Archive for Giant Monsters

팀 선생님 시가 괴수입니다

Posted in Hogwan Hijinks!, Oldies But Baddies, Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , , , , , , on October 1, 2017 by shenanitim

Translation: Tim Teacher is a kaiju.

File this classic under: First year teaching ESL in Korea (October 2nd, 2015).

It’s not often that I don’t have an answer in class. Today was one such day.

“Tim Teacher is tall.”

While that statement is grammatically correct, and also correct within the confines of said class, in any other situation it is completely wrong.

How do you break it to a 9 year old that while I am taller than him, I’m still not actually “tall?”


Halloween Endurance Test: Gorgo (1961)

Posted in 2011, Halloween Endurance Tests with tags , , , on October 21, 2011 by shenanitim

I’ve covered all types of films this year. One that was given to me by a friend (Curse of Frankenstein), one that was recommended by a reader (the Uninvited), and some you hear about that you just have to track down and find (Entrails of a Virgin, Class of 1999). 1961’s giant monster film Gorgo falls into this last category.

Imagine you’re me, at the start of October, trying to decorate your apartment and get your life in order before everything goes on “pause” for the next month. One of your prep tools is Cinema Wasteland’s brilliant “Radio Spot Apocalypse 1: A Collection of Original Drive-in Radio Spots from the 60’s and 70’s.” Along with the CDs comes Cinema Wasteland’s catalog; bringing to mind all your pre-internet teenage years, scouring bootleg catalogs hunting for a copy of Accion Mutante and the Dictators “Go Girl Crazy.”

In said catalog you find this description:

“A salvage ship is nearly sunk off the Irish coast by an undersea earthquake. A few nights later, something gets caught in the nets of a fishing boat and the fishermen capture a 60-ft. sea monster they call ‘Gorgo.’ Gorgo is taken to London with plans to exploit the beast in a circus, but scientists make a shocking discovery… Gorgo is just a baby. And when ‘mom’ comes looking for her baby, Gorgo, all hell breaks loose as she leaves a trial of destruction across England.” [Emphasis mine.]

If your heart didn’t palpitate a little when you read that last line, then I don’t know why you’re reading this. If your heart did palpitate, then you’re still probably not reading this, as you’re too busy imagining the aforementioned destruction.

As Cinema Wasteland’s thoughtful description has already provided a succinct synopsis, I’ll just focus on the awesome particulars.

(Quick! Someone tell Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter’s William Beaudine that this is how matte shots are done!)

15 minutes into the film and the sailors are trying to keep the 60-ft. tall Gorgo from the shore, by throwing flaming sticks at it! It’s as if the filmmakers decided to remake King Kong, but with Godzilla substituting for the ape! (A supposition that might not be off-base. Just check out the font used by the King Brothers production team. Certainly invokes a certain other film, don’t you think?)

Transporting the sedated Gorgo through London proper brings to mind Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, where again we’re faced with the shocking visual of the supernatural intersecting with the mundane. Boyle closed down Piccadilly Circus to film his zombies running amok, here they just laid the Gorgo husk on a flatbed truck and drove him in a true circus-style procession.

Thankfully Gorgo doesn’t skimp on is action. As fitting for what amounts to be a composite of giant monster flicks, Gorgo makes sure to punctuate all its talking scenes with carnage. A high and mighty British admiral touting how nothing can breach his fleets’ depth charges? Cue Gorgo’s mother ripping the admiral’s flagship in half.

One has to wonder if London’s evacuation scenes resonated as deeply for the British as did similar scenes in Gojira. Did the British feel the same kind of emotional aftershock that the Japanese did when both were laid to waste again; all for the sake of sci-fi?

The best part of these films is trying to guess how they’ll stop the beast. Godzilla famously falling to the oxygen destroyer. King Kong to director Merian C. Cooper’s sloppy attempt to connect his tale to that of Beauty and the Beast.

Flamethrowers don’t work, guns are useless, mortar, tanks, planes, all fall short. They build a towering electric fence only to see it smashed to pieces. (Mental note: if it didn’t work in the Far East, it won’t work in the Old World either.) Even that last hail-mary of all giant monster containment gambits , nets, fail.

Allowing Gorgo to end in an orgy of bullets, bombs, bloodshed, and the bitching-est mom ever to grace the silver screen. At director, Eugene Lourie’s daughter’s request, the film ends poignantly, with mankind reflecting on his actions as well as wondering what could happen next time.

The sheer sense of excitement you get from watching Gorgo’s mom rip London apart is exhilarating. This might be pure giant monster fandom, or also a holdover from Godzilla. In that film, one can’t really cheer on the destruction as you know the destruction Godzilla brings represents the destruction the US’ brought. The old “hasn’t Japan suffered enough?” knee-jerk reaction.

Whereas watching London get trashed is pure payback. They refused to listen to Thomas Jefferson! They made us fight for our basic rights! Hell, even after they lost the Revolutionary War, they came back later and burnt Washington D.C. to the ground (1814)!

Finally the Brits receive their just rewards. Some good old fashioned American capitalism/(circus) greed to give Britain its long-awaited (147 years!) comeuppance.

Halloween Endurance Test: Gojira (1954)

Posted in 2009, Halloween Endurance Tests with tags , , , , on September 3, 2011 by shenanitim

It seemed only fitting to follow up last year’s King Kong with the other important gargantuan monster movie, Gojira. Unfortunately, I don’t have any books conjecturing about the size of Gojira’s penis, unlike our simian forerunner. Any change in size for Gojira is easily explainable, unlike with Kong, since Gojira is a product of the atomic bomb. Thus any changes in stature/size can easily be attributed to radiation fluctuations.

A big Halloween Endurance Testthank you!” goes out to my brother here; for hooking me up with both the Japanese and American versions of the film. It turns out everyone I know is an enabler, not just my sister and my ex-girlfriend.

[Oops! In hindsight I’ve remembered that Craig also hooked me up with the Host. I know, right? Gojira and the Host, yet he claims to not be an Asiaphile?]

The version you watch plays a large part in the film; much larger than just determining how much Raymond Burr screen-time you have to sit through. In Gojira, the monster isn’t just a leftover dinosaur irradiated to preternatural size. Instead Gojira is an anthropomorphized nuclear blast, let loose once again in Japan, a mere nine years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

[Think about it. To steal a point made by Little Black Starin his review, as of my writing this eight years had passed since 9/11. And that involved two buildings being destroyed, instead of two cities.]

The Japanese film is filled with these reminders. Opening with a fishing expedition that accidentally runs into a mushroom cloud; the crew soon dies from their injuries. (This scene mirrors the real-life Lucky Dragon No. 5 incident; a ship that unknowingly became the first victims in what would become a nuclear arms race.)

During Gojira’s attack, we see what’s left of a family trying to take shelter in the burning city. As the buildings around them blaze, the children cry, as the mother knowingly reassures them to not worry, as they’ll be reunited with their father soon. A scene that obviously wouldn’t play well in America.

Going further, Gojira’s protagonists symbolize the ideas behind the nuclear arms race. The paleontologist, Dr. Yaname, wants Gojira to be allowed to live, even as it burns Tokyo down, so that they can learn from it. His daughter’s suitor, the eye-patch wearing/Oxygen Destroyer-creating, Daisuke Serizawa, believes that the beast should be destroyed for the sake of mankind.

(Through the magic of modern motion pictures, we, the audience, get both. Gojira is eventually destroyed, but would return shortly (a/k/a only six months) in the sequel Godzilla Raids Again!)

Leading us to the differences in the Japanese original and American version . As the Americans were already used to seeing giant-sized creatures terrorize the world (The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Them!, Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman), Gojira changed from a cautionary tale to an exploitative one when it crossed the ocean. Serving only to remind us of other life forms (in this case ancient lizards) that we wouldn’t necessarily want to see exaggerated to fantastic proportions.

Art imitating life, never again would Gojira play so fearsome. With each subsequent incarnation the underlying subject matter would be further removed from its hellish origins. Where once we were reminded of men caught in a heat wave so intense that it vaporized their bodies and left their shadows burnt into brick, eventually we had Gojira’s son, Minilla, as well as other monsters such as Gamera, and Mothra crowding the theaters. The Japanese equivalent of the US’ atomic monsters Toho originally managed to avoid creating.

Halloween Endurance Test: the Host (2006)

Posted in 2010, Halloween Endurance Tests with tags , , , on October 31, 2010 by shenanitim

I’ve been on the fence about whether to include this film or not. I’ve heard glowing reviews from “my converts.” The two people: my brother (who bought me this copy) and my best friend, had, growing up, to be convinced of the merits of bad movies.

Neither of them would believe me on just how awesome Escape from New York is until I forced my brother to watch a not-edited-for-television version. My best friend only watched comedies and horrid action movies. (He had a Last Action Hero poster on his wall for way too long.) It wouldn’t be until “the incident” with him that our distinct cinematic tastes would start to converge. This film, however, made me wonder what kind of monster(s) had I created?

I think, here, it’s all the CGI that ruins it for me. I understand why, if one were to make a modern-day monster movie, they utilized CGI. This understanding does not bring acceptance though. Sure the two-headed mutant-boy from the Funhouse wasn’t really scary. Even in the moment it was hard to buy into him. His murderous father/keeper was totally believable; even if he was only a Greek-looking carny.

I’ve gone on numerous times about the visual lameness of CGI blood (here and here). It just doesn’t look real. Compounding the issue here is the fact that barely anyone dies in the movie. During the monster’s first riverside rampage, only a handful of people get eaten.

The film’s main drive: a drunken, layabout father’s search for his missing daughter loses its appeal since you never truly believe that the girl is dead. She’s just missing. She doesn’t even spend the movie in the belly of the beast! Instead camping out in a modern version of Attack of the Giant Leeches air-filled, underwater caves.

In fact, there’s little difference between the two films. Instead of an army of giant leeches, there’s just one giant monster of indeterminate origins. Rather then deny the monster, in the Host, the government does believe in it, but are ineffectual in containing it. This film is also twice as long as the original. Equalling, for you, the reader/viewer, twice as many topical references that’ll make no sense in 10-20 years.

Most damning is the entire extraneous government subplot, which drags on for 45+ minutes before the final insult; there’s no virus. Making the subplot worthless except for a few “laughs” (if you want to call them that) provided by the Korean version of Get a Life‘s Chris Peterson.

Not to mention they spend an hour looking for the monster. Only to have said monster show up at a demonstration in the end. Meaning any editor, good or bad, could/would/should have cut out all the extra fluff. Just because you can shoot 80 minutes of horrid, unfunny subplots doesn’t mean you should.

A monster movie for people who don’t understand monster movies.