Monday, January 6, 2014
Godzilla: the legendary monster's greatest movies
COMMENT | As the latest take on 'Godzilla' comes stomping portentously in our direction, we cast an eye back over some of the highlights of the long-running monster movie series.
Despite how universally known and loved Toho's King of the Monsters is, it can be a challenge for UK-based viewers nowadays to get to know him. Not only is he in so very many movies - Gareth Edwards' 2014 film will be the 30th - but they can also prove tricky to come by, as the vast majority of them are not widely available on Region 2 DVD.
But, if you're either a Godzilla novice or a one-time fan looking to get re- acquainted, and you've got the time and money to spare (plus a region-free DVD player) - here, to this writer's mind, are the true essentials that'll really give you a sense of what the Big G is all about.
Oh, and in case this doesn't go without saying, the 1998 Hollywood production from Roland Emmerich most definitely does not belong on this list. (I don't think it's quite as bad as some claim, but it's a half-baked 'Jurassic Park' wannabe, not a 'Godzilla' movie.)
There is, of course, no better place to start than the very beginning - and it's sure to be the best warm-up for the new movie, which has promised from the get-go to return to the genuine menace and horror of the original. A far more sinister outing than those that followed, Ishiro Honda's 'Gojira' is more than a monster movie - it's one of the true classics of Japanese cinema, and a stark comment on the plight of Japan in the aftermath of World War II.
Be sure to track down the original 'Gojira,' as opposed to 'Godzilla: King of the Monsters,' the re-edited version designed for US audiences with additional scenes starring Raymond Burr.
King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)
This is arguably where what we now think of as the classic monster movie format came into being. While Godzilla had battled another monster, Anguirus, in first sequel 'Godzilla Raids Again' (1955), it was 'King Kong vs. Godzilla' that first saw two equally huge, equally iconic monsters duke it out - in full colour, no less.
Henceforth, the series moved from something genuinely grim and menacing to a more cartoonish, kid-friendly spectacle.
Invasion of Astro-Monster AKA Monster Zero (1965)
And here was where the series sky-rocketed into childish fantasy nirvana. The once terrifying big G is now established as Earth's protector, and along with the winged wonder Rodan he is transported via flying saucer to Planet X, to do battle for the second time with arguably the most iconic of his adversaries - the three-headed dragon King Ghidorah.
It's undeniably fun, even if it is among the silliest of the series; look out for Godzilla's now-infamous 'happy moment' dance.
Destroy All Monsters (1968)
45 years before 'The Avengers' showed up, Toho showed the world how a super-powered cross-franchise showdown was done, bringing together all their monsters for a mighty showdown which was initially intended to end the series. As well as being a major fan favourite, this entry is sadly one of the trickiest to get these days, with copies changing hands for upwards of £60.
It may be of even greater interest soon, however - as Gareth Edwards has hinted that, should he get to make a sequel to this year's 'Godzilla,' 'Destroy All Monsters' may be a key influence.
Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)
Really, take any movie which sets Godzilla against Ghidorah and you can't go too far wrong. The 80s and 90s productions saw the monsters given a more fearsome redesign, and boasted more spectacular man-in-suit brawls. The time-hopping sci-fi narrative is as bonkers as usual, but it's worth it just to see a seemingly defeated Ghidorah come back for round two with a cyborg head.
This can be found in a two-film Region 1 DVD set with 1992's 'Godzilla and Mothra: the Battle for Earth,' which is also well worth watching.
Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001)
The title alone is among the best the series ever came up with, and as it might imply this is one of the very best for sheer monster-on-monster action. It might also prove a good one to watch before the new Hollywood movie, as - for once - it makes Godzilla the bad guy again.
In so doing, it takes the unusual step of turning the generally villainous Ghildorah into a goodie, sent to save the world from the Big G along with Mothra (as well as smaller monster Baragon, who wasn't given credit in the title, poor thing).
Ken's Opinion - Wow! What a great list. I agree 100% ... wait ... "Godzilla vs King Ghidorah"? Okay, that one gives me a headache. Try "Godzilla vs The Thing" or "Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla".