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Posts Tagged ‘31 Japanese Monsters’

31 (Japanese) Monsters #21: Daimajin

October 21st, 2010 No comments

Not every giant Japanese creature is a radioactive whatchamacallit trying to tear up Tokyo. One of the most mold-breaking was the star of a trilogy of historical fantasies, the vengeful golem known as…

Daimajin!

Monster Island Nickname Rock Hudson
Hails From The Spirit World
Movies Appeared In
(not counting stock footage)
3
Hobbies Killing Evil Warlords
Quote (heavy stomping sound)

The Daimajin films are curious hybrids of the samurai and giant monster genres in which oppressed peasants awaken the wrathful spirit that dwells within a stone statue. Flaming arrows replace the usual surface to air missiles as the scowling sculpture makes his inevitable march on the forces of the local warlord.

Perhaps the strangest thing about this trilogy of films is that they were all released in the same year: 1966. Daimajin came out in April; Return of Daimajin in August; and Wrath of Daimajin in December. Overworked, Daimajin stomped back to his mountainside shrine and never made another movie.

Categories: Sci-Fi Tags: ,

31 (Japanese) Monsters #20: Gigan

October 20th, 2010 No comments

If there was ever a Japanese monster that looked like it was made from the bits left over from other monsters, it was the cybernetic chicken named…

Gigan!

Monster Island Nickname Freakshow
Hails From The Space Hunter M Nebula
Movies Appeared In
(not counting stock footage)
3
Hobbies Crochet
Quote “Shkreeeee! Shkreee!”

Gigan is said to be a cyborg, but goodness knows what he started out as before all of the mechanical parts were added. Some manner of space dinosaur, I suppose.

He’s so badass that he doesn’t just have hooks for hands, he has them for feet as well. But his most remarkable feature is the whirling buzzsaw blade in his abdomen.

Gigan is summoned to Earth by alien cockroaches whose cunning plan to conquer our world involves an amusement park named World Children’s Land and its centerpiece, a laser-equipped Godzilla Tower. Makes sense to me.

When his team-up with King Ghidorah doesn’t go as planned, he flees the planet. But it’s not long before Gigan returns, now in the employ of the underwater Seatopians and paired with the drill-handed cockroach (again with the cockroaches?) Megalon.

In Godzilla Final Wars, Gigan is reintroduced as the ancient enemy of Mothra. And there must have been a sale at the Space Hunter M hardware store, because this time he’s packing grappling cables and chainsaw hands. Not that it does him much good, as he gets decapitated–twice.

Categories: Sci-Fi Tags: ,

31 (Japanese) Monsters #19: Barugon

October 19th, 2010 No comments

One sure way to identify a Japanese monster geek is to ask “Baragon, or Barugon?” If they don’t appear absolutely puzzled, you’re likely looking at a geek. If they express an opinion, there can be no doubt.

Baragon, who has been cited several times over the course of this month, is the nose-horned, reptilian quadruped who tussled with Frankenstein in Toho’s Frankenstein Conquers the World*. This is Baragon.

A year later, rival studio Daiei released their second film featuring the giant turtle Gamera. His co-star was a nose-horned, reptilian quadruped. To this day, no one seems quite sure whether it was intentional, but it’s curious that Daiei named their newest beastie…

Barugon!

Monster Island Nickname Not Baragon
Hails From Rainbow Valley
Movies Appeared In
(not counting stock footage)
1
Hobbies Searching for That Pot of Gold
Quote “Hwhhhhhhhh! Hwhhhh!”

As I’ve mentioned before, Gamera’s foes tend to be weird. And it all starts with Barugon.

A group of treasure hunters journey to New Guinea’s Rainbow Valley in search of a giant opal. Of course, it’s not an opal at all, but rather an egg. And it should be no surprise at all that during the boat ride home the damned thing is accidentally left under a heat lamp. Pretty soon there’s a great, big reptile crawling around Osaka, blasting everything with its freeze tongue.

Oh, had I forgotten to mention the freeze tongue? It’s a chameleon-like protuberance. Which shoots a freezing mist. As lizard tongues do.

The Japanese military, being understandably cautious, decides to lob long-range missiles at Barugon. Well, there’s nothing else for a monster to do than to fire its rainbow ray at them.

Yes, I said “rainbow ray.” The spines along Barugon’s back glow and emit a multicolored energy beam that looks and behaves exactly like a rainbow. A rainbow that makes things explode.

Fortunately for leprechauns everywhere, Barugon is weakened by rain. Because…hell, I give up. Gamera drags him into a lake and he dies. The end.

*I’m beginning to think that Frankenstein Conquers the World is some sort of nexus point for Japanese monster flicks. All roads lead to Frankenstein.

31 (Japanese) Monsters #18: Ebirah

October 18th, 2010 No comments

Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster takes a lot of flak from some corners of fandom, but I’ve always loved it. It has a fun, ’60s spy movie vibe. It has a cameo by Mothra. And it has a highly amusing rock-tossing contest between Godzilla and the horror of the deep…

Ebirah!

Monster Island Nickname Shelly
Hails From Letchi Island
Movies Appeared In
(not counting stock footage)
2
Hobbies Raquetball, Papercraft
Quote “Eeyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyykkk!”

“Ebi” is the Japanese word for “shrimp,” making Ebirah a literal contradiction in terms: a giant shrimp. (Still looks like a lobster to me.)

The pet monster of the terrorist Red Bamboo army, Ebirah sinks any ship that wanders too close to their island base. However, there’s really no love between them; the only thing keeping the crustacean at bay is a spray derived from a local fruit harvested by natives kidnapped from nearby Infant Island, home to Mothra.

The battles between Godzilla and Ebirah are pretty one-sided, in that the shrimp is confined to the water and lacks any ranged combat abilities. There is, however, an entertaining scene in which Godzilla kicks rocks at his enemy, only to have Ebirah return the serves with his claw. Then Godzilla begins bouncing boulders off his head, and before you know it a tennis match has broken out.

However, Bobby Riggs never had to worry about Billie Jean King breathing atomic fire on him.

Categories: Sci-Fi Tags: ,

31 (Japanese) Monsters #17: Kurumanikurasu

October 17th, 2010 No comments

Of the monster-fighting superhero shows that aired on independent TV stations in the ’70s, the worst by a Tokyo mile was Spectreman. A couple of 12-year-olds with a Super 8 camera and a box of sparklers could have turned out higher production values than this cut-rate affair.

A straight-up Ultraman rip-off, Spectreman is an alien cyborg sent to defend the Earth from the depredations of Dr. Gori, a mad scientist in a cheap Planet of the Apes mask who communicates in spastic arm gestures.

Gori is an ape with a plan: to preserve the Earth by killing the pesky humans who are choking it with their pollution. To that end, he creates an army of monsters composed of–irony alert!–those very same waste products.

I’ve blocked out most of my memories of Spectreman. And unfortunately–at least for the purpose of researching this post–the only YouTube videos I’ve found have been in untranslated Japanese. I trust you’ll pardon me if I get any of the details wrong.

Could there have been a more bugshit crazy denizen of Planet Japan than the traffic accident monster…

Kurumanikurasu?

Monster Island Nickname Roadkill
Hails From The Imagination
Movies Appeared In
(not counting stock footage)
1 (again, technically a TV show)
Hobbies Playing in Traffic
Quote “Rugrugrugggrugrugrugguggug!”

Now, I’ve said that I like my monsters metaphorical, but this is a bit much.

Kurumanikurasu is born when a monster-obsessed boy–excited over a new doll–runs into the street and is gravely injured by a hit and run driver. While in a coma, his mind somehow conjures a giant beast that resembles his toy and takes its rage out on sports cars.

The imagery is not subtle. Kurumanikurasu has red, yellow and green eyes–and they light up. He has hook hands to replace the doll’s shattered arms. And, just to make sure that no one misses the point, he has a diagonal tire track across his torso.

Meanwhile, the negligent driver is himself hurt in a second accident. Having time to reflect, he visits the boy in the hospital to apologize. However, as he leaves he is caught up in the attack of an entirely different monster. (If you are planning to visit Japan, it’s best to check the daily kaiju forecast.) He is struck down by Styrofoam debris and killed.

There’s a lesson for us all here. I think that it’s to not watch crappy TV.

31 (Japanese) Monsters #16: Gappa

October 16th, 2010 No comments

While Toho (stable of Godzilla, Mothra and many others) and Daiei (makers of Gamera and Majin) were the studios responsible for most of the giant movie monsters to emanate from Japan, others occasionally got in on the city-thrashing action. One was Nikkatsu, whose lone attempt featured the freakish family known collectively as…

Gappa!

Monster Island Nickname Mr. and Mrs. Smith
Hails From Obelisk Island
Movies Appeared In
(not counting stock footage)
1
Hobbies Coaching Little League
Quote “Auuaaaaaaaa!”

Gappa the Triphibian Monster (released in the U.S. as Monster from a Prehistoric Planet) owes more than a small debt to the 1961 British flick Gorgo. In each, a captured baby dinosaur is put on display, inspiring a parental rampage. Little Gorgo comes from a single parent household, but Gappa Jr. has both a mommy and a daddy, just as God(zilla) intended.

As the word “triphibian” implies, the Gappas are equally adept on land, at sea and in the air. They take to the skies on wings that frankly don’t seem up to the task.

Fun fact: the Gappa family never made another movie, but they later found employment in the U.K. Through the magic of stock footage, they appeared among the denizens of Waxworld on the sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf.

Categories: Sci-Fi Tags: ,

31 (Japanese) Monsters #15: Minya

October 15th, 2010 No comments

Giving Godzilla a son sounds like a good idea on paper. Other movie monsters have had progeny: King Kong (a son), Dracula (a son and a daughter) and even Frankenstein (okay, so technically it was the doctor’s son). So why not Godzilla? Why not, indeed?

Meet…

Minya!

Monster Island Nickname Snack
Hails From An Egg
Movies Appeared In
(not counting stock footage)
4 (arguably 7*)
Hobbies Annoying Aging Fanboys
Quote “Hwag-hwa!”

There’s some impressive kaiju action in Son of Godzilla. Both the giant mantises (Kamakiras) and the giant spider (Kumonga) are well-realized through elaborate puppets. But they weren’t expected to be cute.

It’s obvious that Minya (aka Minilla**) is meant to elicit “awwwww” rather than awe. He has huge eyes and a baby “roar.” Instead of breathing atomic fire like dear old dad, he blows smoke rings.

And it might have worked had he not been so poorly realized. He’s got a pudgy, humanoid body and a stubby tail, looking less like the Prince of the Monsters than a deformed midget. And his baby cry sounds like that of a particularly irritating duck.

He showed up in the next couple of Godzilla films, Destroy All Monsters and Godzilla’s Revenge. In the latter–which occurred largely within a child’s imagination–Minya gained the ability to talk, and it was every bit as tragic as you might expect. His final appearance to date was in the monster mash Godzilla Final Wars.

Whenever I watch Destroy All Monsters–in which aliens take control of Earth’s monsters and set them against the cities of the world–I ponder the same question. If Godzilla nuked New York, Rodan mashed Moscow and Gorosaurus pummeled Paris, what metropolis suffered the wrath of Minya***?

*There’s a Godzilla Jr. in the ’90s films that starts off human-sized and–over the course of three films–eventually grows into a replacement for the Big G after the latter is killed by Destoroyah. He’s never explicitly referred to as Minya, but like Godzilla’s previous “son,” he comes from a mysterious egg. In neither case is true parentage established.

**However, he is not called “Godzooky.” That’s Godzilla’s flying “nephew” from the Hanna-Barbara cartoon series.

***Minneapolis?

31 (Japanese) Monsters #14: Biollante

October 14th, 2010 No comments

She’s a mean, green mother! She’s a product of the maddest science! She’s…

Biollante!


Monster Island Nickname Rosebud
Hails From A Petri Dish
Movies Appeared In
(not counting stock footage)
1
Hobbies Gardening
Quote “Eeerraaa-aa-aa!”

Biollante is one of the more unusual one-off Godzilla foes. For one, she’s a plant. For two, she’s a she.

A genetic engineer, grieving over the death of his daughter, splices her DNA with a rosebush in order to save her soul. Because, Japan. Then he takes the extra step of splicing in some of Godzilla’s genetic material. Nothing good can come of this.

Pretty soon, there’s a 200-foot-tall rose squatting in the middle of a nearby lake. Godzilla’s well-documented hatred of flowers leads him there. While the first battle goes in favor of the monster that can actually walk around, Biollante dissolves into a cloud of spores and floats away.

When she returns, Biollante’s in the form of a horrid plant/Godzilla hybrid with leafy spines, toothy vines and a fang-filled mouth which spits radioactive sap. Nearly 400 feet tall and weighing in at 220,000 tons, she’s officially the biggest creature in the Toho Studios canon.

31 (Japanese) Monsters #13: Anguirus

October 13th, 2010 No comments

A sidekick monster’s life can be thankless. At best, you share the spotlight. You may get in a few good licks, but at the end of the movie, it’s the hero monster who gets to stomp off into the sunset.

For fifty-five years, that’s been the story of today’s Japanese Monster…

Anguirus!

Monster Island Nickname Needles
Hails From Prehistory
Movies Appeared In
(not counting stock footage)
5
Hobbies Day Trading
Quote “Yrowwww! Enk!”

Anguirus was the second giant monster introduced by Toho. Flush with the success of Gojira (the Japanese title for the 1954 film better known as Godzilla, King of the Monsters), they rushed a sequel into release the very next year. To liven up things, they gave Godzilla an opponent: a spiky beast inspired by the real-life dinosaur Ankylosaurus. So began the Japanese tradition of rubber-suited wrestling.

While Anguirus was killed in his first outing, that didn’t stop him from participating in the 1968 lollapalooza Destroy All Monsters. He was prominently featured in battles against the Japanese Self Defense Force and the dread dragon King Ghidorah.

Re-established as one of Godzilla’s pals, he returned twice more in the ’70s to assist the Big G against Gigan and Mechagodzilla. For the ensuing three decades he lay dormant, but emerged for 2004’s Godzilla Final Wars. Rolling himself into a spiny ball, he teamed with Rodan and King Seesar to challenge Godzilla with a deadly soccer match.

Categories: Sci-Fi Tags: ,

31 (Japanese) Monsters #12: The Giant Devilfish

October 12th, 2010 No comments

If a movie in which the irradiated heart of Frankenstein’s Monster regenerates into a 70-foot teenager with a flat head and fights a burrowing dinosaur isn’t odd enough, it could’ve been even weirder. And this time the Japanese weren’t at fault.

Frankenstein Conquers the World (which I first mentioned a couple of weeks ago) was a co-production between Toho and Henry Saperstein’s United Productions of America. Saperstein had been impressed by the octopus puppet that appeared in King Kong vs. Godzilla and insisted on reusing it, despite an octopus being neither necessary nor germane.

So it was that one of the most curious deleted scenes in all of Godzilla-dom came to include…

The Giant Devilfish!

Monster Island Nickname Wait…what? Why is there a giant devilfish?
Hails From The Fevered Mind of Henry Saperstein
Movies Appeared In
(not counting stock footage)
2 (neither of which is this one)
Hobbies Appearing Without Cause, Mountaineering
Quote “I’m not sure, I just got here myself!”

So, the script for Frankenstein Conquers the World ends with the title creature battling Baragon the dinosaur amidst a raging forest fire. As Baragon falls dead, the ground beneath Frankenstein’s Monster parts without reasonable cause and the titanic teen is swallowed by the earth.

However, in the Saperstein-mandated alternate ending, Frankenstein throws down the lifeless body of Baragon. Then he spots something! It’s a giant octopus! Climbing up the mountainside! As octopi do!

Forgetting about the flaming forest, Frankenstein begins hurling rocks at the inexplicable intruder. And, as this is a rubber octopus, there is really nothing it can do until Frank gamely wraps its tentacles around him. The two tussle until the cephalopod pulls its opponent over a cliff into a convenient lake. They sink to the bottom, and are never seen again. The end.

Even though the scene was filmed–and featured prominently in promotional stills–it never made the final cut of either the Japanese or American versions. It’s on the DVD though, and you can see it for yourself on YouTube. There’s also an excellent article about it on Godzilla scholar August Ragone’s website.

And the giant devilfish eventually did fight a Frankenstein Monster (of sorts), but that’s another story…