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Monday, May 22, 2017

Son of Godzilla (1967) – Review

This eighth entry in the Godzilla series took the light comedic tone of the previous films and then drove it straight into kiddietown. Son of Godzilla introduced the adorably annoying spawn of Godzilla whose slapstick antics would cement the direction the Shōwa period of Godzilla films was going and which it would not recover from until Toho would eventually reboot the franchise with The Return of Godzilla in 1984.


This would be Toho’s second island adventure story, following on the heels of Ebirah, Horror of the Deep, and was a clear cut case of the studio trying to function with increasingly lower budgets. Without the need to create massive cityscapes for the monsters to smash you can save a lot of money but then you also run into the problem of how exciting is it going to be to see Godzilla and company repeatedly stomp through dense jungle or rocky plateaus? On the plus side even though we are missing scenes of city wide destruction the kaiju Godzilla tackles in this film aren’t men in suits but rather they are intricately puppeted creations.

 

Who doesn’t love giant spiders?

Son of Godzilla deals with a group of scientist working on the presumed deserted Sollgel Island in an attempt to perfect their weather machine, one that they have hopes will end world hunger. Their experiments are interrupted when reporter Goro Maki (Akira Kubo) parachutes in to get the scoop on what these scientists are working on and why all the secrecy. Dr. Kusumi (Tadao Takashima) explains that soon the Earth will not be able to support the ever increasing population and that the only chance mankind has is to turn previously desolate land into arable farmland. He goes on to explain that the reason for the tests being done in secret is that in the wrong hands the technology could be used as a devastating weapon. And how exactly could a device that turns deserts into farmland be used for nefarious purposes you ask? Well the first experiment we see is the launching of a device that causes the temperature on the tropic island to plummet. So yeah, it’s a freezing machine. I’m no scientist but I don’t see how creating winter conditions is going to help with the crop growing problem, but to make matters worse a strange interference causes the device to malfunction which results in a radioactive storm forming over the island. Definitely a device you’d want to keep out of the hands super villains, or really any hands at all for that matter as a side-effect of this storm is that it turns the man-sized praying mantises, apparently native to this island, into massive monsters that tower over the treetops.

 

So don’t forget kids, this is what science gets you.

And what exactly was that strange interference that caused the machine to malfunction? Well it turns out that not only was this island inhabited with giant mantises but buried in the rocks was an egg that contained baby Godzilla, named Minilla, and it was the infants telepathic cries for help that caused the interference. To complicate things even more for our hapless scientists and bumbling reporter is the fact that there is also a beautiful girl living on the island by the name of Saeko Matsumiya (Beverly Maeda) whose been alone here ever since her archeologist father passed away seven years ago.

Note: After watching Mothra it has become clear that nobody bothers to survey these tropical islands properly.

 

Beautiful island girl included with every adventure.

It’s clear that Goro is enchanted with this mysterious island girl, and seriously who wouldn’t be, but between science running amok and giant monsters traipsing all over the island there isn’t much time for romance. Eventually Godzilla does show up, we saw him during the movie’s opening moments as the telepathic message from his child drew him towards the island, and the bulk of the film deals with Godzilla trying to teach his son to breathe atomic fire while also saving his little kaiju neck from the local monsters. The giant praying mantises are named Kamacuras (Gimantis in the English-dubbed version) and for some reason they really want to eat baby Godzilla, so much so that they dig through solid rock to find the egg buried there.

 

Maybe infant Godzillas are notoriously tasty.

Once they crack the egg, and the pudgy form of Minilla spills out, the Kamacuras do a piss poor job of eating the little fellow for instead of immediately chowing down they just poke at him with their long forelegs for a bit. This of course gives daddy Godzilla time to wade ashore and beat the living crap of these big bullies. The combat between Godzilla and the giant bugs is fun to watch but they are so over matched in these fights, what with Godzilla ripping off of their appendages and flaming them with his atomic breath, it’s not really much of a contest. Later Godzilla will face off against the island’s resident giant spider Kumonga (Spiga in the English-dubbed version) whose spinning web and nasty stinger gives Godzilla some problems, but it only takes the minimal aid from Minilla to end this threat.

 

If you can be defeated by this you should turn in your monster card.

The last half of the movie consists mainly of Goro, the jungle girl and the idiot scientists running around trying to stay out of the way during the monster fights, while also fighting off a fever that incapacitates a few of them but which can be of course cured by some “red water” that Saeko knows about.  Eventually they get their equipment functioning again so that they can launch another “freeze device” into the air, which then brings a nuclear winter to the island. The film ends with our “heroes” escaping the island via an arriving submarine while Godzilla and Minilla huddle under the falling snow, which really seems like a dick move in my opinion as neither Godzilla nor Minilla were a threat to the humans. In fact Saeko and Minilla had become sort of friends and so she is a bit saddened by this chilly end, but Goro informs her that, “They’re not going to die, they’ll just hibernate.”  Well I guess that's okay then.


 

Do you hear that roar? I'm pretty sure that’s a “Fuck you” from Godzilla.

Son of Godzilla is beyond goofy, the scientist subplot makes little to no sense, the jungle girl adds nothing but some nice cleavage and a pretty face to the proceedings, the monster fights are well done but once again the jungle setting limits the cool destruction we’ve come to expect in this series. The film’s comic tone is also amplified by the composer Masaru Sato’s decidedly Saturday morning cartoon score, but really it’s the silly antics of little Godzilla that makes this installment something clearly aimed at a younger audience. We are treated to what seem like endless moments of Minilla blowing atomic smoke rings, riding his dad’s tail and basically cavorting around like a halfwit. Sure he’s technically a newborn, and so I shouldn’t be making fun of how idiotic the little guy acts, but when viewed as a Godzilla fan its hard not to find him even more annoying than his cartoon analog Godzooky.

 

When this is an improvement you know you’re in trouble.

It’s clear that by this time screenwriter Shin'ichi Sekizawa had run out of ideas and so giving Godzilla a son was an attempt to add something fresh to the series, but instead it was the descent into the abyss.

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