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My Year with Godzilla
#21
Week 2: 'Godzilla, King of the Monsters' [1956]
Is Godzilla in it? Yes

America shoehorns its way into the Godzilla business with this clunky version of 'Gojira' from two years earlier. The story remains somewhat the same, this time being witnessed by pipe-smoking journalist Raymond Burr as Steve Martin.

The film plays fast-and-loose with the chronology and inserts new scenes of Burr, friend of every main character from the original, apparently, despite his lack of Japanese and rather patronising attitude. (He sneers that one witness to the monster probably drank too much sake.) To counter the language barrier, this film mixes Burr's narration with dubbing that rises at times to 'passable' and a helpful official that acts as Burr's interpreter. Scenes in which Burr is supposed to be interacting with the original cast are simply bad, showing just the back of their heads. The impressive creature footage is still there, but all the human drama has been truncated, sucking the soul from the original film. What remains is a big old dumb monster movie, which no doubt would have been fine if I hadn't already watched the vastly superior original. 

As Godzilla does his business on Tokyo, Burr elbows his way through local Japanese witnesses to get a front row view from a window to record the devastation for America. This scene pretty much summed up the film for me.
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#22
BONUS: 'The Giant Behemoth' [1959]
Is Godzilla in it? No. Godzilla connection: A mix of 'Godzilla' and 'Beast from 20,000 fathoms'. Features effects by Willis O'Brien, whom inspired Eiji Tsuburaya.

This British film starts with a montage of nuclear explosions, a sombre lecture by a visiting American scientist about the threat of irradiated animals, and even mentions in passing the Lucky Dragon no.5 incident. When our UK kaiju turns up (in puppet form to begin with) he projects a radioactive/electrical beam that burns his victims. We're certainly in Godzilla territory here.

The plot is simple: radioactive amphibian-dinosaur resurfaces and wreaks havoc along the British coast, making its way to London. Scientists and the military join forces to stop it, the scientists being the key characters that hold together an otherwise disjointed film. 

The film starts promisingly enough, with a slice of Cornish life and the terror the behemoth brings to the local fishing industry. However, despite spending a good chunk of the first half with these characters, they are swiftly dropped and it becomes a standard kill-the-monster movie. The stop-motion effects, when they come (about 20 minutes before the end), are fine but the tragedy is impersonal as it doesn't affect any character we're already invested in. Surprisingly, the behemoth trashing London was one of the least interesting parts of the film for me.

Andre Morell is excellent as Top British Scientist (he was Quatermass in the BBC's 'Quatermass and the Pit' series, which I'm embarrassed to say I've never seen) and Jack MacGowran entertainingly hams it up as the Eccentric Paleotologist. The film ends ambiguously, either setting up a sequel or perhaps trying to ground this film to some kaiju universe, I'm not sure which. Overall, a worthy attempt by my fellow countryfolk to get in on the kaiju action, but unfortunately it misses more times than it hits.
It's not the years, it's the mileage.
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#23
(01-09-2019, 02:08 PM)Garp Wrote: Week 2: 'Godzilla, King of the Monsters' [1956]

The story remains somewhat the same, this time being witnessed by pipe-smoking journalist Raymond Burr as Steve Martin.

The film plays fast-and-loose with the chronology and inserts new scenes of Burr, friend of every main character from the original, apparently, despite his lack of Japanese and rather patronising attitude. (He sneers that one witness to the monster probably drank too much sake.)

Scenes in which Burr is supposed to be interacting with the original cast are simply bad, showing just the back of their heads. 

^ This all sounds amazing! Big Grin
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#24
Now that I think about it, I've only seen King of the Monsters, and not the original Gojira.
Mega Man is best game. 
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#25
Film #2 - Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1956)
Dubbed or Subbed? Dubbed, kinda.

On the one hand, this film was the introduction of Godzilla to American audiences, so therefore it's a wonderful thing that this was made. On the other hand, this was a lazy re-mix of the original film that robs it of so much depth, so therefore I did not like this.

2/5
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#26
Week 3: 'The Return of Godzilla' [1984]
Is Godzilla in it? Yes.
Sub or Dub? Sub

'The Return of Godzilla' ignores all subsequent Godzilla films after 1954 and fashions a new and direct sequel to the original 'Gojira'. In this universe, Godzilla was last seen 30 years hence, presumed dead. A volcanic eruption unleashes the old?new? terror (the film glosses over this detail) whom swiftly takes out a ship, Russian submarine and nuclear power station as it makes its inevitable way to Japan's capital once more.

Inasmuch as the politics of the first Godzilla film were the most interesting to me, his Return here struck me the same way. Although the film doesn't spend as much time on the human drama and characterization as 'Gojira', it does dabble in Cold War politics, at the expense of both the US and Soviet Union. Japan becomes a mediator between the two superpowers when the USSR all but declares war on the US for believing they sunk their sub. After Japan 'fesses up to the real culprit, a summit is held to persuade/badger Japan to allow the guardians of the nuclear arsenal to blow him sky-high. Keiju Kobayashi plays the Japanese Prime Minister with great dignity and remains firm on his country's no-nuclear policy - understandable considering Japan's history. Admittedly, it's played a tad heavy-handed - the two warring generals are blustering cartoon characters, more or less - but the point is well taken.

The film starts well. A ghostly ship provides a very Psycho-esque scare, although the giant sea louse is a mite (haha) ridiculous. Godzilla looks good fully envisioned, too glassy-eyed in close-ups, but the miniature cityscapes are wonderful. The destruction of the sub is also handled well. Overall, though, I wasn't blown away by this one. It's another serious take on Godzilla, and so therefore is to be applauded, but it felt overlong to me and I felt myself nodding off towards the end.
It's not the years, it's the mileage.
I'm writing a book! Check out my progress at Good Morning, Page
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#27
BONUS: 'The Giant Claw' [1957]
Is Godzilla in it? No. Godzilla Connection: Giant monster attacks major city

I became acquainted with this film a few years ago and it has been a fairly steady staple for me since then. I probably watch it once a year - always projected onto a big screen, to get the full effect. I don't know why I'm drawn to this patently ridiculous movie, but it has a special place in my heart.

Civilian engineer Mitch MacAfee (Jeff Morrow) spies a UFO whilst testing a new plane for the US military. As radar sweeps show no sign of the mystery object,  Mitch is met with derision then anger after a full-on search results in the loss of a plane. Soon, however, other sightings occur and he and his colleague Sally Caldwell (a lovely Mara Corday) join forces to destroy the bird-like monster before it completely obliterates New York.

First we must acknowledge the elephant in the room - or rather, the turkey in the sky. The giant monster is not good. It is not scary, looking something like Rod Hull's emu (look him up, non-UK readers). Wisely, the monster is first glimpsed only briefly, and always blurry. When the full puppet is revealed, it is frankly laughable, and probably why this film is remembered so fondly. Close-ups of its face are slightly better, but it's a very fine distinction. There really is no way to take this extraterrestrial threat seriously.

The acting is far better than the effects. Morrow and Corday banter well, in a typically sexist 1950s way. Corday has beauty, brains and can also serve her menfolk coffee and sandwiches, so she has that going for her. There's the occasional deadpan narration, which dates the film even more, plus the ubiquitous scientist who explains the bird's origin and other pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo.

'The Giant Claw' doesn't really work as a film, despite my affection for it. It drags towards the end, then dispatches the monster rather swiftly. There are some fun action sequences (fun, rather than good) involving attacks on planes, trains and automobiles, and I wonder if this would have worked better as a serial. There are certainly places where cliff-hangers could have been inserted. The other fun you could have with this film is as a drinking game. Take a liberal swig of Applejack every time someone mentions the word "battleship". You'd have quite a buzz by the end of it.
It's not the years, it's the mileage.
I'm writing a book! Check out my progress at Good Morning, Page
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#28
Film #3 - The Return of Godzilla (1984)

The script was excellent, the Godzilla was lame.

3/5
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#29
BONUS: 'Q: The Winged Serpent' [1982]
Is Godzilla in it? No. Godzilla Connection: Giant Monster attacks major city

I decided to watch 'The Giant Claw' prior to viewing 'Q' as I thought they might be distantly related, some kind of kaiju-bird cousins. They're not and, apart from a literal giant claw that appears several times in 'Q', the two films are widely different. Except in one way. I think both are bad films. And both entertained me enormously.

Barbaric ritualistic murders are occurring throughout NYC. Police detective Shepard (David Carradine) believes they may be linked to the sudden appearance of a strange bird-like creature that seems to be attacking the city's populace. Meanwhile, part-time pianist and getaway driver (stay with me on this one) Jimmy Quinn (Michael Moriarty) has discovered the nest of said bird-like creature and uses this knowledge for his own ends.

There is a lot thrown into this film. It's horror and monster movie and a heist film and mythology and comedy and... if you get bored with this scene, don't worry; we'll have a jarring cut to something completely different in a second. None of it really makes sense and it doesn't matter. It doesn't seem to take itself too seriously and the cast appear to be infectiously having fun.

Michael Moriarty takes the lead throughout the film as a loser who gets a lucky break. He is very good, just stopping short of being annoying and outstaying his welcome. His scenes with Carradine are the best, with Carradine looking like he's trying to prevent himself from laughing. Richard Roundtree is Carradine's partner in little more than an extended cameo, alas. 

There's a lot of on-location scenes in New York, with bemused locals staring directly into the camera, but it adds to the cheap and dirty feel this film evokes. The creature is rendered via stop-motion and looks OK for 1982 but fortunately isn't on screen too much. Puppet work later in the film is much more effective. 

The film sets up a sequel that I would dearly love to see. In the meantime, I've discovered my new favourite double feature - 'The Giant Claw' and 'Q: The Winged Serpent'. Pass the popcorn and beers.
It's not the years, it's the mileage.
I'm writing a book! Check out my progress at Good Morning, Page
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#30
(01-16-2019, 10:28 AM)Garp Wrote: BONUS: 'The Giant Claw' [1957]

Yeeeeaaaah! The Giant Claw! Greatest movie of all time  Big Grin
That ugly thing needs to make a comeback in a sequel, The Giant Claw against Mecha King Konga.
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