Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi My Japanese Is a Little Rusty

By Scott Phillips

JUNE 1, 1998:  Godzilla. The name conjures up not only images of incredible destruction unleashed by guys in cool rubber suits, but memories of watching late Saturday night TV, wearing comfortable jammies and eating heaping bowls of Super Sugar Crisp (aka Super Golden Crisp. How much "golden" is in that crisp?). I wish I could remember my first encounter with the King of Monsters, but it came at such an early age it seems that Godzilla has always been swirling through my brain. I do know that one of my earliest memories of Big G was seeing Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster at the Silver Dollar Drive-In in 1971. And what a drive-in that was--three screens, if I remember right, and my brother swears that the fry cook once hocked a loogie into the deep fryer to see if the grease was hot enough.

When I was 10, my sixth-grade teacher yanked my beloved copy of Famous Monsters of Filmland No. 114 ("All of Japan's Monsters!" the cover blurb promised) out of the hands of a kid I had foolishly loaned it to. While I stared on in horror, she tore the magazine in half! That issue is now worth upwards of a hundred bucks; fortunately, I managed to replace mine for peanuts a few years back.

Another traumatic event occurred one Friday night when I was 11 or 12. I camped out with a friend of mine in my parents' den to watch King Kong Escapes--not a Godzilla flick, but it does feature Gorosaurus and the incredible Mecha-Kong. In our excitement, though, we had overlooked one major problem: our old color TV. When first turned on, this tank-like beast would work fine for about 20 minutes, then the picture would slowly darken and begin to flutter, finally rolling and heaving and going completely black, leaving only the sound. After another 20 or so minutes, the picture would stumble back in again, reversing the process, and eventually it would work great until the TV was shut off again. In our excitement, we had forgotten to turn the TV on in advance! Now c'mon--when a flick's set on "Mondo Island," and the bad guy is some crotchety nutbar named "Dr. Who" (no relation to the bescarfed British guy), and his nefarious plan is to capture Kong and make him dig holes, you don't wanna miss a second! I doubt I need to describe the twitching and sweating of a couple of adolescent monster freaks reduced to listening to the sounds of Ape action while waiting for the TV to fix itself.

Somewhere in there I discovered what is still my all-time favorite Godzilla flick--Godzilla vs. Monster Zero. Astronauts Nick Adams and Akira Takarada are sent out to investigate the mysterious "Planet X," where they discover a bunch of Devo-lookin' aliens who have a little problem with--you guessed it--Monster Zero, better known as King Ghidorah (aka Ghidrah), the three-headed, lightning-bolt-spittin' juvenile delinquent of Giant-Monsterdom. These aliens make the astronauts a swell offer: If we fork over Godzilla and Rodan (so they can whip Ghidorah's ass), they'll give us a drug that'll cure all disease! Now you know these guys have something up their sleeve, and sure enough, the Xians (who are a little lacking in the water department) plan to triple-team the Earth with the monsters and guzzle our H2O. Luckily for our side, Nick's nerdy brother-in-law invents a device that saves the day, and before you know it, Godzilla and Rodan are kickin' the crap out of Ghidorah. What a flick! Back when I used to own the Wavy Brain video store, I ran this one on the monitor almost every Saturday as a sort of tribute. It was pretty satisfying to have customers come in and hang by the counter, mesmerized by the sight of Godzilla doing his thing.

As I got older, I started to notice how goofy some of the later flicks were--especially Godzilla's Revenge, wherein Godzie's son Minya (not "Godzooky"--that was the little guy on the Saturday morning cartoon) shrinks down and actually chats with a little kid about bullies and stuff! I also found out that Nick Adams committed suicide, and to this day I pray it wasn't because his career went to hell in the States and he ended up doing monster movies in Japan. I've derived so much pleasure from Monster Zero and Frankenstein Conquers the World that the thought of Nick taking his own life as a result of appearing in them just depresses the hell out of me. Trust me, Nick, ol' pal--you gave a lot of kids a lot of thrills, and that's got to count for something.

Thankfully, Big G's goofiness went out the window with his comeback film, Godzilla 1985. It's not that great, but it delivered the building-crushing, human-hating Godzilla we all love. That hefty-thighed mean-ass lizard continued to raise hell in Godzilla vs. Biollante, Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, Godzilla vs. Queen Mothra, Godzilla vs. Mecha-Godzilla , Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla and Godzilla vs. the Destroyer. Sure, he saves the Earth in a few of those but purely to protect his turf from the new monster on the block. Until recently, Godz 1985 and Biollante were the only ones released in America, but Columbia TriStar Home Video has just cranked out Mothra and King Ghidorah. The rest are still available on bootleg and are highly recommended.

Now we find ourselves awash in the long-promised American Godzilla movie. ... Those whiny "purists" who complain that a more-modern computer-generated lizard has replaced the traditional rubber suits can bite my butt. So what? It takes nothing away from the old classics, right? And so what if his appearance is different? Hordes of kids are gonna flood theaters to gaze wide-eyed at a big, cranky dinosaur howling with rage as he wades through a forest of skyscrapers--and I'm gonna be right there with 'em.


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