Monday, May 24, 2010

Godzilla Raids Again

Men in rubber suits plunge into the ocean. An exciting moment from the second official Godzilla feature.

"Critics routinely approach the Godzilla movies expecting to find little of value... In fact, many books on science fiction films perpetuate inaccurate plot summaries of Godzilla movies." These are the words of Author David Kalat from his terrific book on all things Godzilla, A Critical History And Filmography Of Toho's Godzilla Series [1997]*.
*
Truer words have rarely been said about Godzilla. Not unlike the critical reception of such series as Space:1999 or the original Battlestar Galactica, the Godzilla series has often been much maligned. Yet, there is much to appreciate about this series, like the others, that is often overlooked in favor of towing the perceived critical party line amidst peers within the business. This is why, as The Sci-Fi Fanatic out here on the blogosphere, I feel it is my obligation to take a thorough and fair look at these sorely slandered works. The wonderful Godzilla films have often been given the same treatment by a host of talking heads that nary giving the films any kind of genuine analysis or treatment. I'd like to think, like Kalat, I'm here to give them the fair shake and respect they deserve. Kalat extensively discusses the double-standard that exists for some science fiction monster movies versus those same styles that were presented in the Japanese kaiju eiga pictures. These writers or critics trade in hypocrisy, but must be called on their often shameless roasting of our beloved classics. The writers who arrive at their favorable conclusions regarding these often classic works are often discarded as fanboys, but the fact of the matter is their conclusions are often supported by well-documented facts and detailed, logical analysis that completely remove the arguments of those devodi of such efforts. Those who would merely deliver a hurried, cursory, superficial and essentially purposefully damaging review of a work that deserves better for the purposes of meeting a deadline are the ones who should be exposed. These same nostalgic gems often rise head and shoulders above their American counterparts. At the very least they belong on the same playing field.
*
Like Godzilla, the creation of Anguiras would be an equally iconic beast within the Godzilla franchise.
Godzilla Raids Again [1955] is the second film in the Showa Series. It acts on a number of levels as a bridge film between Gojira [1954] and the monster smackdown concepts officially established in King Kong vs. Godzilla [1962] throughout the films of the 1960s and beyond. It is also in black and white like the original, and would be the last Godzilla film to be filmed this way. I've never actually seen this particular Godzilla film. This one flew under the radar and never got the same play stateside as the later Godzilla films. King Kong vs. Godzilla and those that followed were the films that managed to make heavy rotations on Creature Double Feature Saturdays in the USA. I enter it, unlike many of those ornery critics with an axe to grind against Godzilla and its Japanese filmmakers, with an open mind and a general adoration for all things atomic-breathing.

In a rare instance, Director extraordinaire Ishiro Honda would not return for this sophomore effort. It would be a brief departure for Honda who would return for the third film and beyond of the Showa Series of pictures. Director Motoyoshi Oda would take the reins for round two following in the footsteps of a Japanese classic. How does Godzilla Raids Again stack up? For starters, it introduces the concept of the monster versus monster paradigm. Anguiras is the first deatured enemy of Godzilla. The film begins a longstanding relationship with Anguirus. Anguirus, while an enemy here, would become an ally of Big G for years to come following Godzilla Raids Again.

The second and final installment in the Godzilla Showa series to be filmed in black and white begins with a pilot in a small plane radioing to headquarters. K105 has spotted a school of Bonitos. The pilot flirts with the girl in dispatch discussing their planned get together later. Another pilot, K104, is having engine trouble. He's going to crash down onto Iwato Island. K105 is heading to find Kobayashi, pilot of K104. K105 spots the downed plane K104 and Kobayashi waving.
*
There aren't many black and white films, Japanese or American, that I can't enjoy. There is something comforting about an old picture.
Despite the absence of Ishiro Honda, it is notable that Director Motoyoshi Oda brings another beautiful, crisp cinematic effort to the emerging Godzilla fanbase. On the rocky outcropping, the two men sit by a fire laughing. Kobayashi learns he will have to thank what he terms the "two annoying girls" in dispatch. Without warning, the classic roar of Godzilla arrives along with a variation on that roar, Anguiras, that is representative of the first of many creatures to come within the Godzilla franchise. Godzilla is spotted tussling with another creature on the island. The two men can only assume it is Godzilla. The rumble between the suitmation actors is sped up on film slightly and looks slightly bizarre. [See Kalat's explanation in the additional commentary portion at the end of this entry]. It almost appears as if the creators were attempting to create the illusion of stop motion animation. As rocks crumble around the men, Godzilla and the as yet identified creature fight! They land themselves straight into the ocean and the two men survive.

Back in Osaka City at Police Headquarters the two men thumb through pages of dinosaur books to identify what it is exactly they witnessed. Takashi Shimura returns as the expert witness and paleontologist that is Dr. Kyohei Yamane. The men discern the facts and indicate the hydrogen bomb testing woke Godzilla [a different one, since the other one died in Gojira] and a creature that appears to be an Ankylosaur. This creature, according to the Japanese dinosaur guide book, is also referred to as Anguirus. This information comes by way of a well known Polish zoologist. No polish jokes allowed. Anguirus facts: 150-200 feet tall, carnivorous and speedy. One of the so-called experts in the room, based on the information of just two men, has somehow deduced the following: "I am afraid to admit it, but it must be Anguirus." That's a pretty complex deduction fella, but I know we have to get this movie moving.
*
Dr. Kyohei Yamane [Takashi Shimura] returns.
The men turn to Dr. Yamane for solutions on how to defeat Godzilla. He offers them nothing but bad news. Dr. Yamane indicates to the men that he will show them footage on how Godzilla destroyed Tokyo. What kind of film would that be? Live footage? Self-made documentary? Folks, welcome to the shortcut. Dr. Yamane actually exhibits clips from the original Gojira film. Dr. Yamane has somehow contacted Director Ishiro Honda for the exact same shots Honda filmed. Incredible. The employed stock footage from Gojira proves conventional weapons are no match for Godzilla. It's this kind of shortcut that harms a feature film. It's made clear that all Serizawa knew died right along with him including the Oxygen Destroyer. The room sits silent around a board room table and watch Gojira. Following the Gojira recap, Dr. Yamane proclaims, "Killing Godzilla is hopeless." That's not exactly the kind of inspiration they were hoping for. The men ask of this new Godzilla's existence. Dr. Yamane feared there would be others and proposed such a possibility in Gojira. In Doctor Who, doctors can die, regenerate and wah-lah, new Doctor Who. In Godzilla, as long as the oceans remain endless there can always be more. Dr. Yamane fears this is bigger than "nuclear weapons." They must attempt to predict the "landing area" of the two monsters. Yet they can't do much to stop them. Go figure.

Dr. Yamane indicates Godzilla has a weakness. Lights. He suspects the lights anger him bringing back "memories of the hydrogen bomb testing." The film clearly retains much of the Japanese anguish once again ilustrating the psychological make-up of the people. After all, Godzilla Raids Again was only made a short time after Gojira. This film, more than any other, shares the thematic ties and general vibe found in the 1954 original, but the familiarity and less compelling tale fail to deliver a winner. Yamane insists a blackout be enforced in Osaka [and you thought Tokyo was always under feet] and lights be planted to lure Godzilla away from the city.

The pilot, Shoichi Tsukioka, and his would be lover talk. It's another love story developed in the shadow of Godzilla. He tells her it was quiet on Iwato Island. How do you figure? The man was there for all of five minutes before a brawl was unleashed and rocks began caving in on his head. He must be joking. Soon they will go dancing. These human element and subplots would become an integral part of the Godzilla franchise.

The score is notably solid by Masuro Sato in the absence of revered Composer Akira Ifukube. It captures the drama and intensifies the feeling behind the search of the ocean expanse for our two missing creatures. The mapping of Godzilla's route indicates he is headed for Kii Strait. He is expected to make landfall in Southern Shikoku. The Japanese fear Godzilla will impact their access to the ocean's bounty.

Later, while Tsukioka dances with his girl, Hidemi Yamaji, an alarm sounds. WHAT LUCK! Godzilla has altered course and is headed straight for Osaka Bay. The blackout will be enforced. People are asked to exit calmly. Of course, the reverse occurs as people are panic stricken everywhere. Thanks to the events of Gojira, these people know what Godzilla can do. It was funny to see the lights go out. Not only did the building lights go out, but at the exact same moment all of the driving car lights switch off too. Wow, that's electrical control for you.
*
That's not the Scottish Loch Ness Monster.
Meanwhile, tanks roll in. Don't these folks know tanks don't work, especially traditional, conventional ones? The man in the suit arrives - Godzilla. It's actually quite ominous as his head slowly emerges from the water and he moves closer. Flares are dropped in the hopes of luring Godzilla away from the city.
*
Evacuations are under way. If they have learned anything from Gojira, it's get the hell out of dodge! So, I give the filmmakers credit for getting Japanese residents to think logically and get to safe areas. It would have been a shame to simply repeat the chaotic disarray of the first film. The flares appear to be working as Godzilla turns sweeping a lighthouse from its perch with his massive lizard tail. He begins moving back toward the ocean. "We are all right now." OH! You had to say that! Did you just say that!? It's a cardinal rule to never jinx yourself like that. I suspect they won't be "all right" for long now. Elsewhere, Tsukioka has delivered Hidemi safely to her father's home, perched high on a hill side. Hidemi pleads with Kobayashi and Tsukioka to take care of her father. There is also a lovely connection between the paternal father figure and the female daughters to date. Japanese culture normally portrays a healthy respect by women for the father and this is illustrated here. At Mr. Yamaji's factory, all quietly rejoice Godzilla is exiting Osaka Bay. Their fishing industry will not be harmed as first anticipated.

Meanwhile, on an open road, a prison transport vehicle is overtaken by several prisoners. The men escape and are pursued by four police officers. One prisoner is shot, a couple captured, some escape. I'm assuming it can't end well for these boobs since they are prisoners. These side story adventures become a regular portion of the later Godzilla adventures. You get the feeling these escapees may become an Anguirus taste treat.

Kobayashi and Tsukioka come upon two officers who jump in their vehicle. They are asked to follow a commandeered truck. The vehicles all make their way to a fuel refinery. That should make for some grand explosions. While on the run, the prisoners crash through a barricade and their truck explodes. This in turn forces several oil tanks to explode. Fires begin to rage. Fires equal bright lights. Bright lights equal monsters. Monsters equal destruction. All of this equals bad news. This won't be good.

A crunchy faced Godzilla spots the fire, turns, gives the classic Godzilla roar and its game on! Godzilla makes landfall and the Japanese military unleash an assault that would devastate a stampede of velociraptors, but not Godzilla. It's humorous to see the wee little model tanks and the plastic figurines standing next to them open up a can of sparking, fiery, whoop-hiney. Now it's only so long before Godzilla gets tired of the disrespect and fires back with his ace in the hole, the atomic breath, or as my Wonder refers to it, "Atomic Breathe yeeaahh!"

video


Enter Anguirus. Welcome to the party pal. The suit actors really don't get enough respect. I mean, shouldn't these poor fellows who have the most gruelling of jobs be listed in the cast credits? Perhaps there's a desire to stay away from shattering the illusion of real monsters in battle, but these guys deserve a little love here and it's hardly a secret. Haruo Nakajima returns to the Godzilla suit for Godzilla Raids Again and would continue to do so for many years to come. He is the king of suitmation. The second man is Katsumi Tezuka. He plays the part of Anguirus and is another primary player in the suitmation wars. More on both of these amazing people later.
*
Godzilla looks a bit like Goliath from a popular Sunday morning kids program called Davey & Goliath.
As the two creatures battle Anguirus goes for Godzilla's jugular like some kind of crazed Pit Bull. The speed, again, is filmed at a different rate taking much of the realism found in the original film Gojira out of the battle realism and bridging us closer to some of the action sequences we would see in later films. Slow motion is more effective with Godzilla films and the rare shot in this film proves that out. Godzilla releases destruction on the city, but his frosty, atomic breath seems more like a distraction to Anguirus having little affect.

Mr. Yamaji sees his fish cannery in flames and dreams fade from his heart. From Mr. Yamaji's home, his daughter Hidemi watches the flames and smoke from afar with sadness in her heart. The image is definitely an allusion to the atomic mushroom clouds of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the Bikini Atoll.

video


The suitmation also improves going forward. Three more prisoners run around seeking escape, but are trapped by the feuding beasts. They decide to take cover by heading underground into the subways. Water floods into the underground and it's a fairly impressive sequence as the men are drowned by the resulting carnage. They inevitably die indirectly at the hands of the monsters. The military retreats.

It's easy to see why Anguirus would one day become an ally with Godzilla, because there is an almost playful rivalry between the two here. It's more playful than hatred in nature and Osaka is there playground.

You'll note slow motion would have been far more effective in Godzilla Raids Again. It was a poorly conceived idea to go in this direction. As Godzilla munches on Anguirus' bleeding neck, the end grows near.

video


Well, that takes cares of that. Godzilla is King Of The Monsters once again. "The battle of the century is over." Godzilla returns to the sea. Images of Osaka's devastation once again recall the images of Tokyo from Gojira and once again recall the devastation of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
Mr. Yamaji's factory is wiped out, but he will rebuild he tells his colleagues. It is a statement that resonates with the concept of the postwar reconstruction following the devastation of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Kobayashi and Tsukioka inform Mr. Yamaji they have looked for Godzilla, but cannot find him. Yes, it's a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack for the big fellow. Seriously, the ocean is vast and it is hard when he lives under the sea. Mr. Yamaji indicates the Hokkaido branch will become the base of operations. This is a great example for not putting all of your eggs in one basket. Kobayashi is a complete airhead. He doesn't care what happens as long as he can keep flying. I love this brief bit of human interaction between some of the primaries. It's a cute, light moment.

video

The film takes us to some beautiful shots of Hokkaido and captures some picturesque snow falling. Mr. Kobayashi is a card. He's extremely amusing. The film also captures some of the formula noted in David Kalat's book regarding the reformulated love triangle prototype established in Gojira. We have a man and woman in love and a third comedic party as represented here by Kobayashi. The third party is generally not the straight man and lends some other aspect to the dynamic of the three-way relationship. But the individual is not the cliched, typical third party lover in the triangle. Kobayashi flirts with Hidemi to bring that element into the mix, but nothing more substantive. So the search continues for fish and Godzilla in some pretty frigid temps.

Later, Kobayashi alludes to a secret for Tsukioka and Hidemi to be determined later. The three arrive at Yayoi Restaurant. Kobayashi surprised Tsukioka with old college friends from the flying corps. They all sit around for a traditional Japanese dinner. There's something so warm and inviting about Japanese dining around a floor with shoes off. I absolutely love that aspect of Japanese tradition. The company party rages while Tsukioka has a small dining party of his own with his old friends in a room downstairs. The dining is interrupted with a report that the company's 2nd Mizukomaru has sank. The fun ends abruptly and the search is on again. These searches do go on a bit long. The film could have been cut by five minutes.

A Godzilla figurine is found in a canyon.
Hidemi, Tsukioka's lover, requests he return home due to inclement weather. She definitely fears for him as a result of their relationship. She demands he return home immediately, but he refuses angering her. Hidemi gets over it quick enough. Kobayashi pays a visit and asks her what girls want. She begins to smile and Kobayashi takes notes and you should too. Handbag. Watch. Stockings. Handbags are particularly good guys. Keep that one handy. Tsukioka spots Godzilla and Kobayashi heads out to assist. Hidemi urges him to be careful. He promises he will return so she can help him pick a gift for his secret girlfriend. Kobayashi enjoys playing the secret game. He leaves his wallet behind for Hidemi to leaf through. I'm uncertain if the photo in his wallet is a picture of Hidemi or if it is a picture of someone entirely different. It's not entirely clear, but he may have secretly loved Hidemi. In the photo, the girl appears to have a traditional Japanese school uniform on and it may be a photo of her from their days in school together. I don't know.

Godzilla is headed for icy Kamiko Island. "Prepare to attack with bombs!" Alright! Here we go. Well, not quite, Kobayashi and Tsukioka have a bit of fun waving to one another from their planes. The mood is quite different in Godzilla Raids Again. Amazing what a different mood a few months can generate for a sequel. Military men with the civilian pilots' assistance plan a strategy to trap Godzilla inside the island. The plan includes fire and more fire with an extra touch of fire.

Kobayashi flies over the island, "That bastard!" The Japanese Defense Force Air Squadron is called upon to attack. The aerial shots of Godzilla on the island show Godzilla standing still like a plastic figurine, because it is a plastic figurine. The Boy Wonder enters the room, "Is that Godzilla? The doll!" Freakin' hysterical! The air force bombards Godzilla with bombs. It's not working because it's bomb-resistant Godzilla. Kobayashi commits suicide in a heroic kamikaze run generating an avalanche. The air strike continues bombing the ice and Godzilla becomes partially buried beneath it, but did Kobayashi really have to die for this to happen? No.

video

Hidemi reports to her father that Kobayashi will not be returning. She walks away in tears. The men return to base to regroup, reload and commit a new plan using waves of rocket missiles in a dangerous strafing run at Godzilla. Meanwhile, Godzilla is semi-trapped in the ice and some of the military quickly roll out barrels of fuel below his location from a boat. I love this shot of Godzilla's eyes. The eyes of any creature say so much. A moment like this really captures the anthropomorphic caharacteristics that began to be attributed to Godzilla.

video

So the men attempt to stave off Godzilla's exit into the ocean by igniting the barrels and creating a temporary firewall. The planes arrive and the attack commences. Godzilla breathes a bit of fire and takes down two more planes, but the ice burial continues. Unfortunately, this Godzilla lacks the unstoppable intensity of the Godzilla found in the original. Godzilla scraps one more plane with his atomic breath and scraps another with his hand. You're flying way too low there brother. The ice shelf is hammered with rocket missiles endlessly. It's a bit tedious after awhile.

video

There are many similarities here, but Godzilla Raids Again lacks the complete, satisfying singular vision the original embodied in Honda's hands. And that's all she wrote for Godzilla [for now]. Tsukioka has a pensive moment to conclude an otherwise avergage film and rather abrupt ending. I can only imagine Actor Takashi Shimura was more than happy to have just a brief part in this one. Godzilla's howl is classic in this entry with a few minor gutteral embellishments added to his growl and that about describes this entry's build n the original. The dark ferocity of the original is absent, but Godzilla does raid again, like it or not.

video

One thing is certain, while this was a competent exercise in Godzilla filmmaking, it felt familiar. It was certainly a damn sight better than the additional American footage cut for Godzilla, King Of The Monsters. It does continue to setup the formula for Godzilla going forward. Godzilla Raids Again was definitely an excuse to rush the big guy back into cinemas for a bit of fun and a bit of money making. The big saving grace here, and the freshest element, was the monster on monster smackdown with Anguirus that would be copied ad infinitum into the future. The disappointment is that it could have been handled so much better during filming. Where was the prolific Ishiro Honda when you needed him?
*
Godzilla Raids Again: C+
*
Writer: Shigeaki Hidaka/ Shigeru Kayama/ Takeo Murata
Director: Motoyoshi Oda
Time: 82 minutes
USA title: Gigantis, The Fire Monster

Additional commentary that I found interesting comes by way of Author David Kalat's book, A Critical History And Filmography Of Toho's Godzilla Series. One of his sources indicates Director Ishiro Honda felt Toho had no plans to expand Godzilla initially. Honda recalls, "We had no plans for a sequel and naively hoped that the end of Godzilla was going to coincide with the end of nuclear testing." You can't blame the studio for grand ambitions. Seriously, such a belief seems a bit naive. Godzilla Raids Again arrived very quickly following Gojira. It smells a bit fishy.

Still, bringing back Godzilla didn't appear to be an issue for Toho. Kalat compares Godzilla Raids Again's arrival to the "rush job" of Son Of Kong [1933], which rushed out following King Kong [1933]. This is a perfect analogy. Godzilla Raids Again followed Gojira months later as well. Kalat notes Godzilla Raids Again "suffers" from Honda's absence. He also points out this film and Godzilla vs. Hedora [a.k.a. Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster] are the only two films in the Showa series not directed by Honda or his successor Jun Fukuda. It's certainly worth a look.

Kalat gives a nod of approval to the Special Effects work of Eiji Tsuburaya, but does point to some obvious weaknesses I mentioned. The action sequences between Godzilla and Anguiras are sped up to the point of comical. Kalat indicates Gojira was filmed at a "higher frame rate." Godzilla Raids Again was filmed at a "lower frame rate" than normal "decreasing the realism." One point of interest for fans of suitmation is that the Godzilla suit mold used in this film is strikingly similar to the one utilized for Gojira.

Speaking of similar, unfortunately "the story appears to retread Godzilla." This a great point. Sadly, there isn't alot Director Oda can do. The script really doesn't venture off from some of the aspects found in the first film, but lacks the dark "terror" and the overall urgency of the first film's political climate. There are also a great many light-hearted exchanges thanks to the Kobi Kobayashi character and as Kalat puts it, it takes us out of the "tension." It's true this character is far more likable than any character found in Gojira as far as light antics go. Gojira is played straight, hard and heavy. Godzilla Raids Again is a step back from the severe tones of the orginal in favor of something far less motivated by socio-political currents, which exist to a lesser extent.

Kalat calls the characters that populate this installment of Gojira as "infernally cheery." In Gojira, the characters were "eaten up by personal demons." Despite the short production break between this film and the original, there is definitive feeling of distance between the two films emotionally illustrating the mood or temper of the Japanese people or lack thereof. If reconstruction is suggested in the aftermath of the monstrous smackdown between Aguiras and Godzilla, the impact on the psyche here in Osaka is quite different from the mood found in Tokyo. Still, Gojira was an all out commentary on the state of Japan's victimization following the hydrogen bombs and the testing. Godzilla is a harbinger of that message. In Godzilla Raids Again, Godzilla battles with Anguiras as if to suggest the destruction is an accident resulting from their duel to the death. It's nothing personal. They're just a couple of dumb, old monsters having at it.

Another good insight, and one I noticed, but didn't mention until reading Kalat's reference to the "shame" of the kamikaze pilots. When Kobayashi sacrifices his life in an act of kamikaze bravery, it is intended to highlight the selflessness of the act. There is an almost samurai nobility to the character's motivations. It definitely felt like an effort to lend a positive light to the concept of the kamikaze sacrifice following the negative historical light cast upon the actions of Japanese pilots on American forces during World War II. It's a minor symbolic moment, but it spoke volumes to me.

Kalat delves into some detail about the differences between Godzilla Raids Again and the US version, Gigantis, The Fire Monster. Some of his commentary is funny. There is excessive narration apparently in the US version. "Every event and character motivation is described in such detail by the main character, Tsukioka, that one could recommend this film to the blind." This, in comparison, to the "haunting moods" of silence found in this Japanese original.

Special Effects Director: Eiji Tsuburaya [1901-1970]. Tsuburaya joined Toho Studios in 1938. Together they worked with the Japanese government on films boosting the Japanese war effort during World War II. Author David Kalat had this to say in his book A Critical History And Filmography Of Toho's Godzilla Series: "Tsuburaya's special effects work during the war consisted of propaganda films, and after the war ended he was so closely associated with wartime propaganda that he was virtually blacklisted." Following a brief departure from Toho, he returned to the fray in 1951. He was the head of the Special Effects department by 1952. Along with Ishiro Honda, Tsuburaya would be considered one of the founders of kaiju eiga. He founded Tsuburaya Productions in 1963 responsible for Ultraman [1967]. His film highlights include some of my favorites Gojira [1954], Godzilla Raids Again [1955], Rodan [1956], Throne Of Blood [1957], The Mysterians [1957], H-Man [1958], Varan The Unbelievable [1958], Battle In Outer Space [1959], The Human Vapour [1960], Mothra [1961], Gorath [1962], King Kong vs. Godzilla [1962], Matango [1963], Atragon [1963], Mothra vs. Godzilla [1964], Dogora [1964], Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster [1964], Frankenstein vs. Baragon [1965], Invasion Of Astro-Monster [1965], Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster [1966], War Of The Gargantuas [1966], King Kong Escapes [1967], Son Of Godzilla [1967], Destroy All Monsters [1968], Latitude Zero [1969] and All Monsters Attack [1969]. Like Ishiro Honda, the man's resume is exhaustive. There is much more to his career than what I have listed. I have simply listed those of interest to me. He worked extensively with the masters including Ishiro Honda and Akira Kurosawa. He won a Japanese Film Technique Award for Special Effects for his work on Gojira in 1954. He would win others.

Actor Footnote: Haruo Nakajima [1929-]. The actor behind Godzilla suitmation and considered the "best" man in the suit of all-time. Nakajima would also appear in a handful of films uncostumed, but is best know for his work as the man behind the monster. His films include working with Directors Ishiro Honda and Akira Kurosawa. Seven Samurai [1954], Gojira [1954], Godzilla Raids Again [1955], Rodan [1956], The Mysterians [1957] [Moguera], Varan The Unbelievable [1958], The H-Man [1958], Mothra [1961], Gorath [1962], King Kong vs. Godzilla [1962], Matango [1963], Mothra vs. Godzilla [1964], Dogora [1964], Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster [1964], Frankenstein vs. Baragon [1965], Invasion Of The Astro-Monster [1965], The War Of The Gargantuas [1966], Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster [1966], King Kong Escapes [1967], Destroy All Monsters [1968], Latitude Zero [1969], All Monsters Attack [1969], Space Amoeba [1970], Godzilla vs. Hedora [1971] and Godzilla vs. Gigan [1972]. The men behind the suits suffered in suits with no ventilation, little air and severe heat. The men suffered greatly losing cups of sweat at a time, fainting, severe muscular strain and cramping in tight quarters. Nakajima retired in 1972.

Actor Footnote: Katsumi Tezuka [1912-]. A former professional baseball player from Kyoto. Tezuka is the second best man behind Godzilla suitmation. His involvement is a little more mysterious. Gojira [1954], Godzilla Raids Again [1955], Rodan [1956], The Mysterians [1957], Varan The Unbelievable [1958], The H-Man [1958], Battle In Outer Space [1959], Mothra [1961], Gorath [1962], King Kong vs. Godzilla [1962], Matango [1963] [Medical Center Doctor], Atragon [1963], Mothra vs. Godzilla [1964], Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster [1964]. There is a brief featurette included on the disc entitled The Art Of Suit Acting. Here is an interesting bit.

video


* It was interesting to note David Kalat's book was published in 1997, the same year as John Kenneth Muir's Exploring Space:1999. Both are published by McFarland & Company, Inc.. Apparently 1997, was a great year for strong critical analysis for two misrepresented series in Godzilla and Space:1999. Kalat's book is the one in need of an update. Both are exceptional books.

6 comments:

J.D. said...

Holy smokes, another fantastic, in-depth piece! This is really some great stuff you've written and I am totally on the same page with you about being angered by how so many critics look down their noses at these films. Sure, it ain't BRAVEHEART but it is still an engaging and entertaining film in its own right.

I have fond memories of watching Godzilla movies as a kid over at a friend's house and, at that age, just digging them for the wanton destruction that the big guy invoked on poor Japan. Plus, it always a blast to see another monsters get in on the fun for battle royales with each other.

What are your thoughts on the crappy Roland Emmerich reboot/remake?

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Thanks J.D. I agree. These classics really get ripped. And you're right, it's not Braveheart, but they have their place, especially for those of us who remember them so fondly. They aren't Ishtar either.

As for the Rolans's film. Apart from a few neat moments, it's a disaster. What a shame. I remember watching the Superbowl and seeing the ad for it and being really excited. What a giant let down. Pure garbage like most everything by the Emmerich team. The films look good, but they are just crap. All that CRAP CGI. Just like you said. Your recent review of Legend is a great example of quality.

J.D. said...

Like yourself, I was excited about Emmerich's take on GODZILLA from the pretty cool teaser trailers and then the actual film itself was such a massive letdown. I agree, there were some nice visuals every so often but the acting and dialogue was so bad! Ouch...

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Boy, the acting was awful and I like Matthew Broderick. I mean, who doesn't like Ferris Bueller?

The Film Connoisseur said...

Awesome review, as you know, Im discovering Godzilla movies little by little, but I am having a hell of a great time with them! As you mentioned at the beginning of your review, most people treat these films with disrespect when they are in fact very entertaining films. So far I havent bumped into one that I didnt like!

Agree with you about the men behind the suit not getting enough credit, those guys go through hell inside of those suits. The dvd for Gojira has some extras that go into the hellish process of suiting up, at times they actor couldnt be in the suit for more than three minutes for fear of passing out and dehidration!

Honda is my favorite of all the directors so far, the classic Gojira was top notch work, I recently watched Astro Monster...and it was a wonderful piece of Sci-fi! Ill reviewing that one next week, I'd like to know what you think of that one.

I need to see this one as soon as possible, thanks for this awesome and in depth review.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Thank you Francisco for the thoughtful comments and kind words my friend.

I did cover the Gojira film and I think I even included a bit about the costuming process for these men in that review.

You're right. It has to be hell for them.

Anyway, let me know your thoughts on that one when you have time.

I really enjoy your more extensive coverage on Godzilla and all film Japanese of late. Keep up the fabulous work.

By the way, how do you find the time to write so much?

Thanks again, best
sff