GODZILLA AND SON or You Thought Your Family Was Embarrassing - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad

GODZILLA AND SON or You Thought Your Family Was Embarrassing

Gordon Hopkins enjoys some father/son bonding time.
Something of a trifle among Godzilla movies, Son of Godzilla (released 1967 in Japan and 1969 I the U.S.) nevertheless attains an outsized importance in the cannon for the introduction of the titular “son,” pretty much accepted by all fans as the most hated monster in all of Godzilladom. Son of Godzilla's major accomplishment is creating the Jar Jar Binks of the Godzilla franchise.

The film opens in the traditional manner, with a storm at sea. This time, it is a plane and not a boat that runs into Godzilla in middle of the ocean. Interference causes the radio to go out. The pilot reasonably suggests it has something to do with the electrical storm but the radio operator insists, breathlessly, “No, it's nothing like that. It's more like a brainwave!”

This is the last time anything involving a brain happens in this movie.

Apparently distracted by the bad script, the pilot nearly flies straight into Godzilla. They pull up and survive. Godzilla has no interest in swatting planes out of the sky at the moment, which is his usual M.O. Instead, Godzilla is busy, wading determinedly towards Solgell Island. The radio operator notes the brainwave is coming from the direction of that same island. Perhaps Godzilla is responding to a signal of some sort.

The opening credits roll and then the film cuts to an episode of Gilligan's Island. Seriously, shots of a beautiful beach and the inappropriately peppy music could easily have been lifted straight from the sitcom. Instead of seven stranded castaways, the island is inhabited by a scientist and his crew. The professor (we know he is a professor because he smokes a pipe) is experimenting with a method for controlling the weather. He is not a mad scientist, however, despite weather machines being popular among world domination types. His motives are noble, if slightly overreaching. He wants to control the weather to prevent starvation by increasing growing seasons and, therefore, allowing farmers to grow more food. He may be brilliant went it comes to climatology but he clearly doesn't understand even the basics of agriculture.

Although there is some interpersonal conflict, since a group of people stuck together for an extended period of are naturally going to get on each other's nerves, there are no actual human villains in this film.

Into this mix drops (literally) a reporter parachutes onto the island in search of a scoop. A far cry of the dedicated, dignified reporters that have appeared in previous kaiju, this guy acts like a petulant child. That is not hyperbole. At one point, he crosses his Arms and refuses to eat until someone gives him a story. Where is Raymond Burr when you need him?
There is another interloper in the form of the requisite sexy native girl, the daughter of a dead scientist who has been hiding out on the island. Normally the function of the sexy native girl would be to scream a lot and show some of skin. Riko (Saeko in the original Japanese version) disappoints on both counts. She is clearly smarter and braver than the men that surround her and also spends much of the film wearing men's clothes.

Also inhabiting the island are a bunch of giant praying mantises with big, glassy, orange eyes. When the professor's experience goes wrong, the radiation released causes the giant praying mantises to grow even bigger. I think. Actually it's not entirely clear to me since we don't get to see the mantises until after they've grown into giants.

So how does the son of Godzilla fit into all this? Badly. A giant egg is uncovered, which hatches into a rolly-polly baby Godzilla, although, to be frank, it looks more like a gray-green Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. The newly born and helpless little ball of rubber is about to be dispatched by the mantises when the fully-grown Godzilla shows up and saves baby Godzilla.

Presumably, this critter was the source of the “brain wave” that drew Godzilla to Solgell Island, but it is never made clear if this creature is actually supposed to be Godzilla's son or is it just another of the same species. I suppose it doesn't really matter. Anyway, Godzilla takes his new-found son (adopted or not) under his wing and teaches him all the things a Godzilla needs to know, like breathing atomic fire and stomping and roaring and all that kind of stuff. Baby 'Zilla is a slow learning and tries his dad's patients. Blowing smoke rings is the only cute thing the baby does.
It's all annoyingly adorable, I suppose, but it is a far cry from the Godzilla we remember destroying Tokyo underfoot. While the mantises aren't especially tough customers for Godzilla to handle, ther eis another big bug on the island. A giant spider awakens and attacks Godzilla and his son.

Giant spider props are really hard to pull off. The nature of their shape means a big, round body supported by spindly legs. As a result, the spider has a distinct marionette quality, clearly not supported by it's own legs. Nevertheless, it proves to be an effective opponent and film does a good job (as good as possible, anyway) of actually casting doubt on Godzilla's ability to defeat this oversized arachnid. It is nice to see Godzilla take on a monster that isn't clearly just a guy in a suit.

I suppose I should say something about the poor actor who had the thankless job of wearing the baby Godzilla suit. Unfortunately, I don't really have much to offer. The actor was “Marchan the Dwarf” and, apart from his spectacularly politically incorrect name, I can find almost no biography about him. IMDB lists him as “Little Man” Machan, which is somewhat better, although they spell his name differently. Born in 1921 (again, according to IMDB), he was a former midget wrestler and evidently hired because of his acrobatic ability while in the suit. Beyond that, I don't really know anything about him.

The American Version: The Japanese and American versions are pretty much the same. At this point, the U.S. distributors weren't interested in spending the money to make a lot of unnecessary changes to these films. Godzilla was now a well-enough known name and a big enough a draw that the movies didn't require a lot of explaining to American audiences.

A few names were changed in dubbing. The giant mantises were called Kamakuras in Japanese and Gimanitis in English. The giant spider was Kumongo in Japanese and Speiga in English.

The Denouement: All this monster brawling places the human inhabitants in mortal danger. They want to get off the island but realize they'll be sitting ducks out there on the ocean in a tiny rubber raft. Showing the same scientific reasoning that got them in this mess in the first place, the professor decides to use his weather machine to freeze the island.

Yeah, that's a great idea.
Godzilla defeats the spider, with some help from baby Godzilla. The island is soon covered in a blanket of snow and ice. Godzilla holds his son in his arms as the snow covers them. I assume it is suppose to be a poignant moment but, honestly, I couldn't help but think of that last scene with Jack Nicholson frozen to death in The Shining.

As the human cast sails away, it is notes that the island will eventually thaw and Godzilla and son will sleep until then. (Ha! Remember in my previous column when I asked if Godzilla hibernates? Now we know.)

Something else of significance to the franchise happens in this movie. It marks the first appearance of Monster Island. It is suggested that Godzilla will now live on this island and that is exactly what happens. Monster Island will become and important part of the series, as it explains where Godzilla, and all those other monsters for that matter, go when they aren't squishing major Japanese cities or trudging through the ocean.

Monster Island is also important as it provides a (literal) stomping ground for all those monster battles that doesn't involve a lot of human casualties. It was a necessary development to make Godzilla a hero and more kid friendly.

Godzilla and Son is not a bad movie, as far as the franchise is conerned. It is mostly just inconsequential fluff but certainly not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Weather or not you enjoy it will depend mostly on how much you hate baby Godzilla.

The Odds: The son of Godzilla is officially names Minilla (sometimes mispronounced and misspelled as Minya), though he is never called that in this movie.

As hated as the character is, I suspect Minilla, himself, will never reappear. However, I think it is quite likely that we will meet another of Godzilla's offsprings in the future.

Odds of Minilla reappearing in a Godzilla movie: 50 to 1 against.

Odds of a different Godzilla child appearing in a movie: Three to one in favor.

Read all of Gordon Hopkins previous Godzilla articles here.

Gordon Hopkins is an award winning reporter and columnist for The Fairbury Journal-News, a 130-year-old newspaper in Jefferson County, Nebraska (He hasn't been working there that entire time.) He has also written a couple of crime novels (“Fraudsters” and the best-selling “Broken”) and edited a few non-fiction books.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post Top Ad