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November 17, 2011

Midnight Movie of the Week #98 - Son of Godzilla

I'm going with a bit of cinematic comfort food once more with this week's Midnight Movie of the Week.  Last week I was worn out and took the apathetic route to comfort via Escape from New York, but this week I felt the need to watch something a little more happy-go-lucky.  And while fans of a certain monster who's occasionally known as "Big G" might think I'm crazy, I can't stop myself from admitting that I take crazy amounts of comfort in the adventures of Minilla/Minya, the Son of Godzilla.
Like many American kids, the 'Zilla I grew up with isn't the Godzilla that was intended for audiences in his native Japan.  Dubbed versions of the giant monster's films were readily available, but it was only in recent years that I learned all about just how badly mutilated these films were.  Though my later travels into kaiju cinema showed me just how good the original Japanese versions of some of these films were compared to their American counterparts - Gojira vs. Godzilla! King of the Monsters is like Ice Cream vs. Herpes - I gotta admit that I still get a BIG kick out of a badly dubbed G-film from the '60s and '70s.  You can blame the fact that the first Godzilla film in my house was Godzilla vs. Megalon (which would have been a MMOTW pick long ago if it just woulda been on DVD EVER!) for that.
The eighth Godzilla film - in a series that is now a whopping 28 films long (not counting Roland Emmerich's American "remake") - is generally recognized as one of the signs that the originally dark series had adapted to child audiences, an argument that is hard to dispute.  Though many would argue that the film series would hold much more intrigue if it had maintained a serious tone and its focus on the dangers of radiation, I'm willing to bet there are a lot of folks out there who were darn happy to fund these light-hearted monster adventures when they were kids.  I know that I count myself among that lot, because I didn't care one bit that Jet Jaguar was a stupid robot or that Megalon was a tree with pincers when I was a kid.  I was in awe of the big monster battles, and Toho's decision to adapt these films to young audiences clearly attributed to my ability to suspend disbelief in the name of giant monsters.
Son of Godzilla occasionally feels like something between King Kong and Gilligan's Island, with a crew of scientists and an intrepid newspaperman (is there any other kind of newspaperman?) studying strange developments on a small island.  These developments primarily involve a bunch of oversized preying mantises - known in the Toho 'verse as Kamacuras and a mysterious bathing beauty, until the 30 minute mark of the film when the angry uberbugs unearth a egg that produces the title character.  The onlooking scientists immediately proclaim that "It looks like a baby Godzilla!", even though the flat faced and pudgy little character doesn't really resemble that iconic monster at all.  Thankfully, Godzilla shows up and fights off two out of three Kamacuras (which ain't bad!), then adopts the little tyke as his own.  I'm not really sure who the real father of the character - now known as Minilla to G-Scholars - is, but if you're a monster and get to call Godzilla your dad, it doesn't matter who your real father is.
Which brings me to the real reason to talk about Son of Godzilla.  Minilla makes me laugh constantly.  He's like the kaiju version of John Belushi.  And the scenes where his papa tries to teach him how to be a big meanie and growl and breathe radioactive fire are about the cutest things ever filmed.  And the film ends with a battle in the snow, which makes it a lot like Kill Bill Vol. 1 - except for the fact that the battle is between a giant lizard and his adopted mini lizard and a giant spider named Kumonga.
OK, I don't have a lot of intelligent or useful things to say about Son of Godzilla right now.  But again, I feel like I have to point out just how ridiculously enjoyable the silly little guy is.  I think it might be genetic.  I still have surprised memories of the time I loaned my dad my copy of Godzilla: Final Wars - which, for now, is the last film in the series - and he called me out of the blue, laughing hysterically, all because Minilla was riding in a truck and wearing a seatbelt.  We love Minilla that much in this family.
This post needs more Asian dudes in peril.
So yeah, maybe I'm not the best G-Fan.  I know that this version of Godzilla looks like a bad puppet version of the original with creepy wonky eyes, and I know that the battles in this film lack a lot of the swagger of other kaiju films.  But this G-rated introduction to the softer side of Godzilla remains something that makes me smile constantly, and I stand proud of my unwavering enjoyment of Minilla's adventures in catching weird fruits that are thrown up to 100 yards in the air by an island lady.  Son of Godzilla rocks my socks, and I'm OK with that.


Marvin the Macabre said...

I'm ashamed to say that I've never been a godzilla fan. However, not long ago, I caught the first half of Gojira on Netflix and was very impressed with how good it really was (I suppose I'll have to finish it sometime).

Son of Godzilla looks hilarious, and I vow not to pass it by if the opportunity to watch it arises.

JR said...

Love Son of Godzilla for the same reasons you do. Clearly one of the less than stellar entries in the series, but Minya is so goddamn hilarious. Have you seen the commercials they were running about a decade ago that used Son of Godzilla to promote being a good father? Priceless--

Chris Hewson said...

Actually here in Australia Godzilla vs Megalon IS on DVD!