Tuesday, April 26, 2005

SON OF GODZILLA

1967's SON OF GODZILLA, also directed by Jun Fukuda (THE WAR IN SPACE), has many similarities to the previous year's series entry, GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER, and is the first in the series to be wholly aimed at a juvenile audience. Like SEA MONSTER, SON is set on a small Pacific island, has a beautiful girl in a sarong, and is very colorful. It also adds a few new monsters to the Toho bestiary; specifically a trio of giant preying mantises and a giant spider called Spiegas.

A group of UN scientists conducting weather control experiments on an allegedly uninhabited island are joined by an ambitious reporter who drops in (literally, via parachute) uninvited on their supposedly secret operation. With no easy way of getting rid of him, the scientists grudgingly take him on as cook. Before long, they discover that their isolated, supposedly uninhabited island is teeming with giant bugs, a big egg and at least one hot chick. (Guess they should have checked it out a little harder, huh?) The egg, of course, hatches, revealing a hideous gray muppet who turns out to be Godzilla's offspring. Instead of abandoning the goofy-looking thing, Big Daddy G shows up, kicks some mantis ass, and starts teaching Lumpy to blow radioactive fire.

Do you get that I hate the kid?

The design of Baby Godzilla (identified in later films as "Minya") is atrociously bad. In an attempt to make the tyke "cute" the special effects team has come up with something that looks like the Pillsbury doughboy returned from the grave after being dead for a month. And the Godzilla suit in this film is pretty poor, too, with a much more frog-like face than usual and huge, bulbous eyes. The bugs though, are great. The elaborate marionettes are well designed and skillfully manipulated. Even with the crystal clarity of DVD, the strings are only briefly and infrequently glimpsed.

Like SEA MONSTER, this is a fantastic, 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. I've never been able to watch this movie all the way through on television since the TV prints were so grainy and badly cropped. But on disc, the film is beautiful to look at, with the same bright, pop-art colors and skillful photography of its predecessor. Sure, it's a kid's film, and one of the weakest in the series… but it sure looks great on this DVD.

Still, Godzilla fans will want to add this lesser entry to their collections, and, truth be told, I like the movie a little more every time I see it.

BUY: Son of Godzilla