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TK's Top Ten: The Godzilla Series

Posted by StuckintheSeventies423 on 10:12 PM

The Top Ten: Godzilla Movies

TK here once again bringing you the first of many top ten lists and let me tell you right now that this one was a real labor of love. Before you go any further perhaps you'd like to check out this kick-ass song by Blue Oyster Cult. Enjoy!

In 1954, almost a decade after the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, an imaginative film producer who worked for the renown Toho Pictures in Tokyo, Japan had begun to toy with the idea for a horror story that later grew into a multimedia franchise spanning film, books, comic books, video games, and a resounding influence felt all over the world! Basing the film around the fears of atomic radiation and nuclear devastation, he concocted a story about a giant prehistoric monster which rises from the sea after atomic bomb tests stir the beast from its deep slumber to bring vengeance upon mankind. The monster was initially named Gojira (a combo of gorilla and whale in Japanese) but it was only two years later when an American version was produced starring Raymond Burr which gave the beast the name which has made it an icon of film for nearly sixty years. Godzilla, the King of the Monsters!

I was four years old when I saw my first Godzilla movie and they’ve really stuck with me over the years. I go back to the Godzilla series whenever I want to see something that hasn’t been totally drawn up with computers. I’m serious, movies are relying on CGI so much to the point that I really don’t even feel like I’m watching a movie anymore! I just feel like I’m watching someone play a video game and that bores me to death. They just don’t make movies like this anymore and it’s a damn shame really. I don’t care if I already know that they’re guys in rubber suits smashing miniature buildings, the fact that an entire crew of people took the time and the imagination to build all that shit from the ground up is more impressive then some dude clicking away at a keyboard. Seriously, they’ve had thirty years to develop this technology and they still can’t even get the lighting issues worked out! I don’t know, in my opinion, CGI just looks more phony because you can obviously tell when something isn’t actually on the set with the actors. Don’t even get me started on CGI blood!

As time went on, the Godzilla series took several creative and stylistic turns which greatly affected the way the franchise was perceived by foreign audiences. The character started to appeal to a much younger audience in Japan and Godzilla went from being the destroyer of human civilization to a friendly superhero type of figure. By the mid-70’s, audiences had totally lost interest in the series and Toho decided to give the character a break. Since then, the series has returned on several other occasions to try and capture the imaginations of a new generation but none can be compared to the glory days of the original series of films. For the record, no mention will be made of that craptastrophe starring Mathew Broderick from the 90’s. That is NOT a Godzilla movie just proof that America doesn’t always do things better. That’s right, I said it! Come on! Who wants some?

In closing, Godzilla has stood the test of time as not only an icon of cinema but an icon of Japanese popular culture. I want to take the time here to send out my deepest sympathies to the whole of Japan after the recent tragedies that have befallen their great nation in the wake of a devastating natural disaster. I have nothing but the utmost faith in Japan. They have overcome tragedy before and they will do it again. You can’t keep a good man down and the same goes for a good monster! So grab a beer and enjoy this list of my Top Ten Favorite Godzilla Movies and maybe you’ll be inclined to check a few of them out. It’s a little sliver of popular culture that shouldn't be ignored by younger generations.

10. Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)

By the early 1970’s, the Godzilla series was in serious decline. Budgets were being cut, a more child friendly approach was being taken, and ideas for the series were really running thin! Aware that the kiddy angle was hurting the perception of the series, outside their own country as well, Toho tried to up the ante with Godzilla vs. Gigan by dropping any obligatory child characters (who all wear these ridiculous shorts) and introducing a menacing new monster from space in the form of Gigan (better than Godzilla fighting a monster made of sludge). However, the film suffers from stock footage overkill (day/night continuity issues) and a cast that plays dumber than a pile of rocks (at least they’re kind of funny). It’s not a favorite among many fans, but I’ve always gotten a kick out of this one. I just wish they had more money in the budget!

These giant cockroach-aliens come to Earth, where they pose as legitimate business men tied to the creation of a giant monster themed amusement park. A down on his luck manga artists accepts a job with them and ends up stumbling upon their headquarters in the head of a giant Godzilla statue in the theme parks center. He teams up with this karate chick and her dumb hippy friend, to help find her brother who has been captured by the aliens. They find her brother and it is soon revealed that the aliens intend to take over the world with the combined strength of King Ghidorah (Godzilla’s arch-enemy) and Gigan (a new monster with a buzz saw on his chest). Tag-team monster carnage ensues when Godzilla and his friend Anguirus show up to defend the Earth from the extra-terrestrial cockroaches!

Ridiculous, yes! Get used to it because this is just how these kinds of movies tend to go. Aliens invade the Earth and Godzilla saves the day. The beauty is almost in the redundancy of it all! You just know right off the bat what you’ll be getting! Unfortunately, Godzilla vs. Gigan doesn’t always come through. I appreciate the fact that they dropped the kiddy character and attempted to make a movie that was more like the ones from the golden age. We’ve got four monsters, an alien invasion, and… and that’s about it! Yeah, the human characters are beyond dumb in this one and the aliens are even dumber! I couldn’t keep count of how many times everyone got screwed over because of someone else’s stupidity! More money would have probably helped this one out a lot! There’s just way too much stock footage from previous films and when you’re as big a fan as I am, it’s just way too glaring.

Fortunately, the new monster on the block is far more imposing that the ones we’d been seeing up to this point. Gigan is basically a giant cyborg with hooks for hands and a buzz saw running down his chest. He doesn't do all that poorly when squared off against the big G either! Fuck, Godzilla even bleeds in this one! Up until this point, no monster had ever come close to busting Godzilla’s head wide open! That tops a pile of garbage and giant spiders any day in my book! Gigan was only featured in one other film from the original series and it is utterly abysmal! Highlights include the goofy bumbling hippy character, Godzilla and Anguirus’ conversation, Gigan and Ghidorah’s assault on Tokyo, and the tag-team main event match up! Not one of the best, but I prefer it to the kiddy-fare that the rest of the series turned into too. It actually makes me laugh because I’m pretty sure they were trying to make a comedy out of this. I think number ten works for this one!

9. Godzilla Raids Again (1955)

Making an interesting claim at number nine is the lost sequel, Godzilla Raids Again! Considered lost by many fans, Godzilla Raids Again was introduced to American audiences in 1959 under the title Gigantis, the Fire Monster! This American version is an abomination unto film and for nearly twenty years this one remained out of print on the home video market. Just a few years ago, a 50th Anniversary DVD box set had been compiled with both the English version and the original Japanese version of Godzilla Raids Again. For the record, I will be reviewing the Japanese version of the film!

Two pilots are searching the seas for schools of tuna when one of them has engine trouble and they are forced to land near the rocks. They soon witness two giant monsters (one looking similar to the beast that destroyed Tokyo and a new one named Anguirus) duking it out across the rocks before plunging into the sea. They report the incident to the authorities and soon Godzilla appears on the shore of Osaka followed closely by his buddy Anguirus. The two monsters battle it out, destroying Osaka in the process with Godzilla emerging triumphant. Anyway, Godzilla goes back to the sea and the military spends an obscene amount of time trying to find him. Spotted on an iceberg the air force move in and attempt to imprison Godzilla in the ice.

This is a weird one! Weird in the sense that the climactic monster battle takes place during the second act and before you know it, Godzilla wins. After that, what’s the point in really watching anymore? The third act just kind of drags out for way too long as they attempt to cause an avalanche to bury Godzilla. It’s not like Godzilla was directly threatening anything, he was just chilling on some iceberg so let’s bury him! The whole ordeal just goes on and on with pretty much nothing at stake. But I can kind of forgive Toho for these faults because they honestly had no idea what they were dealing with yet in terms of this whole Godzilla idea! Indeed, this is the second ever Godzilla movie and it honestly plays out like a B-movie version of the original. The human characters just aren’t there and I had a hard time caring about any of them or their various issues.

Anguirus is the first monster opponent for Godzilla and he’s a rough and tough little fella as he gives Godzilla quite a run for his money around Osaka. A quick side note, I've always felt that Godzilla looks his best in black and white. He actually comes across as being way more of a threatening force and kind of scary looking at times! They actually got rid of the fangs and the little ears behind his eyes to bring down the intimidation factor in later entries. The throw down in Osaka is where the real show is as Godzilla and Anguirus slug it out at a furious pace across the entire city! I have a feeling the entire budget for this one went into that scene, making the whole iceberg finale look kind of half-assed. I kept thinking this one would get better but the whole third act just really didn’t keep me interested. Highlights include Godzilla and Anguirus’ first appearance, Godzilla comes ashore in Osaka, and the extended rumble in Osaka. This one is really just for the die hards and can be totally skipped over as the best are still on the way!

8. Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster (1966)

By the mid 1960’s, the Godzilla series found itself amongst the peace and love generation as the character began to undergo several drastic transformations. The radioactive abomination that threatened the very survival of mankind had now become the ally, the protector, and the savior! He was slowly becoming an icon for children. A prototypical Barney, if you will? Many fans enjoy the goofy take on Godzilla’s character where he would often do kung-fu moves and dance around. I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of what the series became in the late 1960’s to early 1970’s. Trying to appeal to children only meant budget cuts, a lack of any real story, and fading interest from their original audience who had now grown up and didn’t want to see this kind of shit! But on the edge of that storm is the first tropically set entry in the series, Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster. I’ve always felt that this one boasts some of the best fight scenes Godzilla has ever been involved in and one hell of an entertaining group of characters. Not to mention the groovy surf music and a surprise appearance from Mothra, a giant fucking moth!

It all starts with a stranded group of sailors being attacked by some kind of sea monster with gigantic claws! On the Japanese mainland, this guy decides to start looking for his brother who was lost at sea. He takes his two buddies and they have themselves a good old time by stealing a yacht. Unbeknownst to them, a crafty bank robber was onboard the yacht but no violence occurs and they sail on into the South Pacific. They hit a storm and are eventually attacked by the sea monster, Ebirah, which is a giant lobster. They are washed onto what seems like a completely normal island, however, they discover that a terrorist group called the Red Bamboo has also set up shop there and they find themselves stuck on the island. On the run in the mountains, they discover Godzilla in a dark cavern in a deep slumber. They decide to use Godzilla to their advantage and stick a lightning rod to him in an attempt to wake the Big G up. Pissed, he busts out of the mountain and prepares to kick a combination of lobster AND terrorist ass!

Oh yeah, and Mothra shows up to rescue everyone with those stupid twin fairies because the Red Bamboo are using their people as slaves and because our main man’s brother somehow ended up on Mothra’s home island and well, Godzilla is less than thrilled to see Mothra again! Being woken up really made the big guy cranky!

I like this one because it succeeded in being different! It took Godzilla off of the Japanese mainland and put him back in the waters that he was originally from. This movie is a lot more bright and colorful than any before it and it really lends to the authenticity of the tropical island setting. Our comical cast is also decked out in goofy Hawaiian shirts and this hot island babe runs around in a grass skirt for most of flick. Hell, even Godzilla’s on vacation in this one! Seriously, don’t wake him up! Godzilla has a “you ruin his day, he’ll ruin your day” policy! Except, you only woke him up and he’s going to step on your fucking house! I can’t really blame him, though. After battling King Ghidorah for two movies straight, it made sense that he had gotten tired of the hustle and bustle of city life and decided to go beach hopping in the South Pacific.

Ebirah, is a decent monster. Maybe coming off a little soft after something like Ghidorah, but his appearances in the stormy seas are definitely a worst fear of mine come horribly to life! He also puts up a pretty serious fight against Godzilla, easily creating some of the most visually stunning scenes in any monster battle the series had to offer! Loved the underwater stuff! The villains were a bit outrageous and it kind of helps this one feel like one long Scooby-Doo episode. If it weren’t for those meddling kids and their big green dinosaur! Highlights include Ebirah’s underwater attacks, “I know when I’m being followed,” Godzilla and Ebirah’s epic battle at sea, Godzilla challenging Mothra, the Godzilla cannonball, and the island being totally imploded on itself! They use to play this one on TV a lot when I was little and I really hope they start playing more of these again someday.

7. Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975)

By 1975, the Godzilla franchise was getting ready to take its first long break from making any more films. From an economic standpoint, things were bad! The oil-crisis affected the whole world and the Japanese film industry had fallen horribly by the wayside. International audiences could no longer take the movies seriously (though tongue planted firmly in cheek) and the light-hearted kiddy direction that the series had turned to alienated many of the original fans. Despite disappointing ticket sales, the quality of the final few films had actually jumped drastically due to the fact that Godzilla finally had a challenging new nemesis and a couple of half-decent storylines! Indeed, this is the second film to feature Godzilla’s mechanical doppelganger, Mechagodzilla! Acting as a direct to sequel to the one before it and bringing back the legendary director Ishiro Honda, the original series was at least allowed to go out on a high note!

Picking up where the last one leaves off, a submarine is checking the ocean floor for the remnants of Mechagodzilla when they are suddenly attacked by a giant aquatic dinosaur, the Titanosaurus. As it turns out, Titanosaurus is under the control of a mad scientist who wishes to destroy humanity. Conveniently, he is allied with the aliens who have now rebuilt Mechagodzilla and they plan to use the two monsters to destroy the world! The mad doctor’s daughter ends up getting involved with one of the Interpol agents and it’s revealed that the aliens had brought her back from death and that she was part cyborg. However, things go from complicated to straight up hell on Earth as Titanosaurus and Mechagodzilla wreak havoc on Tokyo! Can Godzilla alone possibly turn back the tide of these two behemoths of mass destruction? Can a lonely Interpol agent still find it in his heart to love a cyborg? Will the aliens finally stop taking their fashion tips from DEVO? You know what? No, to the last one!

At number seven on my list we have the Terror of Mechagodzilla, the sequel to the original Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla. This one has the distinct title within the original series as being the last one they made for about ten years. It’s a good one too! This film, as well as its predecessor, goes back to the root elements of the golden era of the series! We’ve got alien invasions, secret agents, multiple monsters, some epic fight scenes, and a human cast that we actually give a crap about with no little fat kid wearing shorts anywhere to be found! It takes a while before we actually see Godzilla, though. The first hour’s almost up when he first appears in the movie but he does it in a big way! The aliens still wear goofy costumes but this is just something we should expect by now! Highlights include Titanosaurus’ initial appearance, Godzilla’s first appearance, Mechagodzilla and Titanosaurus attack Tokyo, the final showdown, and Godzilla’s final walk out to sea. See you in 1984, big guy!

6. King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)

Often a popular film amongst American fans, King Kong vs. Godzilla is one of those ideas that can make a fuck ton of money on name value alone! I mean, look at that marquee! The 8th Wonder of the World, King Kong vs. Godzilla, the King of the Monsters! It’s like the greatest wrestling match of all time, except the world itself is at stake! This movie and I go way back! I first saw it on TV when I was like four on Thanksgiving and when I was six my dad bought me the VHS. Ah, the good old days. Anyway, I loved the shit out of this movie when I was little but then I started to see more of these movies (including the American version of the original) and in recent years it’s lost a lot of the favoritism I originally had for it. I still make a yearly tradition out of watching it on Thanksgiving and yes I’ve upgraded to DVD now, which was like seeing it again for the first time, but I can’t get past how goofy this one actually is and it just seems like early warning signs during the change in the mid to late 1960’s. Overall, this one is still a whole hell of a lot of fun and features a lot of elements that would make some of its successors far superior, in my opinion!

After being trapped in an iceberg, Godzilla is free when an American nuclear submarine crashes into the berg and the King of the Monsters heads back to the Japanese mainland to wreak more havoc. Meanwhile, a frustrated TV producer devises a publicity stunt to distract people from Godzilla by pursuing an old island legend about a giant ape, named Kong. The ragtag crew arrives on the island and is forced to contend with the natives and a giant octopus until Kong appears and shows it whose boss! Anyway, Kong drinks this berry juice that the natives use to appease him and he ends up getting trashed and passes out. The TV crew takes advantage by packing Kong up on a giant raft and shipping him off to Japan to do battle with Godzilla. Can a creature that relies on brains and brute strength overpower the fire-breathing beast from the deep?

The third film in the series and the first to be filmed in color, King Kong vs. Godzilla is almost legendary amongst classic film buffs and monster movie enthusiasts. The mistakes from Godzilla Raids Again are not repeated and many of the formulas for the rest of the series are established here. Godzilla comes back to Japan so the military tries over and over to stop him but that never fucking works so finally they bring in another giant monster to drive him away. This is pretty much how it’s supposed to be! So why number six? I suppose after watching it now, now that I’m older, I can’t find myself capable of getting past the goofiness of the monsters (Kong just looks dumb) and the silliness of the human characters (these people ARE dumb). It really doesn’t seem like anyone has a brain in this movie, which is probably why they thought that bringing another giant monster to the Japanese mainland was a good idea! Yeah, that really works out for them!

But sometimes the stupidity is just something you need to look past in these movies. They’re already about giant monsters for fuck’s sake! Speaking of, we’re treated to arguably the two most ridiculous looking versions of both King Kong and Godzilla that anyone could’ve ever imagined! I can’t get over how much Kong DOESN’T look like a gorilla and the fact that Godzilla’s face is completely different, looking more reptilian than ever! Seriously, what the hell happened there? Nonetheless, this film remains a yearly Thanksgiving tradition at my house. Thanksgiving is not complete until I’ve seen King Kong get dropped from a couple of giant balloons and slide ass first down Mt. Fuji and crash into an oncoming Godzilla! Highlights include Godzilla’s escape from the iceberg, Godzilla destroys the army base, Kong vs. Giant Octopus, Godzilla annihilating a train, Kong’s rampage through Tokyo, and the climactic final encounter on Mount Fuji! Let’s get ready to crumble!

So there you have it, the bottom five of my Godzilla Top Ten List. What I hope to accomplish with this list is a little more understanding regarding one of the most legendary characters ever committed to celluloid. They’re not all aimed at small children and it’s good to know that there was a time when filmmakers actually had to physically make their special effects as opposed to drawing something on a computer! Not to mention the suit actors who’d sweat off about thirty pounds everyday and often had to worry about getting stuck in the suit and drowning when they would film scenes involving water. It’s not as easy as it looks people! The top five are still on the way so be sure to check back for the rest. Remember, there is nothing official about this list I’m just having a little fun and had some spare time to kill.



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