There are three things that thrill me today, aged 50, as much as they did back in my childhood: fireworks displays, the O’Jays song “Love Train”... and anything Godzilla. Born, as I was, with a gene for devouring horror movies, I had already inhaled movies from the Universal Horror menu: Dracula, Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, The Creature from the Black Lagoon and their many sequels and Hammer House of Horror versions.
Then I saw Godzilla - King of the Monsters. Everything changed.
I still remember the day I first saw the American version (the original Japanese version, with its heavy anti-nuclear allegory would not be available in America for decades yet). I realized how ultimately weak a vampire, a flesh golem, or a fish-man would be (never mind a guy who terrorized England by running around invisible, with only his pants to show where he was) against 300 feet of invulnerable, fire-breathing, atomic mutation. Even when I stumbled across Godzilla vs. King Kong (a truly atrocious movie for many reasons, not least of all the racist presentation of primitive islanders) it was obvious to me that King Kong had to be seriously pumped-up to even contend with the Big G. In the original King Kong, the ape was maybe 25 feet tall. The sort of skull-faced thing that fought Godzilla was clearly a desperate attempt to give Godzilla an adversary that would last longer than one stomp.
But to me, a kid, these movies were pure magic. I knew someone could be a Dracula with just a cape and some formal wear, but how did they make Godzilla movies, I wondered. Understand, this was still decades before video technology was available to the common household. We were lucky to see the movies when they were shown on Saturday afternoons, and we had no real idea how they were made or what went on behind the scenes. This collection of bloopers and in-the-making shots will give you what I could only imagine and dream about as a child: a look-see inside the magic.
The shots come from a variety of Godzilla movies, divided between the Showa (1954 - 1975) and Heisei (1984- 1995) periods. The best clips are the bloopers of course, with everything from a naval vessel with a cannon turret that goes “Boing!” to dramatic shots of the monster ruined by inconvenient fish or birds creeping into the frame at the wrong time. Funniest of all are the clips that demonstrate the dangers of wading while wearing a rubber costume that averages 150+ lbs in weight, in which the various actors portraying Godzilla were known to sweat to just this side of passing out. There are a few clips showing just what it took to get into the suit, never mind making it move around. Makes that “Godzilla does a jig” scene from Monster Zero seem a little bit more Olympic than before.
Less dramatic, but no less magical to my eyes even now, are the hots of building the various Godzilla puppets and animatronics. My favorite clip shows a production crew gluing and sewing the miniatures, costumes, etc. all set to the very ominous, brass-heavy theme music of the films.
All in all, this is a great collection of clips that are different from the extras you can find on the VHS and DVD releases. I swear, you kids today just don’t know how good you have it.
Ryk McIntyre is a Multi-Hyphen sort of person. Poet, critic, performer, workshop facilitator and co-host at both GotPoetry! Live (Providence) and Cantab Lounge (Cambridge,MA). He's been living in RI for the past 6 years, with his wife and daughter. Ryk has performed his work at Boston's ICA, NYC's New School, Portsmouth, NH's Music Hall and Lollapalooza, to name just a few. He has toured the US, performing in countless Poetry open mics and festivals. He turned down Allen Ginsburg once.