Merry Kaiju Christmas!

Well friends, Kaiju Christmas is finally upon us.  Hedorah is out there spreading holiday cheer to all the good little girls and boys, with deadly sulfuric acid mist for the rest.  As festivities here draw to a close I’d like to take a moment to thank all of you for joining us – I hope you all enjoyed yourselves, and that you’ll be so kind as to join us next year for Kaiju Christmas 2011!

Terror of Mechagodzilla

Origintal Title: Mekagojira no Gyakushu Alt.: The Terror of Godzilla
Year: 1975   Company: Toho Co. Ltd.   Runtime: 83′   Director: Ishiro Honda
Writer: Yukiko Takayama   Cinematography: Mototaka Tomioka   Music: Akira Ifukube
SPFX Director: Teruyoshi Nakano   Cast: Tomoko Ai, Katsuhiko Sasaki, Akihiko Hirata,
Katsumasa Uchida, Goro Mutsumi, Toru Ibuki, Kenji Sahara , Kotaro Tomita, Ikio Sawamura
Godzilla: Toru Kawai   Mechagodzilla: Kazunari Mori   Titanosaurus: Katsumi Nimiamoto
Order this film on DVD (Japanese and English versions) from Amazon.com

It’s 1974… Toho Co., LTD’s famed Godzilla series is dying a slow unnatural death. The 20th anniversary came and went and the celebratory film, GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA, was a bigger success than usual at the box office. But the audiences just weren’t flocking to the cinemas to watch monsters when they can watch them for free thanks to Tsuburaya’s seemingly endless lineup of superhero shows. Desperate for some new blood and ideas to infuse into the series, Toho held a contest to come up with the story of the next entry of the Godzilla series, already slated to be a follow-up to MECHAGODZILLA. This is what won:

It’s some time after the fierce, jazz-driven, spaghetti western and Sonny Chiba-inspired showdown between Godzilla and Mechagodzilla and Interpol has sent out an exploratory submarine to find the remains of Mechagodzilla off the Bonin Islands (you’re not supposed to remember that Godzilla destroyed Mechagodzilla on Okinawa. Shhh!). Their detectors can find nothing of the metal beast (but not for the obvious reason) and suddenly they are beset by an underwater cyclone. Attempting to surface, they are attacked by the sea dinosaur Titanosaurus (Nimiamoto) who promptly makes short work of the sub.

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Terror of Mechagodzilla Trailer Show

Thanks are due to Wtf-Film friend of and sometimes contributor Ted Johnson for providing coverage of this, the last of the Showa-era Godzilla series, especially since I don’t really care for the film myself.  Those pesky Black Hole Aliens are back, and this time they have a disgruntled Earth scientist and his pet dinosaur to help them!

In America the property was handled by Bob Conn Enterprises, who renamed it The Terror of Godzilla and trimmed it of several minutes of footage.  U.P.A. Productions of America would retain television rights and release a mostly complete version to television under the title Terror of Mechagodzilla, complete with a lengthy prologue that blandly detailed the history of Godzilla.

In Germany distributors seem, as ever, to have been confused as to how to advertise their new acquisition, and the two villainous monsters were referred to as Konga and King Kong in their advertising materials:

Godzilla’s Revenge

Origintal Title: Gojira, Minira, Gabara: Oru Kaiju Daishingeki Alt.: All Monsters Attack
Year: 1969   Company: Toho Co. Ltd.   Runtime: 69′   Director: Ishiro Honda
Writer: Shinichi Sekizawa   Cinematography: Sokei Tomioka   Music: Kuniyo Miyauchi
SPFX Director: Ishiro Honda   Assistant SPFX Director: Teruyoshi Nakano
Cast: Tomonori Yazaki, Eisei Amamoto, Sachio Sakai, Kazuo Suzuki, Kenji Sahara,
Machiko Naka, Shigeki Ishida, Yoshifumi Tajima, Chotaro Tagin,  Ikio Sawamura,
Godzilla: Haruo Nakajima   Minya: “Little Man” Machan,   Gabara: Yu Sekida
Order this film on DVD (Japanese and English versions) from Amazon.com

When it comes to the King of the Monster’s 10th screen adventure I can honestly say that my memories are fond.  It aired on television constantly as I was growing up (being one of the U.P.A. Productions of America properties that TNT broadcast on a regular basis) and, thanks to a grandmother sympathetic to my monster obsession, it was also one of the first Godzilla films I ever owned.  Produced at a fraction of the cost of the previous year’s big budget box office disappointment Destroy All Monsters, Godzilla’s Revenge would be the first entry in the series to be aimed squarely at children – something that has earned it the ire of many a tokusatsu fan in the years since its release.

Godzilla’s Revenge (or All Monters Attack, as Toho would prefer it be called) is easily the most compact of all the mosnter’s outings, focusing not on prehistoric behemoths laying waste to modern civilization but on a child who, in his day-dreaming, visits Monster Island as a means of coping with the problems in his life.  You’ll be forgiven for thinking that sounds a little strange – it is.  But it also makes the film one of the most narratively intriguing of the lot, for Godzilla’s Revenge takes place in a Japan unlike any other in Godzilla history; one in which the eponymous monster is entirely fictional.

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Godzilla’s Revenge Trailer Show

One of the real oddities of the franchise, Godzilla’s Revenge follows latchkey kid Ichiro as he deals with life’s difficulties through imaginary visits to Monster Island.  More drama than fantasy, it’s clear that even Toho didn’t know how to market this one – the company opted to bypass the human drama and focus almost exclusively on the monsters.  The problem is that there’s not much in the way of original monster footage in the film to begin with, and plenty of the stock footage used in the trailer doesn’t even appear in the final cut.

Released domestically through U.P.A. Productions of America and Maron Films in 1971, American advertising for Godzilla’s Revenge focuses even less on the human element, and instead decides to lie to the audience outright with regards to what the film is actually about.

Those are, sadly, the only two pieces of advertising I could locate for Godzilla’s Revenge, but since so much of its monster content was lifted from Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster and Son of Godzilla (both of which had been released directly to U.S. television a few years prior to Revenge‘s theatrical debut) I’ve included a pair of domestic television spots for them as well:

Mothra vs. Godzilla

Origintal Release Titles: Mosura tai Gojira / Godzilla vs. The Thing
Year: 1964   Company: Toho Co. Ltd.   Runtime: 89′   Director: Ishiro Honda
Writers: Shinichi Sekizawa   Cinematography: Hajime Koizumi   Music: Akira Ifukube
SPFX Director: Eiji Tsuburaya   Assistant SPFX Director: Teruyoshi Nakano
Cast: Akira Takarada, Yuriko Hoshi, Hiroshi Koizumi, Yu Fujiki, Emi Ito, Yumi Ito,
Yoshifumi Tajima, Kenji Sahara, Ikio Sawamura   Godzilla: Haruo Nakajima
Order this film on DVD (Japanese and English versions) from Amazon.com

In the wake of a powerful typhoon a gigantic egg is found drifting off the coast of Japan.  Seen as a bad omen by some, the egg is soon taken over by an enterprising young billionaire and his sidekick, a greedy talent agent, who intend to make it the centerpiece of an amusement park.  There’s just one catch – the owner of the egg is none other than the god-monster Mothra, and she wants it back!

Enter reporter Sakai (Takarada) who, along with his photographer girlfriend Junko (Hoshi) and the helpful Professor Miura (Koizumi), takes up the cause of Mothra and her envoy, a pair of twin foot-tall princesses (the Ito sisters).  Before anything can be done about the egg another disaster strikes – buried in the muck left behind by the typhoon is Godzilla, who emerges from his temporary prison to lay siege to the Japanese countryside.  Sakai and his friends must travel to the nuke-blasted Infant Island, home of Mothra and her peaceful followers, in hopes of convincing the only good monster in the neighborhood to help save Japan and its people from the unstoppable onslaught of Godzilla.

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Mothra vs. Godzilla Trailer Show

Of all the Godzilla films I’ll be reviewing this Kaiju Christmas, this is the one you should really be ashamed about having never seen.  An A-class fantasy production from Toho Company in 1964, Mothra vs. Godzilla pits the King of the Monsters against the kaiju god of Infant Island, fresh from making a killing in her 1961 solo debut.

For once, the U.S. cut of this one isn’t half bad!  Dubbed by Titra Studios and released through American International Pictures, the retitled Godzilla vs. The Thing even features an effects sequence – the famed Frontier Missile scene – produced in Japan exclusively for foreign distribution.

There’s not much to say about this Godzilla vs. The Thing television spot, aside from that it looks just awful.

Godzilla Raids Again

Origintal Release Titles: Gojira no Gyakushu / Gigantis the Fire Monster
Year: 1955   Company: Toho Co. Ltd.   Runtime: 82′   Director: Motoyoshi Oda
Writers: Shigiaki Hidaka, Takeo Murata, Shigeru Kayama (for his novel “Gojira“)
Cinematography: Seiichi Endo   Music: Masaruo Sato   SPFX Director: Eiji Tsuburaya
Cast: Hiroshi Koizumi, Setsuko Wakayama, Minoru Chiaki, Takashi Shimura, Masao Shimizu,
Seijiro Onda, Sonosuke Sawamura, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Haruo Nakajima, Katsumi Tezuka
Order this film on DVD (Japanese and English versions) from Amazon.com

At the end of the 1954 classic Godzilla, paleontologist Dr. Yamane (veteran Toho star Takashi Shimura) gravely intones that, should nuclear testing continue unchecked, the world may soon be faced with more Godzillas.  He couldn’t have guessed how right he was, though for other reasons all together.  Godzilla was a smash success in Japan, seeing over 9 million admissions in its initial theatrical run and earning two Japanese Academy Award nominations, and producer / distributor Toho Company was eager to strike again while the iron was hot.  It wouldn’t take long for Dr. Yamane’s prediction to come true – Godzilla Raids Again marched onto Japanese cinema screens in April of 1955, less than 6 months after the debut of its predecessor.

Not long after the events of the first film a downed tuna spotter and his friend discover a new Godzilla, alive and well on a remote Japanese island.  Worse still, the creature seems locked in mortal combat with a new giant monster – the prehistoric Angilas!  The Self-Defense Force mobilizes and the country lies in wait, fearing the destruction that would result should the dueling titans make landfall…

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Godzilla Raids Again Trailer Show

This direct sequel to the original Godzilla has the honor of presenting the King of the Monsters with his first ever monster opponent: Angilas, who would return to the series as an ally to the Big G until 2004’s lamentable Godzilla: Final Wars.  Otherwise Godzilla Raids Again offers little of interest, unless dull melodrama is your thing.  The original full-length Japanese trailer for this film seems to have gone missing, and this shorter piece is flanked (in my copy at least) by a trailer for the superior Rodan:

Though dull in its original language, the film was made outright stupid in its loose English translation.  Paul Schreibman’s Gigantis the Fire Monster stank up American screens in 1959, with its biggest selling point hidden behind a dumb new name.

This lazy television spot, comprised entirely of still images, seems oddly suitable for the film in question:

The most interesting bit of advertising I’ve come across is this brief television spot, which gets Gigantis the Fire Monster out of the way early and quickly moves on to advertising Columbia’s 1960 release of Toho’s Battle in Outer Space.  The editor knew just what Gigantis needed to spice things up – an outer space dogfight!

Godzilla vs. Megalon

Origintal Title: Gojira tai Megaro Year: 1973   Company: Toho Co. Ltd.   Runtime: 81′
Director: Jun Fukuda   Screenplay: Jun Fukuda   Story: Takeshi Kimura, Shinichi Sekizawa
Cinematography: Yuzuru Aizawa   Music: Riichiro Manabe   SPFX Director: Teruyoshi Nakano
Cast: Katsuhiko Sasaki, Hiroyuki Kawase, Yutaka Hayashi, Robert Dunham, Kotaro Tomita,
Wolf Otsuki, Shinji Tatagi, Hideto Odachi, Tsugutoshi Komada, Kenpachiro Satsuma

I’ve never been known for having my finger on the pulse of good taste, so I suppose it’s only to be expected that one of the (and perhaps the) most universally reviled of all Toho Company’s beloved Godzilla franchise would also happen to be one of my personal favorites.  The first of the series to be released domestically through Cinema Shares and the only of them to retain its original Toho-given English title*, Godzilla vs. Megalon was a staple of UHF television programming in my youth – I can at least claim to have come by my bias naturally.

It seems important to note that Godzilla vs. Megalon initially had nothing to do with Godzilla at all.  Toho had conceived the project as the solo debut of the robot Jet Jaguar (the result of a creative children’s contest held by the company the year before), a concept they abandoned out of fear that the new character would be unable to carry a feature all his own.  The shooting schedule was eventually slashed to a mere three weeks and the screenplay altered to include both Godzilla (in his first new suit since 1968) and his previous foe Gigan.  Whether or not Toho’s scheming worked is difficult to assess, but one thing is for certain – Godzilla fought Megalon to the lowest audience turnout ever seen for the franchise up to that point**.

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