Godzilla’s Revenge: MST3K Bait If Ever There Was

Godzilla's Revenge DVD Cover

Godzilla's Revenge DVD Cover

Godzilla’s Revenge DVD Cover

Godzilla’s Revenge
Starring: Kenji Sahara, Machika Naka, Tomonori Yazaki
Director: Ishiro Honda
Writer: Shin’ichi Sekizawa

I’ve been reviewing all of the Godzilla movies in order at The Geek Girl Project and I’m moving the reviews over to M31 and Random-words. I’ve also been putting off Godzilla’s Revenge because it is, in my humble opinion, the worst Godzilla movie ever made. 1969’s Godzilla’s Revenge kicked off almost a decade of awful Godzilla movies. As I’ve said before: The 70’s were not kind to Godzilla. But they do get better than Godzilla’s Revenge.

So it is with a box of Swedish fish and a pint of beer (with more in a growler in the fridge) I am girding up my mental loins and pushing play on this movie. A movie I own more for completeness sake than because it’s worth watching. I make this sacrifice for you gentle reader, and it has taken me months to brace myself for this viewing.

Godzilla’s Revenge makes no bones about how awful it is. It starts off with a soundtrack that lets you know exactly what you’re in store for. This movie is about a little boy (and you know my thoughts about children in monster movies) who is bullied by other children. The name of the biggest bully is Gabera, which in another shout out to what we are in for as hapless viewers, is the name of the big monster that Godzilla must fight.

To keep things spicy there is also a robbery and whilst running from his little tormenters Ichiro finds and pockets one of the robbers’ driver’s licenses. Worry not; the soundtrack is rife with extraneous and ridiculous sounds so that we never forget we are watching a painfully bad movie.

Most of the movie is actually the vivid imagination of young Ichiro. But don’t worry if the effects aren’t enough to let you know you’re in someone’s imagination the Disney-esque music will. And that’s perhaps the most insulting thing about this affront to Godzilla fans everywhere; the whole thing is this little boy’s dream. It’s like the Dallas of Godzilla movies, only with super annoying voice dubbing.

Little Ichiro, in his imagination, with no one else around, apparently feels the need to announce the name of every monster he sees during his imaginary trip to Monster Island. He also seems to feel the need to mispronounce about half of them. Then again these voice actors aren’t the first, or perhaps that’s last to mispronounce Anguirus.

Ok I said that it being a dream was the most insulting part but I stand corrected. The most insulting part of this movie is the way young Godzilla was voiced as if he was auditioning to be Goofy. Yes Disney’s Goofy. And since this movie is goofy I guess it stands to reason.

So the real plot is the giant, possibly full grown, Gabera who looks like he might be Gamera’s cross-dressing brother and has the cry of a strangling rooster (actually that could be what his cry is) bullying the little Minella and how big daddy Godzilla tells him to pretty much suck it up and punch the bully in the face. Not really a great message for young monsters or young humans. I do have to give them credit for taking on the topic of bullying almost 50 years before it became popular to do so.

Not to be outdone Minella has a misshapen head that reminds me of some of the things kindergarteners might make with clay in art class and sounds like a jackass, no really–the animal.

There’s also a lot of stock Godzilla footage in this movie. It’s a budget movie on a budget. We see a lot of footage from previous Godzilla movies. Then we get to the new footage, hooray….oh, wait…dear lord the new footage is of Godzilla teaching little Minella how to throw a punch, well ok nuclear blast breath. Again, not the best lesson an adult can teach a child.

For fun they throw in a gratuitous attack on Monster Island by the Japanese air force. I don’t know why and they fly off without ever hitting anything or explaining themselves. Maybe they were getting tired of waiting for Godzilla to head into Tokyo to knock over Tokyo Tower and wanted to give him a little reminder missiling. After all, nothing says, “I miss you,” like a missile attack.

Godzilla’s Revenge makes us long for the straightforward monster terribleness of such painful gems as Godzilla vs. Gigan or even, dare I say it, Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster.

I don’t know what the makers of this film were on but their greatest crime was not sharing with everyone who sat through this awful movie. Children and Godzilla as a fuzzy, cuddly protector do not mix. Godzilla is not cuddly. Godzilla is not a friend to children and Godzilla will not march into town to protect a kid from his tormenters.

If you’re tempted to watch it—don’t. It’s billed as a children’s movie and even kids know this is awful. To be fair Godzilla’s Revenge was filmed during the time Ichiro Honda and company were experimenting with humor and humor is a tricky thing. But this movie, and I say this as a long time Godzilla fan; is just awful. K.

Daimajin Strikes Again But Probably Shouldn’t Have

Diamajin DVD Cover
Diamajin DVD Cover

Diamajin DVD Cover

After watching the first two Daimajin movies I was looking forward to getting back to the set and watching the third one. I enjoy old movies and especially old monster movies. The first two movies of the Daimajin trilogy have a sense of folk tale set in feudal Japan about them and I was anticipating a pleasant repeat in the third movie. What I discovered is that if Daimajin and Return of Daimajin are the Japanese Monster Movie version of a Disney Princess Movie then Daimajin Strikes Again is the Sponge Bob of Monster Movies.

**Spoilers**

Daimajin Strikes Again is based around the same general premise as the first two but instead of a princess offering to sacrifice herself to the god for the sake of her people, the third movie commits the greatest sin a monster movie can commit: it casts children as the main protagonists. Now in Daimajin this could have worked if it had been handled correctly since Daimajin is a god and not a true monster. Although, let it be duly noted that Daimajin is a very monster-like god.

As I’ve noted in my reviews of Godzilla and Gamera movies, children do not belong in them. Monsters are horrible. They are not friends to children. When monsters are made friends of children they become less horrible. Also there is something wrong with a child who can watch some creature slaughter countless other people and still adore the creature.

Point in case in one of the Gamera movies a single child is saved by the titanic terrapin while countless hundreds are immolated by a fireball that same turtle shoots at a Gaos and misses. How does that work? “Oh, so sorry about all those people I just burned to death, but hey look! I saved this one kid.” So while there are notable exceptions (Mothra) in general children do not work out as the main protagonists in monster movies.

Also, unless I’m mistaken, the voice actors who do children’s voices in this and the Mothra movies are the same ones that voice the ponies in My Little Pony. And I don’t know why someone decided that high pitched nasally voices were ‘child-like’ but I wish they hadn’t. The pacing of the dialog is distracting due to odd pauses and the voiced dialogue doesn’t match the subtitles at all. More about those later.

The film starts out with the very angry Daimajin on a rampage tearing up the mountainside while terrified villagers flee for their lives and pray to the angry god. Cut to some time later and a villager staggers out of the forest at the foot of the god’s mountain with a tale of some evil warlord in “Hell’s Valley” that is kidnapping the men and forcing them into slave labor. Seriously? Hell’s valley? That’s the best translation?

Anyway the villagers decide it’s too dangerous to cross the mountain of the god to save their men so four young boys decide to go themselves. This sets the stage for a long, tedious slog through the majority of the movie following these four boys. Whoever wrote the dialogue for these boys makes George Lucas look like the next William Shakespeare. To be fair that could be the fault of the translators and not the original writer. In fact I suspect that is the case.

Moving on, an old woman warns them of a hawk that scratches out the throat of anyone who crosses the god. She tries to warn them to stay off the mountain but they go anyway. We see the hawk watching the boys as they attempt to scale part of the mountain. After miraculously surviving a rock slide that should have killed all four of them I began to have serious doubts about this movie but it wasn’t until the subtitle “GASP!” appeared on screen that the movie fully transformed into full and sadly unintentional comedy.

One of the four boys dies and another’s older brother is horribly murdered by the evil overlord but by the time that happens the movie has fully become so ridiculous that it’s hard to maintain the appropriate level of gravity the subject matter should require. This movie was supposed to be a bittersweet tragedy where some are saved but at great cost. Instead it is unintentionally comedic and in the end the hawk is, as was pointed out to me amid gales of laughter, the best character. K.

Movie Review: Daimajin & Return of Daimajin

Diamajin DVD Cover
Diamajin DVD Cover

Diamajin DVD Cover

Daimajin
Return of Daimajin
Studio: Daiei Co
Producer: Masaichi Nagata
Writer: Tetsuro Toshida

So I heard about this old Japanese monster movie Daimajin at the Kaiju of Pacific Rim panel at the Rose City Comic Con. Now I have been a Godzilla fan since I can remember and I tend to enjoy giant monster movies. I like the kaiju stomping through cities and the countryside and I appreciate the relative lack of gore. I enjoy the morality stories embedded in the plots and I like the old school mad scientist vibe they have. So when one of the members of the Kaiju panel was asked what his favorite monster was that hadn’t been mentioned during the panel discussion Daimajin was his answer and I immediately took note so I could hunt it down. (Godzilla came up during the discussion. Of course he did, he’s the first Kaiju and the undisputed King of the Monsters.)

Daimajin was produced by Daiei Co in 1966, the same fine studio that gave us Gamera. While not black and white the films (there are three, all made the same year) have that feel about them and have recently been made avalable on a region 1 DVD through Mill Creek Entertainment. Although I tried to turn off the subtitles it didn’t work, which could be operator error and to be honest I enjoy reading the subtitles. In this case they were particularly entertaining as they had little to do with what the voice actors said.

****Warning MAJOR SPOILERS****

My first impression is that there was a lot, and I mean a LOT of plot getting in the way of the monster. Not that I mind a good story but I was looking for a monster movie. After thinking about it for a bit I realized that these stories seem to be patterned after, if not actual retellings of, Japanese myths, fairy tales or legends of some kind. This makes them all the more interesting if you ask me.

The first two, Daimajin and Return of Daimajin both follow a similar plot. In Daimajin an orphan taken in by a local nobel plots to attack and wipe out the nobel and his family during a holy ritual the villagers (serfs) perform each year to keep the evil spirit of the mountain trapped by the statue of a good god. Legend has it that the evil spirit was defeated by a warrior and entrapped in the mountain. An elder priestess leads the ritual and intercedes for the people with the god to keep the spirit trapped.

What follows is an ancient morality tale wherein the evil and ungrateful orphan murders the nobel and his wife while a faithful servant rescues the children, a boy and a girl. The priestess hides them on the holy mountain and for 10 years while the evil overlord’s minions hunt for them, provides them with what food and clothing they need. Meanwhile the villagers are treated brutally, forced to work without adequate food or shelter and with no concern for their health or their families.

Finally the young prince and his faithful servant are of age to free their oppressed people. First the servant is captured then the prince when he tries to rescue his friend. The priestess goes to warn the Evil Overlord that his actions are angering the god. He kills her for challenging his absolute authority and sends his minions, who betrayed their former lord for him, to destroy the statue. The climax comes when the princess is captured by the Evil Overlord’s minions and told that her brother and faithful servant are to be executed at daybreak the following day and that they are going to destroy the holy statue.

The princess tries to protect a child who came to the mountain to plead with the god to rescue his father and is taken captive by the evil minions. Once they reach the top of the mountain she tries to protect the statue but in the face of so many armed men cannot. So she falls to her knees and prays to it. All seems lost when the men begin to drive a huge spike into the statues forehead. Then the statue bleeds. Terrified the men flee only to be swallowed up by an earthquake. The girl once again falls before the statue and pleads with it to save her brother. Finally she offers to sacrificer herself to the god if only it will save her brother. She even runs to the nearby waterfall to throw herself over but is prevented by the child and then another earthquake.

The statue comes free from the mountain and marches down to the village where her brother and the faithful servant are to be executed. Since the sun is already rising Daimajin becomes a ball of lightening or magic to cross the distance in time to save the prince and his friend. He kills the evil overlord with the very spike that had been driven into his own forehead (that’s a nice touch). Then, still in a rage the giant statue god starts to head for the village where all of the poor villagers are.

The young child tries to stop it but falls right in front of it. Horrified the princess runs and throws her own body over the child to shield him. Daimajin stops, foot upraised and after a moment steps back. The princess pleads with the god to spare the people for they are innocent and as her tear strikes it’s titanic stone foot it relents, then crumbles to dust.

The Return of Daimajin is similar in that it is about a good and kindly lord verses a cruel and greedy lord who attacks the country for its riches and disrespects the people’s god. This time the statue is on an island and is destroyed by the evil invader. Once again it is a princess who has a kind and noble heart who calls the god to save her betrothed and people.

Knowing more what to expect, I found the second movie more enjoyable than the first but both are quite good. They are from 1966 so the special effects are not what we might expect from one of todays blockbusters but I saw no strings and the models were well done. I haven’t had time to watch the third one but I am looking forward to it. K.