Well, I haven’t been around here… for about a year. Last time things were a little different, and I was sweating bullets like a chaingun. Today I’d like to reminisce about some old favourites, things that resurged in my memories when I saw Shin Godzilla over the summer. Godzilla was an absolutely gigantic part of my childhood: reruns late at night, and VHS copies made from those airings with the commercials left in; the occasional rental from a Blockbuster (or Rogers Video, which we had in my neighbourhood 15 or so years ago.) It was never “easy” for me to catch Godzilla, except the fake-Zilla in 1998 which splashed into theatres back then, and the commercial-enterprising around it with cartoons and toys. My Godzilla was always the Godzilla, though, the green, lumbering, spikey-atomic-breathing-unstoppable-monster. In a toast to my childhood with the king of monsters, here is a list of my seminal stompathons!
This is it for me. This movie is THE memory I have of Godzilla. The best Godzilla movie focuses on Godzilla, there’s no doubt, but for me the most fun Godzilla movies have “vs.” in the title! This was one of two favourites for me in the series growing up: my second favourite monster for the Big Green to tussle with was one Mr. Kong. Between the lightning powers and tail-spin-throws, King Kong is a real fucking boss in this one. I think, among all the enemies of Godzilla, this is actually a really great novelty, where the kaiju has relatively close to human mobility and motion, as opposed to either stumpy-arms, no-arms, or weapon-arms that most other kaiju have! King Kong really puts to use what he’s been gifted with!
GHIDORAH! My Man! This badass was my all-time favourite growing up. He was the only equal for Godzilla, the one that always required team-ups because Godzilla himself just couldn’t duke it out with him. Three heads, it seems, is far better than one! Not better than two, though, as Mothra and Godzilla showed Ghidorah by teaming up and smashing his face(s) in!
This was also one of the first times I remember aliens being involved in Godzilla plots, which was always ludicrous, I absolutely loved the alien plots in these movies. Sometimes they were just alien-humans, sometimes they were Atlanteans, sometimes they were fucking cockroaches and gorillas!
Who best to best Godzilla but Godzilla?! This was another great aliens-controlling-things set-up. This time, they built their own Godzilla! But lo and behold, it turns out that the power behind the mech is the literal skeleton of the original 1954 Godzilla, and it’s semi-sentient! DUN-DUN-DUUUUUUN! It’s a pure classic – Mechagodzilla was the first idea of a “mech” I ever really had, and it has stuck with me all my life. This movie defined for me how badass robots could be.
I just rewatched this movie recently, and it is still totally badass. Gigan stomped and smashed its away right into my heart. More aliens controlling kaiju! I… I’m sensing a theme in the kaiju movies I like. I also liked Pacific Rim! Surprise!
Gigan has a pretty interesting design, and he’s paired with Ghidorah against a Godzilla Anguirus team. The aliens have control over the former, but the latter are actually defending their “home.” They live on “Monster Island” and the aliens wanted to mind-control them. It’s bonkers, it’s completely off the rails, but buzzsaw-chested Gigan, the mighty hook-handed one, makes for a good rough and tumble with the Big G.
This just holds a small, but special place in my heart. It wasn’t that it was a particularly good Godzilla flick. It was that I saw it at the local AMC with my dad when it was released in Canada in August 2000. Other than this 2000 movie, I never actually got to see a real Godzilla movie in theatres. All I had was the 1998 American attempt and that one was a pretty bitter pill to swallow as a Godzilla fan.
I was a kid and this was everything to me: I got to see Godzilla, real, proper Godzilla up on a big screen, and it was something I never got to have before or have again since. It was a good movie to have that experience with, though. Godzilla fights… himself? Kind of? It ain’t SpaceGodzilla, but it is space mojo blended with his DNA to give us slimey-space-gross-lizard-thing vs. Godzilla! Orga is a weird damned monster, and it sure was cool that he tries to fucking eat Godzilla. Too bad that Godzilla is the living embodiment of indigestion!
Runner-ups for the list:
The one, the only, the H-bombed big man himself! This is actually one that I wasn’t too familiar with as a kid, but it was how I got back into the thick of it years later in my early 20s. It’s the real classic of the series, and the one I’ve found to be the most timeless. I suppose there are people that would see it as hokey, but to my eyes, the costume holds up best in black & white and seems the least “floppy” of all the monster designs throughout the series. This is also the most serious of the films that comes to mind, with it being a clear representation of contemporary fears regarding nuclear power from a nation that recently experienced it in force. Godzilla in this movie is nature’s wrath infused with science, and can only be stopped by regrettable scientific destruction.
Mothra needs to be here, because Mothra is a classic Godzilla enemy. The thing is, I never really liked Mothra as a kid, I really just hated the stupid butterfly because it’s a stupid butterfly. Now that I’m older, this is also one of the set-ups that hits me hard, what with the horrible “savage” islanders, who look like lighter-skinned Japanese people painted to be shades of brown and told to hold quasi-African gear while looking to be dressed vaguely in Pacific Island aesthetics. This is actually a problem throughout the era for Godzilla flicks, but this one just sticks in my mind as “the one” with it.
On the other hand, it gives us the fairy twins that lullaby Mothra, cool larvae web-spinners, and eventually I also just started enjoying the stupid butterfly as part of the cosmic order of badasses in Godzilla movies. Honestly, this one actually establishes a lot of the classic tone that I associate with Godzilla but I was too boy-ish to appreciate a big butterfly as a child (also, in a somewhat ironic twist, I have a vivid memory of watching King Kong vs. Godzilla on TV as a child and being literally scared out of the room by a large moth.)
For a personal touch, here is a picture of my own Godzilla-Kaiju collection. I actually didn’t own ANY DVDs for… any kaiju movies, until last year. HMV in Canada, which was the last gasp of music store/media store/nerd merchandising, went out of business fairly recently. I made the decision early in the year to acquire a few movies. I wasn’t thinking about the volume collections that exist, or even collecting them in general, at that point, but that changed towards the end of the year. That lovely Godzilla Complete Collection was pretty cheap at the HMV down Yonge, near Ryerson University, but when I finally made up my mind about wanting it, it was sold. Dani volunteered it for Christmas that year and I jumped at it. She ordered it off Amazon for me, and watching those movies was a moment of calm in a very tumultuous year. This year I’ll be getting those Toho Collections, Vol. 1 and 2, for Christmas, and I am so excited! I don’t want to wait for Christmas!
(Header image taken from this website.)