Thursday, July 8, 2010

G-FEST THIS WEEKEND PLUS MONSTER KID REPOST

  I'm heading to G-Fest (http://www.g-fan.com/) this Saturday, so in the the spirit of all things Godzilla, I'm reposting my Growing Up a Chicago Monster Kid-Godzilla article I did last year. I hope to see some of you at the fest. Please come and say hello. Also remember it's about passing the torch too. Talk to the all of the kids that come out this weekend, keep the fandom growing and alive. You would laugh at how many kids I contaminated through out the years in my neighborhood. All thirsting Kamen Rider, Macross, Gundam, Baoh, Super Sentai and a little Brave Series. One of them could even play the end credits theme to Kamen Rider Black RX on his guitar. Most of them have wives and kids now, but on their computer desk or at work sits that cool Gundam model, Voltron, or Battroid Valykrie, from days of long ago.......

I still remember it clearly today. I think I was around 3 or 4 years old. My family lived in the rear apartment of a small two-flat. We had a black and white TV, the kind with a hard to turn channel dial that went clunk! clunk! when you changed channels. Like any kid I was glued to the TV all day long. In the morning I would watch GARFIELD GOOSE AND FRIENDS with Frazier Thomas on WGN Channel 9. Frazier and his puppet friends would host a daily fix of the coolest cartoons. The variety of programming was amazing. Not only did you get classics like CLUTCH CARGO and SPACE ANGEL, but they also ran the original FLASH GORDON serial with Buster Crabbe. I couldn’t wait for the day when they would show the episode when Flash would fight the Mongo dinosaur in the cave. The icing on the cake was when they showed Karel Zeman’s Czech classic, JOURNEY TO THE BEGINNING OF TIME (CESTA DO PRAVEKU) shown in daily 10 minute clips. If you saw this one when you were a kid, no other dinosaur movie would have mattered.
 The rest of the day I would jump back and forth between WFLD-32 and WSNS-44, both UHF heaven. WFLD would broadcast shows like FELIX THE CAT, POPEYE, LOST IN SPACE, BATMAN, and THE OUTER LIMITS. WSNS would give you a small dose of Japanese cartoons like PRINCE PLANET and SPEED RACER. Oh yeah the WHITE SOX too. A few years later all the good stuff came, JOHNNY SOKKO, SPACE GIANTS, and ULTRAMAN.
   One Saturday afternoon, I was probably playing with my Mego dolls, I looked up at the TV and saw something I never saw before…..GIANT MONSTERS!!! What’s this? A mutant dinosaur fighting giant mantises with a baby dinosaur too. Yep that was SON OF GODZILLA. In fact WFLD’s Saturday afternoon MONSTROUS MOVIE at 1:30 showed others like GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER, GODZILLA VS. THE THING, and DESTROY ALL MONSTERS. WGN would show KING KONG vs. GODZILLA and GHIDRAH, THE THREE HEADED MONSTER. Icon, hero, imaginary friend, what ever you want to call it, I lived and breathed Godzilla. Every FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND was bought with hopes of a picture of Japan's mightiest monster. My parents bought me a paperback called THE WORLD’S GREATEST MONSTER QUIZ. Within this little bible had pictures of UNIVERSAL MONSTERS, ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS, THE MONSTER OF PIEDRAS and a treasured still from KING KONG VS. GODZILLA. I looked at that book over and over. Then came a 70’s staple, my Dad came home one day with the Godzilla Aurora model kit. My Dad took his time and built it for me with all of the glow in the dark pieces instead of the regular ones. He even splashed a little red paint on the tongue and claws, then a little blue on the fins.
  One Christmas I had two rather large presents under the tree. When I opened them, to my surprise they were giant robots, SHOGUN WARRIORS to be exact. One was red, Dragun from GETTER ROBO G and the other with a bird-like head was Raydeen from YUUSHA RAIDEEN. Shogun Warriors had my full attention, especially when the next year I saw a commercial that added Godzilla to their toy line. To tease me even more, the Sears catalogue had pictures of it. I begged and begged all year until the next Christmas. I was like Ralphy waiting for a Red Ryder BB-Gun, then my dream came true. I didn’t care about the design of the toy, his fins were too small or that his fist shot off, it was Godzilla! In years to come I found a bendy Godzilla, a Barrel of Monsters, and Godzilla’s Gang. Did anyone else get Blue Oyster Cult’s Extraterrestrial Live, with the best version of their hit single Godzilla?
   From the first movie to the 28th and final one, Godzilla went through several changes, as far as character design and personality. Some fans brush off the the oldies (Showa era) and only prefer the 90’s (Heisei era) or Millennium series. There are others who believe the series should have ended after the fourth film MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA and some after the ninth, DESTROY ALL MONSTERS. Myself, I lean towards the old school, and only favor only a few of the new. When I think of the Big G, it’s not the radioactive monster from the 1954 film, that reminds people of nuclear horror, or the long drawn out military stories that are more important than the monsters in the Millennium series. For me it’s Godzilla the hero. It’s Ken from GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER yelling “Come on Godzilla”. It’s Godzilla kicking boulders back and fourth with Ebirah in GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER. It’s Godzilla leading Earth’s monsters into battle against the Kilaaks in DESTROY ALL MONSTERS. And yes, Godzilla showing Minya how to use his atomic breath in SON OF GODZILLA.
GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER was the beginning of what I like to call the island series. After ripping off a yacht to find his brother lost at sea, Ryota and his two buddies, along with a bank robber Yoshimura, get stranded on an island. The survivors not only have to deal with a terrorist (Red Bamboo) operation on the island, but a giant lobster, Ebirah as well. While hiding out in a cave they discover Godzilla sleeping beneath them. They decide no revive the monster to help them escape from Red Bamboo and Ebirah. As an extra treat, Godzilla fights a giant condor and Mothra shows up to save the day.
The music in GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER is a plus too. You get cool go-go music early in the film during a dance contest. When Ebirah first surfaces it's almost like he has his own wrestling entrance theme, a catchy repetitive acoustic surf guitar. You can't beat the new Mothra tune either.
Shot on location, SON OF GODZILLA features an adventure on a beautiful tropical island. A team of scientists conduct weather experiments on the remote Sollgel Island. A mishap causes a weather balloon to rain radioactive particles on the island and cause mutations among the flora and fauna. Roaming around the island now are giant mantises (Kamakiras) and a giant spider (Kumonga). The Kamakiras dig up an egg out of a pile of boulders that reveals a baby Godzillla called Minya. The little G's cries are heard by Daddy who comes to save the day.
Everything from Godzilla and Minya fighting Kumonga together, to them getting ready to hibernate, seems so serene and satisfying at the end. Watching this one in January really warms you up for summer.
Imagine turning on the television when you were a kid one afternoon seeing a movie with eleven giant monsters battling it out on the screen. I never heard of DESTROY ALL MONSTERS until that day. It was a high without caffeine. It was the debut of my favorite Godzilla design and also became my favorite movie of all time. The story was simple, a race of aliens known as the Kilaaks take control of Earth’s monsters and unleash them on the whole world. Of course we get control back, to have the greatest movie ending EVER!!!! Godzilla, Minya, Rodan, Angilas, Gorosaurus, Baragon, Manda, Mothra, Kumonga, and Varan vs. King Ghidorah.

After watching this I could run around the house ten times, ride my bike up and down the street 15 times, then still would have energy to burn. The visuals are just so impressive in this film. During the attack on Japan, there is a scene where Manda appears wrapping itself around the railway while Godzilla is stopping around in the background. That was too sweet. Another memorable scene is when the SY-3 rocket ship is chasing the last Kilaak ship, which is on fire in order to burn our cities down. The two ships pass over the monsters at the base of Mt. Fuji. Just as they go over Godzilla, the Big G launches his atomic breath at the Kilaak ship, which at the same time lights up the evening sky. It’s a quick scene, but the fact that they said hey, Godzilla’s atomic fire is bright and powerful, then took the time to highlight that, was cool.
For me GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER is Godzilla at it’s best. I know, I know, you might say what about MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA or the 1954 original. They are awesome, but here you get the DESTROY ALL MONSTERS suit and a Godzilla that has personality in a bizarre, surrealistic atmosphere that was ahead of it’s time, grasping a real problem issue in Japan, pollution. Hedorah a life-form from space, takes advantage of the nature crushing pollution by consuming it and growing to monstrous proportions. The monster evolves throughout the movie, also spreading toxic gases and flesh eating sludge on the way. Godzilla appears, he seems tired and tired off the human race and it’s mistakes. After getting poisoned, acid burned, and beaten to death, Godzilla finally destroys Hedorah.

GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER blends visuals of beauty (flowers, Mount Fuji) and psychedelic imagery against fuming factory smoke stacks. The enemy is not Hedorah, it’s ourselves. Director Yoshimitsu Banno had it figured out, taking Japan’s biggest icon to send the message. In the young boy Ken’s school report he writes “If Godzilla were here he’d save the day”. I just turned 40, and 30 years later that line still crosses my mind with all of the world’s problems. Speaking of Ken, how many of you wanted to hang out in his back yard! Geez, I was finally able to get a recast of that freakin’ Godzilla he was sliding down the slide. The end of this movie would always make my eyes water, with Ken yelling “Godzilla stay here!!” “Godzilla thanks a lot” with the upbeat music kicking in, just left me fulfilled and smiling

7 comments:

  1. Have a great time at G-Fest. I'm looking forward to your post-fest post!

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  2. Hot diggety WHAT A GREAT POST ROY!! Some incredibly fantastic photos and concise trenchant commentary. But what I like the best is the reminiscing and "down memory lane" remembrances of your monster-kid upbringing. The personal touch you put into your posts is appreciated.
    Have a great G-Fest!
    r/e

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  3. Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster is my favorite too. Have a great time at G-Fest! I'm so jealous, I wish I could go!

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  4. I always cry at the end of Son of Godzilla. It's a really moving image.

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  5. It hasn't just been the neighborhood kids you contaminated, Roy. :) Your kindness to me over 15 years ago was one of the keys to cementing my love of Japanese live-action SF and classic anime. I'm not just being funny when I refer to you as my "sentai sensei". You made a huge difference in my life, because this fandom gave me the confidence to write about all sorts of other stuff.

    So, if I haven't said so lately, thank you. Hope you have a great time at G-Fest. :)

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  6. Thanks Guys!!!
    Geez Chris, what a nice compliment!!!! You made my eyes tear up brother.
    By the way G-Fest was a blast now that my son is older and very into everything Japanese, Star Wars, among other things. It's definitely a "like Father, like Son" thing.

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  7. Gotta say, who doesn't love a bit of Godzilla!?
    Mind you, my REAL soft spot is for the beautiful Mothra - for a giant insect she's a real babe! ;-)
    Great blog! Love it!

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