Tomoyuki Tanaka

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).


King Kong Escapes (1967, Honda Ishirô)

Despite lacking special effects and a phoned in score from Ifukube Akira (reusing his previous Godzilla themes to various effect), King Kong Escapes has quite a bit of charm to it. The film opens with Kong enthusiasts–really, they’re sitting around drawing pictures of him–Rhodes Reason and Takarada Akira. They’re U.N. submarine guys; U.N. submarines, patrolling the globe, is a thing in Escapes’s reality. Along with a female ship’s doctor, played by Linda Miller, who later in the film screams at the sight of blood. It’s like they forgot she was supposed to be a doctor.

Anyway, the film opens with them and isn’t particularly great. Those lacking effects are imaginative–they have a hovercraft–but there’s just something off about the trio. All the chemistry is between Takarada and Miller, which is great, only for some reason Miller’s always hugging Reason. It’s even established later on Takarada and Miller are a couple. So clearly Toho (and co-producers Rankin/Bass) didn’t think the world was ready for a Japanese guy and a white girl. Sorry, getting ahead once again.

Once the U.N. submarine is established, the action goes to the bad guys and the bad guys are awesome. One of the bad guys is evil scientist, Dr. Who (Amamoto Hideyo), who wears a cape and all of his henchmen have, if not capes, something approximately capes. It’s very, very weird and Amamoto plays it for all its worth. He’s working for beautiful foreign agent, Hama Mie–she’s not Japanese, not Chinese, but from some unidentified Asian nation with enough money to fund Amamoto building a giant King Kong robot. Mechani-Kong. They need a giant robot Kong for mining radioactive materials. The movie spends like fifteen minutes on it, the need for Kong (or Kong facsimiles) to mine. Hama plays it all straight, Amamoto chews through every bit of scenery he can. Somehow, it’s a magic combination. They’re both fantastic throughout the film.

When the action gets back to the U.N. submarine, it’s when they just happen to have to stop at Kong’s island. Escapes’s Kong suit conveys this sad and lonely giant ape. He’s got big, soulful, sad eyes and dejected body language. Some of that dejected body language is because the suit’s terrible, disproportionate and haphazardly detailed enough editor Fujii Ryôhei spends most of his time just trying to cover for the suit looking bad. Lots of questionable cuts, just because the head on the suit often doesn’t match the suit.

Once they’re on the island, director Honda does a bunch of homage to the 1933 King Kong, which is pretty cool. The effects are bad, seeing an adorable King Kong violently defend Miller against the Tyrannosaurus Rex stand-in is jarring, but the location shooting is excellent (and too short) and Honda’s homage is neat.

After the island, there’s a significant lull as Reason makes an address to the U.N. only to be sent right back to the island. Before they get there, Amamoto and his goons go to capture Kong in an amazing action sequence with helicopters and gas bombs and so on. The miniatures are okay, the suit is weak, Honda’s direction is phenomenal.

Eventually the bad guys capture the good guys–and Hama starts having a change of heart because Reason is so hot, but he doesn’t make the goo-goo eyes at her. While it is a bit of a plot hole, Kimura Takeshi’s script has a lot of nonsense going on. It does ruin the one chance to humanize Reason, who’s otherwise a stiff. Amamoto can’t even give his scenes with Reason much of a pulse.

Of course there’s a fight between the two Kongs–in Tokyo, on the Tokyo Tower, amid another Kong ’33 homage from Honda with Takarada as Bruce Cabot and Miller as Fay Wray. It’s all rather well-executed, regardless of the suits. The city and military miniatures are fine. In fact, the big fight scene could’ve easily gone on a bit longer. Escapes just needed a better budget. Honda was ready to do this one.

And Reason needs to go. Or at least be less of a stiff.

Takarada and Miller are both more appealing than good. Outside their chaste romance, they’re just around to make Reason seem important.

King Kong Escapes is goofy, the suits are silly, and Ifukube’s score disappoints (though the revised Godzilla 1954 music for Kong and Miller’s love theme is great). It’s still all right, thanks to Honda taking it so seriously. And Hama and Amamoto. Especially Hama and Amamoto.

1/4

CREDITS

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

Starring Rhodes Reason (Commander Carl Nelson), Linda Miller (Lieutenant Susan Watson), Takarada Akira (Lt. Commander Jiro Nomura), Hama Mie (Madame Piranha), and Amamoto Hideyo (Dr. Who).


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. Megalon (1973, Fukuda Jun)

Godzilla vs. Megalon is madness. There are two distinct portions of the film and both of them are crazy. Initially, these portions might more seem stupid than crazy, but they’re crazy. Director Fukuda gets to make an espionage thriller and a Godzilla movie where Godzilla communicates with the other monsters. He even shakes hands with the humans’ emissary, a wimpy giant robot named Jet Jaguar who Godzilla constantly has to save, which is awesome. And Godzilla is portrayed as the tough good guy. It’s nuts.

The setup is real simple. Kawase Hiroyuki is the adorable little brother of giant robot inventor Sasaki Katsuhiko. Sasaki doesn’t know the robot will grow, but the evil undersea espionage agents do so they kidnap Kawase and Saskai. Luckily, Sasaki’s best friend is a charismatic troubleshooter with a fast car and a cool leather jacket. Hayashi Yutaka takes the role seriously, which makes it all work. There are practically no other characters. Japan’s apparently empty at this point in Godzilla history.

Then come the monsters. Giant robot man, giant bug, giant other space bug, Godzilla. And a weird, friendly but still dangerous Godzilla. It’s a rush job, but the result is pleasant. Since Megalon asks the viewer to think about Godzilla as a relatable character, it’s important to have his visual “character” work. It’s not like the mask is particularly animated.

Excellent photography from Aizawa Yuzuru, excellent editing from Ikeda Michiko throughout, in both the action thriller and the giant monster sections. Some poorly inserted footage from previous Godzilla movies hurts the flow of the action sequences–which also have to deal with the problem of new monster Megalon, who looks real dumb–but Fukuda keeps it moving. He likes working with the scale of the giant monster battles. There’s some rather good miniature work in Megalon too.

Megalon is a lot of dumb fun. Thoughtfully constructed dumb fun.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Fukuda Jun; screenplay by Fukuda, based on a story by Kimura Takeshi and Sekizawa Shin’ichi; director of photography, Aizawa Yuzuru; edited by Ikeda Michiko; music by Manabe Riichirô; production designer, Honda Yoshifumi; produced by Tanaka Tomoyuki; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Sasaki Katsuhiko (Goro), Kawase Hiroyuki (Rokuro), Hayashi Yutaka (Jinkawa), Tomita Kôtarô (Lead Seatopian Agent), Ôtsuki Ulf (Seatopian Agent) and Robert Dunham (Emperor Antonio of Seatopia).


Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972, Fukuda Jun)

Godzilla vs. Gigan is a little like a filmed ballet or play. It’s a performance of its Kaiju ballet. The Kaiju ballet has a stage–a surprisingly large soundstage with a miniature Tokyo or Mount Fuji landscape for serve as the ring in which the men in suits wrestle. The men in suits are not the stars of the Kaiju ballet, they’re more like the stars’ operators. A good Kaiju ballet has the right set, right suits, right men in suits, right direction, right photography. Those people, and many more, get together and the men in suits pretend they are giants. Then the right editor and the right composer have to come along and get it into the finished project. Appreciating a Kaiju ballet is appreciating how everything has to flow together.

And for Gigan, Toho cuts corners and reuses footage, which really hurts the flow and offends Hasegawa Kiyoshi’s fine cinematography. Lazy day for night filtering on the old footage doesn’t match Hasegawa’s nighttime lighting of the miniature set. It’s unfortunate, but editor Tamura Yoshio does a decent enough job incorporating the content of the scenes into the visual narrative and Gigan gets past it.

The rest of the film, involving intergalactic cockroaches (literally), an out of work cartoonist and his karate black belt lady friend (unclear if it’s romantic), two urban environmentalist revolutionaries (or something), is fine. It’s silly, but the cast is game and Honda Yoshifumi’s production design is a lot of fun.

The film even has an inexplicable, heavy-handed warning against being beholden to technology. Because the bad guys made a giant artificial Godzilla in their theme park. It’s very strange. And a lot of fun.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Fukuda Jun; screenplay by Sekizawa Shin’ichi, based on a story by Kimura Takeshi; director of photography, Hasegawa Kiyoshi; edited by Tamura Yoshio; music by Ifukube Akira; production designer, Honda Yoshifumi; produced by Tanaka Tomoyuki; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Ishikawa Hiroshi (Kotaka Gengo), Hishimi Yuriko (Tomoe Tomoko), Takashima Minoru (Takasugi Shosaku), Umeda Tomoko (Shima Machiko), Fujita Zan (Sudo Fumio), Murai Kunio (Shima Takashi) and Nishizawa Toshiaki (Kubota).


Godzilla Raids Again (1955, Oda Motoyoshi)

Godzilla Raids Again has all the elements it needs to be a quirky success. It has a low budget and rushed schedule, resulting in a hodgepodge of awkwardly effective sequences amid otherwise inept ones. The script, from Murta Takeo and Hidaka Shigeaki, mixes inert melodrama with giant monsters. But then the script keeps getting distracted–there’s a “should be wacky” subplot with escaped prisoners–except never because it’s interested, certainly never because director Oda’s interested, but because there needs to be filler.

There’s some great filmmaking in the filler. Most of Taira Kazuji’s editing is terrible, but in the first half of the film when they’re desperately trying to pad, it’s amazing. There’s this sequence from the first film–in the story, not just a flashback–they actually paused Raids Again to play back the highlights from the previous film. The way the newsreel works in the narrative, the way it plays without any sound from newsreel or the audience, it’s creepy and it’s really good.

Other good moments include a cobbled together nightclub scene and the film’s opening discovery of the new Godzilla (and his nemesis monster).

Unfortunately, the cast gives fairly weak performances. There’s nothing anyone could do with the script, but they don’t even try. Except lead Koizumi Hiroshi, who always looks like he’s eagerly awaiting some acting direction; he never gets any from Oda.

Endô Seiichi’s photography is all over the place. Until the last third, it’s usually pretty good. In that last third, however, it goes to pot.

Also going to pot in the last third is the script. The editing gets worse–Taira gets a big responsibility with the final sequence and it doesn’t go well. Oda doesn’t have any actual drama, the script doesn’t have any drama; Taira’s editing needs to create the tension, the suspense. It does neither.

Everyone just seems bored with the film–except the effects team, there are some good effects shots and some great miniatures.

In the end, Raids Again disappoints. Again and again.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Oda Motoyoshi; screenplay by Murata Takeo and Hidaka Shigeaki, based on a story by Kayama Shigeru; director of photography, Endô Seiichi; edited by Taira Kazuji; music by Satô Masaru; production designers, Abe Teruaki and Kita Takeo; produced by Tanaka Tomoyuki; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Koizumi Hiroshi (Tsukioka Shoichi), Wakayama Setsuko (Yamaji Hidemi), Chiaki Minoru (Kobayashi Kôji), Shimizu Masao (Dr. Tadokoro), Onda Seijirô (Captain Terasawa), Sawamura Sônosuke (Shibeki), Tsuchiya Yoshio (Tajima), Mokushô Mayuri (Inouye), Kasama Yukio (Yamaji) and Shimura Takashi (Yamane).


Godzilla’s Revenge (1969, Honda Ishirô)

I don’t know if I wish Godzilla’s Revenge were better or if I just liked it more. Because I wanted to like it more–I wanted it to be as wacky as the concept would allow. The concept–a little boy (Yazaki Tomonori) gets valuable life lessons involving working parents, bank robbers, bullies and even criminal mischief all thanks to his imagined playtime with the various Toho giant monsters–is ripe for wackiness.

But Godzilla’s Revenge never gets particularly wacky. It’s straight-faced in tone. It’s a movie made for kids. It’s didactic. Sekizawa Shin’ichi’s script is painfully lacking in enthusiasm. It’s not even a question of ambition–no one has any, except maybe some of the effects guys on the footage from previous films. Revenge recycles old Godzilla movie fight footage. It’s done pretty well, but it’s hard to know whether Revenge’s editor, Himi Masahisa, chopped it up a little or if it’s uncut from the first film. I’m not enough of a Godzilla aficionado to look up such details. One has to draw the line somewhere.

Because, for a while, Revenge kind of works. It’s weird and it’s obvious and it’s trying too hard, but there’s actual payoff in the giant monster fights. Director Honda paces it well. Then, as Yazaki eventually befriends (a female-voiced) Son of Godzilla, Revenge tries too hard to manipulate. There’s too much subtext to the wimpy giant monster having a female voice. There’s too much about Yazaki having to “man up.”

Now, it would help if Yazaki were any good. He’s not. He’s bad. He’s not even bad in amusing ways. He’s particularly bad during the scenes when he’s kidnapped–the physical action scenes–and there’s no way it shouldn’t be funny for him to be bad in those scenes. But it isn’t. It isn’t funny. Because there’s just something a little off about Revenge. It’s too “perfectly” targeted at its audience–it is for kids who already give a shit about Godzilla.

It just then goes ahead and tells them they are weirdos but should instead be weird bullies. The moral of the story is… if you’re going to have a youth gang, take over another youth gang, don’t start your own. And praise Minilla.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Honda Ishirô; written by Sekizawa Shin’ichi; director of photography, Tomioka Sokei; edited by Himi Masahira; music by Miyauchi Kunio; production designer, Kita Takeo; produced by Tanaka Tomoyuki; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Yazaki Tomonori (Ichirô), Amamoto Hideyo (Inami Shinpei), Sakai Sachio (Bank Robber Senbayashi), Suzuki Kazuo (Bank Robber Okuda), Sahara Kenji (Ichiro’s father), Naka Machiko (Ichirô’s mother), Ishida Shigeki (The Landlord) and Uchiyama Midori (Minilla).


Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971, Banno Yoshimitsu)

There are two types of people in the world. People who like Godzilla vs. Hedorah and people who do not. I am in the former category. I think director Banno knows how to do what he wants to do, which is make an impassioned environmental statement with a Godzilla movie. Banno asks the audience to humor the film for a while and he incentivizes along the way–there are these reassuring odd-ball segments (somehow the news briefs are almost as strange as the animated transition sequences)–he promises it will pay off. It does.

During that humoring period, Banno tries to explain how the film is going to work. How it should be consumed. Godzilla as a symbol of Japan, of the Japanese people. He’s old-fashioned, but he’s fun-loving. He’s got a hop in his step. He’s a seventies man. Banno gets there through an annoying little kid. The kid gets less annoying, but only because Banno pairs the seven year-old lead (his name’s Kawase Hiroyuki) with his uncle’s love interest (the twenty-three year-old Mari Keiko) in the last act. This move presumably to reward all the older brothers who got stuck either bringing younger siblings with or to the film. Banno’s a considerate guy. He knows the audience. He says, let’s have this unpleasant talk about pollution. In a Godzilla movie. Better than just in a Godzilla movie, but in a good one. It’s a technically superior giant monster movie. It’s awesome.

Again, it’s because of how the film targets its audience. It acknowledges its limited reach–people who see Godzilla movies–but it’s excited to have that reach, excited to have that audience. Banno rejoices in getting to do his message in this format.

Now, the big dripping brown mess in the middle of the room. Hedorah, the radioactive, poopy sludge monster. It’s a terrible costume on the guy. The giant monster fight scenes are excellent–the miniature designers, the practical effects guys, cinematographer Manoda Yôichi, Banno, everything except the actual suit. They’ve got a great sense of scale with everything else, but not that suit. It looks like Zombie Sweetums.

But it drips. It drips toxic waste, which looks like poo. It shoots poop at Godzilla. After Banno has set him up as the symbol of Japan. Hedorah is Japan’s waste. Banno tells the audience to feel bad about themselves.

And there’s lots more with metaphors, visual and narrative ones. Banno goes all out. He’s proud of the film; everyone involved should be proud of it. Even Kawase, who I kind of picked on a little, but he’s fine. The role is really annoying, but he’s not. He doesn’t make the role not annoying, but he doesn’t make it worse. There, with that qualified retraction, I feel better.

Godzilla vs. Hedorah. I am a fan.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Banno Yoshimitsu; written by Banno and Kimura Takeshi; director of photography, Manoda Yôichi; edited by Kuroiwa Yoshitami; music by Manabe Riichirô; production designer, Inoue Yasuyuki; produced by Tanaka Tomoyuki; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Yamauchi Akira (Dr. Yano), Kimura Toshie (Toshie), Kawase Hiroyuki (Ken), Shiba Toshio (Yukio), and Mari Keiko (Miki).



This film is also discussed in Sum Up | Godzilla, Part One: Showa.

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).


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