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My Year with Godzilla
#31
Week 4: 'Godzilla 1985' [1985]
Is Godzilla in it? Yes

'The Return of Godzilla' gets an American makeover, trimming scenes and adding Raymond Burr again as journalist Steve Martin, this time brought in as adviser to the US government. This film takes fewer liberties with the story than the hatchet job done on 'Gojira' and drags a little less, but ultimately does not need to exist. Burr's role is one of passive observer here, watching Tokyo's destruction from the safety of some American military installation. Considering he was summoned due to his previous encounter with the giant beast, he offers next to nothing in the way of meaningful insight. Burr glowers his way through his scenes, pooh-poohing any suggestions on killing Godzilla and gives every impression that he would rather be at home yelling at kids to get off his damn lawn.

The film moves at an accelerated pace, to the extent that certain explanations are excised or given the odd throwaway line. (The method of death of the ship's crew at the beginning is left hanging, and the giant sea louse is only indirectly referenced later.) The dubbing is lacklustre - a sailor seems unconcerned that their ship is about to run aground, according to his voice - and the sets for the additional scenes look cheap.

Although I wasn't that impressed with 'Return of Godzilla' to begin with, I think I still prefer it to this incarnation. It's admirable, I suppose, that they at least tried to get some continuity by resurrecting Burr's character, but unfortunate that it still jars as badly as their original effort.
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#32
Film #4 - "Godzilla 1985"

At least the lazy Americans didn't completely butcher the storyline this time around. And I quite liked that Perry Mason reprised his role as Mr. Steve. And the goofiness of the Godzilly wasn't as disappointing for me.

2.5/5
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#33
BONUS: 'Pulgasari' [1985]
Is Godzilla in it? No. Godzilla connection: North Korea's answer to Godzilla
Sub or Dub? Sub

'Pulgasari' has a strange history, which makes viewing it a much more interesting experience. Director Shin Sang-ok was kidnapped from South Korea and forced by then dictator Kim Jung-il (a Godzilla fan, apparently) to make several films, this being his last before escaping to the US. 'Pulgasari' is based on a legend of a giant beast, but it's hard not to see subtexts based on the director's own experiences in the North.

The film opens with the ancient land suffering from famine. The self-centered rulers force the villagers to turn in their tools to make weapons in order to defeat rebellious local bandits. When one elderly blacksmith is imprisoned for siding with the bandits, he creates a small clay figure named Pulgasari which he prays will save his people. Later adopted by his daughter, Pulgasari comes alive, begins eating anything made of iron it can lay its paws on and starts to grow.

This is a surprisingly entertaining film. Once it breaks free of the early humdrum sets and opens out into more lavish location scenes, the film, like Pulgasari, comes alive. The effects are well done, though look to be from an era earlier than 1985. Pulgasari is shown tiny at first against giant props of needles, later becoming the more expected massive kaiju size with miniature buildings and the like. A giant foot prop is also well done. The acting is overly dramatic and rather poor, but battles are epic with hundreds of extras.

Knowing the backstory, it is the script that makes the film so interesting. It's a wonder that Kim let it pass. It could be that the film merely retells the horrors of the ancient past, with selfish uncaring overlords, prior to the emergence of the Dear Leader. But it's difficult not to see it as attacking the contemporary rulers, with a starving populace. Even when the rulers are finally defeated by Pulgasari, the monster continues to demand iron to eat, forcing the villagers to again give up their tools. One character laments "How is it that he who freed us is now enslaving us?', or something along those lines. Perhaps it was just as well the director managed to escape after this film.
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#34
BONUS: "Galgameth' [1996]
Is Godzilla in it? No. Godzilla connection: Remake of 'Pulgasari'

Director Shin Sang-ok rewrites his previous 'Pulgasari' script, keeping the basic metal-eating-monster angle but adding a tale of a prince-who-would-be-king. In another fantasy land, the King is swiftly murdered by a Bad Knight who convinces the Prince that he - the Prince - was to blame. Bad Knight takes over the running of the nation, doing Bad Things (including ridding the land of all dogs - though you may not consider that a bad thing, depending on your view on dogs. I was personally OK with it). Anyway, before he expires the King bestows his spirit into a clay figure of the Royal Emblem - a sort of dragon - which is the Galgameth of the title. Would-be Prince runs away, taking the newly enlivened Galgameth with him, who proceeds to eat metal and grow. 

Whereas 'Pulgarsari' had an interesting backstory and subtext, 'Galgameth' is purely a kid's movie, no more, no less. (Thus no horses were decapitated in the making of this film, unlike its predecessor.) Galgameth is still a guy in a suit, but with an animatronic head, not unlike a TMNT. Certain elements are the similar in each film - the figure is brought to life with tears this time rather than blood - and some of the methods of trying to stop the monster are the same. Plus the acting is still poor. The Prince (Devin Oatway) is annoying, whiny, naive and incompetent throughout, to the extent that he even picks up a sword by the wrong end and starts to fight. Stephen Macht as the Bad Knight should have had a mustache so he could twirl it.

Still, I don't doubt it would entertain the little ones. The effects are not special but get the job done and Galgameth himself is funny-cute. Other than that, it's a non-essential pairing with 'Pulgasari'.
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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#35
BONUS: 'The Lovers and the Despot' [2016]
Is Godzilla in it? No. Godzilla connection: Documentary about the kidnapping of the 'Pulgasari' director & his ex-wife.

Using filmed recreations, secret tapes between Kim Jung-il and the director Shin Sang-ok and interviews with some of those involved, notably Choi Eun-hee, Shin's ex-wife, this documentary attempts to dig a little deeper into this fascinating tale of kidnapping and a film-obsessed dictator. The film does a good job of setting up the backstory, but spends little on the work they actually produced for Kim. There is some suspicion that the story of the kidnapping is a cover for an attempted defection from South Korea to the North, and the film leans a little more towards believing Choi's version of events. The tapes that are played throughout are interesting, especially Shin's obsequiousness towards the Dear Leader - the smoking gun pointing to his defection, or a ploy to gain trust in order to escape?

The story is incredible, but this documentary is a little too pedestrian. The subject matter deserves something better, either as a documentary or biopic.
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#36
My goodness that's a lot of Japanese monsters for such a small island nation. It's a wonder one of them haven't obliterated them.
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#37
Week 5: 'Godzilla Raids Again' [1955]
Is Godzilla in it? Yes.
Sub or Dub? Sub

As predicted by Dr. Yamane in the original 'Gojira', a new Godzilla is spawned from the same Hydrogen test and this time he's partnered with an Angilosaurus, nicknamed Anguirus. In this film, it's poor old Anguirus and the city of Osaka that get the thrashing, but otherwise it's a rather routine monster movie.

'Godzilla Raids Again' comes across as a cheap cash-in, with mediocre story, script and acting. Takashi Shimura reprises his role as Dr. Yamane, but it's little more than a cameo, unfortunately. The film suffers from uneven pacing - the long party scene halfway through is largely unnecessary - but the miniature effects are first class. Buildings crumble realistically though moving vehicles still look like toys. As before, the kaiju look better from a distance than close-up, yet the fights between the two enemies are both exciting and slightly off. They go at each other hammer and tong but it is filmed in real time and sometimes appears sped-up. They don't look like the heavy, lumbering giants that you would expect.

It's not a terrible film, but it's more a sequel to 'Godzilla: King of the Monsters' than 'Gojira'. There's not much, if at all, in the way of subtext but with the addition of a similarly-sized adversary, it lays the groundwork for many sequels to come.
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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#38
BONUS: 'Gigantis the Fire Monster' [1959]
Is Godzilla in it? Yes, albeit under an assumed name.
Sub or Dub? Dub

Despite the title, this is just an Americanization of 'Godzilla Raids Again'. The story is more or less the same, with some minor changes through the dubbing. Notable changes are a new prologue about nuclear testing, some additions to the scene featuring images from 'Gojira' and a near-constant narration throughout. Also, the score is different, and Godzilla gets a new roar to go with his new name. It's still not a great film, but I enjoyed it a little more. Maybe it's growing on me, or the dubbing made it a little more ridiculous and therefore palatable.
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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#39
BONUS: 'Reptilicus' [1961]
Is Godzilla in it? No. Godzilla connection: Denmark's only kaiju destroys a major city.

Miners drilling for copper discover the frozen tail of a mysterious monster. Danish scientists and their comely assistants bring it back to the lab to study it. Unfortunately, the tail is accidentally thawed out and begins to grow back into its original form - the missing link between a mammal and a reptile that spews green 'acid slime' for good measure. Being a joint Danish-American production, the US military are brought in to make matters worse.

Let me be very clear; this is a terrible film. The acting is appalling, being either overly dramatic or clumsily slapstick. The creature itself is a puppet that appears to be mostly neck - certainly not much else of its body is given screen time - which slaps cardboard-looking houses around. At one point Reptilicus 'eats' a man minding his own business, having dinner with his family. It looks like the man was drawn and cut out of paper then superimposed in its mouth. A third of the way into the film, the director decides to make the film into a mini commercial for Copenhagen, showing us the sights and adding a nightclub singer celebrating the lights of Tivoli. (I admit, I succumbed to its charms and wished I could visit 1960s Copenhagen too.)

Even within the bizarre logic of a monster movie, this film takes some odd turns. The man in charge of raising and lowering a bridge seems to have a nervous breakdown at the most inopportune moment, causing several pedestrians and cyclists to fall into the river. Still, the Danish extras run around a lot in this movie with gusto and appear to be having a fine time, probably more fun than actually watching this film.  Like many an awful film, it sets itself up for a sequel which I pray never materialized.
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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#40
Film #5 - "Godzilla Raids Again"

Well, this was goofy. I watched the US dubbed version for the first half, then switched the the original. Like garp said, the dubbing made it more goody goofy.

2/5
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