Friday, April 25, 2014

SON OF GODZILLA (1967): 30 Days of Godzilla



aka. Monster Island's Decisive Battle: Godzilla's Son

Ever wanted to see Godzilla as a daddy? How about as a deadbeat father who abandons and abuses his children? Well, then you're in luck. Today we look into one of the darkest chapters of Godzilla lore. The insufferable, the grotesque, and the infinitely laughable SON OF GODZILLA.

Despite featuring some impressive monster effects, Son of Godzilla is a real son of a bitch to sit through. It represents one of the lowest points in Toho's attempt to pander to children with pratfalls and neutered monsters. The worst of its crimes is the introduction of Minilla, an obnoxious and grotesque baby Godzilla who looks like the Pillsbury Doughboy if he were born with birth defects and a nasty skin condition. Is Minilla Godzilla's biological son? An orphaned member of the same species? Such answers are never addressed. What, you expected a plot? Toho thinks you'd rather like to see director Jun Fukuda and composer Masaru Sato recycle elements from Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster (tropical island setting with an island girl sidekick, for example). Are you interested in watching Godzilla neglect and threaten to beat on his son for his failure to learn how to blow atomic breath? Then I have the movie for you. Unfortunately, it's not for me. Not one bit!

Kill it! Kill it with fire!
On the remote Sogell Island, a team of Japanese scientists (played by a host of familiar Godzilla faces such as Tadao Takashima and Akihiko Hirata) are experimenting with weather-control technology. Their work is interrupted when a journalist (Akira Kubo) arrives and learns that the scientists are being plagued by giant praying mantis-like creatures called Kamacuras (or Gimantis in Englsih). Well, things get a lot crazier when a group of Kamacuras discover a derelict egg that turns out to hold a baby Godzilla! Summoned by the baby's telepathic wails, Godzilla makes landfall on Sogell Island to protect his ugly little shit of a kid. With the help of an island girl (Bibari "Beverly" Maeda), the scientists decide to complete their experiment, which I guess involves freezing the island or something. Along the way they must avoid the fangs of the giant tarantula Kumonga!

"Gimantis" is a little on the nose, don't you think?
Don't worry if that plot didn't make any sense. Son of Godzilla is more interested in setting up gags where Minilla can fall down or Godzilla can roll his eyes at his son's wimpy antics while Masaru Sato's bumbling Manilal theme loops endlessly. Save for one or two sincerely funny scenes, the Minilla shtick is embarrassingly pathetic and wears thin faster than Minilla's own cheap rubber suit. How did we come to this? Only 13 years earlier, Godzilla was a powerhouse of nuclear destruction. Now he's literally face-palming himself and cuddling with a character who's barely more tolerable (not to mention better looking) than a Garbage Pail Kid.

Minilla isn't the only aesthetic abortion. The new Godzilla suit used for Son of Godzilla is without a doubt one of the worst Toho ever constructed. In an attempt to make Godzilla more human-like and taller to accentuate Minilla's small stature, this Godzilla was designed with eyes placed at the front of an elongated head (like a frog) and with a mouth that sports a full complement of flat teeth. It's hard to shake the impression that this Godzilla was inspired by something the special effects crew found floating undefeated in the toilet bowl of the men's room. Total garbage.

I think the Japanese call this the MuSUCKoGoji suit
There are two bright spots in Son of Godzilla: the Kumonga and Kamacuras puppets. Sadamasa Arikawa's expert wire work helps bring the giant spider Kumonga and the various giant Kamacuras mantises to fantastic life. They're agile, flexible, and really well-designed. Kumonga in particular feels like a real spider because the puppeteers manipulated each leg in a series of coordinated moves. They look fantastic and really help spice up an otherwise dull and insipid story. Too bad the same can't be said for Godzilla and his little bastard.

If Godzilla's supposed to be the hero, why am I disappointed Kumonga didn't eat his little butter ball?


Obviously, I have no love lost for Son of Godzilla. It's probably the worst Godzilla movie ever filmed. No use dwelling on that now, however. What's done is done. We have to soldier on because tomorrow we get back to the classics. That's right, for the next post in our 30 Days of Godzilla series we will be tackling the legendary monster smashup DESTROY ALL MONSTERS!

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