Direction: Jun Fukuda
Screenplay: Shinichi Sekizawa and Kazue Shiba
Music: Masaru Sato
Special Effects: Sadamasa Arikawa
Special Effects Supervisor: Eiji Tsuburaya
Producer: Tomoyuki Tanaka
Oh where, oh where has my Minya-san gone? Oh where,
oh where can he be? In his 1967 debut movie Son of Godzilla of course.
Among Godzilla fans, the appearance of Minya (Godzilla’s
son) arouses mixed sentiments, though I think it may be safe to say that most
Big G enthusiasts find Minya more appalling than appealing. Indeed, when Minya
first crawls out of his egg, portrayed by a disagreeable-looking puppet, he
manifests all the inherent charm of a surgically removed tumor.
Later, Godzilla’s son starts walking up-right, and
given that his suitmation costume is more palatable than his hideous marionette
countenance, he fares a bit better. Still, even in this bipedal guise, he looks
like a bizarrely mutated Pillsbury Doughboy.
The plot: Weather experiments cause both a drastic increase in temperature as well
as a radiation storm to pelt Sollgel Island. This causes the island’s already giant preying
mantises to reach Godzillian proportions. Attracted to Godzilla’s egg (who
laid it if The Big G is a male?), the monster mantids dig it out and attack
hatchling Minya. Godzilla arrives, apparently in response to Minya’s distress
call, and fends off the mantises.
As the film progresses, Kumonga (a.k.a. Spiega) is awakened from a huge pit and
threatens both the protagonists and Minya. Once again Godzilla arrives to save
the day. Meanwhile, the scientists have found a way to decrease the island’s
temperature, and soon the atoll becomes a tropical winter wonderland.
During the ensuing blizzard, Godzilla defeats Kumonga. Minya stumbles after Papa G,
who appears to be rejecting his offspring. But, of course, Godzilla eventually
turns, and the two monsters cling to one another as they are encased in snow
and ice; meanwhile, the heroes find themselves rescued by a submarine
Son of Godzilla appears to suffer from multiple personality disorder. The
science fiction storyline, dealing with a group of Japanese scientists
conducting weather experiments on Sollgel Island, is handled seriously enough, even to the point that
one of the scientists is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. But the monster
storyline that deals with Minya plays like something out of a Disney toon.
Godzilla’s so-called “son” indulges in sophomoric
antics, and even has his very own “ahhh, isn’t he cute” theme courtesy of
Masaru Sato. His battle with one of the Kamacuras is played for low-brow
comedy. In addition, he frequently gets knocked in the head, which is
apparently meant to be hilarious – and may very well be if you’re a sadistic
And sound effects? Minya manifests a multitude of
noises, including a whimpering dog, a braying donkey, an angry cat (when caught
in Kumonga’s webbing), and a plaintive toddler who wails “Gwa-Gwaaa!” (apparently
the monsterese version of “Da-Da”) at Papa Godzilla.
Meanwhile, Godzilla is anthropomorphized to a greater
degree than the series had previously allowed – especially hard to take are Big
Daddy G’s “monster lessons” to Minya. Even worse, his costume has been
retooled, apparently to make it look more Minya-like. Godzilla’s stunted face,
oversized eyes, and bunched-up proportions look awful, though the Big G is
photographed from some nice angles during his battle with Kumonga.
On the other hand, the monster insects look great.
The giant mantises were realized via wire works, and their articulation proves
more successful than that of the monster mantid in the American-made The
Deadly Mantis (1957). The Kamacuras’ battle with Godzilla rates as one of
the movie’s highlights.
Kumonga also impresses, the eight-legged marionette
appearing creepily spider-like in long and medium shots, such as when it
scuttles through the jungle behind the experimental weather tower. In
close-ups, Kumonga is clearly a puppet. Except for its icky mouth, that is.
One of the more creative scenes has increasing close-up shots of Kumonga’s
throbbing mouth intercut with close-up shots of Godzilla’s head before the
monster arachnid launches a projectile into The Big G’s eye. In fact,
Godzilla’s battle with Kumonga is another highlight; this creature combat,
along with Godzy’s bouts with the giant mantises, almost makes up for Minya’s
Romper Room frolics.
In addition, the film features a wealth of matte shots and matte paintings, most
of which come off quite well. One of the better of these features Kumonga
crawling after two of the human protagonists. Another good shot occurs as a
flaming piece of one of the Kamacuras’ legs sails over the heads of two fleeing
humans. The island miniatures are likewise enjoyable.
Of course, Son of Godzilla boasts no “urban renewal”
since the entire movie takes place on Sollgel Island. Godzilla does briefly stomp through the scientists’
weather base, but that’s it as far as destruction goes. (Conveniently, he
doesn’t knock over either of the towers.)
One of the film’s more offbeat and effective visuals
is that of the blizzard that buries the island in a thick shroud of snow.
Seeing snow falling across a tropical island is unusual in and off itself, but
having Godzilla fight an opponent (Kumonga) in the midst of a snowstorm is
unique. The final scenes, in which Godzilla and Minya huddle together for
warmth as the snow puts them to sleep, are actually almost touching.
Watching the movie in its widescreen,
English-subtitled edition currently available on Columbia TriStar DVD certainly
heightens the visuals. The color is bright and the resolution crystalline
pure. Of course, it also helps to hear the cast speak with their real Japanese
One of the main treats of the DVD is watching an
introductory sequence in which a plane, caught in a night-time storm over the
sea, almost literally runs into Godzilla. This welcome sequence, which didn’t
exist in the previously available North American video of the film, effectively
evokes the ethos of Godzilla’s previous sixties efforts.
Conclusion – Son of Godzilla is certainly not a
total loss. However, the irritating scenes of a humanized Godzilla, Godzilla’s
ill-realized costume, and the off-putting look and cutesy antics of Minya make
this one of Godzilla’s lesser sixties films. It is also a landmark movie in
the Showa series for three reasons:
- It anthropomorphizes the monsters to a greater degree than
- Many of its monster scenes are
pitched to a younger audience than the previous films in the series.
- It was the least successful
Godzilla movie up to this time. In fact, viewer attendance had dropped sharply;
while 3.45 million Japanese attended the previous year’s Godzilla vs. the
Sea Monster, only about 2.48 million turned out to see Son of Godzilla
– a drop of almost a million theatergoers.
Son of Godzilla includes enough pluses to offset its minuses, and the Columbia TriStar DVD is
definitely a worthwhile purchase for any true Godzilla fan. But it’s too bad
Minya wasn’t made to look (and act) more like Godzilla instead of the other way