this movie for this review, I had almost hated this movie. I went into this process thinking that I would be scoring this film among my least favorites. However, I ended up actually enjoying myself. A lot! I think I figured out why.

One thing I’ll say about this film is that all of the monster action is actually very quick and there isn’t a lot of it. Each battle between Ghidorah, Godzilla and Rodan lasts only a couple minutes at a time. When I watched this as a kid, Invasion of Astro-Monster was an absolute slog to get through. Godzilla doesn’t even show up until near the halfway point, and then only appears one more time after that for the climax. I recently put this movie on the TV a few months ago and let it play in the background while I sat on my phone. I had nearly the same experience then too, where I felt bored the whole time, and was just waiting for the monster action.

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I think that is where I made a big mistake. Watching this movie whiling giving it my full attention, I realized that Invasion of Astro-Monster has almost nothing to do with Godzilla. I even think that the movie would entirely function without Godzilla even being in the film. Similarly, the antagonist of the film isn’t even King Ghidorah, it is the Xilians. What I hadn’t realized until now is that this movie is a space invasion movie, with monsters sprinkled in it. It probably sounds like common sense to anyone who has watched this movie, but it honestly just kind of dawned on me.

When I took the time to try to care about the characters, I realized that I actually did really care about them. I think the chemistry between Glenn and Fuji is absolutely stellar. They act like actual friends, and I feel their camaraderie. Similarly, Tetsuo is a lovable dork that gets the girl. You want him to succeed and win the favor of his girlfriend’s brother.

The set pieces are also super interesting. Even though the effects are super corny, it was awesome that huge chunks of this film were about space exploration. This is the first time that a Godzilla movie would take us to entirely different planet. The concept would become a joke in Hollywood that every franchise would end up in space at one point or another, and obviously this is no exception.

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The only thing that annoyed me as a kid and still annoys me now is that the Xilians just look super dumb. I’ve never been a fan of alien movies in part because I never once could get immersed by humans in goofy costumes (which I know is stupidly ironic since this is a GODZILLA FILM!). With that said, I think the Xilians fit nicely into the Godzilla lore as a welcomed addition.

The pacing in Invasion of Astro-Monster is good, but not great. I love that the movie wastes no time at all in getting our main characters into space. Since Godzilla has so little involvement in the film, that means the rest of the film relies very heavily on the human characters. I think that the each character is JUST interesting enough that they keep the movie from bogging down. I mean, I think the characters are great, but there’s just so much human plot that you do get a bit tired.

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I did realize that the problem I was having this whole time was that I waiting for Godzilla, and that ruined the film. Godzilla and Rodan are just things that happen to be in the movie. Ghidorah is just an object that the Xilians use for their invasion. If you’re going to watch this movie, you almost have to come into it wanting to watch a space sci-fi, and not a kaiju flick.

Now that I’m done singing the praises, I will say that I still don’t love this film. I think it’s okay, which is a huge leap from where my original feelings were. I would definitely rate this movie above Godzilla Raids Again, but under every other Godzilla movie before it. I’m going to give this movie a very loose 6.5/10. I could be persuaded to take my score up to a 7, but when I think of some of the other films that are down the road, I think the 6.5 puts us in a comfortable middle. If I would have rated this movie at any other time in my life we would be looking at a 5.5 or a 6.0. So, after deliberating for a quite a bit, I’m comfortable with this score. You may skip this movie entirely, unless you want silly space adventures.

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This concludes my review for Invasion of Astro-Monster, and my sixth week of watching Godzilla movies. Next week I will be watching a truly unique Godzilla movie. I don’t want to bury the lead, but there’s a lot of interesting things I can’t wait to talk about with Ebirah, Horror of the Deep. I might even have more fun with that movie than I did this movie. I can’t wait!

6.5/10

 

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Godzilla Reviews: Week Five ; Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)

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Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster is the direct sequel to Mothra vs Godzilla. When I say “direct”, I also mean that this film released within the same year as Mothra vs Godzilla. In typical Toho fashion, they would scramble to capitalize on the smashing success of Mothra vs Godzilla. We will see this trend continue throughout most of the Godzilla franchise, where many films owe their very existence to a previous film that succeeded.

Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster is the starting point in which the Godzilla franchise takes a real dramatic turn, moving Godzilla towards a more heroic role. This film is considered by fans to be one of the most important in the series, shaping the way Godzilla is perceived in popular media. As you can also guess by the movie’s title, this film introduces us to Godzilla’s most iconic arch nemesis, Ghidorah. Ghidorah appears frequently throughout the franchise, typically whenever Toho wanted to make a lot of money very easily. Ghidorah (also known as King Ghidorah) recently appeared in the American-made film Godzilla: King of the Monsters. That movie, which released earlier in 2019, was loosely based on Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster. Director Mike Doherty would draw inspiration from the 1964 classic, bringing back Rodan, Mothra and King Ghidorah for a modern audience.

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However, since we are here to talk about the 1964 classic, let’s go over that movie’s plot.  We open up to a group of researchers who are on the watch for UFOs. Here we’re introduced to one of our main characters, reporter Naoko Shindo. She is there to interview some of the researchers, hoping for a great story on extraterrestrial life. Naoko and the researchers witness a meteor shower, and one of them enters Earth’s atmosphere landing within a mountainous area of Japan. Around this time we are told that there have been some strange weather patterns lately. The film takes place in January, but temperatures are mild and the researchers are warm enough to work in just their shirts. This plot thread leads us to believe that something very strange is going on, but it is never revisited again.

After this we are introduced to Naoko’s brother, Detective Shindo. Detective Shindo is assigned to be a bodyguard for Princess Mas Dorina Salno, who hails from some made-up foreign country. Threats of assassination on Princess Salno drove her to Japan to seek refuge in Tokyo. On her flight into Japan, Princess Salno begins to hear voices in her head. The strange disembodied voice tells her to jump from the plane. Once Princess Salno does, the plane explodes. It turns out that the plane was strapped with explosives by her uncle as part of his plan to eliminate her.

SHobijin

That night, Naoko and her brother have dinner with their mother. During their meal they turn on the television to watch their mother’s favorite show. The show invites celebrities to meet and talk with guests. The celebrities for that night’s show are the Shobijin, Mothra’s twin fairies. The guests ask them how the two Mothra larva are doing, and it is revealed that one of the larva have passed away. However, the surviving Mothra continues to look over the island and its inhabitants.

Meanwhile, our third main character Professor Muari puts together a team of researchers to seek out the meteor that landed nearby. Once the expedition makes it to the landing site, they quickly realize that the meteor has some form of magnetism, as most of their gear is dragged toward it. The crew decides to build camp nearby to study it further.

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Girls are from Venus

Back in town, a strange lady appears and begins to warn onlookers of oncoming danger. Detective Shindo immediately recognizes the lady as the missing princess. The lady claims to be from Venus, and has the ability to foretell the future. Her first warning is that there will be a terrible disaster at Mt. Aso. Anyone who has watched the Rodan movie will recognize this as the volcano that defeated Rodan. To the surprise of the skeptical onlookers, Rodan emerges from the volcano and flies off.

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Shortly after this, the Venusian warns the Shobijin about returning to Infant Island, asking them not to set sail. The ship captain asks that the crazy lady be removed, and Naoko swoops in to take full responsibility for her. Naoko takes the Venusian back to a hotel room. Once in the hotel room, the princess is jumped by assassins, and their attempt is thwarted by the Shobijin. The Shobijin have decided not to board this ship after the princess’ warning. We then get a scene of Godzilla emerging from the ocean and setting the ship ablaze. Rodan then flies overhead, and Godzilla turns to pursue the winged monster.

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Naoko and Detective Shinjo take the princess to renowned psychiatrist, Dr. Tsukamoto, hoping that he can help. After conducting several tests, the doctor concludes that the princess is completely cognitive, and the only explanation is that she really is being possessed by a Venusian as she claims. Shortly after hearing the diagnosis, the princess claims one last prophecy. She says that the meteor that landed in Japan contains an ancient evil that nearly destroyed all life on Venus, and it continues to move from planet to planet in a path of destruction. She of course is talking about Ghidorah, the three-headed monster. We cut back to Professor Muari and his team, as the meteor begins to glow and crack. In a fiery explosion, Ghidorah emerges and flies off to cause chaos.

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During all of this, Godzilla catches up with Rodan and the two monsters battle it out. For quite some time, they trade blows. Each atomic breath from Godzilla is met with pecks to face from Rodan’s sharp beak. Godzilla kicks rocks, and uses his tail to swat at Rodan. Rodan flies around knocking Godzilla over the head, and creates wind gusts that take him off balance. While the monsters are fighting, the psychiatrist and Shinjo try cure the princess of her possession with electroshock therapy. The same assassins from earlier break into the building, and crank the voltage meter hoping that it will kill the princess. Back in the monster fight, Rodan gets a good grip on Godzilla, and carries him into the sky. Before the electroshock treatment can commence, Rodan drops Godzilla on some power wires, cutting power and saving the princess.

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Rodan drops Godzilla groin first into an electrical tower.

With Ghidorah, Godzilla and Rodan threatening to destroy Japan, our protagonists turn to the Shobijin to summon the surviving Mothra. With Ghiodorah being the larger threat, the Shobijin believe that Mothra can convince Godzilla and Rodan to join forces to stop the intergalactic terror. Once Mothra makes it to Japan, she attempts to persuade Godzilla and Rodan to fight for humanity, but to no avail. Godzilla and Rodan hold nothing but contempt for mankind, and would rather quarrel with each other than take on Ghidorah.

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Mothra inches her way to the two bickering monsters.

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Godzilla and Rodan push each other around like school children.

Since Mothra’s duty is to protect mankind at all costs, she gives up on Godzilla and Rodan and decides to take on Ghidorah herself. Ghidorah lands nearby, and immediately starts tearing into Mothra. She gets continuously blasted away by Ghidorah’s gravity beam. Mothra stands no chance against the planet destroyer. It doesn’t take long for Rodan and Godzilla to find inspiration in Mothra’s fighting spirit, and they decide to call a truce to join forces. One of the most epic monster battles in movie history ensues. Rodan flies in and distracts Ghidorah. This gives Godzilla the opportunity to help Mothra out, by offering his tail for her to latch on to and be carried up the hill. Once each team member is on the battle field, they begin to use their unique strengths. Rodan flies around pecking at Ghidorah’s heads. Godzilla grapples with the space monster from the ground. Mothra finds various vantage points to spit her webbing at Ghidorah.

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Mothra and Rodan

While Godzilla grapples with Ghidorah on the ground, Rodan offers Mothra a ride on his back so she can get a better shot. As the monsters continue their battle, the assassins try one last attempt on the princess’ life. A bullet grazes her head, knocking her out. Before the assassin can fire one last shot, one of Ghidorah’s beams hits a nearby mountain, causing rocks to fall. The rocks take out the group of assassins, and allows Shinjo to rescue the princess. Back on the battlefield, Ghidorah is now losing the battle. Godzilla holds Ghidroah in place by pulling on his tail, while Rodan flies Mothra around so that she can wrap him up. Once all three heads are bound together, Godzilla flings Ghidroah off the side of cliff. Ghiodrah gets back on his feet, but flies away off into space. Our three heroic monsters strike a pose, feeling triumphant. Once the princess regains consciousness, she is back to her old self, having shed her Venusian persona. She thanks Shinjo for rescuing her, and she returns to her home country. This is where our movie ends.


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If reading that plot was a wild ride, it is because the movie is a wild ride. There is so much in this movie, that it’s honestly unbelievable that Toho was able to pull it off. I remember watching this movie as a child and loving the crap out of it. I was blown away to see a team of three monsters take on a bigger monster with three heads. The monster mayhem would have me frothing at the moth in excitement.

However, watching this movie as an adult, I realized how absolutely insane and jumbled this movie really is. The plot is still serviceable and works just fine, but plot points just come and go like the breeze. The only reason that I brought that the movie took place in January was to point out that there is literally nothing that happens where that matters. Even more confusing is that all of the outdoor scenes show trees with leaves still on them. Clearly the movie was filmed in the fall. This is just one example of the film makers putting stuff in just to add to the craziness for no reason.

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As I also mentioned previously, this movie starts us down a path of no return. From this point forward (at least for the next 10 films), Godzilla is the good guy in each film, and every new plot contains crazy made-up stuff. Although Godzilla was always a science fiction franchise from the beginning, this movie commits to that genre full-throttle. We have royal families from made up countries with an assassination plot, people being possessed by aliens from Venus, prophecies of monster destruction, a monster from outer space, singing fairies, and giant monsters literally talking to each other and bickering like school kids. This movie is insane.

However, it’s not all bad. I have often defended this movie for actually committing to the idea of a cinematic universe. Technically speaking, the Universal monster movies were some of the first to feature crossovers; but Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster is more than just a cross over. It functions on all levels as a direct sequel to the Godzilla films before it, the Mothra movie and the Rodan movie. There are almost no continuity errors. Let’s face it, this movie is the actual first Avengers film, and the 2012 Avengers film is the remake. If Ghidorah is Loki, then Godzilla is Hulk and Captain America, Rodan is Thor and Iron Man, and Mothra is Hawkeye and Black Widow. Later down the road, we’ll get Destroy All Monsters, and that basically functions as Godzilla: End Game.

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Just from nostalgia alone, I have tremendous respect for this film. I remember it fondly, and it will always hold that special place in my heart. Some of that did not hold up to my re-watch, particularly the human elements. Since I have been coming into these movies with a critical eye, I’m starting to notice a few things that just don’t stick with me. I want to praise this film for managing four giant monsters throughout the film, but I just think that some of the elements could have been a little tighter. Since there are so many elements in this film, we experience a little bit of whiplash from bouncing back and forth between them. Some of the ideas are so outlandish that I genuinely wonder how anyone thought about them in the first place. My last minor issue is that I was left wanting to know why any of these things matter. We get exactly one exposition dump, and it happens near the end of the movie when the possessed princes explains what Ghidorah is. For everything else, we’re just left to believe that it is what it is.

Besides those two minor flaws, I actually like this movie quite a bit and consider it one of the better films in the franchise. I would rank this film almost exactly where I rank King Kong vs Godzilla, for nearly the same reasons. The movie doesn’t take itself too seriously, which makes it fun, and the pacing is good enough to keep you interested almost the whole time. I would recommend this movie for anyone who would just like a cheesy monster movie to watch with friends. Ghidroah the Three-Head monster lands in that sweet spot where it’s both just good enough and just bad enough to be a fun film. I give this film a solid 7.5/10.

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GHIDORAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER 7.5/10

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Godzilla Reviews: Week Four – Mothra vs Godzilla (1964)

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After the explosive success of King Kong vs Godzilla, Toho would immediately begin thinking of other monsters they could pit against Godzilla. Luckily for Toho, they now had an impressive collection of giant monsters within their own company to choose from. During the late 50’s and 60’s, Toho would produce all sorts of other monster movies such as Rodan, Mothra, Varan the Unbelievable, The Mysterians and Frankenstein Conquers the World.

Mothra (1961) would go on to be one of their most successful films aside from Godzilla. The Mothra film succeeded in two fantastic ways. It was the first kaiju film at this time where the titular monster was actually the protagonist, and it was a big hit with female movie-goers.  To give us a good idea of why Toho chose to bring Mothra over to the Godzilla franchise, we’ll briefly have a look at the plot.  On an expedition to Infant Island, a greedy capitalist kidnaps a pair of fairies known as the Shobijin who he then exploits for fame and fortune. The Shobijin perform a song that communicates directly to the god of Infant Island. Mothra awakens and then makes her way to Tokyo to rescue the faeries, leaving a path of destruction. Once rescued, Mothra and the faerie twins make their way back to infant Island.

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This plot is important to talk about in the context of Mothra vs Godzilla, because many of the themes carry over. Mothra vs Godzilla is a much more serious film than it’s predecessor, but still acts as a satire against capitalism. Even though there aren’t many wacky caricatures, there are still plenty of moments of lightheartedness. It is insinuated that Mothra vs Godzilla is a direct sequel to both King Kong vs Godzilla and Mothra. At the very least, there is nothing that directly contradicts the events of either of those movies.

Mothra vs Godzilla opens up to a massive typhoon, and we get a few scenes of environmental damage caused by the wind and rain.  We are then introduced to a couple of our main characters, news reporter Ichiro Sakai and photographer Junko Nakanishi as they document some of the damage. They discover a strange blusih-grey piece of mineral that they hand off to scientists for study. Later that day, a massive blue object washes ashore. Our characters quickly discover that it is a massive egg of unknown origin. We’re then introduced to our main antagonist of the film, businessman Kumayama. Kumayama is the owner of Happy Enterprises. He buys the giant egg from the local inhabitants as he plans to build a massive incubation station around the egg, and charge patrons an entry fee to see the attraction. We know Kumayama is evil when he blows cigar smoke in Junko’s face as she tries to snap a photo.

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Kumayama is later seen checking into a hotel where he meets with his investment broker, Jiro Torahata. As the two conspire on how much money they are about to make on the egg, they are confronted by twin faeries from Infant Island, the Shobijin. They plead with the businessmen to return the egg, stating that the egg belongs to Mothra.  Torahata and Kumayama immediately try to capture the girls in order to exploit them for capital. The Shobijin narrowly escape, and meet with our protagonists Sakai, Nakanishi and Professor Miura. They explain again that the egg belongs to Mothra and it washed out to sea during the typhoon, and landed in Japan. Once the egg hatches, the offspring will cause great destruction in the hunt for food. Our trio of protagonists agree to help as the Shobijin and Mothra return to Infant Island.

Sakai, Nakanishi and Miura try to bargain with the businessmen, but to no avail. Not long after that we’re taken to a construction site. It is here that it is explained that water from the typhoon was pumped out of the area and work can resume shortly. While taking photos, Nakanishi sees some movement out in the field. The ground begins to erupt, and Godzilla emerges from the soft soil. It is assumed that Godzilla was washed ashore during the typhoon and covered with debris and sediment. While Japan’s military plan to deal with Godzilla yet again, our three protagonists are tipped off by the analysis of the bluish-grey mineral they found earlier. It turns out that the piece is from Infant Island, and is radioactive. We discover that Infant Island was negatively affected by radioactive testing. In desperation to stop Godzilla, they travel to Infant Island to ask for Mothra’s help.

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Once there, they are intercepted by the native people of the island. The chief explains that Infant Island used to be a vibrant and lustrous land, and outsiders ruined all of that with their weapons of destruction. As such, the chief is quick to deny them access to Mothra, and he asks the team to return home. Sakai, Nakanishi and Miura hear the Shobijin singing, and follow their voices towards inner parts of the island. There is still a small patch of life left on the island, and this is where Mothra chose to spend her final days. The Shobijin explain that Mothra is old, weak and came here to die. However, Mothra communicates with the Shobijin saying she will use the last of her energy to help protect the humans.

Back on mainland Japan, Godzilla clumsily makes his way through towns and countrysides towards Mothra’s egg. The military intercept, using planes, tanks and electrical lines. The military drops large electrically conducive nets on Godzilla, funneling high voltages through them. This actually works great at incapacitating Godzilla. He falls to the ground, squirming in pain. Confident in their new tactic, the military attempts to increase the voltage in order to destroy Godzilla once and for all. However, this blows all of fuses, releasing Godzilla from the assault.

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It doesn’t take Godzilla long to find his way to the egg. At almost the exact same time, Mothra arrives to the scene to confront him. She begins her fight by creating a wind storm with her massive wings, threatening to topple Godzilla. Once he loses his balance, Mothra swoops in to grab Godzilla. She gets a good grip on his tail and begins dragging Godzilla across the countryside and away from her egg.

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Once they are far enough away from harming others, Mothra and Godzilla grapple a bit longer before Mothra begins to shed a yellow powder from her wings. It is explained that this is her final attack, a poisonous powder only used as a last resort. It seems to have no effect on Godzilla and he lets his atomic breath loose hitting Mothra’s win. Wounded, Mothra flies off to her egg, choosing to die straddling it. Godzilla gets back to his feet, and meanders off into the ocean towards a small nearby island. As we see Godzilla wade off into the distance, the egg begins to hatch, and it is at this point that there were two larvae in there.

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The twin larvae waste no time, immediately chasing after Godzilla. Once on the nearby island, the larvae begin to flank Godzilla on both sides. One larva distracts Godzilla while the other sneaks behind him and bites down on his tail. While Godzilla flings his tail around to shake it off, the other larva positions itself and begins to spray webbing at Godzilla. Once the second larva detaches itself from Godzilla, it finds cover as well and starts spraying Godzilla too. The larvae work together, taking turns distracting Godzilla while the other covers him with webbing. This scene continues for a while until Godzilla is completely encompassed and he loses balance plummeting into the ocean. Our protagonists thank the Shobijin and the Mothra larvae for all of their help, and our movie concludes with a wave goodby as the larvae swim back to Infant Island.

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Mothra vs Godzilla is a fantastic movie, and is considered one of the best movies in the franchise. As I mentioned earlier, this movie has more of a serious tone that King Kong vs Godzilla. While still lighthearted, there are no goofy characters making light of the situation. Godzilla is still painted as a great threat to Japan that must be stopped at all costs. The two human antagonists of the film are played very straight, with their demise coming at the hands of Godzilla has he tramples the hotel. In many ways this movie is just as much of a Mothra movie as it is a Godzilla movie. Mothra is clearly positioned as the protagonist monster. This differs from Kong, however, as Mothra is inherently good while Kong is incidentally good. This gives the plot one of the most interesting dynamics in any Godzilla movie, where the good monster is something other than Godzilla. interestingly enough, this is the last film until the 80’s where Godzilla is plainly the bad guy. From this point forward he slowly moves into his protagonist role.

Before I talk more about what makes this movie special, I wanted to talk about my two gripes with this film. I want to get these out of the way so that I can end on a high note. The first is that the monster sound design is incredibly annoying to me for some reason. This is most noticeable during the Mothra and Godzilla fight. The entire fight is a cacophony of shrieks and roars, and it sounds like someone just sat at a soundboard pressing buttons. There isn’t many moments where either monster isn’t making noise, which I feel detracts from their presence on screen. Every time Godzilla is on screen moving just one muscle, he’s screeching. This is minor nitpick, but I was distracted by it. The other minor problem is with Godzilla himself. I will talk about his suit later, but the way he is portrayed is kind of disappointing. There are a few scenes where the destruction he is causing is accidental. He’s basically just a big bumbling idiot as opposed to a force of destruction. Again, this is a small issue, but I just picked up on that with my recent rematch.

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This is an actual scene and not an outtake.

With those two minor things out of the way, I want to start by gushing about the Godzilla suit. I feel very strongly that this is the best Godzilla has looked in any film in the first twenty years of his franchise. It was built in a way to look more scaly, rugged and tough. In addition to this, they got his eyes right. I think the “eyebrows” make him looks mean and dangerous. As I mentioned before, Godzilla only gets friendlier from this point forward, and as such he looks friendlier. This suit is miles better than that Kong vs Godzilla look, and is a better progression for the monster from the original 1954 film. I give this Godzilla design two thumbs up, five stars and 10/10. I can’t own enough figurines of this design.

I will say very briefly that the rest of the sound design in this movie is absolutely stellar. Mothra vs Godzilla has some of the best orchestral compositions of any Godzilla film. In fact, it is so good that it is reused in many other films moving forward. People who hear it could almost certainly relate it to Godzilla immediately. I’m going to listen to it right now!

The overall plot of the movie is incredibly unique and a little poetic. In most Godzilla films, the monster battles are mostly just incidental. Godzilla and his opponents just end up crossing paths, or worse, Godzilla is some sort of super hero that saves the day. For this film, the human characters must seek out Mothra’s help, specifically. This works so well for the film, because it makes Mothra such a strong character. Since we know that Mothra is self-aware, we know that she is sacrificing herself to help humans. Not just that, but the humans that she is helping are the same ones that destroyed her homeland and her worshipers. She as no obligation, and even reason not to help, but does anyway because she is intrinsically good. I find that absolutely fascinating.

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This film also gives us a hero who is clearly the weaker fighter. This stacks the odds against Mothra in interesting ways that develope her as a character. Even though the audience is made aware that Mothra is dying from old age anyway, it actually helps promote her as a strong character. We know that she will lose, and yet her sacrifice is still felt. In a strange way, their fight scene is made better by having it as short as it is. They have exactly one confrontation, and that is enough to use up all of Mothra’s remaining life. However, since the entire theme around Mothra is ‘rebirth,’ we get to see how the Mothra larvae handle themselves against Godzilla. Some critics say that the final scene between the larvae and Godzilla is the weakest part of the film, but I have always found it a bit poetic. I love to see the larvae work together to bring down the most dangerous threat to humankind. I am entirely engrossed in Mothra’s character arch from start to finish.

Mothra vs Godzilla is fantastic, and truly is the gold standard for Godzilla movies. Very few films after this catch the same kind of magnificence. Even as the special effects become better over time, movies like this get lost to time. The plot is super tight and interesting. The characters and monsters are wonderful and relatable. The fight scenes actually have purpose to them, instead of just being big dumb monster battles. Even though this film doesn’t live up to the seriousness of the original, it is still a great film and a must watch. I would rank this somewhere in my top 5 favorite Godzilla films. I’m going to give this movie an extremely solid 8.5/10. Even though I would technically rank this movie just below Gojira (1954), not many Godzilla movies get better than this, so I have to rank appropriately.

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This concludes my review for Mothra vs Godzilla. I hope that this inspires some of you to watch the film at some point. For many of you, the special effects will be horribly outdated, but if you could go into it with the everything I’ve laid out in mind, you’ll find something to like about it. I would be willing to bet on that. For many fans, this is where their love of franchise is fully realized, and I am right there too.

8.5/10

 

-LoaphMeat

 

 

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Godzilla Reviews: Week Three – King Kong vs Godzilla (1962)

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After Godzilla Raids Again, Toho wouldn’t revive Godzilla for almost seven years. Between 1955 and 1962, Toho would push out seven films, averaging one per year. Among those films we would receive some of Toho’s most iconic monsters such as Mothra and Rodan, each of them receiving their own films. Toho was entering their golden age of film-making, and they knew it. They were also approaching their 30th anniversary and looking for a big way to celebrate.

Around this time, Willis O’Brian (the original stop-motion creator of King Kong) was looking to revive the Kong character, drafting the idea for a King Kong vs Frankenstein film. The idea would bounce around between a few different Hollywood studios, often being turned down because of the cost of stop-motion animation. Once the script idea entered the global market, Toho pounced at the opportunity to make a King Kong movie. They figured Kong would be a great character to spearhead their 30th celebration. However, once they acquired the rights to Kong, they rewrote the entire script so that they could revive their own intellectual property, Godzilla.

Even though some of the original King Kong film makers were incredibly displeased with Toho’s treatment of Kong, the film would be a monumental success for the company. King Kong vs Godzilla made almost four times its budget at the box office. The success of this film is entirely responsible for reviving the Godzilla franchise, causing Toho to continue making Godzilla films until they were blue in the face. Toho would also go on to make their own standalone Kong movie called King Kong Escapes (1967).

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The plot for King Kong vs Godzilla is incredibly different from the previous two Godzilla films. While I originally stated that Godzilla Raids Again was the starting point for big dumb monster battles, King Kong vs Godzilla is where Toho fully embraces the campiness. The film acts primarily as a satire on capitalism, and acknowledges the absurdity of its own plot. The main comical relief is a character named Mr. Tako, who is the owner of the failing company called Pacific Pharmaceuticals. Tako recieves word of a mysterious place named Faro Island, where the inhabitants worship a giant monster as a god. The island is also the only known place in the world that grows a special kind of berry that acts like a narcotic. This becomes important for later as the berries can be crushed into a juice that acts as kaiju super liquor. Mr. Tako sends a two-man expedition to the island consisting of his employees Osamu Sakurai and Kazuo Fujita. Tako plans on finding this monster and bringing it back to Japan to use as a mascot for his business, generating buzz and increasing ratings for his company.

Meanwhile, leading scientists of the world begin to notice huge spikes in water temperatures in the northern parts of the Pacific Ocean. The warm currents begin to cause icebergs to melt and float southward. A US submarine is sent in to investigate, believing that the warmer currents could be caused by radiation. The submarine strikes one of the icebergs, and Godzilla is released from his icy tomb. This keeps in continuity with Godzilla Raids Again.

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Back on Faro Island, Sakurai and Fujita are greeted by the native inhabitants. Shortly after that, the islanders are attacked by a giant octopus. The ruckus attracts Kong to the scene, and we get our first monster battle. Kong grapples with the octopus before stomping on it and throwing rocks at it until it retreats back to the ocean. Kong then turns his attention to large urns containing the narcotic berry juice, drinking himself unconscious. This gives our characters the opportunity to strap Kong to a raft and drag him back to Japan.

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As the Japanese government struggles with their Godzilla problem, they learn about how Mr. Tako is trying to bring a second giant monster into the country. The ship hauling Kong is instructed to return Kong to Faro Island, however Kong begins to stir. In a desperate attempt to discard of Kong all together, Fujita detonates the dynamite strapped to Kong’s raft. This only frees Kong from his restraints, angering him. He swims the rest of the way to mainland Japan.

Shortly after this we get our first confrontation between Kong and Godzilla. The fight doesn’t last very long, however. Kong tries throwing rocks at Godzilla, leaving him completely unfazed. Godzilla unleashes his atomic breath, scaring Kong into retreating.

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Over the next thirty or so minutes, we get equal screen time between the two monsters as they create their own path of destruction. The military concocts a plan to lure Godzilla into a trap. They begin digging large trenches, filling them with gasoline and setting it ablaze. This funnels Godzilla to a pit filled with dynamite. Ultimately, the trap is completely ineffective in stopping the giant lizard. Meanwhile, Kong makes his way to Tokyo where he kidnaps Fukimo Sakurai (Osamu’s sister and Fajita’s wife). Sakurai and Fujita convince the military to use missiles filled with berry juice to knock Kong out, leaving Fukimo safe from harm. Once Kong is fully incapacitated, the military straps Kong with large balloons tethered to helicopters. They decide to take Kong to where Godzilla is on Mt. Fuji, hoping the two monsters will destroy each other.

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The rest of the film from this point onward is just climatic battle scenes. Just like last time, Kong is overpowered. Kong tries to trick Godzilla by hiding from him and performing a sneak attack.  However, Godzilla quickly turns the tables by smashing Kong with his mighty tail and then getting a few blasts in with his atomic breath. Kong begins to throw rocks at Godzilla again, but clumsily trips knocking himself out cold. Godzilla begins to victoriously burn everything around Kong. It is established earlier in the film that lightning makes Kong stronger (a concept they took from the Frankenstein portion of the original script). We begin to see a thunderstorm brewing and then Kong is revived with a few bolts. With new energy and the power of lightning at his finger tips, Kong gets back to his feet and fights Godzilla to a standstill. The two monsters trade blows before tumbling into the ocean, causing massive environmental destruction. Kong is the only monster to emerge, and is seen swimming back to Faro Island. The movie ends with Kong the clear victor.

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While King Kong vs Godzilla is much goofier than the two previous Godzilla films, it is actually much more focused and better constructed than Godzilla Raids Again. Probably the best thing I can say about the film is that the pacing is near perfect. There is almost no part of the film where I felt bored or disengaged. Even though the tone of the film is wildly different from the classic Gojira, the movie is tonally consistent, which makes the film an absolute treat.

This isn’t to say that the experience is flawless. By modern standards, the movie is horrendously dated. The Kong suit just looks downright awful. The man-in-gorilla suit is pretty painful to watch. Even though Godzilla’s rubber suit isn’t much better, at least he looks more like an animal. The goofy look on Kong’s face will have the causal moviegoer laughing hysterically.

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Speaking of not aging well, there are things about King Kong vs Godzilla that would not fly in today’s industry. The inhabitants of Faro Island are clearly Japanese actors in black-face. Plus, Fujita and Sakurai win over the natives by handing out cigarettes. They even hand cigarettes to the native children. I don’t really hold this against the film. It just feels more like looking into an entirely different time and dimension. Very interesting to witness, especially in a Godzilla movie.

The movie is wildly entertaining, overall. There are plenty of moments that are genuinely funny, as opposed to ironically funny. Mr. Tako acts as a bumbling capitalist that only cares about ratings. In many of his scenes, he acts as a drama-king. He even faints when someone suggests that they destroy Kong. Later in the movie as the two title monsters meet to fight, Mr. Tako asks Fujita to flip a coin to see who would win. They play off the climatic battle almost like they’re watching a professional wrestling match. Mr. Tako does a good job of adding a little bit of Charlie Chaplin to the film.

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Even though the movie has its flaws and and the special effects aged like milk, I still had a blast revisiting this one. This film features two of the biggest names in monster movies, locked in epic battle between Eastern and Western cinema. Toho even had the good graces to anoint Kong the victor. For the longest time people have perpetuated the false rumor that two version of this film existed, with a different winner in each. However, Kong has always been the victor in all international releases.

This film will be a movie classic for as long as there are humans to appreciate cinema. I have deep respect for King Kong vs Godzilla, and I do recommend that everybody watch this film at least once. Given its goofier and lighthearted tone, I recommend grabbing a friend and making it a fun date. King Kong vs Godzilla gets my modest rating of 7.5/10.

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The best part about being a fan of the Godzilla franchise and this film in particularly, is that we get to see the two monsters fight again later in 2020. We’ll be getting Godzilla vs Kong as part of the “Monsterverse,” which all started with Godzilla (2014). We get to see what the fight looks like with 50 years worth of improved effects. Perhaps Hollywood will return the courtesy to Toho by anointing Godzilla the winner of the fight. We’ll see.

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Thanks for checking out my third review! I’m having a genuine blast, and my weekly watch is one of my most anticipated parts of my week. Next week we will take a look at Mothra vs Godzilla. After the massive success of pitting two known monsters against each other, Toho will try to catch lighting in a bottle again by pitting another one of their own monsters against Godzilla. I’m looking forward to it!

7.5/10

– LoaphMeat

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Godzilla Reviews: Week Two – Godzilla Raids Again (1955)

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After the monumental success of Gojira, ToHo would scramble to capitalize on the hype, rushing a sequel in just sex months. Godzilla Raids Again was the first direct sequel to the original Gojira film, and the last Godzilla film to be shot in black and white. ToHo would go on to make several more sequels and reboots to the original movie throughout the series, so it is important to give credit where credit is due. This film stayed in relative obscurity for many years. It would only receive one VHS release in the United States in 1989, and then a DVD release in 2007. It is now obtainable on Blu Ray through the Criterion Collection box set released in 2019. This collection contains the first 15 Godzilla movies in on lovely package.

Godzilla Raids Again was such a rarity that many casual fans never even knew it existed, let alone have every watched it. Personally, it wasn’t until I was already a teenager having watched every other movie in the franchise that I ever got my hands on a copy. Even then, it was a duplicated VHS copy. Around 2002, I would frequently visit a comic book store with one my of good friends. One day while purchasing an issue of Marvel Comics’ Godzilla (the one in which he fights the Avengers) the gentleman at the counter asked if I liked Godzilla. We got to chatting, and I told him that I owned every movie but Godzilla Raids again. He asked that I stop back in about a week. A week later, he gave me my own copy, with box art drawn in ink by him. I still have that copy today. Thanks my dude!

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As you’ll notice by the label he wrote on there, Godzilla Raids Again was also known as Gigantis the Fire Monster. In traditional American fashion, Hollywood had the habit of taking some of the earlier Godzilla films and either renaming them or changing them to better appeal to a wider English audience. As such, Gigantis the Fire Monster stomped into the United States in 1959 as part of a double feature with Teenagers from Outer Space.

As far as plot goes, Godzilla Raids Again is honestly one of the simpler ones to explain. Since ToHo was so eager to milk the Godzilla hype, the film feels as rush as it actually was. We start by being introduced to two of the main characters, Shoichi Tsukioka and Koji Kobayashi. They are pilots working for a fishing company based on Osaka, Japan. Their job is to fly over the ocean looking for schools of fish and report to the fishing boats for good catching. Within just the first few minutes, Kobayashi’s plane malfunctions and is forced to land near some uninhabited islands, and Tsukioka flies in to rescue. The two of them are abruptly met with roars and screeching nearby, and we get our first glimpse of the two monsters in the movie, Godzilla and Anguirus. At this point, we’re about five whole minutes into the movie and we get our first monster mash. The fight finishes just as soon as it starts as both monster wrestle each other into the ocean.

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The pilots make it back to Osaka where they report what they have just witnessed, and it is at this point that we get our first and only exposition dump that ties the film to Gojira. Dr. Yamane makes a brief appearance and explains that Godzilla cannot be stopped. He plays a clip (of stock footage) showing Godzilla’s rampage through Tokyo just six month prior. He then states that Japan no longer has access to the oxygen destroyer as Dr. Serizawa destroyed all of the evidence before choosing to die with his work. Dr. Yamane suggests that the military use flares to distract Godzilla, driving him away from Japan. It is at this point that the film randomly establishes that Godzilla is attracted to bright light.

We get some character moments with Kobayashi, Tsukioka and Hidemi (daughter of the fishing company’s owner and love interest to Tsukioka). However, most of these moments are uninteresting and do very little to move the plot along or make us care about the characters. We then cut to reports that Godzilla is approaching Osoka, and the military is sent in to chase Godzilla off. As planned, the military uses flares dropped by plane to lure Godzilla back out to sea. We then cut to a scene with some prisoners being hauled in the back of a police truck. The prisoners pick a fight with the guards, knocking them out and escaping. A group of three prisoners steal a nearby truck and speed off resulting in a police chase. As the car chase concludes, the escaped convicts lose control of the truck and slam into a gas tank causing an explosion. The explosion results in a giant fireball that grabs Godzilla’s attention and he makes his way back to Osaka. Once on shore, the military fires at Godzilla for a bit before Anguirus shows up too. The military retreats to let the monsters fight out their issues.

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The following chunk of this movie will set the tone for almost every Godzilla movie to come out from this point onward: BIG DUMB MONSTER FIGHTS

For what feels like half of the film Godzilla and Anguirus engage in combat. The actual fighting is very quick, and almost looks as if the footage has been sped up at times. There’s a lot of destruction as the monsters wrestle into buildings one after the other. The fight concludes with Godzilla biting into Anguirus’ neck and then setting him ablaze with his atomic breath. Godzilla then returns to sea.

The last chunk of the movie slows down a bit. Our characters move to a different office within the company in Hokkaido. Not long after, they receive reports that Godzilla has destroyed a fishing boat owned by the company.  The military, Kobayashi and Tsukioka set out on a massive search for Godzilla. Tsukioka spots Godzilla swimming towards a small icy landmass, reporting it to the military. This is the start of a long drawn out action sequence in which the military attacks Godzilla on the island. During the fight with Godzilla, Kobayashi is killed in his desperate attempt to keep Godzilla on the island. Some ice accumulates around Godzilla, and he slowly wades through it.  This gives Tsukioka a masterful plan, and he instructs the military to shoot the mountainsides to cause an avalanche, burying Godzilla entirely. We get a looooooooong sequence of planes bombing snowy mountainsides, gradually covering Godzilla under piles of ice. Once Godzilla is fully covered, the movie ends.

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In preparation for this review, I started to look at what others have had to say about Godzilla Raids Again, and I found one piece of criticism that I would like to use here:

Godzilla Raids Again is the antithesis of its predecessor.

Whereas Gojira was a well-articulated masterpiece with interesting characters and a plot with real stakes; Godzilla Raids Again is just a straight-shot monster movie. To be honest, there isn’t much to review with Godzilla Raids Again, because it just chugs along at breakneck speeds, giving the viewer barely enough time to care about the characters or settings. I’ll admit that I had to look up the names of all the characters with the exception of Dr. Yamane who I actually remember from the first film.

To say that Godzilla Raids Again is a “bad” movie is a bit of an overstatement. It is a “meh” movie. As I stated above, Godzilla Raids Again is essentially the movie responsible for turning Godzilla is a big dork that only exists to fight other monsters. I don’t think this is irredeemably awful, since I typically love big monster fights. They are fun, and that is what makes Godzilla such a great franchise to enjoy. It is only a problem when we go from the dark and depressing original, to the goofy and upbeat jam session we call Godzilla Raids Again. The best example I can think of is if Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” was followed by Joel Schumacher’s “Batman and Robin”, and you told me it was a canonical sequel.

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I’m mostly joking with that comparison. I would gladly watch Godzilla Raids Again over Batman and Robin at every point in my life.

I kind of allude to this in my overview, but the fight scenes in Godzilla Raids Again are super quick, to the point that it looks like I am fast-forwarding them. This makes it feel like there is no weight to any of the monster mayhem. It takes me out of the experience, and I am reminded that I’m watching a couple of ding dongs in suits run into each other. This is made worse when we get scenes of the puppets. They are surprisingly goofier than in the original film. In the fight scenes, the two puppets are actually just bumped into each other. In Gojira, Godzilla is a gigantic lumbering monsters. A literal force of nature. When watching him slowly tear through Tokyo, you feel that. It instills awe. The monsters in Godzilla Raids Again do none of that.

I honestly don’t care much for the characters either. I like them enough, and they serve their purpose, but there is essentially no chemistry or purpose in them. They seemingly only exist to string together action sequences. Adding to the feeling that there are no real stakes; there is one particular scene that stuck out to me. After the battle of the monsters in Osaka, our main characters meet inside the burned husk of their old office. In this scene they are all smiling and cracking jokes. One of them literally says, “Well, I guess you can thank Godzilla for cancelling your wedding, haha.” This one scene could not exemplify the radical shift in tone from movie to movie.

That segues into one of the strangest critiques I have with this film… that the action is too drawn out. Since we are left with the feeling that there really isn’t anything at stake, the action is basically just stuff that happens. Then those scenes linger for long periods of time. The fight between Godzilla and Anguirus is kind of cool. However, it felt unnecessary, which made me lose interest quicker than I normally would with any other Godzilla fight. The scene in which the military buries Godzilla in ice is also a lot like this. I felt very disengaged watching fifteen minutes of jets shooting missiles into the side a mountain.

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The 80-minute run-time on this movie is a blessing and a curse. Since the movie is so short, it doesn’t take much effort to sit through this movie with some popcorn and just kind of turn off your brain. The problem is that the uninteresting parts make it feel like a 2-hour movie instead, and this is what makes the action sequences feel drawn out. They take up literally half of the entire movie.

I have one last critique about the music and sound design. In Gojira, you heard Godzilla’s footsteps. His roar was terrifying. The music was beautifully crafted to set the very serious tone. Throughout most of Godzilla Raids Again, there’s an extremely dull musical piece playing in the background. It is very quiet with a lot of base instruments. It invokes the same level of excitement as plain bread. This makes the whole experience feel literally and figuratively tone deaf. Godzilla maintains his iconic roar, with a few minor tweaks, and we also get Anguirus’ shrieks. Both monsters sound fine, but since the fights scenes have that lame low-volume music playing in the background, we just get long scenes of monster noise and nothing else.

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Now that I’m done being critical of the movie, I would like to say that overall it is pretty decent. As a fan of the Godzilla franchise, I put Godzilla Raids Again somewhere in the middle of the pack. I appreciate it for what it is, and I can enjoy it for just that reason. Even though the movie doesn’t make me care about anything that is going on, it’s just nice to have a movie like this that just “gets to the good parts.” This movie exists to just show you more Godzilla, and that is essentially what you get. Even though this is the first movie that Godzilla fights another monster, many of the upcoming films do a much better job at establishing plot and interesting characters. However, that comes at the cost of making Godzilla goofier and goofier in each consecutive film. The tone of the original movie is lost entirely over the course of the next fourteen films.

Since I generally have lukewarm feelings on Godzilla Raids Again, I’m going to give this a firm 5/10. This movie lands directly in the middle for me. I don’t mind it, but it’s definitely not good. I think more people should watch this movie, just so that they can say that they watched the original sequel; but most movie watchers would be completely content with that one viewing. I have personally only watched this film about five times since I was given that VHS copy. It will hold that special place in my heart regardless of how I feel about the movie on a critical level.

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That concludes my second review for my Godzilla re-watch series. Regardless of the critical opinions, I am having a blast putting out my reviews. I am very excited to see this thing through, and I especially look forward to next week. Week 3 will be all about King Kong vs Godzilla, and I will love talking about the movie that made cinematic history.

If you like what I had to say, please consider leaving a comment or sharing my review. I do this for fun, and it would be mean a lot to me if I knew someone else was having fun with this too! We’ll see you all next week.

Godzilla Raids Again: 5/10

  • LoaphMeat

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