(The following isn't really a "timeline", although I intend to use it as a "preamble" to a timeline-related idea I have in mind. For some time, I've wanted to do a "cleaned-up" version of this thread. I won't be transferring the comments, but the original will still be available for view in all its glory and all its shame. Anyway, I hope you all enjoy this and find it worthwhile.)
This thread is dedicated to Emerkeith Davyjack, whose comment I accidentally deleted.
Gojira (1954), a.k.a Godzilla
Producer Tomoyuki Tanaka had a problem. The film he was meant to be producing, a grand Japanese/Indonesian co-production, had fallen through owing to a dispute with the Indonesian government. So now he needed a film to fill the gap left by the co-production's failure. While flying home, he read the story of the Daigo Fukuryū Maru, a.k.a. Lucky Dragon 5, a Japanese tuna boat that had been caught in the fallout from the US "Castle Bravo" thermonuclear device test on Bikini Atoll, on March 1, 1954. Additionally, he was familiar with The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) and King Kong (1933), which had recently been re-released in Japan.
This all percolated in his brain and gave him the idea that he needed. An idea which became Godzilla.
The creature in the film was originally called "G", after the English word "giant". Eventually the name "Gojira" was adopted, derived from the Japanese words gorira ("gorilla") and kujira ("whale"). It was traditionally said that "Gojira" was the nickname of a large Toho employee at the time, but this employee has never been definitely identified, and the general consensus now is that the story is apocryphal.
Selected to direct the film was Ishiro Honda, a protegé of Akira Kurosawa. Honda had been through Hiroshima in 1946, and this gave him the desire to portray Godzilla's attack on Tokyo as being like that of an atomic bomb, albeit much slower.
The special effects were done by the legendary Eiji Tsuburaya, who had wanted to do a monster movie of his own since he'd seen King Kong when he was a kid. Tsuburaya was behind the choice to use "suitmation" (i.e. having the monster portrayed by a man in a rubber suit), rather than the stop-motion he would have preferred, largely for reasons of budget and time. Tsuburaya would go on to become a legend in Japan, in particular for his part in the creation of the super-hero Ultraman.
The music was done by composer Akira Ifukube, who based much of it on the military marches he'd heard as a kid. He created many memorable themes for the films, including the original Godzilla theme. Ifukube also created Godzilla's trademark "roar" by running a rosin-filled glove along the strings of a contrabass and then playing it back at a different speed.
Two men were hired to wear the Godzilla suit in this picture. The first was Haruo Nakajima, who would go on to play Godzilla and many other monsters until he retired in 1972. Nakajima had played a bandit in Seven Samurai, and would later play a soldier in The Hidden Fortress. Nakajima supposedly sweat off 20 pounds making the film. The second man was Katsumi Tezuka. However, Nakajima has always claimed that none of Tezuka's work made it into the film. Both Nakajima and Tezuka had small parts outside of the G-suit in the film - you can see them in the background of a scene set in a newspaper office.
The main actors in the film were Kurosawa mainstay Takashi Shimura as Dr. Yamane, the paleontologist; Akihiko Hirata (who played a samurai in Sanjuro) as Dr. Serizawa; Momoko Kochi as Emiko Yamane, the doctor's daughter; and Akira Takarada as Ogata of South Sea Salvage. We'll being seeing Takarada alot in these pictures.
If you check the scene on the party boat in the harbor, you may see in the background sitting at a table, the uncredited Kenji Sahara (sometimes listed as Kenji "Sawara"). Sahara and Akihiko Hirata are the only actors to have appeared in the debut films of Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah.
Another member of the Kurosawa-gumi is present in the film - the old fisherman on Odo Island is played by Kokuten Kodo, who played the village elder in Seven Samurai, and who had parts in Scandal, No Regrets for Our Youth, Sanshiro Sugata, Sanshiro Sugata II, I Live in Fear, Throne of Blood and The Hidden Fortress.
At any rate, the film was a hit in Japan. An American producer saw the film in a Chinese theater in California, and the international rights were purchased. It was decided to make an "American" version of the film, and this is the version that I daresay most of you that read this will have seen. The original version has only recently been released in this country.
To Americanize the film, the producers hired Raymond Burr, who had mostly played heels up to that point, and who would soon be cast in the role that would define his life, that of peerless attorney Perry Mason. He was an interesting dude, Burr. Alot of the autobiographical information he used to give was subsequently revealed as fiction. If you ever see the 1957 classic, The Monster that Challenged the World, you may notice a character named Seaman Morty Beatty. The role is credited to "Bob Beneveds", who was sometimes credited as "Robert Beneveds", and who, as "Robert Benevides", had production credits on many episodes of Perry Mason. He was also allegedly Burr's "longtime companion".
Burr played reporter Steve Martin (No relation!), ably assisted by Frank Iwanaga as security officer Tomo. Burr and Iwanaga were edited into the film using added footage, and were made to seem to interact with the original actors through the use of body doubles, and other trickery.
The film was released in 1956 as Godzilla, King of the Monsters, and the rest was history! As an aside - the American version of the film was apparently released in Japan as Monster King Godzilla, and the audiences found it quite funny, as apparently there was often a difference between what the Japanese-speaking characters were saying to Burr, and what Iwanaga told Burr they were saying.
Gojira (1954) is to me, the best of all of Toho's kaiju eiga. It's a very well done picture, and a powerful evocation of Japan's fear of nuclear weaponry, well made and well acted. If you haven't had a chance to see the original version, I strongly urge you to give it a look - it's well worth it. I saw it in a theater in Cambridge a few years back, and it was one of the great cinematic thrills of my life. It saddens me that alot of people judge all of the Godzilla movies by some of the later, admittedly quite goofy, ones.
I'd also particularly like to speak up for Ifukube's music in this - his score really builds up the mood of the picture.
Now, as for Godzilla, King of the Monsters...well, I loved this picture when I was a kid. Watching it now, it's painfully obvious that Burr and Iwanaga were shoehorned into it. Having watched the two films back to back, I can see that the American producers removed alot of the anti-nuclear message and pretty much all of the references to the War and the atomic bombings. The actor who suffers the most from the Americanization is Sachio Sakai, who plays a reporter named Hagiwara. His part is much more substantial in the original and is largely cut out of the re-edited film, most of his function in the plot being taken over by Burr's character. In the end, what I think the Americanization did was make the picture much more similar to the sci-fi films that were popular in the U.S. in the 1950's - which may have been what the film needed to succeed in 50's America. The original was much darker and more poignant than the American version. There are many more scenes of Godzilla's victims in the original - no subseqent Godzilla film would ever show so much human suffering. At the end of Gojira, Shimura says something to the effect of "If nuclear tests continue, there will be more Godzillas", whereas at the end of King of the Monsters, Burr says something like, "A great man has died, but now the world can breathe freely again."
I'll close by repeating my earlier sentiment, that Gojira (1954) is to me the best of the Godzilla movies.
Next: The Quickie Sequel!
Gojira no gyakushi (1955), a.k.a. Godzilla Raids Again*
(I'll start with an aside - this was actually the last of the Showa Era Godzilla films that I saw - for some reason, it was not in the rotation on Creature Feature when I was a kid, and I didn't get to see it until I bought it on VHS.)
The original Gojira was so successful that the word came down that a sequel was to be produced as quickly as possible, and so Godzilla Raids Again was on Japanese movie screens a mere six months later.
Tsuburaya was retained as effects man, but Honda was replaced as director by Motoyoshi Oda, a director who was known for his ability to make movies very quickly. Ifukube was replaced as composer by Masaru Sato.
Nakajima once again donned the Godzilla suit, and Katsumi Tezuka performed as Anguirus.
The major human characters were played as follows:
The protagonist, heroic fish-spotter Tsukioka, was played by Hiroshi Koizumi, who went on to appear in numerous Toho kaiju eiga.
His buddy, heroic fish-spotter Kobayashi, was played by Japanese film legend Minoru Chiaki, whom Kurosawa fans will remember from his appearances in Stray Dog, Rashomon, The Idiot, Ikiru, Seven Samurai, I Live in Fear, Throne of Blood, The Hidden Fortress and High and Low.
Hidemi - the boss' daughter and Tsukioka's girl friend, was played by Setsuko Wakayama.
Takashi Shimura reprises his role as Dr. Yamane, in what is essentially an extended cameo. Shimura looks kind of glum, here - sort of "It's a paycheck, I suppose" glum.
The film is largely told from the points of view of Tsukioka and Kobayashi, pilots who work as fish spotters for Kaiyo Fishing, Inc. When Kobayashi is forced to ditch near Iwato Island, Tsukioka rescues him and the two discover a new Godzilla battling Anguirus, a creature vaguely similar to an ankylosaurus. The rest of the film concerns the battle between Godzilla and Anguirus and humanity's attempts to deal with them both.
There are some interesting scenes in this picture, including a mini-subplot in which some convicts attempt to use the monster attack as cover for an escape, but who are subsequently killed when a building collapsed by Godzilla causes a flood in the subway in which they were hiding. This is the first instance of something we'll see from time to time in these pictures - monster activity inadvertently dealing out justice to bad guys.
There's also a nice set piece in which the two monsters knock down Osaka Castle - I'm pretty sure we'll see it get knocked down again at some point.
There's also the first scene we see of Godzilla swimming.
Anguirus was OK as a monster, but there are a number of times that it's obvious that he's not a genuine quadruped, but a guy crawling around on all fours.
It's also interesting to note that the monster battle is over about halfway through the picture - in later films, the resolution of the monster battle is the climax of the picture.
A few questions: When Tsukioka found Kobayashi on the island, why did they sit around and start a fire? Why not just hop in Tsukioka's plane and head home?
When Kaiyo's Osaka factory is destroyed, the staff relocates to their Hokkaido branch. Why does Godzilla follow them? Does he have it in for them?
When the military decides to trap Godzilla at the end, they set up a wall of flame to trap him on the island they've cornered him on. Why would a wall of flame stop him? He's a fire monster, isn't he?
The film took a long time making its way to the U.S. Originally, the plan was to take the monster footage out of this film and splice it into a new film that would be called The Volcano Monsters. Wrtiers Ib Melchior (of Reptilicus fame) and Edwin Watson were hired to write a screenplay, and the Godzilla and Anguirus suits were shipped to LA for the shooting of extra footage. In the end, this plan fell through and the film was Americanized as Gigantis the Fire Monster and released in the U.S. in 1959.
Gigantis is an odd film. For some reason, the producers seem to have done their level best to disguise the fact that this is a Godzilla movie. They almost completely removed the soundtrack and added lots and lots of stock footage, as well as near-incessant narration. The re-scripted dialogue is really bad, full of odd turns of phrase like "Anguirusaurus, Killer of the Living" (Who else could you kill?) and archaisms like "Banana oil!", which was out of date, even in the 50's. Only occasionally does the dialogue approach "so bad it's good" level - most of the time it's just bad.
The dubbing is a mixed bag - Tsukioka is dubbed by the immortal Keye Luke, and other voices are done by George "Mr. Sulu" Takei, and the nigh omnipresent Paul Frees, who was in almost everything back then. Unfortunately, whoever dubbed Kobayashi decided that it was a good idea to make him sound like a moron, which kind of takes away from his heroics at the end of the film. The American version even manages to have the monsters using the wrong roars at various times!
To sum up, Godzilla Raids Again doesn't have the depth of the first picture, but it's not bad for a quickie sequel. Gigantis really butchered its source, but if you're in a frame of mind to go all MST3K on a picture, this would be a good one to do it on.
Kingu Kongu tai Gojira (1962)
As the story goes, later in his life, Willis O'Brien had the idea for a film called King Kong vs. Frankenstein, in which he imagined the ape battling an artificial creature made from the sewn-together parts of various animals. Lacking the funding to make the film, Obie sold the idea to a man named John Beck, who in turn sold the idea to Toho. Toho set aside the Frankenstein idea, and inserted Godzilla. At least, that's the story as I heard it.
At any rate, when it came time to make Godzilla's color debut, a big idea was needed, and what bigger than to pit Godzilla against one of the creatures that had inspired his creation? The Honda/Tsuburaya/Ifukube triumvirate was brought back to make the film.
The following actors were in the film:
Tadao Takashima as Sakurai, employee of Pacfic Pharmaceuticals and part-time jazz drummer. (Takashima had been a jazz drummer in real life) Takashima would appear in many kaiju eiga.
Kenji Sahara as Fujita, an inventor and friend of Sakurai's.
Yu Fujiki as Kinsaburo, as Sakurai's somewhat cowardly colleague. Fujiki appeared in The Hidden Fortress, The Lower Depths and Throne of Blood for Kurosawa.
Ichiro Arishima as Tako, advertising chief for Pacific Pharmaceuticals. Arishima was a well-known comedic actor in Japan at the time.
Jun Tazaki as General Shinzo. He would later work for Kurosawa in both High and Low and Ran.
Akihiko Hirata as Doctor Shigezawa, the expert on everything.
Mie Hama as Fumiko, Sakurai's sister and Fujita's love interest. Bond fans may remember her as "Kissy Suzuki" in the 1967 epic You Only Live Twice. She was also the slinky villainess in King Kong Escapes.
Akiko Wakabayashi as Tamiye, a friend of Fumiko's. She played "Aki" in You Only Live Twice.
Sachio Sakai as Obashi, Tako's aide.
Senkichi Omura as Konno, the somewhat Gilligan-esque translator. Omura was another Kurosawa mainstay, having small parts in Drunken Angel, Seven Samurai, I Live In Fear, Throne of Blood, The Hidden Fortress, High and Low and Yojimbo.
Nakajima and Tezuka were back as Godzilla, this time with a new G-suit, larger and more animalistic than the previous one.
Shoichi Hirose played Kong, wearing a truly abysmal ape suit, really the only area where this picture falls down.
One of the things I really didn't get when I was kid was that this picture was meant to be a satire of commercialism and that this picture was meant to be funny. You can pick it up a bit more in the Japanese version.
That said, there are some quite exciting monster moments in this, like when the sub is sunk and when Godzilla first comes ashore at an army base up north.
I also like the fact that Kong uses his brain in the fight, rather than simply try to overpower the clearly stronger Godzilla.
The major head-scratcher for me is the whole business about Kong being able to absorb electricity - that seemed pretty much "out of left field" to me.
The film was released in the U.S. in 1963 as King Kong vs. Godzilla. Additional footage was shot with Michael Keith as UN newscaster Eric Carter, James Yagi as his colleague Yutaka Omura and Harry Holcombe as Dr. Arnold Johnson. Holcombe (sometimes "Holcomb") was in alot of 60's and 70's TV, most especially Bonanza, as well as playing "Grandpa" in the Countrytime Lemonade ads in the late 70's. For some reason, most of Ifukube's score was left out, and replaced with music from Revenge of the Creature.
There was a long-standing rumor that two endings were shot for this picture - one for Japanese audiences in which Godzilla won, and one for American audiences in which Kong won. Having seen both versions, I can tell you that the ending was the same in both.
This picture was always a favorite of mine, and the first one where I don't feel that the "Americanization" did a great deal of harm to the film.
Next: "Things" are looking up!
Mosura tai Gojira * (1964)
Godzilla's next film would pit him against Mothra, the creature first featured in the 1961 film Mosura. "Mosura" was derived from the Japanese pronunciation of the English word "Moth", which comes out in Japanese as "mosu", since Japanese doesn't really have a "th" sound as such.
Honda, Tsuburaya and Ifukube were back again, as was Nakajima in yet another new G-suit, and Tezuka as the larval Mothra.
The film's actors included:
Akira Takarada as Sakai the reporter.
Yuriko Hoshi as Junko the photographer
Hiroshi Koizumi as Professor Miura
Yu Fujiki as Jiro the egg-obsessed reporter.
Yumi and Emi Ito, a singing duo known as "The Peanuts" as the Shobijin (i.e. "Small Beauties", or Twin Fairies of Infant Island.
"Please return the egg!"
Yoshibumi Tajima as Kumayama, the huckster who buys the egg. He had small parts in The Hidden Fortress, The Bad Sleep Well and High and Low.
Kenji Sahara as Torahata, the money man behind Kumayama. Apparently this was Sahara's first role as a "heavy" and he made the most of it.
Jun Tazaki as the Editor more fearsome than Godzilla.
Kenzo Tabu as the "good politician who never lies".
The film contains "Mosura no uta", by Yuji Koseki, the most famous of the various songs associated with Mothra over the years.
This is one of my favorites of the G-films. Godzilla's first appearance in this picture is one of my favorites of his entrances. He's very monstrous and malevolent, and in the scenes where he attacks Nagoya you get a real sense of what it would be like to be in a city attacked by a giant monster. Nakajima did a great job in this, especially when he continued to act even though the G-suit had legitimately caught on fire.
We also get another scene where a monster inadvertently deals out justice. I'm thinking of the scene where Torahata and Kumayama fight while Godzilla is approaching the hotel they're in, and Torahata is killed by his own greed because he stops to pick up money before legging it.
Another thing to note is that this is the first picture in which Godzilla fights an opponent with multiple forms, which we'll see more of later.
The film contains some particularly goofy science, as you can apparently steam radiation off - a useful thing to know!
The film was released in the U.S. in 1964 as Godzilla vs. The Thing. Apparently they wanted to keep people guessing as to what sort of creature Godzilla would be fighting.
This version contains footage shot by Toho but only included in the U.S. release, of U.S. Naval vessels using a new type of missile with which they manage to knock Godzilla over, which is more than the JSDF had managed to do by that point. Supposedly, this footage was never shown in Japan,. although I have seen it included in Japanese DVD releases.
Also, if you're watching the U.S. version, keep your ears open for the unmistakable voice of the late, great Peter Fernandez, who did some of the voices on this.
This was another favorite of mine, and another one where I felt the "Americanization" didn't do much harm to the film.
Next: The Triune Terror!
*Translates as "Mothra Against Godzilla"
San daikaiju chikyu saidai no Kessen* (1964)
In its English language form. Ghidrah the Three-Headed Monster (1965), this was the first G-Film I ever saw, and as such it's a film a have a great deal of affection for.
The film featured Godzilla, Mothra and Rodan (First seen in the 1956 film Sora no Daikaijū Radon - i.e. "Giant Monster of the Sky Radon". The name "Radon" was derived from the name "Pteranodon". I'm not sure why the vowels were transposed when it was Anglicized.) fighting the space monster King Ghidorah.
Honda, Tsuburaya and Ifukube were back again.
Nakajima played Godzilla, Tezuka played Mothra, Masaki Shinohara was Rodan, and Shoichi Hirose was King Ghirodah.
Yosuke Natsuki played Detective Shindo. Natsuki played Kohei's son in Yojimbo.
Yuriko Hoshi played his sister Naoko, a reporter.
Hiroshi Koizumi played Professor Murai.
The Ito Sisters were back as the Shobijin.
Akiko Wakabayashi played the Princess.
Akihito Hirata was Shindo's boss, Okita.
Kenji Sahara was Naoko's boss, the Editor.
Hisaya Ito played Malness, the chief baddy.
The Great Takashi Shimura played Dr. Tsukamoto, the psychiatrist.
Senkichi Omura played the hat-fetching man.
I gather that the two fellows that played the hosts of Where Are They Now? were an actual comedy team that was well-known at the time, but I've forgotten to write their names down.
It's interesting watching this picture now - I notice that the female characters - even the Shobijin - are much more proactive in this film.
Another interesting note - as you may recall, in Godzilla vs. The Thing, two caterpillars hatched from the egg. In the Japanese version of Ghidrah, it is explained that one of them died. The American version simply doesn't bring it up.
Also in the Japanese version, the Princess claims to be from Venus, instead of Mars, as in the American version.
This is very much a transitional film - Godzilla is moving from being a menace to being an ally of humanity - although, even as a kid I wondered how the people who lost family members to Godzilla wen he was a bad guy felt about it when he became a "hero".
Some random thoughts and observations:
A blooper that's in both versions: Rodan gives the Godzilla "roar" when he leaves Mount Aso.
Ghidorah was never again as impressive as he was in this picture.
There's alot of humor in the Godzilla/Rodan battle in this picture. A far cry from the animalistic grappling of Godzilla Raids Again.
A couple of more examples of monsters inadvertently dealing out justice:
- Rodan saves the Princess' life by dropping Godzilla onto the power lines.
-Ghidorah kills Malness by blasting boulders that fall onto him.
I always liked the scene where Mothra "talked" to Godzilla and Rodan. In the Japanese version, the line is "Men are not the only stubborn creatures", which the U.S. version rendered as "These monsters are as stupid as human beings". I think I like the U.S. version better.
The Japanese version has more scenes establishing that lots of unusual phenomena are occurring around the world.
Wakabayashi looks good, even dressed as a bum.
I also like the bittersweet ending when she says goodbye to Shindo.
We never actually do see what happens to the hat-fetcher. I bet he didn't get his 200 yen.
Why does Tsukamoto even have a 'lethal" setting on his electroshock machine? Does he do a sideline in executions? "Come to the Tsukamoto Clinic, where we'll eliminate your psychological problems, one way or another!"
What is Ghidorah king of, exactly? Belgium?
"On tonight's episode of Plot Convenience Playhouse, in all of Tokyo, Naoko takes the Princess to the same hotel that Malness and his men are staying at."
I've always wondered why Godzilla doesn't use his atom breath on Ghidorah in this.
This is one of Ifukube's best scores - it really enhances the monster battles.
I've seen some fannish speculation that Ghidorah was already under the control of the X-ists, that this was a sort of first strike by them to test the Earth's defenses.
Another great Godzilla movie - this really was the Golden Age on kaiju eiga.
Nest: X marks the spot!
*Translates as "Three Giant Monsters, Greatest Battle on Earth"
Kaiju daisenso* (1965)
This film has had several English-language titles. It was released in 1970 as Monster Zero, and has also been known as Godzilla vs. Monster Zero and Invasion of Astro-Monster.
Zero is essentially a re-match from the previous movie. Honda, Tsuburaya and Ifukube return. This would be the last G-film where Tsuburaya would personally supervise the effects, although he would continue to be credited for them.
Nakajima, Shinohara and Hirose returned as Godzilla, Rodan and Ghidorah, respectively.
Akira Takarada played Astronaut Fuji. Interestingly, in the American version, Fuji's voice was dubbed by Marvin Miller, voice of Robbie the Robot from Forbidden Planet.
Nick Adams played Astronaut Glenn. Adams had been known as a sort of "poor man's James Dean". He eppeared with Dean in Rebel Without A Cause and starred as "Johnny Yuma" in the TV series The Rebel.
Kumi Mizuno played Miss Namikawa. We'll be seeing her again.
Jun Tazaki played Dr. Sakurai.
Akira Kubo was nerdy inventor Tetsuo. Kubo was in numerous genre films, and appeared in Throne of Blood and Sanjuro for Kurosawa.
Kekio Sawai played Haruno, Fuji's sister. She also appeared in a number of genre films.
Yoshio Tsuchiya played the Controller of Planet X (Called the "Commandant" in the Japanese version.). Tsuchiya appeared in many genre films, and was a long-time member of the Kurosawa-gumi, appearing in Seven Samurai, I Live in Fear, Throne of Blood, The Hidden Fortress, The Bad Sleep Well, Yojimbo, Sanjuro, High and Low and Red Beard.
If you look closely, you'll catch another Kurosawa regular in a small role. Playing the female delegate was Noriko Sengoku, who was in Drunken Angel, The Quiet Duel, Stray Dog, Scandal, The Idiot, Seven Samurai and I Live in Fear.
This film contains what I think of as the "Monster Zero March", which is my favorite piece of music of his.
It also contains the infamous "Godzilla victory dance", which Tanaka and Honda supposedly protested, but which Tsuburaya pushed through because he felt the kids would like it.
This film also marks the beginning of what would later become standard practice - that of re-using urban destruction footage from previous films - in this case, Rodan and Mothra. It's not so bad here, but it becomes really noticeable in later films.
All in all, this is a pretty good picture, one I remember quite fondly.
Questions and Observations:
When I was a kid, I wondered why the X-ists took no interest in Mothra. Now, I figure they were afraid the Twin Fairies would read their minds and give the game away.
At the end of the picture, the Controller says "We shall escape to the future!" I always wondered if that was a set-up for a potential sequel.
"I am the Controller of Planet X!"
The X-ists are another example of movie aliens with unlikely weaknesses that the Earthlings can exploit.
The model work is good in this picture.
The X-ists plan is a bit over-elaborate, considering their level of technology. They ought to just be able to overrun the Earth.
I keep waiting for the Controller and his boys to start singing "We're Through Being Cool".
I also like how all of the important stuff is decided in one room in Tokyo.
Foolish of the X-ists not to take Tetsuo's noisemaker away form him.
In the Japanese version both Glenn and Fuji are being sent back to Planet X to do a survey of the planet, but in the US version it's just Glenn being sent back as an ambassador.
The X-ists never get mentioned again in the Showa films. You have to wonder how humanity got along with them afterwards.
Earth's space technology is pretty advanced for the 1960's. If one imagines a "Tohoverse", humanity will have fought aliens before, so I suppose it stands to reason they would've taken more interest in space travel.
*Translates as "Great Monster War"
Next: A prawn of the international Communist conspiracy!
Gojira, Ebirah, Mosura: nankai no dai ketto (1966)
This film's title translates as "Godzilla, Ebirah, Mothra: Big Duel in the South Sea". It was released in the U.S. in 1968 as Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster, and later English-language editions have been sold as Ebirah, Horror of the Deep.
The current English-language version I have is a newer re-dubbing, which is OK, but I prefer the old one with the voices of Hal Linden and various Speed Racer characters.
The film was directed by Jun Fukuda, a director better known for his crime dramas.
Masaru Sato did the music - it's OK, but it's not Ifukube. the perky surf rock played when the planes attack seems an odd choice.
Tsuburaya was credited for the effects, but they were mostly handled by his assistant Teisho Arikawa.
Nakajima returned as Godzilla, and Hiroshi Sekida played Ebirah. "Ebi" is apparently the Japanese word for "shrimp".
Akira Takarada played Yoshimura the robber.
Toru Watanabe played Ryota, the guy who looking for his brother.
Kumi Mizuno returns as Daiyo, the native girl.
Jun Tazaki plays the Commander of the Red Bamboo.
Hideo Sunzuka played Ryota's buddy Nita.
Chôtarô Tôgin played their buddy Ichino.
Akihiko Hirata played a Red Bamboo officer.
Toru Ibuki played Yata.
The Twins this time were played by Pair Bambi, of whom I know nothing.
This was originally meant to be the second Toho King Kong movie, but they lost the rights to use the character. Godzilla displays occasional "Kong-like" behavior during the film, particularly when he pays attention to the girl.
This film was one of two G-films featured in an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. This episode is not currently available on disc, but I do have a copy of it I taped off the television. A brief summary/review of this episode follows:
Mystery Science Theater 3000 Show 213: Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster
Opening: Joel reads The Velveteen Rabbit to Crow and Servo. It is excessively cutesy.
Host Segment One:
Joel and the Bots: Mind-Controlled Guitar
The Mads: Squeeze Toy Guitars
Host Segment Two: Godzilla Genealogy Bop
The Godzilla Genealogy Bop
Host Segment Three:
Joel makes model buildings from "found objects". He enjoys them a little too much, so the bots smash them.
Host Segment Four:
Tom and Crow summon up Mothra (played by Michael J. Nelson). Joel doesn't believe them.
Host Segment Five:
Joel and the bots discuss famous movie lines that never happened, and the replies to the Cool Thing challenge. Doctor Forrester doesn't want to spearhead the committee.
The Twin fairies nod.
This episode uses a print of the film I've never seen before, by Film Ventures International. It uses footage from Son of Godzilla in the opening credits, and has the above-mentioned dub with Peter Fernandez and Hal Linden. The episode itself is good but not great. The "Godzilla Genealogy Bop" is a fun song.
"It's the Mothra Graham Dance Troupe!"
MST3K aside, the film does have some funny moments, as when they all do the "sneaking up disguised as bushes" routine, or when Godzilla and Ebirah play catch. The giant condor is fairly lame. also. I always thought it was funny that after being awake for about ten minutes, Godzilla went back to sleep. Guess he just wasn't ready to get up yet.
Overall, this is an OK movie, but kind of a low-key follow-up to the two previous Ghidorah films.
Next: The son also rises!
Kaijuto no kessen: Gojira no musko (1967)
This film's title translates as "Monster Island's Decisive Battle: Son of Godzilla". It was released in the U.S. in 1969, simply as Son of Godzilla.
The Fukuda/Sato/Arikawa team returned for direction, music and effects.
Nakajima returned as Godzilla, although this also with some help from Kyoji Onaka. Minilla (a.k.a Minira, a.k.a. Minya) was played by someone called "Little Man Machan", who was a popular midget wrestler.
Tadao Takashima starred as Dr. Kusumi.
Akira Kubo played Goro the reporter.
Bibari "Beverly" Maeda played teh hawt Saeko.
Akihio Hirata played Fujisaki.
Kenji Sahara played Morio.
Yoshio Fuchiya played Furukawa.
Kenochiro Maruyama played Ozawa.
Yasuhiko Saijo played Suzuki.
this is a pretty good picture - a little bit better than I remembered it being. It introduced two new monsters - Kamkiras (a.k.a. Kamacurus, a.k.a. Gimantis), a giant praying mantis, and Kumonga (a.k.a. Spiga), a giant spider. Kumonga is particularly creepy in this picture.
I was never wild about Minilla's look - a little too cutesy for me. The G-suit in this film is kind of lame - it's designed to look like an adult Minilla, and therefore is also a little too cutesy for me.
That said, the final battle in the snow is kind of eerie, and there are several amusing moments of "parenting, Godzilla-style", which inspired this funny PSA.
The major question, fo course, is where did this egg come from? Is there a Mrs. Godzilla somewhere? Or did Godzilla lay it
Next: Pigpile on Ghidorah!
Kaiju soshingeki (1968)
This picture's title translates as "Attack of the Marching Monsters". It was released in the U.S.in 1969 as Destroy All Monsters.
Ishiro Honda was brought back as director, Akira Ifukube returned to do the music, and Eiji Tsuburaya was brought back to supervise Teisho Arikawa's work on special effects.
Nakajima returned as Godzilla, as did Little Man Machan as Minilla. Susumu Utsumi played King Ghidorah, Teruo Niigaki played Rodan and Hiroshi Sekida played Anguirus. No idea who played the other monsters.
Akira Kubo played Space Captain Yamabe.
Jun Tazaki played Dr. Yoshida.
Yoshio Tsuchiya played Dr. Otani.
Kyoko Ai played the Kilaak Queen.
Kenji Sahara played Nishikawa.
Yukiko Kobayashi played Kyoko.
Andrew Hughes played Dr. Stevenson, the guy who hung out with Dr. Yoshida, for some reason. Hughes seems to have had a fairly lengthy career playing Westerners in Japanese movies.
This picture is set in 1999, when all of the world's monsters have been gathered in a place called "Monsterland" in the Ogasawara Islands. (I'd love to know how they managed that trick.) Humanity has a base on the Moon. Earth is invaded by the Kilaaks, who fly around in ships that look just like that candy called "Bottle Caps" that we used to get when we were kids. They use the mind-controlled monsters to attack humanity.
Monsters We See in This Movie
1)Godzilla - Who we see attacking New York City, and who lets daylight into the UN Building.
2)Rodan - Who we see attacking Moscow.
3)Anguirus - Who doesn't get a city.
4)Mothra - Who is said to be attacking Peiping (as Beijing was known in those days), but is only seen to wreck a train. the absence of the Twin Fairies is not explained.
5)Minilla - Who doesn't get a city.
6)King Ghidorah - Who doesn't get a city.
7)Kumonga - Who doesn't get a city.
8)Gorosaurus - Who is seen to attack Paris, but who is misidentified as Baragon. Gorosaurus first appeared in the 1967 Toho/Rankin-Bass co-production Kingu Kongu no gyakushū, a.k.a King Kong Escapes.
"I love Paris in the springtime..."
9)Varan - Who didn't get a city. Varan first appeared in the 1958 film Daikaijū Baran, which was Americanized in 1962 as Varan the Unbelievable. Now, I am told that the original Americanization of Varan was epically bad - a real hack job. I've never seen it, so I can't say for sure. There's a newer English-language dubbing that stay truer to the original film. That's the one that I have on disk now.
10)Baragon - (Not to be confused with Gamera's old foe "Barugon") Who never got a city. Baragon first appeared in the 1965 film Furankenshutain Tai Chitei Kaijū Baragon (i.e., "Frankenstein vs. The Subterranean Monster Baragon"), which was released in the U.S in 1966 as Frankenstein Conquers the World.
11)Manda - Who is said, but not shown, to attack London. Manda first appeared in the 1963 film Kaitei Gunkan ((i.e. "Undersea Warship"), a.ka. Atragon.
I'm told that the decision as to which monsters to give more prominent roles to was based to an extent on which monster suits were in the best shape.
This film contains the "Destroy All Monsters March", another one of my favorite works of Ifukube's.
This picture had a higher budget than the previous ones, and it shows. Toho had never had so many monsters in one picture and wouldn't again until the early Twenty-First Century.
This movie is one of my favorite G-Films and I feel it still holds up today.
One of my favorite scenes is when Godzilla, Rodan, Manda and Mothra all attack Tokyo at once. For some reason, it always amuses me is that when the army opens fire, the first thing they do is blow a sign off a building. You know these guys aren't going to be much help.
The Kilaak Queen seems pretty certain that Ghidorah can beat Godzilla and nine other monsters. Guess she never saw Monster Zero. She also has a nice "D'Oh!" moment when she realizes that Godzilla is coming for her.
My favorite bit is the massive battle at the end. You almost feel sorry for King Ghidorah when he's getting the living s*** beat out of him.
Next: Bully for You!
Gojira Minira Gabara Ōru Kaijū Daishingeki (1969)
This picture's title translates as "Godzilla-Minilla-Gabara: All Monsters On Parade". It was released in the U.S. in 1971 as Godzilla's Revenge, and is sometimes known as All Monsters Attack.
Ishiro Honda returned to direct, and Kunio Miyauchi did the music. Honda and Tsuburaya are credited for the effects, but by all accounts Honda handled most if it, as Tsuburaya was not a well man, and, in fact, died shortly after the film's completion.
Nakajima returned as Godzilla, and Little Man Machan returned as Minilla, although Minilla's voice was performed by actress Michiko Hirai. Gabara was played by Hiroshi Sekida.
Tomonori Yazaki played latchkey kid Ichiro.
Eisei Amamoto played Inami the Toymaker. Amamoto had a lengthy career as a character actor. G-fans may best remember him as the "internaational Judas" Dr. Who in King Kong Escapes. He also had a part in Yojimbo.
Kenji Sahara played Ichiro's dad.
Sachio Sakai and Kazuo Suzuki played the bank robbers.
Yutaka Sada, who played Ichiro's dad's co-worker, had parts in I Live in Fear, Throne of Blood, The Hidden Fortress, The Bad Sleep Well, Yojimbo, High and Low, and Red Beard.
Yutaka Nakayama, who played the sign painter, appeared in many genre films
Machiko Naka played Ichiro's Mom.
Ikio Sawamura played the snack vendor. Sawamura also appeared in Throne of Blood, The Hidden Fortress, The Bad Sleep Well, Yojimbo, High and Low, and Red Beard.
The major differences between the Japanese and U.S. versions of these films are that in the Japanese version Minilla is voiced by a woman, whereas in the U.S. version, he's voiced by a guy, and that the opening song in the Japanese version is a bizarre tune sung by Risato Sasaki, whereas the U.S. version merely has a trippy instrumental.
The film makes heavy use of footage from Son of Godzilla, King Kong Escapes, Destroy All Monsters and Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster.
The film is odd in that in many ways it's hardly even a Godzilla movie at all - more the story of a latchkey kid who fantasizes about the monsters in order to make it through his life. It really is more about the negative impact of modernization on the Japanese family. What's interesting is that within the context of the film, there's no indication that the monsters are real. This picture could be set in our world!
Alot of people pick this as the worst G-gilm. (Presumably they haven't seen Godzilla (1998).) I disagree - I think you have to look at it differently. For one thing, it's the first G-film aimed deliberately at really little kids (i.e., six year olds instead of ten year olds). It's got kind of a sad ending - in the end, Ichiro learns to deal with the bullies by becoming the new head bully himself.
There's some interesting stuff here - the scene where Ichiro dreams he is chased by a spectral Gabara is oddly reminiscent of a similar scene in The Drunken Angel.
I also notice that Inami seems to be inventing the home computer a couple decades early.
In the end, it's definitely not the typical Godzilla movie, but I don't know that I'd call it the worst.
Next: Godzilla vs A Big Pile of Crap!
Gojira tai Hedorah (1971)
This picture was released in the U.S. in 1972 as Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster. It is now typically sold as Godzilla vs. Hedorah.
It was directed by Yoshimitsu Banno, with music by Riichio Manabe and effects by Teruyoshi Nakano.
Nakajima returned as Godzilla and Hedorah was played by Kengo Nakayama.
Akira Yamauchi played Dr. Yano.
Toshie Kimura played Mrs. Yano.
Hiroyuki Kawase, played Ken Yano. Kawase plaeyd the ill-fated beggar's son in Dodes'ka-den.
Toshio Shibamoto played Yukio.
Keiko Mari played Miki.
"Hedorah" apparently comes from "hedoro", which means "industrial sludge".
The picture was made just as pollution was starting to hit home as a major problem in Japan.
This is quite possibly one of the oddest G-films, with split-screen shots and animated segments.
Toho was trying to reach for a broader audience by including a number of teenage characters and trippy dance music. Probably the most noteworthy is the title song "Save the Earth". There's also some music at the end that sounds like a football fight song.
Toho may also have been influenced by the success of Daiei's Gamera pictures, as Ken is the closest thing Godzilla ever had to a Gamera-style "kid pal".
This is also the first G-film since the original to graphically show civilians getting hurt in monster attacks. In this film, Godzilla is no longer symbolic of nuclear war, but more of outraged nature.
When Hedorah starts sucking on the smokestacks it looks vaguely like someone doing bong hits. Um, not that I would know what that looks like.
There are a number of times in this picture where Godzilla and Hedorah are fighting in the city, and no one seems to notice.
There's also a scene where a character hallucinates that everyone in the disco is wearing fish masks.
Note: Hedorah can kill any number of people or fish, but apparently cannot kill a cat.
Sure is lucky that Godzilla's death ray can somehow power those electrodes.
And saving the best for last: Godzilla can fly! Apparently, this was a piece of deliberate goofiness added to lighten the tone of the picture, which was otherwise felt to be a bit dark.
To sum up: I don't find this to be a bad picture, just a little weird, even by kaiju eiga standards.
Next: Cockroaches from outer space!
Chikyu kogeki meirei: Gojira tai Gaigan (1972)
This picture's title translates as "Earth Destruction Directive: Godzilla Against Gigan". It was released in the U.S. in 1977 as Godzilla on Monster Island, but is now normally known as Godzilla vs. Gigan.
The film was directed by Jun Fukuda, Music was done by Akira Ifukube, and the effects were done by Teruyoshi Nakano.
This film would mark Haruo Nakajima's final appearance as Godzilla.
Yukietsu Omiya played Anguirus.
Kanta Ina played King Ghidorah.
Kengo Nakayama appeared as Gigan.
Hiroshi Ishikawa appeared as cartoonist Gengo Kotaka.
Yuriko Hoshimi played Tomoko Tomoe, Gengo's black belt female friend. (I'm a little unclear as to whether she's supposed to be his girlfriend or not.)
Tomoko Umeda played Machiko Shima, a girl in search of her brother.
Minoru Takashima played her hippie friend, Shosaku Takasugi. Takashima had appeared in Dodes'ka-den.
Kunio Murai played Takeshi Shima, Machiko's brother.
Toshiaki Nishizawa - looking like a Japanese version of Trace Beaulieu's Dr. Clayton Forrester - played Kubota.
Zan Fujita played the young Chairman.
Another space invasion film, with a side of pollution warning, this time in the form of intelligent cockroaches from Nebula M Space-Hunter.
Another picture in which alot of footage from previous films is used.
In the Japanese version, Godzilla and Anguirus "speak" via word balloons. In the U.S. version they have weird, scratchy voices.
I like how Godzilla appears to be Anguirus' boss, sending him off on a mission.
We see the first use of the maser cannons in the G-films in this pictures - perhaps a descendant of the A Cycle Light rays from Monster Zero.
Ghidorah looks really stiff and slow in this picture, which makes the recycled footage look even more obvious.
Gigan is an interesting design, but I have to say that it's not one of my favorites.
We see both Godzilla and Anguirus getting cut and spurting blood profusely.
The film also has the "Godzilla March" towards the end.
All in alll, this was an OK, but not outstanding picture.
Next: The goofiest one yet?
Gojira tai Megaro (1973)
This picture was released in the U.S. in 1976 as Godzilla vs. Megalon.
Jun Fukuda returned to direct, Riichiro Manabe composed the music, and Teruyoshi Nakano did the effects.
Godzilla was played by Shinji Takagi. and Hideo Date played Megalon. Kengo Nakayama returned as Gigan, and Tsugutoshi Komada played Jet Jaguar.
Katsuhiko Sasaki played Goro the inventor.
Hiroyuki Kawase played his kid brother Rokuro.
Yutaka Hayashi played Goro's buddy Hiroshi.
Robert Dunham played the vaguely Dorf-like leader of Seatopia.
This movie was a reaction to nuclear testing. The character of Jet Jaguar was a reaction to all the Ultraman-style shows that were popular in Japan at the time.
It was also one of two Godzilla films shown on Mystery Science Theater 3000. In fact, I find it hard to watch the original film without shouting out "Rex Dart, Eskimo Spy" periodically. I have recently found a tape I made of this off the television, so here's a review/summary of it below:
Mystery Science Theater 3000 Show 212: "Godilla vs. Megalon"
Opening : Joel and the bots act as though they are the hosts of a TV "magazine" show.
Host Segment One: Crow ask Joel about pain.
Joel and the Bots: Easy Halloween costumes.
The Mads: More easy Halloween costumes.
Host Segment Two: Crow and Servo design their own monsters.
Host Segment Three: "Rex Dart - Eskimo Spy!"
Host Segment Four: The Orville Popcorn Sketch. This gets really dark and twisted.
Host Segment Five: Joel gives the bots cool new arms. They then give their translation of the Jet Jaguar fight song. (For comparison, here's the full-length recording of the original version.) Frank takes Super Mario Brothers too seriously.
Closing Shot: Godzilla dives into the ocean.
Overall: A very enjoyable episode. Probably the best way to watch this film.
This is probably the goofiest Godzilla movie ever made. the character of Godzilla in this picture is so different from the original film that it could hardly be said to be the same character.
Seatopia is apparently linked with Easter Island, somehow.
I'm not sure why the Seatopians need Jet Jaguar to guide Megalon. What were they planning to do if there was no robot handy?
Actually, it's lucky for humanity, that in general, the Seatopians really aren't very good.
Interesting that Godzilla just follows this robot that he's never seen before.
The final battle has alot in common with an old-style wrestling tag team match, with Jet Jaguar in the Ricky Morton "face in peril" role.
One does wonder what happened next. Did the Seatopians just go and sulk for the rest of time?
Overall, this was an OK picture, so long as you don't think about it too much.
Next: Double trouble!
Gojira tai Mechagojira (1974)
This film got is U.S. release in 1976 as Godzilla vs. The Bionic Monster. It's also been known as Godzilla vs. The Cosmic Monster and Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla.
The film was directed by Jun Fukuda, music was by Masaru Sato, and SFX by Teruyoshi Nakano.
Godzilla was played by Isao Zushi, Mechagodzilla by Ise Mori. Anguirus and King Caesar were played by Momoru Kasumi.
The film starred Masaaki Daimon as Keisuke Shimizu.
Kazuya Aoyama played his brother Masahiko.
Hiroshi Koizumi played Prof. Wagura.
Akihiko Hirata played Prof. Miyajima.
Reiko Tajima played Saeko Kanagusuku.
Shin Kishida played Agent Nanbara.
Beru-Bera "Barbara" Lin played the Priestess.
Goro Mutsumi played the alien commander.
Note: The name "King Caesar" actually has nothing to do with Rome. "Caesar" was simply an Anglicization of "Shîsâ", which is the name the Okinawans give to the sort of lion-dog that the monster represents.
This film and its sequel were two of the most closely-linked films in the whole Showa Era series. As such, they represent an attempt to "serious up" after the more "childish" films that preceded it. They also had a little more production value put into them, with less use of footage from older films.
The invaders this time come from the Third Planet of the Black Hole, a.k.a. The Planet of the Cheesy Ape Masks. Luckily for humanity, they're all idiots. There's a fair amount of violence - the fake Godzilla really brutalizes Anguirus at the start of the film.
Thoughts and observations: I do wonder what makes "Space Titanium" different from regular titanium.
There's an interesting scene where Godzilla uses lightning to heal himself - perhaps that's why he suddenly develops magnetic powers at the end of the picture. Perhaps it's a fore-runner of the atomic pulse he will develop in the Heisei films.
I never liked King Caesar as a monster. The design just never "grabbed" me.
Nice of the spacemen to put "MG" in romaji on their robot's arms. Maybe they just thought it looked cool?
All in all, not a bad picture. It was nice to see that they were trying to put the character back on course.
Next: More of the same!
Mechagojira no gyakushu (1975)
This film's title means "Mechagodzilla's Counterattack". It was released in the U.S. as Terror of Godzilla in 1977. It now known as Terror of Mechagodzilla.
For Godzilla's last outing in his initial run, they brought back some of the big boys. Ishiro Honda returned to direct, Akira Ifukube came back to do the music. Teruyoshi Nakano did the special effects.
Toru Kawai played Godzilla, Ise More played Mechagodzilla and Katsumi Nimiamoto played Titanosaurus.
Katsuhiko Sasaki played Akira Ichinose.
Tomoko Ai played cybergirl Katsura.
Katsumasa Uchida played Agent Murakoshi.
Goro Mutsumi played the alien commander, despite having been killed off in the last picture. Perhaps they work from a template?
Kenji Sahara played the army commander.
Tomoe Mari played Yuri Yamamoto in what was apparently her only film role ever.
Ikio Sawamura played the unspeaking old servant. Sawamura had parts in Throne of Blood, The Hidden Fortress, The Bad Sleep Well, Yojimbo, High and Low, and Red Beard.
And of course, Akihiko Hirata, in what would turn out to be his last G-film, played Dr. Mafune. Hirata really hammed it up here, and in his old guy wig, cheesy 'stache, glasses and white lab coat, has an unfortunate tendency to resemble Col. Sanders.
There aren't too many differences between the Japanese and U.S. versions. The U.S. version opens with a lengthy, meandering re-cap of Godzilla's history. The Japanese version merely displays a montage of scenes from the previous film.
Also, in the U.S. version, one of the aliens has a "German" accent that would make Major Hochstetter proud: "Don't try to escape, Earthling!"
Ifukube's score on this was really quite good, particularly the re-working of the "Godzilla March" towards the end of the film.
Godzilla doesn't even appear until 50 minutes into the picture. On the other hand, when he does, he has one of his best entrances - appearing in silhouette before sideswiping Titanosaurus.
I'd forgotten the scene where the alien boss literally whips his subordinates - apparently this was considered perfectly good kids' stuff in Japan back then.
I like how when Godzilla rips Mechagodzilla's head off, it can still fight - the aliens have learned a little, at least.
I liked the ending, too, where Godzilla walks off into the sea.
And so that marks the end of what has come to be known as the Showa Era Godzilla films. In the end, Godzilla was done in largely by competition from television, from what I've heard. Studio revenues were dropping. Toho cancelled a number of long-running film series in the 70's - Godzilla was one of the last ones to hang on.
Next: The 1980's!
In anticipation of Godzilla vs. Kong, I'm taking stock of all my Godzilla movies on DVD. I have them all up through the the Heisei era on VHS, and DVD beyond that. In addition, I have all of the Showa era on DVD except Son of Godzilla, Godzilla vs. Megalon and Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla.