Leturgey Musings and Goings On

These are some of my writings...from events going on in the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance and elsewhere, to observations from the rest of my decidely unformulaic life.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Godzilla "Anniversary" Movie Stomps All Over Burr's

For as long as I can remember, I have been a big fan of the Godzilla flicks. Except for the ones with King Kong and the little boy in disturbingly short dock shorts.

The cheese, the bad voice-overs and onion-paper thin plot lines never mattered. Watching the 400-foot monster stomp throughout a make-believe land of Tonka cars and miniature skyscrapers was cool...watching him destroy all comers was even better.

I even stomached the Raymond Burr black and white version that was released for stateside audiences in 1956. For those who don't know, Burr's "American Reporter" scenes were dropped in for those still too raw from WWII to give a tinker's damn about the Japanese. Taken out were key story lines that the Japanese could relate to, a scant decade after the bombing of Hiroshima.

My son and I watched the special release of the 50th anniversary addition at a full-fledged big screen in suburban Pittsburgh with about 30 others.

I may never watch the version with a pre-Perry Mason ever again.

The Japanese edition is a completely different movie.

Gone are "Steve Martin's" droll commentary and Burr's plywood swagger. Instead we have a love triangle, a scientist who dreads the big lizard's potential demise, "every man" responses from those caught in the chaos, and enough gleeful ignorance to make things interesting.

Godzilla sinks at least 17 fishing boats, yet a yacht-full of swing dancers blissfully pushes off the next night, stopping their stomping only to watch the Big Guy rise from the sea. In another scene, a boat full of what appears to be 700 everyday people pulls away from confetti and paper stringer lines celebrations as a team of investigators. Khaki-clad women just this side of legal with no stated scientific expertise ride along, apparently because their boyfriends are important in some vague capacity.

By I digress.

You feel for these people. You wonder why a woman huddles in front of Godzilla's path, cuddling at least three young children. She comforts them by saying that "we'll be with Daddy soon." For that moment, you wonder about her state of mind, and why she'd just lay there for long moments, waiting for The End.

The heroine breaks down twice because she "broke a promise" by telling someone about a world-saving solution to the Godzilla problem.

And did I mention, no Raymond Burr in site?

I could go on forever, but I won't. The early 1950's was a fragile time in Japan, and "Godzilla" seemed to fit right into the culture. The immediate sequel, sometimes called "Godzilla's Revenge," is abysmal. More than a dozen years later, Godzilla made his third appearance on the big screen, battling Kong.

A series of others in the 60's and 70's turned the Green Giant into a hero, battling Moths, Birds and other quickly thrown together foes. In 1985 Burr returned to act next to a Dr. Pepper machine, in what was billed as a direct sequel to the first.

Then inexplicably, the powers that be at Toho believed that we'd "buy" a never-ending series of revisionist rewrites. Almost every movie in the past 20 years has been envisioned as a sequel to the 1954 original. One went so far as to completely reinvent the Godzilla mythos. There's reportedly only one more coming...reportedly a remake of "Destroy All Monsters." Perhaps the current-day Toho suits are waiting for fresher ideas and special effects. They've said they'll make more after a five-year hiatus. There have been more than 25 flicks featuring Godzilla, not including the one with Ferris Buehler and an Iguana.

I might just have a new favorite. Subtitles and all, the original Japanese, un-cut Godzilla is the best of them all.


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