— Steve Martin
United World News
From, “Godzilla: King
of the Monsters!”
Not since 1956 when he gave Perry Mason a reason to avoid the South Pacific, and 1962 when he battled America’s favorite chimp on steroids to an alleged draw, have I rooted against Godzilla.
All those other times I’ve been in the fire-breathing menace’s corner every stomp of the way.
“Why?” some will ask. “This ill-tempered tower of power incinerates people, destroys perfectly good cities and gives the military — anybody’s military, not just Japanese and American — reason to doubt its worth.”
True, Godzilla’s tough on planes, trains and automobiles ... not to mention people, tanks and anything wearing a helmet ... but most will agree there’s two sides to every argument. Godzilla is no exception. Let’s look at it from his ... or her ... or its perspective. Godzilla is a motherless child. Subsequently, the odds for global popularity were stacked from the get-go against this misunderstood mix of dinosaur, lizard and nuclear plant.
But 10 years ago the roar-heard-around-the-world disappeared from the silver screen. The 2004 film titled “Godzilla: Final Wars,” ended the endless array of sequels. The icon first captured monster-goers’ imaginations 60 years ago with the original Japanese production of 1954, aptly called “Godzilla.”
Two years later America got its claws into the cult classic by adding Raymond Burr (“Perry Mason”) to the payroll, splicing in some new footage, dubbing in English for a Western audience and calling it “Godzilla: King of the Monsters!”
It was Hollywood genius in an ugly green costume ... filmed in black and white.
Since that production, it is estimated the number of sequels — including both Japanese and American origin — have ranged from 50 to a million. OK, so I exaggerate. Google says it’s more like 28.
As mentioned in the beginning, I rooted against Godzilla in the “King of the Monsters!” version. One, the dinosaur dynamo combined ugly with attitude and that’s a bad combination for any movie. Two, he tore up Tokyo, a town still trying to regain lost honor from the big war. And three, he messed with Perry Mason. You don’t mess with Perry Mason.
In that flick, Godzilla bit the big one underwater at movie’s end thanks to a scientist’s (Dr. Serizawa) invention of this thing called an “Oxygen Destroyer” which ... not to put too fine a point on it, but ... rips the flesh right off the bones of any organic being that comes in contact with it while underwater. Bad times for Godzilla as the credits rolled.
I can’t say I openly cheered for the big lizard’s demise, but ... well, you just don’t mess with Perry Mason.
Six years later I jeered the walking furnace again when he battled the big ape in “King Kong vs. Godzilla.” For those scratching their heads, and whispering among themselves, “But I thought Godzilla was dead ...,” I think I have the answer. Come to find out, the effects of the first generation of the “Oxygen Destroyer” were only temporary. Must have been insufficient research leading up to FDA approval. Theory has it Godzilla recomposed, put his life ... and his pieces ... back together and showed up in ’62 to duke it out with King Kong.
Legend has it the seismic reptile bit it again at this film’s end. Those who saw the movie remember the sparring Kong and ’Zill rolling off a slope and into the ocean where only the ape emerges ... wet but apparently content with his showmanship.
As Kong swims into the sunset — here, I’m sharply resisting the urge to say big monkeys never die, they just fade away — the moviegoer is left to ponder the fate of Godzilla. Most assumed drowning. In the monster industry, one should never assume.
Two years later the big green mean machine returned, but this time with a changed attitude. By ’64, Japanese filmmaker Ishiro Honda had given Godzilla a moral conscience. He was still ugly like nobody’s business, but it was a good ugly. Had Godzilla been born from motherhood, Mama Zill would have taken great pride in her child’s turnaround.
Having seen the light and correcting the error of his ways, Godzilla in ’64 began reclaiming the title of “King of the Monsters” by taking it to rival bad guys like Mothra, Ghidrah (including all three heads), Ebirah, Hedorah, Gigan, Magalon, Mechogodzilla, Biollante ... and even SpaceGodzilla, all spanning several years.
Meanwhile, King Kong pursued a far more modest career while developing a healthy fear of heights. He had a good run, and a few sequels ... but every role he landed climaxed with big bullets and tall buildings.
So now, I am told, Godzilla has returned in 2014. Cleverly titled “Godzilla,” I know nothing about the movie. I do know it’s showing in Cleveland and I can’t wait to see it.
However, I have heard it suggested the lizard may have returned to his old ways. I hope not. But even if true, perhaps Hollywood director Gareth Edwards has found a way to weave a message into the monster’s backslide.
And just for the sake of conversation, was Godzilla truly a guy as I’ve suggested here? Well, the original Japanese filmmakers actually called the hunka, hunka burnin’ love an “it.” Back in the day, according to Google, all South Pacific monsters used in Japanese cinema were “its.” I figure the directors felt it safer not to stereotype. Something to do with a woman’s scorn, I suppose.
Yet in ’98, American director Roland Emmerich suggested Godzilla was female because it ... she ... whatever laid eggs in the Ferris Bueller ... er, Matthew Broderick ... remake.
Personally, I don’t think it matters.
When you’re 350 feet tall, green, weigh a couple hundred tons, trend toward a diet of ... society, and people scream en masse and run the other way when they see you coming ... I figure you can be just about whatever you want.
If that makes you an “it,” so be it.
It worked for The Addams Family.