To date, our longest marathon was the initial marathon of Friday the 13th at 12 movies which spanned over 24 hours due to travel back and forth from London. But never had we taken on a marathon over 10 movies in one location.
With Pacific Rim heading into cinemas soon and the Godzilla reboot going into production next month, I decided to give my fellow Movie Marathon Meeting co-founders a history lesson in Kaiju cinema by taking in the Showa Era of Godzilla movies (1954 – 1975). The King of the Monsters has featured in 29 movies (including the American one) and we were about to watch the first 15 of them. It’s our longest marathon to date.
I had always been hesitant of doing a Showa Era Godzilla marathon as… well… Godzilla movies are an acquired taste. If you can’t buy into suitmation, can’t stand bad dubbing, cheesy sci-fi storylines, cheap miniature effects and all that comes in between, you will struggle to find a lot to like about the Godzilla franchise. Even watching them singularly, each film has a particular feel to it (save perhaps the first one) and you’d be forgiven for thinking that they’re all quite “samey”. Not to get ahead of ourselves, but I love this franchise and can forgive all of its little flaws. Would my fellow co-founders be as forgiving?
20:09 – Godzilla (1954)
With its gritty tone, moody visuals and bleak presentation, Godzilla is a marvellous movie and a clever way of pushing an anti-nuclear war message. It may not be subtle in its endeavours, but it’s incredibly effective. The scenes in the hospital after the destruction and the woman holding on to her children before getting killed are very disturbing and would be a stark contrast to the movies that would come after it. There is a reason why this is described as the “original Japanese masterpiece” as this is a fantastic movie and one that I can watch again and again.
21:47 – Godzilla has been destroyed by the Oxygen Destroyer but is about to Raid Again…
22:00 – Godzilla Raids Again (also released as Gigantis: The Fire Monster) (1955)
As Kyle from the Kaijucast said recently, the history behind Godzilla Raids Again is a lot more interesting than the film itself. The movie was released just 6 months after the original movie was in cinemas so you can imagine that it’s pretty simplistic. But not only that, it’s just a bit of a bore. Not a whole lot happens outside of the fight between Godzilla and Anguirus which annoyingly happens ¾ of the way through the movie – leaving the last twenty minutes to be nothing more than filler of Godzilla being shot at while standing on an iceberg. After the brilliance of Godzilla, Godzilla Raids Again is quite a let down.
23:32 – The King of the Monsters would be left buried for 7 years but would be brought back for one of the most legendary rumbles ever put on celluloid.
23:43 – King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)
I know a lot of people like it and have a nostalgic attachment to it and I’ll be the first to admit that I do too, but when you take a step back and look at the film without rose-tinted glasses it’s actually pretty lame. The suits look awful, the miniature effects aren't as good as the previous two movies and the comedic nature of it detracts from the impact of the fight. I must add that we were watching the English language version so we don’t get the commercialism commentary and instead get two white actors getting dinosaur knowledge from kid’s books, but the film as a whole is a bit of a dud - however it is a very entertaining dud. I should also add that my fellow co-founders found the visual of Japanese actors in black face to be hilariously bad.
01:10 – I do like this movie, but it does get a free pass from nostalgic fans. Up next, Godzilla would take on one of Toho’s other kaiju…
01:19 – Mothra vs Godzilla (also released as Godzilla vs. The Thing)
This is the most critically acclaimed kaiju movie outside of the original and it’s easy to see why. It tells a fantastic story, even in the American dub, of the capitalistic culture Japan was experiencing at the time. Mothra is not my favourite of the Godzilla characters, but this movie is just so much fun to watch. I also love the human villains and adore their fight scene for its brutality and realism. It seems weird to think that even though it’s a monster movie, I actually enjoy the human element more than the kaiju action.
02:48 – One of my favourites of the series, even with its dreadful ending. But coming up next was the debut of one of Godzilla’s most formidable opponents…
02:54 – Ghidorah, The Three Headed Monster
Oh man do I love Ghidorah. For those not in the know, he’s a three headed dragon from outer space who shoots lightening from his mouths and destroys buildings simply by flying over them and, even though he only shows up in the last twenty or so minutes, he is the shining star of this movie. The final monster battle between Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra and Ghidorah is fantastic and the human storyline is also a good watch. If you couldn't tell, I love this movie. Apart from Mothra vs. Godzilla, it's the most complete movie in the franchise.
04:28 – Ghidorah is defeated and Godzilla becomes a good guy. What next for the King of the Monsters? Well space of course!
04:40 – Invasion of Astro-Monster (also released as Godzilla vs. Monster Zero)
Just as Jason Voorhees and the Leprechaun, Godzilla was heading to space for an adventure in the most sci-fi heavy of the Godzilla franchise. It has an incredibly cheesy and clichéd storyline and I love every second of it. I mean c'mon, just look at that title! Unlike others, I really, really like this entry and although the monsters play a secondary role to the humans, I think they get a good run. The celebration dance is a little stupid, but I can overlook it. It's probably my third favourite movie in the whole franchise.
06:20 – We’re all starting to feel the fatigue now and we still have another 10 films to go…
06:25 – Ebriah, Horror of the Deep (also released as Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster)
The first film in our series to be directed by Jun Fukada, who gets a lot of flak from Godzilla fans for directing the ‘not so good’ entries into the series (when compared to Ishiro Honda). For me, the problem with Ebriah, Horror of the Deep is that it doesn't feel cinematic and could easily be mistaken for a made for TV movie. In fact, it was the first movie not to see an American cinema release. But for all its flaws and silliness, I actually kind of like this entry. I think if I were a kid growing up with cable, I’d love this movie. The story is simple and the fights between Godzilla and Ebirah are, if you ask me, among his best. It has a lot of issues, but I can look past them.
07:49 – We’re nearing the 12th hour mark and we’re not even half way through this marathon yet! We decided to get through one more film before attacking breakfast. What’s next for the King of the Monsters? Parenthood.
07:57 – Son of Godzilla
I'm going to throw this out there – I don’t get the hate for this movie. Is it because Godzilla is a father and not a message of nuclear war? Is it because it's aimed more at kids? Is it the comedic tone? I just don’t understand why people hate this movie so much because I, and the rest of my co-founders, actually really enjoyed it. The relationship between Minilla and Godzilla is incredibly sweet and the final scenes between the two are very touching. The fight scene between Godzilla, Minilla and Kumonga is actually quite intense and suspensful and is made all the more engaging because of the relationship built up throughout the movie as well as the threat of Kumonda. On top of that, the main human relationship is really nice and I found myself routing for the leads and booing the bad monsters. It’s one of the more mocked movies, but I really dug Son of Godzilla.
09:45 – Some technical issues slowed us down on this watch and breakfast was in order. We we’re going to need all the strength we could get.
10:38 – Destroy All Monsters
If Toho had stuck to their guns, this would have been the last movie on our list to watch as Destroy All Monsters was intended to be the final movie of the Godzilla franchise. Because of this, every monster (even ones who hadn't appeared in Godzilla movies like Gorosaurus and Mandra) makes an appearance to all join in the final fight against the evil King Ghidorah. This is another great movie in the franchise where the human story is fun and the monster rumble is epic. For a movie where the monsters should have had more screen time, I do feel like they’re given the back seat a little too much but it doesn't hamper my love of it.
12:07 – Breakfast is consumed and the movie is enjoyed. That food will do us the power of good to get us through this next battle…
12:10 – All Monsters Attack (also released as Godzilla’s Revenge)
While All Monsters Attack is a terrible movie, it’s hard to hate it because it was made specifically for young children. If you cut out all of the scenes in between, this could be a Best Of Godzilla fight compilation as it has an insane amount of stock footage from Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster and Son of Godzilla. This is a bad movie, but we had a good chuckle watching it.
13:22 – I’d like to say that we’re past the worst, but that couldn't be further from the truth…
13:32 – Godzilla vs Hedorah (also released as Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster)
I can’t hate All Monsters Attack because it was made for kids, but I can hate Godzilla vs. Hedorah because it is a bad, bad, bad movie. I get that Yoshimitsu Banno was trying to return to Godzilla’s serious routes and use him against a symbol of pollution, but the movie is so incredibly goofy with bizarre cartoon sequences, science lessons and horrid exposition dialogue. In fact, the majority of the film is exposition explaining Hedorah’s existence which just makes the already long run time drag. We got a massive laugh from the stupid trumpet music that accompanies Godzilla throughout the movie that co-founder Jon pointed out sounded the same as the music played when Tom from Tom and Jerry was drunk:
The fight is boring, the set-up is boring, the presentation is boring and the music is stupid. A failure on a massive scale.
14:50 – We’re 2 movies down on the 4 bad Godzilla movies. Up next was the cheap stock-footage-tastic Godzilla vs. Gigan…
14:53 – Godzilla vs. Gigan
I like parts of this movie. I really do. I like the sci-fi element of the plot and even the idea behind it, but the film is incredibly flawed. The reveal of the cockroaches did get some titters from my fellow co-founders but I loved it. The problem with the movie is that it looks horrendously cheap and rushed. The fight scene at the end (and indeed some of the initial attack) are padded out with stock footage from Destroy All Monsters and Ghidorah, The Three Headed Monster that it becomes infuriating to watch. It may have some plus points, but it has far too many negatives.
16:22 – One more bad movie left – and we have only 3 more movies left to go…
16:30 – Godzilla vs. Megalon
Although Universally panned, Godzilla vs. Megalon is not as bad as people make it out to be. Don’t get me wrong it’s a bad movie and deserves to be mocked, but it’s not all that bad. The problem the movie has is that, just like Ebirah, Horror of the Deep, it looks like a made for TV movie and incredibly cheap. It comes as no surprise that Godzilla was only put in the movie for marquee value as the focus of the film is around Jet Jaguar and the underground people’s Megalon. It’s a bad movie, but it’s not as bad as Godzilla vs. Gigan and Godzilla vs. Hedorah.
17:53 – While they had gotten sick of this marathon a few movies back, my fellow co-founders were now about ready to kill something. Just 2 movies left and they’re two of the best(ish).
17:57 – Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla
I love this entry. The story is great, the villains are great, the monster fight is fantastic and the whole presentation once again feels cinematic. Gone are the cheap knock off stock footage cheap movies and in are superb effects, great costumes and superb action. Mechagodzilla is a great villain and the ape aliens are a wicked addition to the cannon. It’s insane to think that it was currently 6pm and we hadn't had a truly great movie since 4am that morning. It had been a long day…
19:24 – We can’t quite believe it, but we've only one movie left to go.
20:26 – Terror of Mechagodzilla
After an obscenely long hour waiting for food, we sat down to take in the last movie in our marathon and the last movie of the Showa Era of Godzilla. Serving as a sequel to Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, Terror of Mechagodzilla is another good edition to the cannon, albeit one with many flaws. Titanosaurus is not that great of a monster and it’s a shame to see that the aliens aren't ape creatures any more. The story isn't as strong as it's predecessor or as other entries in the franchise which does make the film drag slightly. What I do love however is the human relationship between Ichinose and Katsura and how difficult it is for a man to find out that he is in love with a machine - it's such a warming tale and a good distraction from the monster action. It’s a fitting end to the series, but it’s not the best of the lot.
21:57 – 26 hours after we started this adventure, we’re finally done. Bed anyone?
My apprehensions were correct. By around Son of Godzilla my co-founding friends were tired of these movies. To paraphrase Mr. Tako from King Kong vs. Godzilla, they were “sick of Godzilla”. Next month we’d planned to watch the Heisei Era movies but after this experiment, I don’t think they want to watch another Godzilla movie for quite some time. Me? I could happily watch another one right now and enjoy it. I am a big fan of this series and am happy to have taken part in this marathon. It’s a franchise with more holes than great movies, but I have such a reverence for the character and genre that I can’t hate the series.
The other side of the coin is that, perhaps watching 15 movies in a row is just too much. Speaking to co-founder Jon yesterday he said that if we'd split this marathon into two, he may have enjoyed it a bit more than he did. I'm inclined to agree. I don't think we'll be doing one of this length again...
From Best to Worst:
1. Ghidorah, The Three Headed Monster
2. Mothra vs. Godzilla
3. Invasion of Astro Monster
5. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla
6. Destroy All Monsters
7. Son of Godzilla
8. Terror of Mechagodzilla
9. Godzilla vs. King Kong
10. Ebirah, Horror of the Deep
11. Godzilla vs. Megalon
12. Godzilla Raids Again
13. All Monsters Attack
14. Godzilla vs. Gigan
15. Godzilla vs. Hedorah
Total Runtime (including breaks): 26 hours, 6 minutes
This hasn't gone down as well as previous marathons and I don’t think we’ll ever do one this long again. Perhaps if my co-founders had seen each film individually this could have been a different story, but as it stands I didn't convert them to the kaiju way of cinema. With this in mind, we’re changing things up for the next marathon…
Next Time: Lethal Lottery