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My Year with Godzilla
#41
BONUS: 'Them!' [1954]
Is Godzilla in it? No. Godzilla connection: Inspiration for 'Rodan'.

'Them!' is one of the earliest radioactive-giant-creature movies and arguably still one of the best. Nuclear testing in the deserts of New Mexico 9 years earlier has - naturally - turned a particularly vicious type of ant into giant sugar-obsessed beasts. Sgt. Ben Peterson (James Whitmore) investigates the mysterious deaths, disappearances and destruction left behind by the monster insects, ably assisted by an FBI Agent (James Arness) and a father-daughter scientific combo.

'Them!' is so much fun that it is easy to overlook its flaws. The film begins as a police procedural movie (Whitmore is excellent throughout), adding extra clues to slowly draw you in before the big reveal. The scene where the little girl rises up from her ambulance bed to the sound of the ants, unseen by either cop or doc, is wonderfully chilling. The ants themselves are fine for the time, more effective in the darkness of their nests than above ground, and there are enough light-hearted moments to ensure that the film doesn't take itself too seriously.

Edmund Gwenn as the elder scientist is a little too dotty for my tastes, though his confusion regarding radio communication in the helicopter made me chuckle. Also he seemed too old to be Joan Weldon's father, she of the impressive eyebrows. Being the fifties, her role is under-written and stereotypical - her introduction gives the viewer a long and lingering look at her legs. And child psychology has hopefully come a long way since evoking extra trauma on young girls to test a theory.

Regardless, it's still a terrific film, one I had great delight rewatching.
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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#42
Week 6: 'Rodan' [1956]
Is Godzilla in it? No. Godzilla connection: Rodan would become a recurring character in the Godzilla franchise. Also, the Meganulon would reappear in 'Godzilla vs Megaguirus'.
Sub or Dub? Sub

When will we ever learn that nuclear testing is a) never a good thing because b) it directly leads to giant monsters? In 'Rodan', man's atomic folly has led to not one but two monstrous species - insect larvae and Pteranodons - both capable of menacing Japan and its inhabitants in different nasty ways.

Directed by 'Gojira's Ishiro Honda, 'Rodan' is lighter on subtext and characterization than its saurian cousin but meatier when it comes to death and destruction. It helps, surprisingly, that it's filmed in glorious colour, as the miniatures could well have looked even more toy-like. In fact, the city's destruction is extraordinarily detailed and the highlight of what I considered an otherwise mediocre film. 

The scenes of the insect larvae - Meganulon - at the beginning of the film are reminiscent of the ants in 'Them!', even down to the chirruping, and are more of a threat than the Rodans' supersonic flight. Yes, that's right - Rodans, plural. (I assume they are in a relationship, but I don't profess to be an expert on prehistoric relationships.)

There's a lot to like in this film, but I'm disappointed that I didn't like it more. The mining incidents at the beginning are great - a 'slow-burn' if you wish to be charitable or just 'slow' if you don't - and there are excellent matte shots and back projection throughout. The ending even manages to be poignant rather than gleefully triumphant - quite a challenge considering Honda is asking the audience to grieve over two men in rubber suits. However, the acting and the script are merely serviceable (I did like the fact that the blurred photo of Rodan matched perfectly with an illustration in a dinosaur book, though).

This is a great example of Eiji Tsuburaya's skills as a special effects director and is recommended mostly for that reason.
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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#43
Film 6 - Rodan

This cheese was tasty.

3/5
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#44
When I was younger, I absolutely hated Rodan. I had it on dvd, and I forget why I even watched it more than once, I guess my sister liked it, but I couldn't stand it, it was soooo boring to my childish mind. I really should revisit it though.
Mega Man is best game. 
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#45
Rodan rules! You should definitely revisit it!
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#46
Haha, that's enough convincing for me. I'll see if I can track it down tommorow.
Mega Man is best game. 
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#47
Week 7: 'Mothra' [1961]
Is Godzilla in it? No. Godzilla connection: Mothra would become another major player in the Godzilla franchise.
Sub or Dub? Sub

About two-thirds of the way through watching 'Mothra' last night, it began to dawn on me the extent of the challenge I had set myself this year. Godzilla is undeniably cool, as are many of his colleagues and adversaries. But, boy, some of the films they appear in are decidedly mediocre.

With a title like 'Mothra', it would not be amiss of you to believe that you are about to see some giant moth action on screen. You do - I grant you that - but you have to wait nearly the entire film to get there. In her place (Mothra is female. This may be significant in later films. We shall see) we get a pseudo King Kong story, about the discovery of two miniature female twins on a purportedly deserted island who are snatched by an Evil Impresario and brought to the mainland to headline his show. Via telepathy, or a native incantation, or both, Mothra is awakened from her giant egg (hard shell and all) and, in larvae form, swims to the big city to save them. Destruction ensues en route.

Of all the Toho kaiju films I have seen so far, this one struck as the first to be aimed directly towards younger members of the audience. Unlike 'Rodan', there is no blood shown, as far as I recall, and the film includes elements that I imagine my younger self would have liked if I'd seen a dubbed version years before. A young boy takes on a heroic role, there is an obvious villain to boo, the journalist (Frankie Sakai) is both main character and comic relief (I found his slapstick antics annoying; I may have been more forgiving before I became so old and cynical) and there is a decidedly happy ending. Plus, the sets look really good, and the destruction by the Mothra-larvae is excellent.

Unfortunately, I just couldn't get into this one. I didn't care about the singing twins, and they were largely the focus of the film. Takashi Shimura pops up as a newspaper editor to lend some gravitas, just to remind me sadly of a better film of his I saw a few short weeks ago. The film is dated by the use of blackface for the island's natives, but can I just say again, the sets look really good. I loved the exotic flowers on the island and the miniatures sets outdo 'Rodan'. Like 'Rodan', Mothra the Moth causes devastation by the beating of her wings; even my younger self would have balked at that. I would always have preferred a good out-fashioned stomping.

As a Mothra origin story, it's obviously important, but as a film to go back to again and again... not for me, alas.
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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#48
Film #7 - Mothra

This was funny as hell. I was amazed that they dubbed the dialogue in Engrish. "Ahh Mothwah is attack the city! Hewrp us prease!" I thought I was watching a South Park redub or something. It helps that I'm drunk, that's the best way to do these.

3/5
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#49
I loved Mothra when I first watched it, but I suppose I was more of a child then, not to mention I fell asleep during it. I'll have to revisit.
Mega Man is best game. 
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#50
ScreenRant's Top Ten Strongest Monsters in the Godzilla Universe.

10. Rodan
9. Hedorah
8. Orga
7. King Caesar
6. Anguirus
5. Destoroyah
4. Gigan
3. Mothra
2. Biollante
1. King Ghidorah


(No MechaGodzilla because they wanted to focus on the natural beasts, not a synthetic machine.)
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