Der Krapp

by Brad Linaweaver

Big Lizards II ~ Installment 9

“Good evening and welcome to El Sleazo Drive-in. Tonight’s sci-fi quadruple feature stars the ever-popular—and six hundred ton—character actor, Godzilla. We know you’ll consume lots of beer to help you through the night. Food every bit as good as the films is available at the concession stand. Please do not use the speakers to bludgeon each other. Before driving home, it might be a good idea to put the speakers back in their cradles rather than leave them attached to your window. Finally we have a message for those of you who are here for lewd purposes: please don’t position yourself so that you bump the car horn. It disturbs the patrons who wish to concentrate on the cinema. After all, Godzilla’s art was discussed in Take One. Thank you for your attention and we hope you enjoy they show.

Godzilla’s Revenge (1969): This is an appropriate one with which to begin, as it serves in lieu of a cartoon. The only Toho monster film to be approached in the style of a -- God help us -- Disney movie, the star is a young boy completely obsessed with those lovable rubberoids of Monster Island. The story takes place in the real world of a Tokyo never so much as scratched by a giant monster, much less demolished and rebuild every few years. The kid has seen all the pics and daydreams about his favorite monsters. He is a fan, you see. Both his parents work, so he’s pretty much on his own, except for a friendly uncle who makes bizarre toys (such as a crawling hand that cries out: “Support your local police!” -- maybe the English dubbers were on drugs.)

A bully makes life miserable for this imaginative youngster at school. Some criminals kidnap him, and present him with a problem outside of school. He solves both difficulties by dreaming that he’s on Monster Island, where the son of Godzilla, other wise known as Minya, befriends him, talks to him, grows to different sizes when need be…but fortunately doesn’t say, “Curiouser and curiouser.” Minya has a bully of his own to face, a goony looking monster with bumps all over. When dear old dad isn’t fighting monsters in stock shots from his other films (such as the giant lobster, Ebirah, from the obscure Godzilla Vs. The Sea monster), he teaches his kid how to use his head to ram enemies in the gut and how to shoot out that useful radioactive breath. The little boy watches and learns, taking out the gangsters with the spray from a fire extinguisher. Later he uses the billy-goat trick against the bully. See, Godzilla movie are good for children, after all -- so long as they don't become radioactive.

Godzilla Vs. The Smog Monster (1971): Toho varies the style of the Godzilla series. This is as close as they got to -- Satan help us -- an art film. The Big G makes his entrance in slow motion with a weird lighting effect, in a child’s dream (shades of the other movie), as an omen of what will save Japan from the Smog Monster. About the latter, its name is Hedorah (they all have names—this one derives from the Japanese word for pollution). It seems that pollution in Suruga Bay has congealed in some way to produce a monster made out of sludge. There is a cartoon sequence done in the style of a science short to demonstrate how the Smog Monster developed through its various staes of giant tad-pole to red-eyed blob to the mature article that is bigger than Godzilla, and can walk, fly swim, emit gas, and spit out poisonous glop that looks like oversized rabbit turds but acts like acid on even Godzilla’s tough hide.

The movie is filled with moody night sequences and lot of eco-awareness rock music, such as the title song, “Save the Earth” (so there really is noise pollution, after all). The Smog Monster is genuinely disgusting; when it isn’t sucking off industrial smokestacks and poisoning everyone in the vicinity, it does battle with Godzilla by behaving in a vile manner, even by monster standards.

For instance, the Smog Monster throws Godzilla into a crevice, then turns around and starts dripping black gunk off its body until Godzilla is covered in the mud-like substance. It looks like Hedorah is having an attack of diarrhea. Not to worry, Godzilla wins, and destroys all of Hedorah’s eggs…but not before discovering that he can fly, too, by pointing his breath at the ground and taking off like a rocket! This is pure Toho: Godzilla discovers powers he never knew he had -- e.g., the ability to defy the laws of physics -- when its convenient for the plot.

The little boy in this one has the best line of dialogue: ”Hedorah is only sludge—he can be dried!”