Godzilla, Going Attractions, and a few more films

Godzilla (1954)
a/k/a Gojira
Streaming free at Internet Archive

This is the original Godzilla. Accept no substitutes.

If you've only seen the Americanized version (below), with Raymond Burr, you don't know Godzilla. And if you've seen any of the sequels or ripoffs, you'll notice that this original lacks all the smirks and wisecracks — this is a serious monster movie with a message, and it's scary, creepy, and as brooding and dark as any noir.

For reasons unknown, Japanese fishing boats are vanishing on the high seas, one after another. Nobody knows why, and the mood is menacing and mysterious through the first 22 minutes, until we see the monster. It's very big, very old, very mean, and usually lives under the sea, but has been forced to the surface by ongoing tests of atomic weapons in the ocean.

Conventional weapons are useless against the ginormous creature, and the only hope for Godzilla's destruction is a new weapon, translated into English as an "oxygen destroyer." Its inventor, however, hesitates to allow it, for what if this weapon — like all weapons — falls into the wrong hands?

The movie's music (by Akira Ifukube — Hiroshima, 13 Assassins) is fantastic for generating dread, and at the opening it's played over thunderous reptilian roars. 

#296  [archive]
MAY 26, 2024

As the monster marches through and destroys Tokyo, there's a scene where a mother hides in a corner with her young children, and tells them, "We're going to join Daddy! We'll be where Daddy is soon!" It's devastating, for her and the kids, of course, and for anyone who can guess what happened to Daddy.

The missing fishing boats of the film's first act were directly inspired by what's called the Fukuryu Maru incident, in which a Japanese fishing boat wandered into Pacific waters where the US was testing its newfangled H-bombs. The ship's crew suffered intense radiation burns; one of them died, and I'll wager all of them had their lives shortened.

"I can't believe that Godzilla was the last of his species. If nuclear testing continues, then someday, somewhere in the world, another Godzilla may appear."

This is one of the great monster movies, right up there with 1931's Dracula and Frankenstein. Dim the lights and be afraid, very afraid.

Verdict: BIG YES. 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Godzilla: King of the Monsters! (1956)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

This is the Godzilla most Americans know. It's the 1954 film (above), but re-cut, re-written, dubbed for American audiences, with 40 minutes subtracted and replaced by Raymond Burr.

It's Godzilla, lobotomized.

The ominous opening music is gone, all the subtlety and dramatic buildup is gone, and even the Japanese characters who remain are as good as gone, their stories and relationships replaced by Burr's narration of a clip show's worth of exposition and special effects from the original movie.

New actors were hired, not to act, but to stand with their backs to the camera, wearing clothes matching what the Japanese actors wore, and pretend they're talking to Burr, or, more often, listening to Burr.

The destruction of Tokyo is now all about Raymond Burr, who smokes a pipe and occasionally says, "My Japanese is a bit rusty."

And of course, the original movie's anti-nuclear message is nowhere to be found.

This is just a monster movie, and rather dull.

Verdict: NO.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Gog (1953)
Streaming free at Daily Motion

There's a super-secret science lab, where super-scientists are secretly researching several different things science shouldn't meddle with. Every experiment on every floor of the facility is assisted by Gog, the super-high-tech supercomputer that also runs the lab's super-advanced super-robots. But things keep going wrong at the lab, and one-by-one six of the super-scientists have been killed in six unfortunate accidents. 

Can you see the plot twist coming? OK, spoiler alert: The computer is the bad guy, but it takes an hour and ten minutes before anyone even suspects, which is about an hour and five minutes longer than it took me to suspect.

The movie looks good, and it's achingly sincere in its science — with several minutes of detailed explanation for each piece of advanced 1950s technology, it's like a dramatization of Wikipedia. 

It's enjoyably overacted, and the always-odd look on leading man Richard Egan's face keeps everything at the edge of camp. Plus it was filmed in 3D, so it looks a bit peculiar on a flat screen.

Verdict: MAYBE.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the American Drive-in Movie (2013)
Streaming free at Tubi

This is a well-made, fun, informative documentary about drive-in movie theaters. Yeah, drive-ins still exist, they're still a blast, and there's probably one near you.

The film covers the history of drive-ins, starting with the first ones in the 1930s, through the peak years in the '50s when there were thousands of drive-ins, and then the slow fade-away in the 1970s-80s, as drive-ins took repeated wallops from the gas shortage, smaller (and thus less comfortable) cars, VCRs and DVRs, head supports on front seats that block the view from the back seat, etc.

Often, when I see a documentary about a topic I have some familiarity with, it's frustrating, because the movie needs to spend so much time explaining things I already know. Well, Mom and Dad took us to drive-ins when my siblings and I were kids, and I went to drive-ins often through all the years I had a car, so I'm no drive-in neophyte, but this flick explains the basics in an entertaining fashion, and also showed me a lot of things I hadn't already known.

It has almost too many pictures of old drive-ins, current drive-ins, and frickin' WalMarts built where drive-ins used to be. But I've been to five of the drive-ins in the movie, and seeing them again flooded me with happy memories of the Big Sky Twin near the Wisconsin Dells, the Boulevard Drive-In in Kansas City, the Highway 18 outside of Madison WI, the I-70 near Kansas City MO, and the Valley 6 in nearby Auburn WA (suburban Seattle). Sigh. Four out of five are still open for business, but sadly I'll never go again. It's the only downside to getting rid of my car.

I would quibble about the film's title; it's about American drive-ins, not the American drive-in movie. And the long list of drive-in-related pop songs on the movie's soundtrack are a bit too much. Other than those small complaints, this movie really hits the sweet spot. 

Verdict: YES.  

♦ ♦ ♦  

Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the Movie Palace (2019)
Streaming free at Tubi

The best old movie theaters were built with carved walls, ornate decorations, Wurlitzer organs, chandeliers, enormous screens, and thousands of seats, for one audience to share one film. That's simply not the same as seeing a movie at the Cinemark 24.

The "magic of movies" happens in the ornate old movie palaces, if you can find one, if it's still standing and still showing movies.

From April Wright, director of the drive-in documentary Going Attractions (above), this sequel is a look at movie palaces.

The film's structure is much the same as the first film, and so are the historical factors that led to the demise of giant, single-screen theaters. Stylistically, the big difference is that there aren't any pop songs about movie palaces to lay over the soundtrack, and that lack is an improvement.

This flick has lots of talking heads, with lots of passion for these old theaters. Lots of imagery from inside and outside of lots of movie palaces, some still showing movies, and too many gone. 

A key difference that wounds this film is that your memories of the drive-in are mostly in your car, so that earlier doc worked great — an hour and a half about drive-ins. Each of the old movie palaces, though, are different, often unique, and the memories are of a specific building. So this is a fine flick, but giving us an hour and a half to glimpse inside a hundred old movie palaces isn't enough, and can't help but feel superficial.

A feature-length documentary about any one of the theaters would be more fulfilling than a documentary about all of them.

Verdict: YES.


• • • Coming attractions • • •     

Going Nuts (2019)
Going Steady (1958)
Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)
Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
Gold Diggers of 1937 (1936)
Gold Diggers in Paris

... plus schlock, shorts, and surprises

— — —
Now accepting movie recommendations,
starting with the letter 'H'.
Just add a comment, below.
— — —

Illustration by Jeff Meyer. Click any image to enlarge. Arguments & recommendations are welcome, but no talking once the lights dim, and only real butter on the popcorn, not that fake yellow stuff. 
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  1. Gojira is excellent. Ishirō Honda made many other great genre films, all nice to look at, if occasionally light on content. After Godzilla, my favorite is Matango - very eerie, all mood, and pretty disturbing.


    I keep hearing that the recent Godzilla Minus One is the best flick since the original, and essentially made by one guy, for the price of an independent film. It's on my list.

    Regarding drive-ins, and your recent reviews of 60s TV shows - have you seen Tarantino's Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood? I haven't wholly liked anything he's done since the amazing Jackie Brown, but this one has some great moments (between the nonsense) and involves, if only as settings, drive-ins, 60s TV shows, etc. Maybe worth a look, though his career has been a major disappointment.

    1. Added these to the list, thanks.

      I've been finished with Quentin for a number of years, but I'll add him to the list, too. Agree about Jackie Brown.

  2. Since you'll soon be living large and leisurely off the government teat (MY TAX DOLLARS, Holland!) I'll skip ahead to a list of suggestions beginning with the vainest of all letters, "I":

    I Am Cuba (1964)
    I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932)
    I Bury the Living (1958)
    I Fidanzati (1962)
    I Heard the Owl Call My Name (1973 TV)
    I Live in Fear (1955)
    I Married a Witch (1942)
    I Spit on Your Grave (1978)
    I Start Counting (1970)
    I Vitelloni (1953)
    I Walk Alone (1948)
    I Walked with a Zombie (1943)
    I Was Born, But... (1932) (highest recommendation)
    I'm Gonna Git You Sucka (1988)
    I'm Not There (2007)
    The Ice Pirates (1984)
    Ichi the Killer (2001)
    Idaho Transfer (1973)
    Identikit (1974)
    Idiocracy (2006)
    The Idiots (1998)
    If... (1968)
    Igby Goes Down (2002)
    Iguana (1988)
    Ikarie XB-1 (1963)
    Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks (1976)
    Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS (1975)
    Ilsa, the Tigress of Siberia (1977)
    Ilsa, the Wicked Warden (1977)
    Ilya Muromets (1956)
    Images (1972)
    Imitation of Life (1959)
    In the Bedroom (2001)
    In Bruges (2008)
    In the Company of Men (1997)
    In a Glass Cage (1986)
    In a Lonely Place (1950) (possibly my favorite noir)
    In the Mood for Love (2000)
    In the Realm of the Senses (1976)
    In Search of the Castaways (1962)
    In the Valley of Elah (2007)
    In a Year of 13 Moons (1978)
    Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954)
    Incident at Raven's Gate (1988)
    The Incredible Mr. Limpet (1964)
    The Indian Runner (1991)
    Indiscretion of an American Wife /Terminal Station (1953)
    Ingagi (1930)
    Inherent Vice (2014)
    Inland Empire (2006)
    The Innkeepers (2011)
    The Innocents: (1961)
    Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) (best film ever made about being an artist)
    Inside Man (2006)
    The Insider (1999)
    Intimate Lighting (1965)
    Invaders from Mars: (1953 & 1986)
    Invasion U.S.A.: (1952 & 1985)
    Invention for Destruction (1958)
    Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970)
    The Invitation (2015)
    The Irishman (2019)
    Ishtar (1987)
    It Was a Wonderful Life (1993)
    Ivan's Childhood (1962)

    1. Signed, Claude Reigns

    2. Added all these titles to the list, thanks, except a few that were already on it and a few I'd already seen and reviewed.


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