Archive for kaiju

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?”


Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus (2009)

Posted in 2013, Halloween Endurance Tests with tags , , , , , , on October 15, 2013 by shenanitim


The Asylum is for Millenials what Troma and Full Moon were to Generation X’ers. Where Troma and Full Moon had a lock on the home rental market, Asylum instead has a (seemingly) substantial deal with the SyFy network; releasing a new packed-to-the-gills exploitation future classic every week. Their run peaking with the double-shot from hell: Nazis at the Center of the Earth and Sharknado.

Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus - Megalodon Attacks!

Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus - Megalodon

Before the Asylum hit the pop cultural goldmine with Sharknado, they tested the waters with other aquatic animal-themed movies; such as today’s feature: Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus.

As if having a Mega Shark and Giant Octopus wasn’t enough star power, this film also stars Debbie Gibson! For the record, she’s as good as an actor as she is a singer. Apparently they paid her enough to be in the movie, but not enough to look interested.

Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus - Giant Octopus2

I guess pointing out that a Giant Octopus would actually be rather timid is besides the point here. Octopi being more “flight” than “fight” when in the wild.

I’ll assume everyone reading this realizes that while yes, our “Mega Shark,” the Megalodon did actually exist, it probably wasn’t able to jump hundreds of feet into the air. Great whites have been known to jump into boats, but to jump up and snatch a plane from the sky is a couple of orders of magnitude too big, even if the shark’s a Megalodon.

Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus - whale watching

I’m also not a oceanologist, but when two meet, I’m guessing the line, “I think I’m being followed by the FEDs” would be met with comical derision. They should put a disclaimer up at the beginning informing the audience that in the movie’s alternate reality, stealing multi-million dollar submarines is no big deal.

Now I’m not calling Debbie Gibson a dummy, but I know what a Megalodon is. Which is more than Gibson’s Emma; who’s apparently “a brilliant oceanographer.” Which, in this movie world, makes me Einstein.

Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus - Fighter Jet Vs Giant Octopus

The first time I watched Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus I remember enjoying it. Sadly it was long enough ago that I can’t clearly recall what it was I thought I enjoyed. One year later and the honeymoon period is over.

I’ve seen four minutes of gigantic animal carnage, and roughly 36 minutes of three scientists sit in a lab clinking test tubs together. There’s a giant octopus terrorizing Japan, and a revived Megalodon snacking on planes headed to California. Why are we watching Lorenzo Lamas?

Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus - Says it All Really

Oh, of course for the age-old “should we kill the monsters or study them” debate. Emma and friends want to study the giant beasts, Lorenzo wants to blow them up to reopen the world’s shipping channels. Luckily, 20 minutes later, the scientists are on-board with blowing the beasts up too.

Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus - Battle to the Death

Which is a great turn of events, as they can now begin studying how Lorenzo Lamas has somehow managed to escaped the effects of time…

Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus - I Think Octopus Wins

The Crater Lake Monster (1977)

Posted in 2013, Halloween Endurance Tests with tags , , on October 12, 2013 by shenanitim

Crater Lake Monster

The gateway film into my obsession with B-movies was the Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. My father bought it for me one Christmas and I just identified with it. (Around the same time, the copy of Black Flag’s Damaged brother bought me would have a similar effect.) It’s hard not to imagine a similar love driving the Crater Lake Monster. It looks its age; everyone is wearing ’70s clothes, sporting ’70s hair, using ’70s lingo. It’s a bizarre B-movie time capsule to an era usually dominated by big-name Hollywood auteurs.

If the above sounds like a blustering love letter, that’s because it is. The Crater Lake Monster has that look that I’ve mentioned loving before; a certain type of cheap film used in production that colors everything just a little bit off.

Crater Lake looks like a labor of love too. I can just imagine producer/director William R. Stromberg having a insatiable desire to make a lake flick. Couldn’t do sharks because of Jaws. Couldn’t use piranhas due to Piranhas. So Stromberg and co-writer Richard Cardella thought he’d steal the kaiju idea back from Japan by having a meteor crash into Crater Lake waking its titular monster.

the Crater Lake Monster - hiking

the Crater Lake Monster - Lens Flare

Apparently this film gets panned by the internet community; hipsters too busy “appreciating” the craptastic-ness of Troll 2 to see the beauty of the shot above. Most directors avoid lens flare, thus never taking an artistic chance by focusing in on the flare itself! Serving, as it does, as a suitably artistic counterpoint to the scientific discovery (Dinosaur bones found at Crater Lake!) being discussed by the characters.

Director William R. Stromberg even uses some Sam Raimi-esqe shaky cam to give us a Monster-eye view of the carnage when it’s chomping on its victims.

the Crater Lake Monster - Monster2

And what victims they are! Potential victims, Arnie (Glenn Roberts) and Mitch (Mark Siegel), run Crater Lake’s boat rental service, and supply the film’s comic relief. And they’re always on point. When a city slicker arrives, wanting to rent a boat for the day, Arnie informs him that it’s “$15 for the boat, and $5 for the motor.” When Mitch points out that all the engines are in the shop, Arnie’s price jumps up to $20!

Realistically, this movie should’ve been plotted around Arnie and Mitch’s bickering. Think R2 and C-3PO, or Bert and Ernie. It’s the sort of antagonistic friendship that I attempt to model all my relationships after.

the Crater Lake Monster - Monster vs boat

I don’t know if every small town sheriff drove repainted station wagons repurposed as cop cars in the ’70s, but I’d really like to believe they did.

The sentiment above is what makes the Crater Lake Monster so enjoyable. Every defect is rectified by a glorious, shining virtue.

the Crater Lake Monster - Horrible Composition

A horrible shot. In fact, nearly all the shots from the car chase scene where this originated are horrible. Here, you can’t even see Sheriff Steve’s (Richard Cardella) face. But he makes out better than the perp he’s chasing, who you can’t see in the car due to the reflection on the windshield.

the Crater Lake Monster - Great Composition

Such mistakes are immediately made up for with ingenious use of “the siren cam.” Somehow director William R. Stromberg couldn’t figure out how to take passable shots of his principals, but he still knew enough to use the siren cam.

Plus the chase ends with the stereotypical, but still not usually seen, sequence of the robber’s car flying off a cliff and exploding in a ravine. Crater Lake’s almost too everyman to even be a B-movie at this point!

the Crater Lake Monster - Showdown

This scene being doubly important as it sets up the grand finale. Sheriff Steve can’t accept that the man he shot didn’t die from the bullet wound, but instead from the Lake Monster’s massive maw. So he demands that the town doctor help him search the lake in the middle of the night!

In true B-movie fashion, the “night” scenes were shot in broad daylight. The only way to distinguish between them is by listening to the characters. Are they going to lunch? Daytime! Complaining that it’s too dark out? Probably night.

While this certainly isn’t the first film to milk its run-time and increase audience involvement by asking the “should we kill the monster or study it?”, it is the first to then pose that question to its townspeople. Who then argue, as townsfolk do. Ever have a friend who swears that direct democracy would work in the United States? Just show them this film.

the Crater Lake Monster - Monster vs bulldozer

It doesn’t take the good Sheriff three seconds after seeing the beast a second time to decide it needs to die. Even commandeering a low-rent bulldozer to help with the task!

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: Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (1956)

Posted in 2009, Halloween Endurance Tests with tags , , , , on September 4, 2011 by shenanitim

Godzilla, King of the Monsters! is more widely known than its inspiration, Gojira, as it was the version released in America. Faced with the challenge of making a “Welcome to the Nuclear Age!” film palatable to the same audience that unleashed the bomb, Embassy Pictures and TransWorld Releasing did what any distributor(s) would do: excise any footage that could be offensive, and insert new footage with Raymond Burr; still fresh off his success in Hitchcock’s Rear Window.

Amazingly, the gamble worked, leaving Godzilla, King of the Monsters! and Gojira as big hits around the world. The added footage certainly isn’t seamless, but the resultant popularity the extra market(s) allowed the film(s) to reinvent the “giant monster” genre. Claymation was suddenly out, and stunt men wearing suffocating monster suits were in.

And how this new era was ushered in! Rather than being plain-jane Gojira, here Godzilla has a bona-fide title: King of the Monsters!. Not the Crawling Eye[s], nor the giant octopus from either It Came From Beneath the Sea or Ed Wood’s Bride of the Monster stood any chance at challenging Japan’s giant lizard. Ray Harryhausen’s brilliant stop-motion animatronics giving way to stilted acting so bad it could be mistaken as stop-motion.

One must marvel at the audacity in making two different films, with two distinctly different messages, out of one rather political source film. (A feat still rarely seen. It wouldn’t be until Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman doubled his take selling the foreign distribution rights to the Toxic Avenger II by splitting it into two films. Unfortunately for Troma, neither was a hit.) Bringing in a new era, not just of rubber monster suits, but of horrendously overdubbed dialogue!

While many hold that the footage of atomic testing and now-homeless families was removed make this film more digestible to American audiences. After all, no one wants to go to the movies Friday night to be reminded of some of your country’s more shameful behavior.

The missing footage seems more innocent though. As if Gojira’s social message was diluted not to diminish the US’ on-screen involvement, but rather to bring the film back in line with all the other “giant monster” films. Besides the Day the Earth Stood Still, it’s hard to name another sci-fi film of the 50s that had much of a social message.

Raymond B(l)urring the line between “psuedo-documentary” and “serious sci-fi film with a social message” until all that is left is 20-30 odd minutes of “giant, rampaging monster action flick.”

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.