Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Godzilla, King of the Monsters!

(1956) ***

Before this contest started I declared my intention to check out some films from the East and their Western counterparts, but so far this has been my only example. To import the popular Gojira to America, the movie was trimmed and then re-fatted-up with new footage featuring Raymond Burr as an American reporter Steve Martin. (Yes, that's right, Steve Martin.) After watching Gojira a few days earlier, it was pretty funny watching how they did it. Step one is to show some scene from the original movie (in some cases leaving in the Japanese dialogue), and then in step two show Raymond Burr on a small set made to look like some corner of the room we couldn't see before. Movie magic.

For instance, in the scene in which the fearsome beast first rears his head (above), we see the original scenes of the cast running in terror down the (live location) hill, and then this:

When we see the orginal scene of Emiko falling to the ground as panicked villagers rush past her,

we also see Raymond Burr's sidekick doing the same thing.

Sometimes, in order to interact with one of the main characters, Raymond Burr would converse with an actor who was cast based on what the back of their head looked like. Suddenly Emiko abruptly switches to English and the words "Steve! Steve Martin! How good to see you" come from a woman wearing the same shirt and kerchief, albeit two years later and thousands of miles away. It actually made me think of the contemporary trend to make the audience part of the media experience; here were visionaries in the 50's engineering the most interactive viewing of Gojira possible. But of course the mass marketing appeal falls apart when you imagine the commercial:

Happy, excited voice-over: "You can actually be in the movie!"
Rapid, low-toned "batteries not included" voice-over: "only available to Raymond Burr."

I still recommend the Godzilla debut experience for the reasons I mentioned in my review of the original. I found this version distracting, but it's possible that had more to do with seeing the two of them back to back. And I suppose the American version is adequate to deliver the fine imagery I ogled earlier. Ultimately, however, I think it's worth it to find the original. The references to the A-bomb haven't been excised, the story flows better, and the tone is more sincere.

On a side note, for the past two years I've tried to include a movie with an exclamation point in its title in my lineup, but the flick I'd set my sights on this year proved too elusive. (And Die, Monster, Die! didn't qualify because I reviewed it two years ago.) I always look up the imdb page of a movie when I write its review, so imagine my delight when "Monsters" in this title was "Monsters!" When I was briefly stymied as I looked around and saw that the title isn't always punctuated that way, I decided that the onscreen appearance in the movie itself should be the deciding factor in conflicts of this nature. Then I promptly found this screenshot on the internet. (Hadn't thought to snag one myself.) Leapin' lizards!

Happy Halloween everybody!


AC said...

Yay, good to see at least one of the boys posting again! I know you're all socked in watching movies like mad, but it makes for a relatively boring blog.

DCD said...

Ha! Well said AC! You know we will be inundated with reviews for the next two weeks..

AC said...

fine with me! i plan to watch one more movie and post about it tonight, so i can relax and enjoy the torrent to come.