Monday, May 5, 2014

The Litany of Godzilla: Showa Series Part Three- Changing Alliances

Godzilla, Ebirah, Mothra: Big Duel in the South Sea
(aka Ebirah, Horror of the Deep, Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster)

A giant claw destroys a ship, a seer tells a woman her son is not in the land of the dead, some guys collapse on the third day of a go go dance contest and a bank robber with a heart of gold -that looks a lot like Astronaut Fuji- who uses toy guns is on a sailboat that doesn’t belong to him.

Amazingly, these threads all tie together.  The guy organizing the dancers (Ryota, the son of the woman with the seer) brother was on the claw ship.  Because he failed to win a boat in the dance contest, he steals the already stolen boat of the bank robber.

Everybody got that?

The story then becomes a James Bond film, with the robber in the lead role.  There’s an evil army using slave labor (led by an eye patch wearing gentleman who looks awfully familiar [Later edit- His immediate superior and subordinate look familiar in an army general/ editor and Princess Butler/ Doctor Hu way, but that was much harder to tell before hearing their real voice in all the films] )  to make nuclear weapons and berry juice. (Note, we only even see evidence of the juice.)  There’s a hidden high tech base on a mysterious island, and there’s a native girl in a skimpy costume.  There’s much sneaking around, covert fighting, and snazzy spy worthy stuff.

Then our heroes find Godzilla sleeping in a cave, and everyone remembers we’re in a Kaiju film.  This is especially true of the -looks an awful lot like Miss Namikawa- native girl (and all the slaves) who come from Infant Island, home of a giant Moth of our previous acquaintance.   They all sing various new and amusing Mothra songs to ask the big bug to come rescue them.  Their prayers are aided by a chorus line on Infant Island, and some faux, non Peanut, Shobijin.  (Fauxbijin?)

During some generic sneakiness, the main cast gets caught in the secret base, but escapes using canisters of the berry juice gas.  Then they get spit up.

Ryota grabs a conveniently nearby helium balloon [or it grabs him] and floats to Infant Island to reunite with his brother, Yata. 

One of his friends gets thrown in with the slaves and convinces them to only use the leaves of the yellow berry plant to make the juice.  The berry juice gas somehow keeps the giant claw monster from attacking boats.  In an equally large “somehow” the juice and gas look exactly the same whether berries or leaves are used.

The bank robber, native girl, and whoever is left realize there hasn’t been any Godzilla in this Godzilla movie for too long, and decide to wake him up. They do this with lightning which takes three days of waiting.    Luckily, Infant Island is about a three day canoe trip away, allowing the cast to begin to reunite.

Godzilla emerges from the mountainside, his teeth are much less pronounced, making him look less like an symbol of nuclear destruction and more like a Muppet.  He heads straight to the ocean to have a boulder beach volleyball game compete with surf music against Ebirah, the giant monster shrimp that was much scarier when he was only a claw.

Once the game ends, Godzilla proves a radioactive breath weapon beats splashing every time, but instead of merely boiling his foe, to be eaten later with gallons of butter, wades in for hand to claw combat.  The Big G smacks the crustacean with a rock and emerges in time to save the Native Girl from pursuing soldiers. Then he stares compassionately at her and takes a nap.

Now, a more cynical viewer may claim Godzilla’s lightning powered, girl protecting, rock wielding, propensity for napping behavior was only a result of the script originally featuring King Kong, and being forced to change when Toho lost the rights.  I however, choose to see Godzilla’s actions, affinity for lightning, and even increasingly more anthropoid face, as evidence that when King Kong sent his electricity into Godzilla during their movie outing, it also transferred some of his personality and essence.  This not only explains Godzilla’s facial feature changes, but also how he becomes more of a protector and less of a threat as the films progress.

Back to the story: Godzilla is woken up by a giant condor that files in from another movie, only to get roasted by the King of Monsters.  Before he can settle back into his monkey influenced snooze, a squadron of fighter jets attack him, and fare only slightly better than the bird did.

The guys take this opportunity of exploding planes, and Godzilla’s subsequent cha cha across the evil base to “rescue” the native girl.

Not fully understanding what it takes to be an evil army, the bad guys rush out leaving the nukes behind to blow up the island, and take only the berry juice-gas-stuff.

Ebirah pops up again to destroy the evil army boat, because their berry juice-gas-stuff was really only leaf juice-gas-stuff.  Godzilla gets into another tussle with super shrimp, because that’s the title of the film, and in short order rips his claws off and sends him a runnin’. [Later edit- It is possible the underwater part of the battle is longer in the Japanese version...or I fell asleep the first time.]

Meanwhile, our heroes and the former slave natives are stuck on a island about to go boom.  The “don’t go boom switch” is, of course, just out of reach under some rubble Godzilla knocked down while stomping the base.  Nice one there, Big G.

As luck would have it, all the singing finally pays off and Mothra shows up to carry everyone safely to Infant Island in a giant mothborne hammock that can be assembled in an astonishingly short amount of time.

Godzilla returns from his water victory and decides to be a complete jerk for no visible reason, breathing radioactivity toward the people and Mothra.

Mothra has had enough of Godzilla’s shenanigans, and beats the snot out of him with wing buffets, wind, and her cute little feet.

The heroic insect carries everyone off to Infant Island, the bank robber pledges to go straight, and – in spite of the fact that he just tried to barbecue all of them – everyone feels bad for Godzilla and tells him to jump off the Island before it explodes, which he does in an epic cannonball.

Monster Islands Decisive Battle:
Son of Godzilla

We start on yet another island (or is it???) with a secret base on it.  This one has a scientist doing weather experiments.  They’re not supposed to be evil, but the leaders deliberately break the radio and don’t tell anyone, so maybe they’re climate controllers working for the villains of the next movie, or they’re bankrolled by COBRA to make a Weather Dominator.

The main goal is that by perfecting the technology to freeze an area it will make more of Earth habitable. Since one area they mention is Siberia, I’m guessing something is lost in translation.

This island is supposedly uninhabited, not counting the nine foot long praying mantises that no one seems concerned about, of course.  However, the plucky reporter, who parachuted into the secret island, and is made a cook for unknown reasons instead of being shot, sees a girl before an experiment starts. [Later Edit- The Japanese version has a pre-credit scene explaining where the Plucky Reporter comes from. It also makes is easier to recognize he bears a striking resemblance to the inventor of the Lady Alarm]

The test goes badly, because only the heating explodey balloon thing goes off, and the freezy explodey balloon thing doesn’t work.

The entire island is heated to two hundred degrees, and heavily irradiated.  No worries though! All the people are okey dokey! This includes the girl, who is the daughter of a scientist that WAS concerned about the giant bugs but died leaving her to live in a cave on the island, since no non-secret base people ever visit.

Just go with it.

Aside from everyone being sweaty, the main side effect of the radioactive heat wave is that each nine foot mantis is now a deeply concerning fifty meter long Kamacuras (or Gimantis in English).

Oh, and a big ole radioactive egg shows up, which the Gimantises poke until it hatches revealing the wet, pathetic and chubby Minilla, the titular Son of Godzilla.

The pudgy and helpless newborn is prime pickings for the Kamacurases. But luckily, Godzilla (who looks a little different, but still somewhat Muppety) shows up.

That is, it is lucky for Minilla, not really anyone else as he shows up by walking right through the base.  There was some luck for the people, I guess, as it made the guy who chose that moment to go nuts and attack everyone with a gun seem somewhat insignificant.

Godzilla power slams the bugs, gives them a stern breathing on, and knocks some rock’s on his kid’s head, ‘cause it’s funny. He then uses his tail to pull the little one away.

Scientist's Daughter Girl is falling for Plucky Reporter, in between insulting the lack of manliness about every aspect of his actions and wardrobe.  She also can blow a Minilla summoning whistle, and feeds the little goofball melons. 

We then have some heartwarming father son moments.  Godzilla teaches the decidedly larger Minilla how to amp up his breath from smoke rings to the full radioactive burn into a nearby lake of red jello, by stomping on the tykes tail. Yes, there is hugging afterwards.

There’s also some playing jump rope on his snoozing dad’s tail, and a radioactive temper tantrum when Godzilla wants his melon eating time to end that leads to Minilla being dragged off looking ridiculous, and causing rock falls that uncover  Kumonga, the giant spider called Spiga in English, that is going to cause big problems later in the film.

Back at the secret base, everyone has finally fallen desperately ill after the intense exposure. Scientist’s Daughter Girl knows the only cure is the lake of red jello.

Kamacuras shows up leading the girl to call Minilla, who’s more of a distraction than actual help. Godzilla saves him from another embarrassing smacking around and goes back to his nap.

The people have bigger problems to deal with at this point.  The fully awakened Kumonga webs them into a cave and attacks with its giant pokey finger of death.  They escape, cure everyone, and set up a new radio to call the “get us outta here” boat.

Minilla, completely depressed and dejected, stumbles upon Spiga, and once again, things go poorly for the little guy.  His terror is impressively displayed, considering how silly he looks. A couple of the Gimantis distract the monster spider from tuning Minilla into a web taco, long enough for Godzilla to finally wake up.

Things continue to go poorly even with Godzilla, and Minilla’s panic is really heartbreaking, if you can get past the fact that he’s a chunky, stubby, mutant radioactive lizard.

Between Mothra and Kumonga, it’s pretty obvious Godzilla has big problems with giant bug webbing, a peculiar Kryptonite, but a fitting one in his universe.

There’s a bunch of family tandem breath versus webbing attacks, and nasty spider goop in the big G’s eye, but eventually father and son prevail.  A frequent outcome when both can breathe white hot death.

The scientists, just before escaping by submarine, decide to freeze the island using the now working freezy explodey balloon thing, for reasons that aren’t entirely obvious, except to give one more heartwarming moment. Godzilla cuddles his child as they go into suspended animation from the cold. 

Considering at one point they refer to it as “Island of the Monsters,” perhaps they froze it long enough to set up the system seen in the next film?

Attack of the Marching Monsters
(aka  Destroy all Monsters)

This story is set in 1999, and is supposedly in the distant future, after all the Showa films, even the ones made subsequently. Frankly, I don’t buy it.  There’s no technology that isn’t seen in any of the other movies, and there’s linear connections both before and after. Therefore I say it happens chronologically exactly as released.

So there.

In this “future” all Kaiju live on Monsterland, an island in the South Pacific, which (in my head) may or may not be where Berry Juice production or climate control experiments were done.

The Kaiju are kept on the island using specific methods, but many of which look a lot like what may or may not be Berry Gas.

There’s a tour of Monsterland en route to the deep underwater base where the Kaiju are monitored, serving as a Monsterketeer Roll Call.  The gangs all here, except in cases of copyright expiration, or severe suit damage.  Mothra’s a caterpillar again, which either means the other one didn’t die after fighting Godzilla, or it’s the next generation.  You can decide, I have enough Kaiju continuity to create in my own head. 

Oh, and Rodan eats dolphins, that’s by design and everyone’s OK with it. 
Those wacky Sixties.

Another future aspect mentioned is the daily flights to the moon base.  One is going on commanded by Katsuo, (who looks a lot like the guy who invented the Lady Alarm)  boyfriend of Kyoko- one of the scientists, and his crew on the rocket ship SY-3. 

Some new kind of gas envelops all the Kaiju on Monsterland and all the scientists in the base, leading to the beginning of fun.  The monsters show up around the world attacking different cities.  Let’s face it, Godzilla as a hero is nice and all, but watching him smash up detailed model cities is the main hootworthyness of the character and his buddies.  The Big G himself destroys the UN, making a much more cheered appearance in NY than his namesake will in the real Ninety’s.

Kastuo sees a UFO on the moon, but has to bring his ship home when ordered to investigate Monsterland.  One would think that with daily flights to the moon, there’d be more than one rocket around.  But the SY-3 is the only ship we see in the whole story.  For a civilization with daily space flights, you’d think they wouldn’t have to order Katsuo to fly all over creation, but they do.

The investigation of the base leads to more gas, some captures, some p-tchoo laser gun fights and a bit of information gained.

Aliens named the Kilaak, who dress like Esther Williams, are taking over the earth. They are controlling not only the monsters, but the scientists as well.  The people are high jacked by a chip in their necks. 

With the knowledge that the scientists have placed transmitters all over the world to draw and control the Kaiju, the SY-3 is sent hunting for radio waves. I guess radio waves are tricky and need to be flown right next to in order to find them.

With all of those controlled by the Kilaaks known, the world is notified and images dispersed. Unfortunately, the way the crack security forces act on this is NOT by looking at people’s faces, but by turning them around to check for microchip neck scars.   This allows Kyoko, with her transmitter earrings, ample opportunity to summon all the Kaiju to Japan.

The Army attacks Godzilla which goes even worse than usual once Anguirus shows up and joins in.  The Kilaaks issue the standard alien invasion ultimatum, and the SY-3 heads back to the moon again.  I guess they’re the ones making all the daily trips.

Katsuo sees the UFO once more, and this time chases it into a cave discovering a Time Tunnel looking transport thingy. I’m pretty sure I saw something like that on one of the islands in the last two films.  See, my theory holds, especially when we learn the Kilaaks need high temperature to live and not turn into squidgy rock thingies.  They must have been behind the weather control experiments.

Once the SY-3 survives some flame attacks, Katsuo and the gang explore in a little moon car, which coincidentally has the exact same interior as the SY-3.  What are the odds?

With the Kilaaks reduced to squidgyness after the moon heat seal is gone, the crew sets about removing the Key Kaiju Control Thingy in an extremely long cutting torch scene set to catchy music.

The Kaiju are all around Mount Fuji, and now controlled by humans.  There’s another bit of roll calling, and pre game play by play as they all show up.  One of the UFOs is really King Ghidorah, leading to an epic free for all against the three headed golden space dragon.

Indicating that tactics is not their specialty, the Earth Kaiju lead with two guys who have no distance attacks, Anguirus and Gorosaurus.  Luckily they wise up pretty quickly and bring in Mothra and Kumonga to deliver webbing that has stopped even Godzilla.  After that, the struggle is completely one sided with everyone piling on King Ghidorah, except Varan, the Unbelievably Damaged.  Even Minilla knocks a head down with a smoke ring.  The evil space dragon runs away again with his tails between his legs.

The collateral damage frees the Kaiju of all control, but since Godzilla is awesome, he smashes the Kilaak base in Mout Fuji by himself, rendering them squidgied.

Stopping the aliens and chasing the triple threat terror into space isn’t the end though, a flying fire monster appears to burn and blow up large sections of Japan.  The SY-3, again covering the distance in a remarkably short period, comes back from the moon and defeats the thing in a daringish dogfight.  Turns out it was only a UFO after all, and it worked like that because of the Kilaaks affinity to heat, or something.

The Kaiju cheer the SY-3, and the scene cuts to them all home and happy again on Monsterland.

This film was supposed to be the end of the Godzilla story.  However, it was packed with awesomeness, a big gang of Kaiju, great models and a fun story. Therefore, it was successful and the franchise continued.

It had a decent budget, and reunited three of Godzilla’s four fathers. 
Director: Ishiro Honda
Producer: Tomoyuki Tanaka
Composer: Akira Ifukube

The fourth, effects Wizard Eiji Tsuburaya, still had a little magic left in him as well.

Surely this was the new Golden Age of Godzilla!



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