For our first installment of the Fright Night with Fangoria we will discuss the cover feature of the first issue of this monumental magazine. Specifically, we are going to talk about the most enduring man in a rubber suit monster movie, GODZILLA (it's difficult not to write that in caps).
Random Rubber Suit Monster link
Now I've seen the original Godzilla: King of the Monsters before, right? Right? Well actually apparently not. I believe I had only previously seen GODZILLA 1985 which had some of the stock footage from the original release. Both starred Raymond Burr (or did they), so I confused myself into thinking I had seen the original 1954 classic. So I've probably seen all the important scenes... power lines falling, Godzilla leaving the ocean, terrorizing, eating trains, but never the full on movie. So I gave myself a double dose of Godzilla or Gojira as it is named in Japan.
Godzilla 1985... Thank you Creature Feature Week
Godzilla will work for Dr. Pepper
Godzilla will show you how to love and drink soft drinks
So let's start with Gojira because that's the beginning and is a very good place to start according to Maria from the Sound of Music. This movie begins with an absolutely astonishing score. It's exhilarating, dark and "thumpy". You hear Godzilla's roar over and over in different pitches, lengths.
The roar was present in the first Godzilla movie (1954) and was created by composer Akira Ifukube who produced the sound by rubbing a resin-covered leather glove along the loosened strings of a double bass and then slowed down the playback (wikipedia)
It's ominous and potent. I can only imagine what it was like to see it in a theatre or drive-in and (in mono) hear that screech of impending doom.
Article on the Score from Godzilla
The Many Voices of Godzilla
So the plot of the movie is... well... the plot of every large monster movie you've ever seen. So let's not rehash that. Let's say, you know the plot. You know how the movie begins and ends and you know just how "mysterious" it is now that it's been regurgitated and vomited back at you a thousand times. It's nice to know that somethings never change and that every rubber suit monster movie pays homage to this original because THEY NEVER DIFFER IN PLOT DEVICE! It's like Vanilla ice cream and apple pie (or whatever the Japanese equivalent is).
The movie is turbo dark and half the time you can't see just how fake Godzilla looks. Intentional or not it works for the movie. Thumps echo suspense. Screaming villagers wreak the sorrows of mother nature's sweet revenge on an atom bomb wielding world. It looks like the American version was re-digitized/remastered or whatever it is that they do to films to make them brighter.
Godzilla... the original Slap Chop
After reading the Fangoria article on 25 years of Godzilla I was puzzled as to how history viewed this large creature. His evolution into a hero from a villain was chronicled through the first ten movies or so... that word struck me as odd. Villain. Is/Was Godzilla a villain? Atomic radiation is the real bad guy here. Science used as a weapon rather than for the good of man is the villain. :insert soap box here: Then I thought... that's probably just a perspective post-Cold War, post-Nuclear Weapons as the big bad bogeymen. Everything about the article suggests that in 1979, Godzilla was the bad guy in the premier movie. I think he/she was a misunderstood monster/animal that didn't know any better. The dog in the sausage factory... eating everything, havoc wreaking, knocking workers into the sausage grinders (fill in your own demented sausage factory image).
TRIBUTE TO A REAL AMERICAN HERO - G.I.-ZILLA!
So what does Raymond Burr bring to the King of the Monsters (the American version)? He provides a narrative to the non-subtitle reading capital of the world, the United States. I think American audiences can't stand "reading" while watching. Raymond Burr is your narrator in chief. The melodrama abounds in the American version bordering on As The World Turns levels. The movie almost loses all of it's uniquely Japanese qualities sans the destruction of Tokyo and island cultural native dancing. And does it work? Boy does it ever! 20 minutes shaved from the original release. A plot line that seemingly flows smoother. All the monster goodies without any of the thought provoking moral lessons. It's perfect for your Action movie audience. The original, perfect for the Sci-Fi, Ray Bradbury crowd.
How do you solve a problem like Godzilla? - a History
Interview with Perry Mason
The filmography of Mr./Mrs. Zilla extends to some 28 movies. Some good. Some terrible (and potentially better than the good ones for how terrible they truly are). Godzilla fights everyone. Enjoys tag team championship main events. Protects the world only to destroy it. Destroys the world only to protect it.
I've heard often that Godzilla is a hero in Japan. That the audience roots for him (not unlike how we root for Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees). We love to watch them destroy. Godzilla is the child in all of us who loves to tear down the precarious stack of blocks only to rebuild and do it over and over and over again.
-DESTROY ALL DOCTORS: Dr. James Terror VS. GODZILLA!!!