QUICK CUTS: GIANT MONSTER PARTY!
Featuring: Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Mark Onspaugh, and Colleen Wanglund
MICHAEL ARRUDA: With the release of PACIFIC RIM (2013), giant monsters are back in the movies. Of course, for years, the market on giant monster movies was cornered by Toho Pictures, Inc. Toho, of course, was responsible for introducing Godzilla to the world, among others, including Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah.
L.L. SOARES: Don’t forget my favorite Minya, who is also sometimes called Manilla. He can blow giant smoke rings you know!
ARRUDA: He even talks in GODZILLA’S REVENGE (1969)!
ARRUDA: Tonight on QUICK CUTS we ask our panel of Cinema Knife Fighters, What’s your favorite Japanese giant monster movie and why?
SOARES: My favorite Japanese giant monster movie is and always will be WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS (1966). It was originally meant to be a sequel to FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD (1965), strangely enough, but any connection is lost in the English translation. Featuring two monsters created from the same genetic material, Sanda is brown and lives in the mountains and is basically a gentle giant, while Gaira is green and lives in the sea and loves to eat people and spit out their clothes! When Gaira threatens to destroy Japan, Sanda steps in to protect the human race. I loved this movie the first time ever saw it, as a kid, and it still remains my favorite Japanese giant monster movie.
COLLEEN WANGLUND: My favorite Japanese kaiju film is Ishiro Honda’s original 1954 flick GODZILLA. Godzilla was a metaphor for nuclear weapons and still holds up as a recognizable symbol of destruction. And even though Godzilla represents carnage, mayhem and annihilation, he is still sympathetic.
ARRUDA: I didn’t find him too sympathetic in that first movie. I found him terrifying. The first GODZILLA movie still scares me.
SOARES: Wimp! But you’re right, Colleen, that’s a great one, too. The one that started it all for Japanese giant monsters! It’s also a very solid movie in its own right, and was rightly included in the esteemed Criterion Collection a couple of years ago.
ARRUDA: It’s a very dark movie, and I think a lot of people don’t realize this because of the way the Godzilla series went during the 1960s and 1970s, with Godzilla becoming almost a supermonster superhero. But that first film is intense, and nothing like the sequels which came after it, at least through the 1970s, anyway.
MARK ONSPAUGH: Michael – my favorite giant monster (other than King Kong) is actually British… It’s Gorgo! I love it because the monster they capture is a baby, and his MOTHER comes looking for him.
ARRUDA: A monster’s best friend is his mother—. (CUE PSYCHO music.)
ONSPAUGH: And the monsters win… Game, set and match for Gorgo and his mommy.
ARRUDA: I like GORGO (1961) a lot too. It has neat special effects, a decent story, and is also significant because strangely there aren’t any female roles in this one, other than Gorgo’s mom, of course. This one’s for the guys, I guess.
SOARES: I liked GORGO a lot, too. The same British company that made that one also made a King Kong ripoff called KONGA (1961, as well), which wasn’t as good as GORGO, but it featured the legendary Michael Gough as its mad scientist villain.,
ARRUDA: You’re right. KONGA isn’t as good as GORGO, as the giant ape doesn’t really appear until the end. It’s worth watching only to see Michael Gough overact as the dastardly evil scientist.
As for me, I love Godzilla, but like you. Mark, I’m partial to KING KONG, so my favorite Japanese giant monster movies would be Toho’s two forays into Kong territory, KING KONG VS. GODZILLA (1960) and KING KONG ESCAPES (1968). Neither one of these two films is all that great, especially for hardcore Kong fans, but they remain for me very guilty pleasures.
Of course, Godzilla enjoyed a resurgence in the 1990s and 2000s, as Toho made a bunch of Godzilla movies that highlighted a seriousness not found in the Godzilla movies of old. While this didn’t always translate into better movies, and while the man-in-suit special effects remained on the goofy side, Godzilla enjoyed some of his best moments during these two decades, and the King of the Monsters certainly was far scarier here than in his silly movies from the 1960s and 1970s.
My favorite film from this new series is GODZILLA, MOTHRA, AND KING GHIDORAH: GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK (2001), affectionately known as GMK, which in spite of its silly title, is a really good movie. It’s my pick for the best Godzilla movie in the entire series.
SOARES: I totally agree with you about the newer Japanese Godzilla movies. They’re not all great, but overall they have a much higher quality level than the movies we grew up on as kids. And some of them even have cooler monsters than we had in the old days. I really got into these flicks when they first started popping up in the U.S. in the 90s, and my favorite is probably GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE (1989), which is interesting because the monster is actually a giant flower (!). It’s a hybrid of Godzilla’s DNA mixed with some kind of rose, and the result is a monster that is unlike anything that came before it. I just thought it was completely unique. I also really like another hybrid creature, Space Godzilla, which is the result of Godzilla’s DNA ending up in outer space (it’s a long story), which giant crystals on his back instead of spikes and more fearsome looking teeth, Space Godzilla was another formidable foe, and can be found in GODZILLA VS. SPACE GODZILLA (1994).
Thanks for reading everybody!
© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Mark Onspaugh and Colleen Wanglund