Akihiko Hirata

The Great Monster Varan (1958, Honda Ishirô)

The only thing more tedious and lethargic than the first half of Varan is the second half of Varan. The first half has a motley crew of lepidopterologists awakening a giant monster. The second half has these lepidopterologists consulting with the military to destroy said monster.

Not sure why the military thinks a bunch of butterfly scientists will have good ideas about how to kill a giant monster. Eventually Hirata Akihiko shows up with the solution. Hirata killed the original Godzilla, which is only appropriate in Varan, since the monster has the exact same roar as Godzilla. Varan is done on the cheap. The real cheap.

The film has its share of behind-the-scenes drama. It was originally for television–a coproduction between Toho and an American company, but then the American company went bankrupt. So the two-part TV movie became a single eighty-six minute feature, in “TohoPanScope,” which had them cropping the television framing. I suppose that cropping is why a lot of director Honda’s shots are so bad. Even still, it doesn’t explain away the bad acting or godawful pace.

Or the lousy giant monster suit, which always seems in danger of coming apart onscreen.

There are numerous… well, they’re not exactly plot holes but narrative skips. Like when there’s a forest fire all of a sudden, or how–in the second half–the military attacks have nothing to do with what the Secretary of Defense orders. It makes sense as the Secretary of Defense (Yamada Minosuke) is utterly out of his depth. Yamada’s acting is bad, the script is bad, but even so, when he listens intently to the ideas of chief lepidopterologist Senda Koreya, there’s no plausible reason for Yamada to be listening to Senda. Senda’s writing is probably better, but his performance is so much worse. It’s a risible performance amid some decidedly unimpressive ones. Senda comes up with the solution at the last minute for saving the day, which is another of the film’s narrative skips. He all of a sudden remembers something–which the film doesn’t actually show, but should’ve–as the deus ex.

The first half makes Nomura Kôzô the hero for a while. He’s the intrepid lepidopterologist who dares to return to the giant monster’s territory after it kills two of his colleagues. He brings along Sonoda Ayumi; she’s a reporter and sister of one of the dead lepidopterologists. Varan has so little character establishing, her job is never important. There’s some stuff with newspapers reporting the monster, but it’s before she even shows up.

Bad editing from Taira Kazuji, piddly photography from Koizumi Hajime–though, really, who knows how Varan is really supposed to look (Toho apparently destroyed the original aspect ratio version of the film). But what remains isn’t adequately, much less impressively, photographed. The constant use of stock footage makes the experience even worse.

Ifukube Akira’s score is bad. Though he revised some of the music for later Toho kaiju movies to far better effect. Taira doesn’t really cut with the music in mind. Or sound. Maybe it’s because there are supposed to be commercial breaks. Seeing Varan cut into with commercials might help the overall viewing experience.

It’s an awful film. Especially when it refuses to end; the second half just goes on and on and on. There’s one single good miniature effects shot–and one good composite shot–but otherwise all the effects are bad. I suppose some of the matte backgrounds at the beginning are good. They aren’t godawful at least.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Honda Ishirô; screenplay by Sekizawa Shin’ichi, based on a story by Kuronuma Ken; director of photography, Koizumi Hajime; edited by Taira Kazuji; music by Ifukube Akira; production designer, Shimizu Kiyoshi; produced by Tanaka Tomoyuki; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Nomura Kôzô (Kenji), Sonoda Ayumi (Yuriko), Senda Koreya (Dr. Sugimoto), Matsuo Fumindo (Horiguchi), Hirata Akihiko (Dr. Fujimora), Murakami Fuyuki (Dr. Majima), Tsuchiya Yoshio (Katsumoto), Yamada Minosuke (Secretary of Defense), and Sera Akira (High Priest).


Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975, Honda Ishirô)

Terror of Mechagodzilla is an uncomplimentary mix of a sixties Godzilla movie with the production values of a seventies Godzilla movie. It’s got a lame monster with cool powers and a cool monsters with lame powers. The Mechagodzilla fight scene is mind-numbing. He shoots rockets at Godzilla. Explosions incur. Director Honda has all these resources–an obviously ambitious pyrotechnic unit, huge sound stages–and nothing to do with them. Honda initially tries a more realistic approach with the film, but then just forgets about it.

Because even if it weren’t giant monsters, Terror is still silly–very silly for the mid-seventies with its small cast and brand characters. Hirata Akihiko (the good mad scientist from the original Godzilla) plays a bad mad scientist here. Under a lot of make-up. It’d be something if it were a good performance, but it’s not. Hirata is working for evil aliens–who have very dumb helmets and very silly costumes and the supreme commander whips misbehaving subordinates. Terror is what happens when you should be camp and you don’t. Honda wants to be taken seriously and refuses to understand it isn’t possible.

Anyway, Hirata has a cyborg daughter. One of the scientists working for Interpol–Terror’s Interpol is a multi-national giant monster hunting organization–loves her. But the aliens have installed Mechagodzilla’s controller chip inside her cybernetic circuitry. Ai Tomoko, as the cyborg girl, isn’t good but she does better than she should. As her beau, Sasaki Katsuhiko is lame. He’s simultaneously supposed to be a goof and a stud. He comes off as neither.

Ifukube Akira’s music is good. Even though there are some bad decisions with the music, it is good. It just doesn’t always fit the tone of what Honda’s actually got going on, versus what Honda wants to have going on. Terror fundamentally misunderstands how its genre now works.

There are some nice miniature cityscapes though. Honda’s fight scenes in them aren’t great, but Tomioka Sokei photographs them well. Terror’s got its pluses. They just don’t come close to overcoming its minuses.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Honda Ishirô; written by Takayama Yukiko; director of photography, Tomioka Sokei; edited by Kuroiwa Yoshitami; music by Ifukube Akira; production designer, Honda Yoshifumi; produced by Tanaka Tomoyuki; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Sasaki Katsuhiko (Ichinose Akira), Ai Tomoko (Mafune Katsura), Hirata Akihiko (Dr. Mafune), Uchida Katsumasa (Interpol Agent Murakoshi), Nakamaru Tadao (Interpol Chief Tagawa), Roppongi Shin (Wakayama Yûichi), Agawa Yasuko (Yamamoto Yuri) and Mutsumi Gorô (Alien Leader Mugal).


Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974, Fukuda Jun)

I want to be more enthusiastic about Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla. It has a number of good moments, often involving giant monsters, which is impressive. Godzilla facing off against a mechanical Godzilla (not to mention a flesh-covered cyborg–nothing dead will go), it’s a great visual. Director Fukuda milks it and he milks it well. The film sails into the third act, but the finish is more a stalling out than an ending. It’s too bad, because so much of the film’s a success.

The human stuff–two brothers who get involved with an alien plot to destroy the planet and the giant dog monster protector of Okinawa, complete with love interests and mentors–is solid. Everyone works at their part, even when they have nothing to do. Daimon Masaaki spends the entire fight scene acting with his eyebrows. None of his emoting matches what his character is watching, but it doesn’t matter. The dedication is endearing.

So it’s even more frustrating where Mechagodzilla finally breaks down is in resolving all that human stuff. The final fight is a pyrotechnic marvel–the whole film’s a pyrotechnic marvel–but the light show is a poor substitute for an ending to the film. Fukuda doesn’t have a finish.

Lots of good work from the crew, particularly Ikeda Michiko’s editing. He does these snappy montages and creates a far amount of tension in a short amount of time, just with the actors’ expressions. Satô Masaru’s music is necessary for those montages to work. The score keeps a certain pace to the film.

Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla is a well-produced, well-acted Godzilla movie. But it’s too slight on story, too slight on characters. Fukuda doesn’t balance the human story and the monster battle and it sinks the film just when it needs to be excelling.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Fukuda Jun; screenplay by Fukuda and Yamamura Hiroyasu, based on a story by Fukushima Masami and Sekizawa Shin’ichi; director of photography, Aizawa Yuzuru; edited by Ikeda Michiko; music by Satô Masaru; production designer, Satsuya Kazuo; produced by Tanaka Tomoyuki; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Daimon Masaaki (Shimizu Keisuke), Aoyama Kazuya (Shimizu Masahiko), Tajima Reiko (Kanagusuku Saeko), Hirata Akihiko (Professor Miyajima), Matsushita Hiromi (Miyajima Ikuko), Koizumi Hiroshi (Professor Wagura), Imafuku Masao (High Priest Tengan), Lin Beru-Bera (Princess Nami), Kishida Shin (Interpol Agent Nanbara) and Mutsumi Gorô (Alien Supreme Leader Kuronuma).


Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster (1966, Fukuda Jun)

I’m having a difficult time writing about Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster because, even though the movie isn’t good, I wish I liked it more. I wish I enjoyed it more. As a cultural artifact, Sea Monster is definitely interesting. Most of the film has to do with these four not so bright dudes–even Takarada Akira as the older one–stumbling into a James Bond movie where the villainous organization is out to rule the world. Or something. And they keep a giant sea monster.

Director Fukuda doesn’t do a terrible job overall. He does a lot better with some sequences than others; he’s humorless, which is one of Sea Monster’s biggest problems, but he is serious about the film itself. Given the Godzilla suit and the limited set for the guy in the Godzilla suit to energetically walk around, Fukuda’s seriousness sometimes seems out of place.

None of the film’s giant monster sequences are particularly memorable (the sea monster looks like a giant lobster and is much more effective when just menacing passing ships with a single claw) but they’re distinct sequences in the film. With Satô Masaru’s groovy music, they’re usually silly. Until they become serious (as evidenced by the change in music). Once the seriousness hits, Sea Monster turns into a really effective suspense thriller. It just happens to have Godzilla and a bunch of scantily clad South Seas islanders running around.

And the four dudes.

Maybe if the acting were better–leading man Takarada is particularly weak, though it’s not like he has a role to play. Sekizawa Shin’ichi’s script is just plain lame. It’s distinctive, but lame. None of the other actors make much impression. Except Hirata Akihiko (he and Takarada were the leads in the original Godzilla) and not in a good way.

As that historical cultural artifact, Sea Monster is nearly worth seeing. Just as a movie? I don’t know. The last quarter or so is tightly edited, wonderfully paced. Fujii Ryôhei ratchets the tension. Fukuda’s far better with secret agent action thrills than giant monsters. Satô’s score, whether groovy or somber, is excellent.

Sea Monster’s a try and a fail and Fukuda doesn’t seem to be aware he was trying.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Fukuda Jun; written by Sekizawa Shin’ichi; director of photography, Yamada Kazuo; edited by Fujii Ryôhei; music by Satô Masaru; production designer, Kita Takeo; produced by Tanaka Tomoyuki; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Takarada Akira (Yoshimura), Watanabe Tôru (Ryôta), Ibuki Tôru (Yata), Tôgin Chôtarô (Ichino), Sunazuka Hideo (Nita), Mizuno Kumi (Daiyo), Hirata Akihiko (Red Bamboo Captain Ryuui), Tazaki Jun (Red Bamboo Commander) and Pair Bambi (Mothra’s Little Beauties).


Son of Godzilla (1967, Fukuda Jun)

Strangely enough, Son of Godzilla ends well. It’s a surprise because the film loses a lot of steam throughout. Whether it’s the human plot or the Godzilla plot, the scene inevitably fails because of director Fukuda. Unless it’s one of the multiple times writers Sekizawa Shin’ichi and Shiba Kazue completely fail. Son of Godzilla constantly starts and stops. There’s no unifying style.

Directing the actors, Fukuda often shows ambition. It’s just there’s no way for that ambition to be realized. While he can intuit how a scene should play, he can’t make the scene play. Fukuda is just a bad director–and, of course, Fujii Ryôhei’s tone-deaf editing doesn’t help anything.

The film has an appealing male lead, a too enthusiastic newspaper reporter (Kubo Akira) who ends up as short order cook for a group of scientists. They’re studying weather conditions on an island where Godzilla and other giant monsters coincidentally are hanging out. The film often plays the giant monsters for laughs. Not well, but still successfully. The interactions between Godzilla and his not quite as giant son, Minilla, are endearing and fun. If incompetently visualized.

Now for a few things deserving standout attention.

First, Beverly Maeda as an island “savage” who’s always saving Kubo. She’s this great character; then, all of a sudden, Kubo’s the boss. But nothing about the characters’ personalities change, just Maeda’s place in the film. Logically, she should still be the hero but she isn’t. It hurts the film a lot. Maeda’s performance isn’t quite good, but she’s definitely appealing. At least until she’s the damsel.

Second, the music. Satô Masaru does this crazy, campy, playful score for the film. For ten minute stretches, Satô’s score makes Son of Godzilla feel like an absurdist comedy. It seems like Fukuda gets that disconnect, but then he doesn’t properly utilize it, which again makes the filmmaking appear inept. It’s as though everything good about the film–except the acting–is accidentally okay.

Finally, the giant mantises who terrorize the humans (who are more interested in the weather than these giant monsters) and Minilla. While the special effects are problematic in the film, the mantises are great. As are the backdrop paintings. Fukuda can’t direct the jungle sets, however. They’re always stagy.

But then comes Son of Godzilla’s last sequence and it’s amazing. Fukuda doesn’t screw up the direction and Satô’s score changes tone and the humans finally say something interesting. The successful ending closes the film on its highest note.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Fukuda Jun; written by Sekizawa Shin’ichi and Shiba Kazue; director of photography, Yamada Kazuo; edited by Fujii Ryôhei; music by Satô Maseru; production designer, Kita Takeo; produced by Tanaka Tomoyuki; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Kubo Akira (Goro), Beverly Maeda (Saeko), Hirata Akihiko (Fujisaki), Tsuchiya Yoshio (Furukawa), Sahara Kenji (Morio), Maruyama Ken’ichirô (Ozawa), Kuno Seishirô (Tashiro), Saijô Yasuhiko (Suzuki) and Takashima Tadao (Dr. Kusumi).


Godzilla (1954, Honda Ishirô)

Godzilla is a peculiar picture. It’s intensely serious, with director Honda never letting the viewer get a moment’s relief. This approach is all throughout the film, which opens with a documentary feel. Honda and co-screenwriter Murata Takeo set up their main characters quickly and without a lot of fanfare–Takarada Akira and Kôchi Momoko’s first scene sets up their relationship before sending them away–she actually just disappears for a while, while he becomes a background player during the first act.

Their romance is the best character work in the film, with the possible exception of Suzuki Toyoaki’s grieving orphan. Takarada and Kôchi’s romance is never quite star-crossed but it’s always difficult. They’re both excellent. All of the film’s emotions play out through Kôchi; it’s like the film has greater need of her than to just have a difficult romance.

Honda moves Godzilla through a few phases–mystery, exploration, devastation–always ratcheting the tension a little tighter. The creature’s destruction of Tokyo is exhausting and relentless. The film implies subtext to those scenes–the creature discovering man’s world–but Honda doesn’t explore them. He presents them matter of fact, the documentary style returning.

The last act is where the film stumbles; Hirata Akihiko gives a histrionic performance. Some of it is the writing, most of it is Hirata. The film already has problems with Shimura Takashi, in a similarly poorly written role. There’s way too much strained symbolism in the finish.

The music, photography and editing are all exceptional.

The film is thoughtful, intricate and affecting.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Honda Ishirô; screenplay by Murata Takeo and Honda, based on a story by Kayama Shigeru; director of photography, Tamai Masao; edited by Taira Kazuji; music by Ifukube Akira; production designers, Chûko Satoru and Kita Takeo; produced by Tanaka Tomoyuki; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Takarada Akira (Ogata), Kôchi Momoko (Emiko), Hirata Akihiko (Dr. Serizawa), Shimura Takashi (Dr. Yamane), Suzuki Toyoaki (Shinkichi), Murakami Fuyuki (Professor Tanabe) and Sakai Sachio (Newspaper Reporter Hagiwara).


Godzilla, King of Monsters! (1956, Terry O. Morse and Honda Ishirô)

Morse didn’t just direct the added American scenes for Godzilla, King of Monsters! but also did the hatchet job editing it.

The concept–adding in footage of a reporter reporting on what would be an international news event–isn’t bad. But Morse (aided, undoubtedly, by Al C. Ward’s awful scripting) contrives a way to shoehorn Raymond Burr’s American reporter into all of the original Godzilla story. Even though Burr doesn’t have a single scene with Hirata Akihiko’s scientist, Monsters makes them old college chums and Burr inexplicably talks to Hirata’s stand-in on the phone.

I suppose Morse and Ward thought it was necessary to tie plots together, but at most it added two and a half minutes of runtime. Morse could have just recycled the “stairs to the hospital” shot a fourth time.

As for Burr, he’s not very good. The cheapness of his scenes–particularly the one where he’s in a helicopter but sitting in an office–probably hurt the performance. For example, when he’s actual in a torrential downpour, he’s convincing. However, Morse could have spent that money better making sure Burr had a real presence in the third act instead of standing in the background.

The voiceover cast is uniformly terrible, ruining the performances of the original actors. The other American cast is fifty-fifty–Frank Iwanaga is great as Burr’s sidekick (Monsters‘s should’ve been focused on them), but Mikel Conrad’s atrocious as his boss.

With the original version readily available, Monsters should be avoided.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Terry O. Morse and Honda Ishirô; screenplay by Murata Takeo, Honda and Al C. Ward, based on a story by Kayama Shigeru; directors of photography, Tamai Masao and Guy Roe; edited by Morse; music by Ifukube Akira; production designer, Chûko Satoru; produced by Tanaka Tomoyuki, Edward B. Barison, Richard Kay and Harry Rybnick; released by Embassy Pictures.

Starring Raymond Burr (Steve Martin), Shimura Takashi (Dr. Yamane), Kôchi Momoko (Emiko), Hirata Akihiko (Dr. Serizawa), Takarada Akira (Ogata), Frank Iwanaga (Tomo Iwanaga), Sakai Sachio (Hagiwara), Murakami Fuyuki (Dr. Tabata), Yamamoto Ren (Seiji), Suzuki Toyoaki (Shinkichi), Okabe Tadashi (Dr. Tabata’s Assistant), Ogawa Toranosuke (President of Company) and Mikel Conrad (George Lawrence).



This post is part of the Sum Up | Godzilla, Part One: Showa.

Rodan (1956, Honda Ishirô)

The end of Rodan makes the monster’s death tragic—there are two Rodans (giant pterosaurs) and one commits suicide after its mate dies in volcano fumes. Even more tragic is the Japanese defense force hounded these big dumb birds until they intentionally attacked populated areas and those volcanic fumes? The defense force, advised by a rather not smart scientist (Toho regular Hirata Akihiko in a terrible performance), also caused that volcano eruption by firing rockets at it to cause a cave-in. They were warned by environmentalists and humanists, but why listen to them?

It’s unclear why the audience is supposed to be sympathetic towards the creatures at the end… maybe because their painful deaths make a girl cry.

The first half of the film doesn’t even have the Rodans (either of them). It’s about a mining village discovering these gigantic, man-eating caterpillars. That part of the film—led by Sahara Kenji and Shirakawa Yumi as possibly star-crossed lovers—works. Both actors make up for lack of ability with their appeal and it’s sort of interesting.

Then the giant monster—initially in unrelated sequences—shows up and Hirata and a variety of actors playing military men take over and Rodan plummets.

There are some good miniature effects and some bad ones. If Honda had shot the film in black and white, it probably would have been fantastic. The colors just don’t work with his composition here.

Excellent sound design.

Rodan starts inoffensively enough, then drags on and on.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Honda Ishirô; screenplay by Kimura Takeshi and Murata Takeo, based on a story by Kuronuma Ken; director of photography, Ashida Isamu; edited by Iwashita Kôichi; music by Ifukube Akira; production designer, Kita Tatsuo; produced by Tanaka Tomoyuki; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Sahara Kenji (Kawamura Shigeru), Shirakawa Yumi (Kiyo), Hirata Akihiko (Professor Kashiwagi Kyuichiro), Kobori Akio (Police Chief Nishimura), Yamada Minosuke (Colliery Chief Osaki) and Tajima Yoshifumi (Izeki).


Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964, Honda Ishirô)

Maybe half of Ghidorah is interesting. Or has the potential to be interesting. After the giant monster-heavy opening credits (stills of Godzilla and Rodan in battle), that aspect disappears for a while. Instead, Ghidorah is a strange mix of reporter and political intrigue movies. Hoshi Yuriko is a reporter for a news program covering strange occurrences and brother Natsuki Yosuke is a police officer charged with protecting a foreign princess in trouble (Wakabayashi Akiko). Eventually–inevitably–the two story lines do cross, but it takes a lot longer than I would have assumed and really highlights the problem with Ghidorah. The giant monsters.

The first half hour is filled with doomsday predications and public interest in it. Wakabayashi goes amnesiac and ends up proclaiming the end of the world to whoever will listen. Sekizawa Shinichi’s script handles this part–maybe not the lead-in to it–beautifully. Watching Ghidorah, I kept wishing they’d played it straight, because the handling of her character and her effect on modern society, it works.

The movie’s hit with Natsuki’s underwhelming performance as the bodyguard, however. He’s at his best in the comedic scenes, which are good and too few. His problems in the action scenes might stem more from Honda’s direction. Honda has one or two shots for action scenes and he repeats them throughout.

Hoshi is a far more engaging protagonist, so it’s too bad she loses her story after the movie gets going. The little fairies from Mothra show up and assume her screen time. Those two actresses, Ito Emi and Ito Yûmi look so incredibly disinterested, I’m wondering if they just can’t act or what… It’s unfortunate, because Hoshi’s maybe slash maybe not romance with Koizumi Hiroshi was amusing and is forgotten. Koizumi doesn’t have a big part, but he can keep a straight face and is affable.

So Ghidorah isn’t exactly brimming with potential–it can’t overcome Honda’s poor interior direction and his action scenes and the acting–but it isn’t uninteresting. It’s a definite attempt at something and not a dumb one. Then Godzilla and Rodan show up and I started wondering how a ninety minute movie could be so long. The giant monsters are the big problem with the movie. After forty-five minutes of proclamations about Ghidorah destroying the world, it turns out it all gets resolved after a lengthy wrestling match with Ghidorah fighting the other monsters. They don’t even destroy him. He just runs away. He could have flown to China and destroyed it. That resolution makes no sense.

But then, neither do the other two endings (the one for the police officer and the princess and then the good giant monster ending).

I haven’t seen the immediate series predecessor in fifteen plus years (Mothra vs. Godzilla) so I can’t say for sure if this film is the one where they start playing the giant monsters for laughs. The opening scene with Godzilla, when he destroys a ship, doesn’t even address the hundreds of lives lost. It’s just a guy in a costume destroying a model ship–because thinking about it in the movie’s context would just make Honda glib. The giant monster fights have a lot of humor in them (who knew Godzilla had a butt?) and it’s all for kids. It’s probably not terrible for kids, but then why delay the giant monsters for half the movie and fill it with thoughtful–if poorly executed–narrative.

Usually Godzilla movies leave me mildly amused or better. This one did not.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Honda Ishirô; written by Sekizawa Shinichi; director of photography, Koizumi Hajime; edited by Fujii Ryohei; music by Ifukube Akira; production designer, Kita Takeo; produced by Tanaka Tomoyuki; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Natsuki Yosuke (Detective Shindo), Hoshi Yuriko (Naoko), Koizumi Hiroshi (Professor Miura), Wakabayashi Akiko (Mas Selina Salno, Princess of Sergina), Ito Emi and Ito Yûmi (The Twin Fairies), Shimura Takashi (Dr. Tsukamoto), Hirata Akihiko (Chief Detective Okita) and Ito Hisaya (Malmess, Chief Assassin).


King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962, Honda Ishirô)

I thought movies about giant monsters fighting were supposed to be exciting, but apparently not. I haven’t seen King Kong vs. Godzilla in maybe fifteen years and now, this time, I watched the original Japanese version. Frighteningly, it’s only seven minutes longer, so I imagine the Americanized version is boring too. The main problem with the film is its stupidity. It’s supposed to be a comedy, except Honda Ishiro’s direction doesn’t take humor into account. Honda’s direction doesn’t take a lot of things into account–like coverage or shot continuity, but whatever. He visibly doesn’t know how to shoot for 2.35:1 here, filling the middle of the frame with action; the film is VHS safe twenty-five years before anyone else was worried about it.

To compensate, there’s a lot of stuff with the lame people in the story. A pharmaceutical company captures King Kong to be their corporate mascot and there’s all these people who run around–with high level military access apparently–and they’re mostly useless. The boss, who’s doing a Groucho Marx impression, is mildly amusing, but the lead is real broad. The romantic male lead (interested in the lead’s sister), played by Sahara Kenji is actually all right. So is Hirata Akihiko (who died in the original Godzilla, playing a different scientist). He’s actually the funniest, walking around, spouting off useless commentary. The scenes where people bet on the outcome of the fight are lame.

I couldn’t tell what was wrong with the movie until I realized no one got hurt. Both King Kong and Godzilla destroy trains, but there are no victims. They destroy houses, they stomp things… no one gets hurt. The tone isn’t light, it’s stupid.

Another technical problems involve the music–it’s terrible, especially when Honda fills the running time with montages of Godzilla trap preparation–and the sound design. The sound design’s just incompetent.

No movie called King Kong vs. Godzilla was going to be good, but there’s usually something amusing about Godzilla movies (from my cursory reading, it seems like the dubbed, Americanized version might be a cleaner cut). Honda’s repeated failures throughout really make the original Godzilla even more of an achievement (and shock).

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Honda Ishirô; written by Sekizawa Shinichi; director of photography, Koizumi Hajime; edited by Kaneko Reiko; music by Ifukube Akira; production designers, Abe Teruaki and Kita Takeo; produced by Tanaka Tomoyuki; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Takashima Tadao (Osamu), Sahara Kenji (Kazuo), Fujiki Yu (Kinsaburo), Arishima Ichiro (Tako), Tazaki Jun (General Shinzo), Hirata Akihiko (Dr. Shigezawa), Hama Mie (Fumiko), Wakabayashi Akiko (Tamiye), Negishi Akemi (Dancing Girl) and Omura Senkichi (Konno).


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