Here’s a lighter styled Toho Kaiju film concerning an undeveloped island in the So. Pacific. It’s one that borrows a bit from Japanese mythology using some common archetypes, the Squid or Cuttlefish, the Crab and the Turtle. It also grabs a little from the many Toho films that came before it and sloshes them around for a new tale.
When Japan’s Jupiter explorer crashes back to earth it brings back a space amoeba which takes over a Cuttlefish and causes Gigantism in the local creatures. A group of investigators which includes, a vacation resort developer, the comrade of a different missing developer, and a pro-photographer looking for the crashed Jupiter ship, land on the native island. The island natives warn that outsiders not paying homage to the Gods and using the island for their own gain will be responsible for the punishment.
The strangers enter the village and are immediately surrounded. They meet the tribal shaman, a friendly chap who greets them with, “Die! Friends of the devil!” Soon the giant cuttlefish attacks the village and kills (Mr. friendly) the Shaman. The village natives now want to help the strangers, offering them guns and gasoline. What a great place! They must’ve thought the intruders were Americans, lol. So, they figure out the amoeba uses radar waves to control the giant creatures. They block the signal and the creatures fight each other until a volcano erupts and swallows them in lava. Now they can open the resort and the natives can work for the man!
This film is nothing more than silly fun. Gezora, the cuttlefish/squid looking creature is an amusing muppet-ish thing to look at. The monsters smash some village huts and do some light battle. Yukiko Kobayashi runs around in native wear for some eye candy and there’s some hokey science explanations to amuse those with a sense of humor. I wouldn’t go out of your way to see this, but if you have nothing to watch on a lazy afternoon it could be entertaining. The music is kinda’ funky, 60’s, cool and the sunshine and flowery island scenery is a change from the gloomy world of Godzilla films. It almost seemed like they made this film just to send the crew and actors on a semi-vacation to a nice island habitat with sun-shining atmosphere.
A silly disjointed Toho Kaiju film probably only enjoyable to completists in the genre.
I give it 2.2 floppy fish cakes on the giant monster mash-up fish-food pate’ scale.
I was going to put all my picks in one post, but I’m such a Godzilla geek, I couldn’t stop writing and make these reviews shorter. So if you haven’t checked out 1-5 of my fave Godzilla movies, the link is at the bottom of the page. These are in chronological order by year they were released – not by which ones I like best.
6 thru 10 – the later years
6) Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989)
Godzilla’s radioactive cells are found in a riverbed. These cells are infused with a plant by a scientist looking to create a weapon against Godzilla. The plant is an animal/plant hybrid made of Godzilla’s own DNA and grows to monstrous proportions in a nearby Lake. When Godzilla shows up they battle. This film also introduces, Miki, a young lady with psychic abilities. She is able to feel the thoughts of Godzilla. She will be a recurring character in several of the Heisei era films. Godzilla and Biollante break into a battle in the center of the city which causes much destruction. Biollante continues to mutate as it absorbs more of Godzilla’s DNA and grows much larger than Big-G, making it a formidable enemy. Toho finally got back to its roots in having the battle scenes in city landscapes rather than off in some countryside area. The buildings and skyscrapers provide the scale proportions that tell us we are watching giant monsters. Without the cityscape, were just watching wrestlers in monster costumes. This is highly regarded by Godzilla fans as one of the best modern G-films.
7) Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993)
This is another favorite amongst Godzilla fans, introducing a newly reconstructed Mechagodzilla to defend Japan from Big-G, and a newly revamped, Rodan. Also introduced is a baby Godzillasaurus who will grow in consecutive films until it reaches adulthood. The film starts with a battle between Godzilla and Rodan on a small Pacific island. They both seem obsessive about a large egg recently unearthed by scientists. As they battle, the scientists remove the egg from the island. Back at a scientific headquarters the egg hatches to reveal a baby Godzilllasaurus. It’s not long before Baby-G feels threatened and calls out telepathically to both, Godzilla and Rodan. G-Force (the Godzilla fighting military unit) will use Baby to lure Godzilla out of hiding and attack him with the new weapons of Mechagodzilla. However, Rodan shows up first and Mecha-G must fight off the heat-ray shooting Pterosaur, before concentrating its energies on big daddy. There’s a heavy duty brawl on the edge of the city, which includes Big-G stomping a baseball stadium, Rodan being buried by the ruble of a giant skyscraper and Godzilla throwing Mecha-G into a cluster of office buildings. Mecha-G is armed with some ingenious new weapons and it seems they have taken down Godzilla, until he is helped by an unlikely partner.
8) Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000)
This is the 2nd film in the Godzilla Millennium series and a sequel to Godzilla 2000. ‘G-Grasper’ (a new team of scientists and pilots assembled to fight Godzilla) is developing a weapon that opens a black hole in space for a short span of time. They plan on using it against Godzilla, forcing him through, to rid the earth of his menacing attacks. When they test the weapon in the remote countryside, unbeknownst to the scientist, a small creature similar to a dragonfly flies through to land on earth. It starts out small and reproduces, invading the sewer systems and attacking humans discretely like a classic horror movie. The swarm, in a need for more and more energy is attracted to Godzilla for his high concentration of power. They swarm around him and drain his radioactive energy in a fantastic scene on a pacific island. Having absorbed much power, the swarm flies off to feed the mother dragonfly, a giant winged beast. It awakes. It flies, it attacks Japan, and it fights Godzilla in a monster Kaiju rumble. Fun stuff! I love the creature design of Megaguirus. The ‘science’ in this film is actually plausible and Godzilla’s heat-ray is a blazing white-hot special-effect.
9) Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Monsters All Out Attack (2001)
Seriously, this is one bad-ass Godzilla in this film! This film (aka: GMK) takes the Japanese mythological approach to the monsters, addressing them as Demon, Dragon, and Butterfly (Godzilla, Ghidorah, and Mothra respectively). Godzilla has no eyeballs with this design; only whites, which make it look demonic for sure. Its body is more like the original with the unique multi-spiked fins of the early films. Here, Ghidorah, the dragon is more a force of good (it was hard for me to wrap my head around that) and protector for Japan. Along with Mothra and Baragon, they try to save Japan from the demon. There’s actually a very good sub-plot about a young filmmaker, Yuri. She makes pseudo-documentaries about ghosts, myths, and legends, which is equivalent to a filmed version of ‘strange but true’ tabloids such as “News of the World.” When she gets a hunch about a real story developing–the earth tremors and deaths caused by the waking of Baragon deep in the earth–her boss rejects her investigating plans and tells her to stick to the assignment. She ignores him and hunts down the trail that leads to the monster’s big battle with Godzilla. You really want to see Godzilla in this film taken down. The film shows innocent people getting injured and dying, better than all other Godzilla films. There are great camera angles, not usually shown in Kaiju films, to depict this. A terrified mother in her home as Godzilla’s foot comes crashing thru and an injured young woman in the hospital screaming as the place is destroyed by the beast’s tail are just a couple of examples. You have to commend director/co-writer, Shūsuke Kaneko, for that. I like the realism in this aspect of the film. The film is also loaded with fairy dust, golden rays, and spiritual connotations, but if you can accept these fantasy aspects, the film is a real treat. The fairy twins usually associated with Mothra films are not part of this tale but the film does have an homage appearance of the twins as normal citizens (regular size).
10) Godzilla: Tokyo SOS (2003)
A new Mechagodzilla was (in the previous film, Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla), constructed upon a unique frame – the skeletal bones of the original Godzilla (Gojira – 1954), which had been lying dead upon the seafloor for over 50 years. This 3rd generation Mechagodzilla is a formidable weapon. It has a Hyper-maser in the center of its chest, a rocket launcher on its back and it shoots lightning bolt lasers from its mouth. Mothra comes to defend Japan as the princess fairies try to warn the military not to use the new Mechagodzilla. They don’t trust those bones and the spirit of the dead in the bones stops Mechagodzilla from killing Godzilla early in the movie. Mothra is a beautiful creature in this film, the best looking incarnation I’ve ever seen of this Kaiju. Its design is magnificent. Its wings flow with a natural grace and its flying, (fast or slow) is believable with realistic movement. Godzilla gets the best of Mothra, smashing her through buildings (impressive scenes) and damaging her wing with his fire-breath (a fast, blue stream that also looks fantastic). But, on a small Pacific Island an egg hatches revealing two Mothra Larvae which come to the aide of the dying Mothra and Japan. There is a much bigger military attack by Japan’s Defense systems in this film than there has been in many years, featuring Naval War ships, tanks, Maser cannons, and more. The scale city and building models are more detailed than they had been in many years, too, as the shots taken from street level are numerous. The 3-way battle devastates Tokyo, toppling the Tokyo Tower and eventually destroying the Capitol Building – previously destroyed in Gojira. In the end Godzilla is alive, but truly defeated, wrapped in a cocoon and sunk to the ocean floor with Mechagodzilla. This would have been a good send off for the Toho Godzilla franchise. Unfortunately, Toho did one more film, “Final Wars” which wasn’t nearly as good. This film is one of the only films with a detailed special effects featurette. It is an impressive behind-the-scenes look at what makes Toho special-fx. No narration, it just documents the set-up and execution of the big sequences of the film. They immediately show the final mastered clip after the docu-clip, with the slo-motion adjustments, editing and sound. All the secrets of their filmmaking are laid bare in these clips.
Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla (1994)
Awesome special effects of the crystal ‘lightning’ and electric arcs exploding across the screen make this one a great action-packed entry.
Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster (1966)
This film is small in scope compared to other Godzilla films but the giant shrimp/lobster design of the Sea Monster is awesome and the Godzilla/Sea-Monster battle if fun. One of the highlights of the film is Godzilla’s jump off the cliff into the water as the massive bomb counts down to destroying the entire island. As a kid, this scene made me nervous. This is one of the first films to have Godzilla portrayed as the good guy or hero of the film.
Godzilla vs. The Thing (1964)
Godzilla fights Mothra in a Kaiju showdown. However after sitting though Mothra (1961) you wonder why we have to watch the complete Mothra origin story again, in this film.
Okay, I got a huge photo Gallery here because I’m sure some of you haven’t seen some of these newer movies. I think when you see the modern special FX, you may be interested in checking out some of these fantastic newer Godzilla flicks.
Godzilla Vs Biollante, Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla II, Godzilla vs Megaguirus
Biollante early stage
Biollante – monster stage
Godzilla v Mechagodzilla II
New Rodan design
Oh, my! Girl makes new best friend…
Rodan’s face close-up
godzilla vs megaguirus
Second photo Gallery: GMK: All Out Monsters Attack. Godzilla: Tokyo SOS
Godzilla – the demon
Baragon finally gets some respect in this film
Ghidorah – designed to look like a dragon
Godzilla: Tokyo SOS
New Mechagodzilla design is awesome!
Lighting up to shoot his radioactive ray
Mothra gets thrown through an office building
new fairy twins
the set designs were probably most detailed since early years
My ‘Top 10’ are the films that are the least hokey and have a more serious tone…that is, as serious as you can get with plot elements like: mental telepathy with a giant monster, aliens destroying the world with a three-headed space dragon, and two mini-fairy princesses singing to a giant butterfly. So while I love some of the 1970 Godzilla films (Godzilla vs. Megalon and Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster, in particular), I can’t wholly recommend them to someone not fully indoctrinated to the world of Toho Kaiju; there are too many cringe-worthy scenes. If you didn’t grow up watching those 1970’s films, you probably wouldn’t appreciate them today. The films listed here are ones Icanrecommend, however, aside from the original film, you will have to be open to fantasy elements and a generous amount of suspension-of-disbelief.
Aside from the original which will always be 1st in my book – the rest are in no particular order, aside from chronological dates. I had to break this into 2 posts.
Top 10 Godzilla films
1 thru 5 – the early years
1) Gojira (1954) – Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1956)
Directed by Ishiro Honda
Produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka
Special Effects by Eiji Tsuburaya
Music by Akira Ifukube
This is obviously the most serious and grim film in the franchise, so much so, it seems like a different category altogether. It contains the science-fiction without the fantasy elements of its successors. Its allegory message about the destruction and devastation caused by the atomic bomb is both sad and frightening. It’s one of those films that you can watch today and still be affected by it. Most of us grew up with the American version starring Raymond Bur as the reporter relaying all the detail of the giant monster attacks. All of this footage was shot afterwards and while it was spliced in rather seamlessly, once you see the original Japanese version, the splicing becomes obvious. The original version (Gojira) focuses more on the love triangle of three characters (Emiko, Dr. Serizawa, and Hideto Ogata) and the new oxygen destroying weapon created by Dr. Serizawa. He decides this weapon should never have been created and takes his knowledge to his watery grave. In doing so, he also gives up his love of Emiko to his rival suitor, Hideto. The Godzilla roar sound effect was created by composer, Akira Ifukube. After many attempts at recording animal sounds by the effects team, Ifukube rubbed a string from a Contrabass with gloves soaked in pine tar.
2) King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)
Kong is found on a Pacific Island with Asian natives. There he fights a giant octopus and is taken to Japan for the usual financial gain of his captors. Godzilla escapes from an iceberg for his first appearance in a color film. The two meet up in Japan, smash some buildings then duke it out in a more rural area while being bombarded by rockets and bombs from the Japanese military. Toho actually experimented with shooting the entire film in stop-animation but decided it would be too costly. However there is a scene in the final edit that uses the animation footage during a battle on a hillside. There had been a rumor circulating for years that the Japanese version of this film had Godzilla win the battle in the end. But Ishiro Honda stated clearly in a later documentary that Godzilla was perceived as the ‘bad guy’ and felt Kong had to win. Both he and effects master, Eiji Tsuburaya entered filmmaking because of seeing King Kong (1933) and being awed by it. They wanted to let Kong win out of respect. This film is more hokey and silly than other films I reviewed here, but it is the only movie that will pit these two iconic monsters against each other. For that reason it had to be on my list. Interestingly, Toho wanted to film another King Kong vs. Godzilla in the 1990’s but had difficulty securing the rights to Kong.
3) Ghidorah, The Three Headed Monster (1964)
This film is the first appearance of Ghidorah and the first time Godzilla, Rodan, and Mothra shared the screen in the same film. Rodan had its own film previously (1956). Mothra had its own film, Mothra (1961) and earlier the same year appeared in Mothra vs. Godzilla (aka: Godzilla vs. The Thing – 1964). Princess Selina, in Japan for protection against assassins, sees a UFO during her flight to Tokyo and hears a voice that tells her, “Leave this plane, now.” She opens the emergency exit and jumps (at 30,000 feet). Seconds later the plane explodes. Meanwhile, a meteor crashes into a mountainside and hatches in flames revealing, Ghidorah. The princess returns in a trance, claims she is from another planet, and warns the people of Earth that Ghidorah will destroy Earth as it did her planet. Meanwhile the fairy twins call to Mothra to battle Ghidorah. Godzilla and Rodan are in their own battle with each other in some classic Kaiju brawling. Mothra attempts to convince Godzilla and Rodan to join the fight against Ghidorah. Eventually they do and send the three-headed, two-tailed monster packing. The English version changed the spelling to Ghidrah. There are a few minutes cut from the English version and it makes for some continuity errors in the edit. However, this is still a fan favorite from the early years of Kaiju films.
4) Destroy All Monsters (1969)
This was like the Superbowl of giant monster films. All giant Kaiju previously introduced in other Toho films share the screen in this mega-battle for earth. 1969 ain’t no ‘summer of love’ in Japan, its all out worldwide destruction. This was originally conceived as the final Godzilla franchise film. This was definitely the end of an era with the original Godzilla team splitting up after this film. Eiji Tsuburaya would go on to the Ultraman television series and Ishiro Honda would stop directing Godzilla films after the next film, Godzilla’s Revenge. He did return however several films later to direct The Terror of Mechagodzilla. This would also be the last film with Akira Ifukube composing music for some time. In this film, the giant monsters appear all over the world attacking famous landmarks in France, Russia, London, Beijing and New York (where Godzilla blows up the UN Building). They are being controlled, via metal implant device, by an alien race looking to take over Earth. Scientists discover the aliens are broadcasting control over the monsters from the moon and a battle ensues to knock out their communications. With no choice left, the aliens release Ghidorah to attack earth. However, the monsters join together to defeat Ghidorah for a final battle. (note: In the US trailer they mislabel one Kaiju as Baragon when it is in fact Gorosaurus)
5) The Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975)
The first 20 minutes of this film is a recap of Godzilla history, reusing footage from previous movies. And it’s not wholly accurate. Later in the film there’s also a recap of the previous film, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla. Most of the 1970’s films were shot with a much lower budget than the previous era, made evident by stock footage, reused clips and battles taking place in the less detailed country areas (what amounts to a few dirt hills). Also gone is the massive Ocean Pool set where Godzilla would make his dramatic entrances. The film introduces a new Kaiju, Titanosaurus, who is not as convincingly made as most previously constructed monsters. Its long neck is rubbery and reveals some of the shortcomings of suitmation. By this time, special effects leader, Eiji Tsuburaya, was producing Japan’s Television show, Ultraman, and special effects were taken over by his underling, Teruyoshi Nakano. However, even with all the budgetary constraints aside, there are some excellent Mechagodzilla attacks Japan scenes and a big countryside Kaiju rumble in the film. Godzilla is cut by Mecha-G’s laser-beams and spurts blood out of the side of his neck–a first for any Godzilla flick. An original Japanese version was never released but was edited because of too much blood and brief female nudity (non-sexual in nature). This would be the last Godzilla film directed by Ishiro Honda. ** I could easily swap this out with Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster (see honorable mentions) which was a better written and plotted film, but was slow moving in some aspects.
First check out the Photo Gallery below, then click the link to continue my Top 10 list