I can’t remember the first Godzilla movie I saw. All I’ve retained to date are just snippets of memories from when I saw some of them during childhood. Let’s see if I can chart them here in this review before I discuss the blu-rays.
I was born in 1969 so throughout my childhood they were still making Godzilla movies. To start off here’s a quick rundown of the Godzilla movies and Godzilla-themed movies I saw: Rodan (1956) Mothra (1961), War Of The Gargantuas (1966), Atragon (1963), Godzilla Vs. The Thing (1964), Godzilla Vs. Monster Zero (1965), and Destroy All Monsters (1968), King Kong Vs. Godzilla (1962) and King Kong Escapes (1967). Excluding Atragon and Mothra, all those other movies I bumped into more than once. Something about them the local stations just loved.
Back then there were no home recording devices. The direct-to-video boom was a long ways off and the only “device” my brother and me had to reply them were our brains. Memory was a lot sharper back then and after seeing any monster or science fiction film we would, if it were summer, go outside and either talk about what we just saw and/or play it, pretending a giant fill-in-the-blank was rampaging after us.
Godzilla Vs. The Thing (Theatrical Release title in the US) comes to mind first. I remember this movie playing at night, probably as part of Chiller Theater. Commercials for it played up the mystery of what “The Thing” was. I had already seen Howard Hawke’s The Thing (1951) so I had that monster in the back of my head. Obviously it wasn’t that, but I remember one of the commercials giving a little bit of the creature away, showing it’s insectile legs and that’s when I had some idea it of what it was.
Insects endlessly fascinated us so the reveal of “The Thing” being a giant caterpillar and then a giant moth was exciting. I remember thinking how anatomically correct Mothra was, how the head, the mandibles, and the claws all moved making it something more than just a stiff puppet effect. To this day Mothra Vs. Godzilla (current titles it’s known as) is still one of my favorite Godzilla movies.
My only remaining memory of seeing Godzilla Vs. Monster Zero was the late night one. This was when we were allowed to have a TV in our room. There were a lot of movies we saw in the wee hours, but I was the only one who ever managed to stay awake throughout the entire movie. Next morning I always had to tell my brother about everything he missed.
Permission always needed to be asked though. When our mother granted it we had our grandmother wake us up at the desired time; she was a night owl.
This particular viewing of Monster Zero threw me for a loop. This was either the second or third time I may have seen it, and the title that flashed on the screen was Invasion Of Astro-Monster. I think my first viewing of it was under the Monster Zero title. But what the hell was an Astro-Monster?!
For a brief moment I thought they had aired the wrong movie. The next morning I told my mother and my brother of this weird title change. It wasn’t until I grew up that I learned the Astro-Monster title was just an alternate US one the movie had been saddled with; Monster Zero being another. Not sure if I ever saw it with the full Godzilla Vs. Monster Zero name.
I only have one remaining memory of my next Godzilla film, and like Monster Zero it’s not of my first ever viewing. I’m talking about Destroy All Monsters. It was a late morning, perhaps a Saturday, yes, Saturday, because I remember it aired as part of Science Fiction Theater, which always came on late Saturday mornings, maybe even right at noon. I have two conflicting memories now, of seeing it in the living room and of seeing it in our bedroom. It was probably both; one of the earlier viewings was most likely in the living room.
Whenever we came across this movie we just flipped out.
“DESTROY ALL MONSTERS IS ON!!”
That’s pretty much how everyone in the house knew it was on TV and that cry generally came from my lips.
. I always associate Rodan with hot summers. It was during one when I watched it in our room. Shades drawn, hot as a bastard, and for some reason only I was watching it. Can’t recall why my brother wasn’t there. To this day whenever it’s hot out it’s one of several movies I get the urge to put on.
When we ere kids the TV Guide became an important tool for the both of us. When my grandmother told me what is was and how to read it I never strayed too far from it since it was how I could learn when all these monster movies were on. Checked it every week. It was the first thing I always looked for when my mother came home with the groceries.
What frustrated me to no end was when I would see any one of these movies, be it Them!, Godzilla, War Of The Worlds, etc., on a channel we couldn’t get and this channel “9” always got the “good movies,” which leads me to my next memory. Ghidrah, The Three-Headed Monster (1964) was a shock when I saw it in the guide.
Ghidrah (aka Ghidorah) was in another movie?!
And from the description it was his first?!.
Guess when I finally did see it?
I was 23 and of all times it had to come on the very day my girlfriend and I broke up. I knew of its viewing weeks in advance and was excited. That day I wasn’t able to concentrate at all on it because of the eventual break-up I was about to initiate. So preoccupied I was that even though I was looking at the movie I retained no memory of it afterwards. So, actually, now that I think about it, the first time I ever saw it was when Classic Media put it on DVD in 2007.
I was not impressed when I finally saw the original black and white Godzilla (1954). This was also when I was a child and I didn’t like how primitive the effects were. His breath was merely a gas, which did not sit well with me, and close-ups of his puppet head disappointed me even further.
I seem to think it was in either the late 70s or very early 80s that I finally saw those other Godzilla movies I had read about in various monster books. I’m speaking specifically of Godzilla Vs. The Smog Monster (1971), Godzilla Vs. Mechagodzilla (1974), and Terror Of Mechagodzilla (1974). All three of these ran in a row on a Sunday, I believe. I think it was a holiday. My parents were making homemade spaghetti and upon initial viewing I didn’t like any of them.
To this day I still haven’t seen Godzilla Raids Again (1955), though I very much want to, and have very little memory of Godzilla Vs. The Sea Monster (1966, aka Ebirah, Horror Of The Deep) and Godzilla On Monster Island (1972, aka Godzilla Vs. Gigan).
When it comes to Ebirah I remember staying up late one night, or trying to, when I was in either junior high or high school to see it but immediately fell asleep, and Gigan, I don’t believe I have ever seen this one either. There was one Godzilla movie that came on when I was a kid that my mother simply wouldn’t let me and my brother watch. It was a 9 o’clock movie and our bedtime was 8, but she had ignored that rule before, but this night she was adamant we were going to bed at 8 and that was that.
I remember putting up holy hell in protest. What that means for a kid is crying and throwing a tantrum. Godzilla On Monster Island may have been that movie I was not allowed to see.
Now that we’ve reached the point again where Hollywood is just mere weeks away from unleashing a new Godzilla remake on the world various studios are cashing in and finally converting more of their Godzilla movies to blu-ray. Universal has done just that with King King Vs. Godzilla and King Kong Escapes, Media Blasters is about to re-release Destroy All Monsters in blu-ray and convert, for the first time, Godzilla Vs. Megalon to blu at the end of July, and Sony is poised to release a slew of flicks from the Heisei (1984-1995) and Millennium (1999-2004) eras in early May.
From the Showa era (1930-1979) of Godzilla flicks, before now, I can only think of two (Godzilla and Destroy All Monsters) that have made the jump to blu-ray, you can now add three more to that and last month’s Universal’s releases with Godzilla Vs. Gigan, Godzilla Vs. Ebirah and Godzilla Vs. Hedorah. All three of them are poised to wreak glorious blu-ray and DVD havoc upon the lives of all us fans here in America on May 6th.
First up is Godzilla Vs. The Sea Monster (1966, aka Ebirah, Horror Of The Deep). The title that comes up is the former and it’s the Godzilla movie that was made after Monster Zero and right before Son Of Godzilla (1967). Here we’ve got a tale of this kid whose brother was lost at sea. His yacht mysteriously disappeared. Actually there’ve been a lot of disappearances in that part of the ocean. It kind of makes you wonder why he was out there in the first place. His bother consults a medium that insists she cannot find him on the other side, implying he must still be alive.
With a couple of kids he meets at this dance contest they go out to the marina in hopes of finding a yacht or some kind of sea worthy transport to take him out there to see if he can find him.
They happen to choose the one yacht that this thief has pegged for stealing and he’s there when they set foot on it. Having made friends with him he allows them to stay the night so they won’t have to make that long drive back. In the morning they find out Ryota has set them sailing. Eventually they end up on this island where this high tech base has been constructed. A military faction seems to show up regularly to make deliveries of human cargo (natives from Infant Island) and something in these drums.
The island is “protected” by this giant lobster the natives refer to as Ebirah.
Ryota and his friends hole up in this cave to keep from being captured. This cave also houses a slumbering Godzilla. In a stroke of either pure genius or utter stupidity one of them gets the idea to wake Godzilla so he can deal with the armed men looking for them. Using a machete/sword, tons of wire and lightening they manage to wake him and as predicted he goes on the expected rampage confronting Ebirah a couple of times.
Back in the realm of the humans Ryota and his group discover the island base is making nuclear weapons. By the end of the movie Godzilla has de-clawed Ebirah and the humans have triggered a massive explosion that levels the whole island. Not to fear Mothra came to rescue the imprisoned natives, Ryota, his brother and the others.
Next in line is Godzilla Vs. Hedorah (1971, aka The Smog Monster). The Hedorah title is used and it’s the Godzilla movie following Godzilla’s Revenge (1969, aka All Monsters Attack) and the one before Godzilla Vs. Gigan (1972). Of the three I saw that Sunday this is the one I remember the best because among all the Godzilla movies this is the one darkest in tone.
Hedorah (pronounced Hedrah in the dubbed version) is an alien organism that has used our polluted rivers, waterways and seas as a basis for its life. It’s basically pollution incarnate and in the movie starts off life as a weird looking tadpole that fascinates a Dr. Yano and is son, Ken.
During the course of the movie the creature gets bigger and bigger and as it evolves it begins taking on different forms. A four-legged one that gets it on land so it can feed on the pollution it finds seeping into the atmosphere from factory smoke stacks, It then has a flying form which looks kind of like a trilobite. In this shape it expels sulfuric acid mist that rots and corrodes anything it falls upon. In it’s final shape it’s humanoid, has a pulsating red brain and can fire this red lightening bolt ray from out of its eyes.
This is the first and only Godzilla movie where you can see the human casualties wrought by one of the monsters, in this it’s all from Hedorah’s acidic mist and sludge the creature exudes. Humans rot to skeleton. Godzilla even suffers the loss of one eye from combat with the creature.
The cartoon breakaways are unique to this movie as well. I never understood the meaning of them, and they could easily be excised without any interruption of plot, but there they are.
Seeing this entry again for the second time I kind of appreciate it more at this age. It’s a dark tale, with a happy ending though, but with a brief moment where Godzilla seems to be irritated at how we humans caused this monster into being.
And now our final Godzilla movie, Godzilla Vs. Gigan (1972, aka Godzilla On Monster Island). The former title is used and it follows up his proceeding encounter with Hedorah and comes right before Godzilla Vs. Megalon (1973).
After seeing this movie last night I was surprised to see some scenes that made me feel I had seen this before. I’m now thinking Gigan was also aired that Sunday.
At this point I have seen enough Godzilla movies to know that Toho certainly loves the alien invasion angle. In Gigan alien cockroaches from a far-flung planet similar to Earth have invaded and taken human form. They have come to make sure humans don’t destroy their planet like the beings did from their home world. This plan entails taking over the earth and destroying all the world’s monsters. To do that they bring back Ghidorah and a new alien foe for Godzilla and his pals to tangle with—Gigan!
As for the human story this time around it centers on a comic book artist the aliens hire for their new theme park designed to pay homage to the King and his brethren. That Godzilla tower is what gave me deja-vu. Gengo, the artist, meets this chick whose brother disappeared working for the disguised aliens. Together and with the help of her hippie friend they end up fighting the aliens as the space roach’s monster thugs fight Godzilla and Anguirus.
The one cheesy aspect of this movie I didn’t like was the human voices given to Godzilla and Anguirus in a couple of scenes so you can hear what they were saying to each other. It’s a weird kind of voice but it wasn’t needed.
In my opinion the dubbed versions created by AIP (American International Pictures) for the Godzilla movies they acquired are the best. They went the route of using plausible Asian-American accents; I wish the other companies that distributed their Godzilla movies back then in the US had done the same. Having said that, and despite the dubbed versions for these three being way to Caucasian sounding for my tastes, the dubbing for Gigan and Hedorah were pretty good. Not so much for Ebirah. Of all the Godzilla movies I have ever seen the dubbing for Ebirah was by far the worst, bordering, dare I say, on MST3K parody. I got used to it somewhat as the movie went on however.
Transfers are all in 1080p 2.35:1 high definition and look absolutely stunning. I have never seen Godzilla movies this old look so good. For the audio you can either choose to listen to the English dubbed track (DTS-HD Master Audio Mono) or the original Japanese track (DTS-HD Master Audio Mono) with English subtitles. I normally always listen to dubbed tracks and the crispness of them was on par with the video.
The only extras included on these International versions are the original theatrical trailers that look like they have gotten remastered too.
Not much is known about Kraken Releasing at this time. All I have been told is “…it’s a new international video distribution label specializing in Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror genre entertainment for mainstream audiences. Together with sister labels MAIDEN JAPAN (TOKYO MAGNITUDE 8.0, PAT LABOR, ROYAL SPACE FORCE) and SWITCHBLADE PICTURES (BIG BAD MAMA-SAN, ATTACK GIRLS SWIM TEAM VS. THE UNDEAD) Kraken’s goal is to bring the best filmed entertainment from around the world to our customers.”
They’ve done a superb job with their Godzilla acquisitions and I’m looking forward to seeing what else they bring out.