Saturday, January 19, 2008, 7:00 PM San Diego Vintage Sci-Fi: Films & TV from 1902 through 1964
This meeting will be from 7pm-10:30pm.
Art Union Building
San Diego, CA 92102Here is a map.
Gojira (aka Godzilla) (Japan, 1954)
Gojira aka Godzilla King of the Monsters
(Toho; Japan) b/w 81 (98) min
Together with King Kong and Frankenstein's monster - both later
reincarnated in the Japanese Kaiju Eiga or monster movies - Godzilla is
the most popular screen monster ever, appearing in more than 15 films
and spawning a whole genre dominated by the Honda-Tsuburaya team at
Toho. Unlike most Western contributions to the genre, the Japanese
creatures were generally played by actors in rubber suits (here Godzilla
is played by the producer, Tanaka) who would trample all over scale
models of cities, usually culminating in the destruction of Tokyo.
Godzilla himself (with only one or two exceptions, all monsters were
male) is a 400-foot-tall reptile inspired by the tyrannosaurus rex that
fights the giant ape in King Kong (1933). He is awakened by an A-bomb
explosion and emerges fully grown from the sea to attack Japan. In the
end, a weakness is identified by clever Japanese scientists and the
monster is killed - usually with a possibility for revival. Here, oxygen
is removed from the sea to defeat the monster when all the world's
weaponry has failed.
Many aspects of this ritualistic pattern, based on an original story
credited to Shigeru Kayama, became standard features of the genre,
including the breathing of fire (occasionally ice - Baragon - or a laser
- Ghidorah - or fire-extinguisher - Gaos). There is virtually no amorous
intrigue in these films: the monster is the star and people are victims.
The violence is impersonal and massive but not represented as personal,
detailed cruelty. The monsters do not eat people. In fact they rarely
eat at all. They are amphibian, until the appearance of Gappa (Daikyoju
Gappa, 1967), the triphibian monster. The major exception to these
generic conventions is Mosura (1961): she is female, flies and is a
contraption manipulated with wires, not a rubber-suited actor. Other
variations came into play as the genre developed its own dynamic.
The great character actor Shimura, familiar from many Kurosawa movies,
appeared in this immensely successful film and made various guest
appearances in subsequent Honda monster movies, including Chikyu Boeigun
(1957). Made at a boom time in Japanese production - the country was
overtaking the USA as world leader in film production - the smash hit
was bought by Joseph E. Levine who initiated the practice of inserting
newly shot American footage into foreign films, an example followed with
Russian Science Fiction by Gorman and others (Planeta Burg, 1962; Meshte
Nastreshu, 1963; etc). Terry Morse was employed to shoot scenes with
Raymond Burr as a reporter witnessing the events. Some Japanese footage
was eliminated, but the US version still ran 17 minutes longer than the
original. It was released in 1956 and proved almost as big a box-office
success as Honda's film.
Quatermass II, Ep. 2 (UK, 1955)
Radar Men from the Moon, Ep. 9 (1952)