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Son of Godzilla - Review

A Review by Mike Bogue

2½ Stars - Pretty Good

Japanese release: Dec. 16, 1967

American release: 1969 (released directly to TV by Walter Reade-Sterling)

Direction: Jun Fukuda

Screenplay: Shinichi Sekizawa and Kazue Shiba

Music: Masaru Sato

Special Effects: Sadamasa Arikawa

Special Effects Supervisor: Eiji Tsuburaya

Producer: Tomoyuki Tanaka

Son of Godzilla Still. 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 preschooler.

Son of Godzilla Still.

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.

Son of Godzilla Still.

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 voices.

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 ever before.
  • 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 around.

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