SON OF GODZILLA

(1967)
(Japanese Title: Kaijûtô no kessen: Gojira no musuko)
With Tadao Takashima, Akira Kubo, Bibari Maedo, Akihiko Hirata, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Kenji Sahara (and Haruo Nakajima and Seiji Onaka as Godzilla and "Little Man" Machan as Minilla)
Directed by Jun Fukuda
Reviewed by JB

This review is of the dubbed American version of the film.

A face only a monster could love     You know you are in for something different in the Giant Monster genre when a Godzilla main title theme has a bouncy, comical flavor to it that would would not be out of place as background music on Gilligan's Island
A group of dedicated eggheads headed by a man who believes that by controlling the Earth's weather, he can solve all the world's problems (doctors call this condition "Meg-algore-mania"), fail miserably in their first experiment, which unleashes a radiation storm that mutates the already oversized mantises to gigantic proportions but leaves the humans normal sized (radiation storms can be funny that way). The mantises then attack an egg from which pops a mini-Godzilla (Minya in Japanese, Minilla in English), so, of course, the Big Guy himself shows up, vanquishes most of the mantises, and adopts Minilla as his own son.

    There are several different story elements weaving throughout this simple, fun film.  The scientists are stranded on an island with giant praying mantises and spiders as well as one and half Godzillas because although they have developed technology that can manipulate weather, not one of them knows how to fix a radio to call for rescue boats!  (Where's The Professor when you need him?)  There's also the story of the orphaned girl Reiko who has lived alone on the island for seven years after her own scientist father passed away.  Her story doesn't amount to much (I pretty much told you everything there is to know about her) but she does come in handy for knowing the ins and outs of the island and for knowing where to find the cure for a tropical fever that has struck most of the crew.  In fact, any time there are any heroics to be performed on the island, it is a reporter and Reiko who take the initiative. Scientists are so useless!

Godzilla teaches his son it is good to play with fire    Then there is the coming of age story of Minilla, which is the heart of SON OF GODZILLA.  You either accept that Godzilla is portrayed as a stereotypical father in this movie, complete with taking lazy naps in the afternoon and teaching his kid all that he knows (how to roar, how to breathe fire... and that's all he knows), or you won't like this film at all.  No doubt aimed at children more than adults, SON OF GODZILLA is the rare Godzilla film where Godzilla himself is actually the least of the human cast's problems, never really poses a problem for them, and may not even be aware they are even there at all!  Minilla gets into all sorts of trouble while Papa naps, makes friends with Reiko (a sweet little turn of events that surprisingly turns out not to figure into the plot in any way at all) and even saves his own father's life at least twice in the climactic battle with the giant spider.

    If you're expecting a Godzilla film in which Tokyo is destroyed for the umpteenth time, you will be disappointed.  In this second of several scaled back films, Godzilla never leaves the island, and there are no cities to destroy, only a small scientific camp which was already half demolished by the radiation storm.  Money saved from not having to build entire Japanese cities out of balsa wood and hidden explosives was then funneled into some of the monsters effects, which are really quite beautifully done.  The praying mantises are actually marionettes, and are as good, better really, than the similar giant ants in the classic THEM!  Godzilla has once again been redesigned, to be be less frightening and more human, and if it wasn't for the presence of beautiful pop singer/actress Bibari Maeda in the cast, Minilla would be the cutest thing in the picture. The lower budget also means no alien cultures with multiple spaceships, fewer process shots and animation effects and generally a more straightforward storyline, so that SON OF GODZILLA, like GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER before it, resembles an adventure like MYSTERIOUS ISLAND rather than "Porky in Wackyland" like of some of the previous films (cough! - GODZILLA VS. MONSTER ZERO - cough!).

    Essentially, the Giant Monster films were suffering from the same maladies as the James Bond films - not only had just about everything that could be done in each series been done already, but there were now so many imitations in the movies and on television, the novelty had worn off.  The Bond series would keep itself going by the simple process of recasting the part of Bond and then tailoring the series to the strengths of its new stars (Roger Moore films would be lighter, Timothy Dalton films would be tough and action-packed, etc.)  The men behind the Godzilla movies would try several things in the coming years to keep the series fresh, but eventually they would face the fact that their season in the sun was over.  It was clear that America was losing interest - SON OF GODZILLA, like GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER before it, completely bypassed American theaters and was sold directly to television instead.

    Still, the series may have been losing steam, but in its closing moments, SON OF GODZILLA is more heart-tugging than a Godzilla film really has any right to be.  It's all about fathers and sons, people, even in Monsterland.  3½ - JB  


SPECIALIZING IN THE OBVIOUS

"So that's the spider." (uttered by the lead scientist after a HUMONGOUS spider strolls by).


AkihikoIT'S JUST NOT A GIANT MONSTER MOVIE WITHOUT HIM

Akihiko Hirata, who plays the radio operator who can't fix a radio for beans in this film, had the memorable role of the dour, eye-patched Dr. Serizawa in the original GOJIRA.  He can also be seen in RODAN, MOTHRA, KING KONG VS. GODZILLA, GHIDORAH THE THREE HEADED MONSTER, and several other Giant Monster movies.  His most notable film outside the Toho monsters series was the three-part SAMURAI (1854-56), directed by Hiroshi Inagaki, where he played alongside the legendary Toshiro Mifune.


BibariWHY EVEN SILLY MOVIES CAN BE INTERESTING

Bibari "Beverly" Maeda, who plays Reiko in this film, was a stage performer and pop singer who had a furiously brief movie career in the mid-sixties.  Her first film appearance was in the 1966 Japanese classic THE FACE OF ANOTHER, a stylish horror/sci-fi story starring Tatsuya Nakadai. In that film, she played a bar singer and got performed two songs.  From there, she made appearances in five more films from 1967 through 1968. She also recorded extensively and is still working in Japan today.

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