Welcome One and All!

For all you Halloween Fanatics....this will be a review and links site of the Best Haunted Houses in the country that my wife Lisa and I have had the pleasure - or displeasure - of gracing....

I've been a *huge* Halloween and horror fan since I can remember...I dunno...it just brings the kid in me out...by the end of September, our place is suitably adorned and we await each weekend with anticipation of which haunts to hit next....

We've been blessed enough to be able to travel quite a bit around the country and see some wonderful attractions and the cities they lurk in...and we're hoping to pass on the fun we've had on to anyone willing to listen in....

Saturday, March 29, 2014

ALL HAIL GODZILLA - On his 60th Annniversay - All Hail the King of the Monsters! (UPDATED)




UPDATED JANUARY 2017

Ahhh yes...GODZILLA.

When Legendary pictures unleashed the beast upon the populace once more on the 60th anniversary of the original Toho classic in 2014, I decided I'd do a little tribute to the King of the Monsters, his many incarnations and films, and what he's meant to me all these years later...

So, join me now on a trip down memory lane, with pictures, art and reminiscence....

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"Godzilla - King of the Monsters! 

Nobody knows the origin of this indestructible monster, but many believe that Godzilla was some kind of an ancient god...others felt Godzilla was  prehistoric monster, awakened from a million years sleep by atomic explosions.



Thinking this awesome creature a threat to civilization, attempts were made to destroy Godzilla with modern war machines.



To Godzilla, these implements of destruction and their tremendous firepower were merely toys. He batted them away and easily destroyed them.



Annoyed and angered by this attempt, Godzilla set out to destroy the cities.



The sound of his screeching roar and earth-shaking footsteps sent thousands running form their homes, fearing for their lives.



He crushed all in his path, and set the countryside aflame with his fiery breath.



All of man's military might was no match for Godzilla - bullets, tanks, rockets...they had no effect on this giant.



His fierce attack left the cities in ruins.



There seemed to be no way of stopping this six hundred ton monster, as whole city blocks became a raging inferno."


        -from the prologue of  TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA (1975)

KING KING VS. GODZILLA (1962)

First G-flick I ever saw - this was in 1973 or so - during a week long Monster Rally on the local Chicago Morning Movie...

..."Mommy, who is Godzilla?" I asked...

I had NO idea who (or what) Godzilla was - I watched this more for King Kong (...I know, the shame of it all!..) but got the surprise of my young life - I was 5 or 6 a this point - and when The Big Guy burst out of that iceberg? Hoo-boy!

Ah, memories....

This is not the best of films - it plays off more as a comedy, even in the badly dubbed American version - the Japanese cut is FAR more satirical - but to a young, *already* monster-obsessed little kid, it was pure magic.

For me, THIS is the DEFINITIVE version of Godzilla and has always stuck with me....still love the imposing size of the beast, huge fins and alligator-styled head piece....

Just released on Blu-Ray for those interested...
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GODZILLA (1954)

Second one I ever saw, sometime in the fall of 1974...

The film, although oddly paced for a seven year old, made a HUGE impression, blowing me away with it's grim visions of nuclear evil...

....Nah!The heck with that! It was time to watch Tokyo get flattened!!!!

The movie still stands as a terrific Monster-On-the-Loose flick with Raymond Burr spliced in for commentary...(I was already familiar with him from reruns of "Ironside")

Love the suit as well - very raw - with ears!
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GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN/GIGANTIS THE FIRE MONSTER (1955)



I saw this in 1990 on VHS - not one of my favorites, even if it does introduce Angillas, and is also one of the first of the numerous monster-on-monster flicks Toho would become famous for...



To me, it's too choppy - the entire production feels rushed and half-hearted, and the monster battles are too frantic to be believed.
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GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA (1964)

One of the last of the original series I saw, it never seemed to surface on Chicago TV much, although, after I caught my initial screening sometime in 1982 or so, it reappeared nearly every six months like clockwork....go figure....this was on late-night at some that year, and I thought I'd check it out on a whim...I was 15 by that point, but Godzilla still held my attention, even then.

 I can see why this film is so highly revered by the fan base...it's the last time Godzilla is portrayed as outright menacing, superb pacing, fantastic effects and battle scenes, and one of the best G-suits/looks, ever.

Saw it again shortly before I began writing this, and the film still holds up beautifully. A masterpiece of it's kind.
 
Interesting piece of art

Some extra suits produced for the exportation of Gigantis to America - to be rechristened The Volcano Monsters for US release, never happened though, and the suits were unused...note Godzilla's appearance, foreshadowing his look in King Kong vs. Godzilla seven years later....
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GHIDORAH, THE THREE HEADED MONSTER/INVASION OF ASTRO-MONSTER (a.k.. MONSTER ZERO)  (1965)

These two films could have been Part One and Part Two....and pretty much are, truth be told!

I saw Monster Zero sometime in 1974/75, which introduced me to both Rodan and (in particular) King Ghidorah.....Ghidorah itself I never saw in it's entirety until 1987...for the record, I far prefer Zero - nostalgia? Sure, but Zero has a considerably more adult plot.

If I'm completely honest, Ghidorah just comes off as  juvenile and silly - Monster Zero, while a bit lax on monster action, has far more menace to it...not to mention I had *no* clue  that this was a  Godzilla movie when I tuned in that warm summer night in 1975 and promptly got my circuits blown, so I am rather attached to it...
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DESTROY ALL MONSTERS (1968)

This film was very influential on me - not only did it introduce me to characters like Manda, Gorosaurus and Varan, but I was lucky enough to see it on it's initial broadcast on Chicago TV (WFLD, no less!) in the mid-70s....a true classic of it's kind, one of the best - if not THE best - of the giant monster mashes of it's day.

Originally intended as the finale to the Godzilla film series, it brought in such fantastic numbers, it breathed new life into the  franchise....
 

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It was during the latter half of the 1970s that I caught the lion's share of the original run of Godzilla flicks, with one or two exceptions...



Things like Godzilla's Revenge, Son of Godzilla, Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster and Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster (and, of course, all of the aforementioned) were regular staples in my television diet, although this quartet didn't make much of an impression on me....save for maybe Smog Monster, cuz it was *so* our of left-field as far as the canon goes...



It was also in this time period I saw things like Rodan, Mothra, the entire Gamera series, Dagora, Varan, Yongary, Monster form a Prehistoric Planet and on and on...not to mention Godzilla's thinly veiled appearance in an episode of Ultra Man....



All I can say is Thank You, Chicago TV!



In 1976, NBC acquired the rights to Godzilla vs. Megalon - for the broadcast, the film was cut down to an hour, but what made it special was John Belushi in a Godzilla suit, hamming it up between commercial breaks....for all it's cheesiness, it was a remarkable and rather amusing moment...



The last of the original series I saw in the 70s was Terror of Mechagodzilla...films like Godzilla vs. Gigan, Godzilla Raids Again and the even the original Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla I didn't catch until they popped up on VHS in the 1980s....but as Godzilla waded out to sea at Terror's conclusion, I knew we had not seen the last of the King of the Monsters...and although it would be many years before he would return, when he did, my friends and I finally got to see him on the big screen...  

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In the meantime....

Starting in 1977, Godzilla actually had his first comic book! It ran for two years with twenty four issues, and this was the first I one I got my grubby little hands on...
Above is the original concept art for the character - didn't quite turn out like this, btw...and below, the first issue....
 ...and the final issue....the series didn't quite drum up the response originally hoped for...
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BTW, does anyone remember the Godzilla carton from 1978...?

It was pretty cool, but why did they get Ted ("Lurch") Cassidy to do Godzilla's roar...? And Godzooky? *shudders*
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GODZILLA 1985


Godzilla vanished for close to a decade after Terror of Mechagodzilla in '75...I heard rumbles of a new Godzilla film to be released in Japan in time for Christmas of  '84...



...turned out to be quite the success in Japan, and soon New Line Cinema snapped up the rights, and, in September, Godzilla 1985 hit theaters in the USA...



While not the slam-bang smash-fest we were all hoping it might be, it was the first time my friends and I had ever seen Godzilla on the big screen - and it would be the last for fifteen years, but that's later in our story...



The American version also brought back Raymond Burr - along with some footage form the original 1954 film - reprising his role as reporter Steve Martin from the original, in a nice nod to yester-year.



This also began the film cycle known as the Hensei series....although Toho would not pick up the baton again for another four years....

Hey, remember those Dr. Pepper commercials at the time the film was released? Did it inspire *you* to drink more of the soda...?
 ....yeah, me too...*burp!*
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In 1987, Dark Horse Comics produced a six issue mini series based on Godzilla 1985, which was OK, but the real surprise was *this* little gem...anyone else remember this...?
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GODZILLA VS. BIOLANTE (1989) 

Four years would pass until Godzilla was heard from again...apparently, Toho sponsored some sort of a contest where participants submitted their ideas for a Godzilla film, and the best script would be the basis for the next movie- this was the result.

While a bit on the dry side, it is one of the more original ideas in the canon - and Biollante is fantastic, both as an idea and in actual realization. 

I had seen some reference to this film in 1990, but didn't run across it until late '91. 

It's  actually a decent film -  a tad slow at times, perhaps - but some great action sequences and some interesting plot points as well.

This is also where the Hensei series began in earnest....there was a pervading theme of "Godzilla vs. Godzilla" during this run, whether by genetics, technology or menaces from outer space, not to mention liberal borrowing from popular films of the time...sometimes it worked, sometimes not...
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GOZILLA VS. KING GHIDORAH (1991)

 One of my all-time favorites.

...granted, the plot - a huge melting pot of  sci-fi cliches - Godzilla, the revamp of a classic adversary, Doctor Who styled/inspired time travel ideals, and even a T-2 style cyborg - is logically  ridiculous, but, hey....

This film just blew me  away first time I saw it -  fantastic pacing, the characters compliment the story rather than deter from it, terrific effects and model work for the time, and Mecha-King Ghidorah is a marvelous retooling .

Yeah, let's not mince words, the plot is a bunch of silly BS, but aren't all of these...?

The film's a terrific action flick, with a nice retelling of Godzilla's origins.
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GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA (1992)

With the success of King Ghidorah, it was inevitable that Toho would resurrect another monster from the past - and so it was in 1992...

I'm not too fond of this one - borrows a lot from the Indiana Jones films, and the plot is too kid friendly for my taste.

 Still, Battra (the Black Mothra) is a nice twist on an old theme, and there are some  great visuals  to be had as well.

They'd fare far better next year....
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Anyone remember Godzilla Vs. Charles Barkely...????
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GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA (1993)

One of the best - if not THE best - of the Hensei series...

Reintroducing Classic Foes provided Big Box Office Returns, so Toho pulled out all the stops this time - Mechagodzilla, Rodan and Little Godzilla all return here.

This is just a great action film, plain and simple, with a fast moving and thoughtful theme of life against artificial life, with more KA-BOOM than you can shake a stick at....nearly a perfect Godzilla movie, well worth multiple viewings. 
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It was around this point in 1994 that I discovered J.D. Lee's marvelous fanzine G-FAN - find them  at  www.g-fan.com - and have had  been reading ever since....
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GODZILLA VS. SPACE GODZILLA (1994)

Ewwww....what a mess! 

After the triumph of Mechagodzilla comes this gawd-awful  movie...part Godzilla, part kiddie flick, part romance, it tries to be all things to all people. The results are dismal. 

Space Godzilla is an interesting concept, but very little is done with him, and the resurrection of Moguera from The Mysterians was a nice tip of the hat to the old days, but he comes across as a poor man's Mechagodzilla here.

The evolution of Little Godzilla visually is almost as bad as Minya or Godzooky,  and that says a lot!

Much better was to follow....
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GODZILLA VS. DESTROYAH (1995)

"GODZILLA DIES!!!!!"

...or so the headlines read - even CNN picked up on this, the "final" Godzilla movie...

The film is dark and somber, not unlike a funeral, with several plot ties to the 1954 original.

The film borrows from several different films series - most notably Alien - but the action sequences here are far more adult, Destroyah is one of the most viscous opponents Godzilla has ever faced, and Godzilla Junior is beautifully realized.

The final scenes are the most touching, with Godzilla's final demise of an almost poetic nature....the film concludes with a ray of hope and wonderful final montage of scenes from the series....


Was this truly the end...? Don't bet on it!


Nice piece I found online depicting the Hensei/'90s series....
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Shortly after the conclusion of the series, Toho launched a new Mothra trilogy, aimed at a much  younger audience, while while Dalei resurrected their Gamera series for a trio of surprisingly original, well produced and received films that still resonate with fans today...and, of course, the announcement of a new American made Godzilla some time in 1997/8....

Hot on the heels of this came an avalanche of merchandise....

Trendmasters launched their toy line, of which I owned quite a few...

....there were several lines of trading cards....

Random House launched a series of novels by Marc Cerasini...

....and Dark Horse comics launched another mini-series....

In August of 1996, I attended the second or third G-FEST in Chicago, and the guests of honor were Haruo Nakajima and Kenpachiro Satsuma - "The Men Who Were Godzilla" - among all other sorts of mayhem!!!!




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The less said about the American Godzilla of 1998 - the better! 

All that hype and hope, and what stink bomb THAT was! 

Ah, well...at least we got to see the REAL King of the Monsters incinerate his ass in Final Wars....but more on that later....
There was a cartoon series produced based on this incarnation, and, oddly enough, it was considerably better than the film - note I said "better", not "good"!
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GODZILLA 2000

 The last of the Toho films to make it to these shore's theaters until 2016, it was produced so quickly, it seemed retaliation for the  American disaster...this signaled the beginning of the Millennium Series, the last string of films Toho has produced until recently...

In all honesty, most of this series  - with a couple exceptions - left me cold.

The overall concept was that each individual film would be self contained and unrelated to the others in the series - neat idea, but the majority of these movies were lacking in original ideas and just very paint-by-the-numbers, plot wise. 

Got to see Godzilla 2000 in the theaters, btw - and while not the best of the series, the film overall has some great moments, some interesting camera angles, and a slick twist in the tail, plot-wise....and the Rob Zombie sound tracked commercial was just awesome!
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GODZIILA, MOTHRA, KING GHIDORAH: GIANT MONSTERS ALL OUT ATTACK (2001)

The best of the Millennium Series - and probably the single best Godzilla film, ever, barring maybe the original.  

Transforming Godzilla and the rest to the level of ancient angry spirits and sacred protectors - not to mention several sly nods to classic moments in the series - gave this film an edgy, unique quality unlike many of it's predecessors.

Brilliantly directed by  Shusuke Kaneko - the man responsible for the highly acclaimed Gamera trilogy of the '90s - he gives this film the same wonderful touch that elevated Gamera to new heights. 

A must see - my personal favorite.
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GODZILLA FINAL WARS (2004)

Marking the 50th anniversary of Godzilla - not to mention the final Toho film until  2016 - came this bizarre mish-mash. 

Part Godzilla, part Japanese folklore, part alien invasion, part Anime stylizing, hints of Terminator and The Matrix, a soundtrack by Keith Emerson, just about every prominent and obscure Toho monster, plus a whole lot of Kung Fu fighting and you get this odd piece...

I was pretty underwhelmed by it all - it concentrates far too much on the alien invasion and the genetic warriors shtick - not enough city crunching action, and barely any Godzilla 'til the second half. Lots of plot elements "lifted" from Ghidorah, Monster Zero, and Destroy All Monsters leave this a confused mess.

Still. Godzilla and Minya walked off into the sunset at the conclusion, signifying this was NOT the end of the series....still, I expected far better for Godzilla's 50th, especially in the wake of GMK...
 
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2009 saw the release of Always Zoku Sanchōme no Yūhi (Always Sunset on Third Street 2) in Japan - the opening moments featured a dream sequence which involved a very convincing CGI Godzilla doing what he does best - stomping Tokyo flat!

While just a tease, it's now more a foreshadowing of things greater to come....

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GODZILLA (2014)

At the time, one of the most hyped films in a while, but, alas, also one of the more disappointing...

Visually speaking, Gaerth Edwards nailed it - a nice update on the classic Godzilla design, with some Jurassic Park ethics involved as well...some terrific action sequences, two decent adversaries - dubbed "M.U.T.O.s" (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) - and an amazing array of city-stomping special effects...when you got them, that is...

And that's my beef with this flick....Godzilla seems to be a guest star in his own movie! He gets maybe ten minutes of screen time and that's it - the two M.U.T.O.s are on screen FAR more!

I wanted more Godzilla in "Godzilla", damint!

*sigh*

Never mind that the plot has issues, and the acting is lukewarm, at best - save for Bryan Cranston, but they kill him off a third into the film....but you don't go to this kind of movie for character depth or deep meaning, do you?


Still, it was fun, one of the better action films of 2014...the sequel, now titled "Godzilla, King of the Monsters", is set for a 2019 release, which is going to be prefaced in March of 2017 by "Kong : Skull Island", which will lead into "Godzilla vs. Kong" to be released in 2020....

One last thought on this film - did anyone notice how the male M.U.T.O.'s design was not all that removed from the Gamera series adversary, Gayos...? The mind reels. 














































Godzilla - 60 Years of Nuclear Destruction!!!!



GODZILLA RESURGENCE a.k.a SHIN GODZILLA (2016)

With the huge financial success of the 2014 film, it was not a huge shock to learn that Toho would once again revive the franchise, and, towards the end of 2014, it was announced that, indeed, Toho would be re-launching their iconic character in a film slated for 2016 release...

The photos of the updated design of the charter caused quite a stir when they saw the light of day in late 2015...when the film was released in Japan in July of that year, it was an immediate hit, and was also hugely successful in it's limited theatrical run in the USA in October of that year.

As it stands, this film is the oddball of the canon - more a political commentary/comedy than an action film, there are many different themes running through it, and, again, Godzilla is in the movie for maybe fifteen minutes... 

...and, quite frankly, it talks WAY too much, and my patience grew very thin with it.

The effects are genuinely amazing, and the idea of Godzilla just now appearing in the world, the havoc it would cause int eh world's governmental theater, and Godzilla himself being a continually evolving creature makes for an interesting backdrop to the tale...

Watch this one with an open mind and a ton of patience....there are many things to savor...and while this is not atypical of the series, it's well worth checking out carefully...


Will Toho produce more? Time will tell.













































































Wonder if we ever will see a Godzilla vs. Gamera film....with today's technology, the possibilities are endless!
Thanks for taking this little jog down memory lane with me - brought back a lot of happy memories, as I hope it did for you....

In closing, just some random images I found on the Web...

Not sure where I found this, but my Goddaugher Bonnie Fontanne colored this for me....
 
Speaking of my Goddaughter, she did THIS piece for me a number of years ago....like it?
Check out her other works at:


She does commissions (hint!)


 ...so much for dignity!....
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And, in short order, my Top Ten Godzilla films:

1. GMK
2. Godzilla (1954)
3. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1993)
4. Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)
5. Destroy All Monsters
6. Godzilla vs. Destroyah
7. Godzilla vs. Mothra (1964)
8. Monster Zero
9. King Kong vs. Godzilla
10. Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster

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Finally, I wanted to give a shout out to a podcast a few folks here might appreciate called Kaijucast - - you can find them at Kaijucast.com - very informal, but also well-informed - covering everyone from Godzilla, Gamera, Ultra Man and all sorts of rubber suited fun, including terrific interviews with folks like Ed Godziszewsk, publisher of Japanese Giants magazine...great stuff!

 Kaijucast.com

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