Archive for Ishiro Honda

Things Roddy Said During “Destroy All Monsters”

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , , , , , on August 28, 2009 by dcairns

Fiona’s brother Roddy came for a visit on Saturday. Since he has learning difficulties, he’s naturally enough a fan of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, an annual jamboree in which marching bands in kilts compete to see who can create the largest amount of sonic pollution with their breath. Fiona and I take it in turns to sit through this unvarying pageant with him, every year.

Fortunately, Roddy has other interests, and apart from heavy metal music, military hardware, cranes and tractors, and football (if you like any of these things… well, I don’t like to make a diagnosis without meeting you, but…) he’s quite big on monster movies — Universal horror, Hammer, Japanese monsters, anything sufficiently monsterific. So I thought I’d use his stay to catch up on some kaijin action and score off another film in my quest to See Reptilicus and Die. As documented here, here, here and here, I’ve been attempting to see all the films illustrated in Denis Gifford’s seminal-to-me-and-Fiona (and Roddy) Pictorial History of Horror Movies.

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Turning to page 174 of that august and greenish tome, we see a snazzy illo of Toho’s DESTROY ALL MONSTERS, directed by original GOJIRA helmer Ishirô Honda, which rounds up the largest collection of 100ft high men in lizard costumes ever assembled under one tent. I sold it to Roddy with the words “lots of monsters” and “giant spider.” Roddy’s thing about monsters is a childish enthusiasm (like mine), perhaps. His thing about spiders amounts almost to a fetish. The Digital Versatile Disc was duly loaded into the Panasonic.

“Right!” said R. “Get ready for the most… frightening film ever!”

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Monsterland! Wouldn’t we like to go THERE for a holiday! The United Nations (the most corrupt organization on this planet, btw) has somehow gathered all Earth’s giant monsters on one island, keeping them there with what appear to be smoke pellets. Godzilla and chums, like the dumbest of livestock, keep wading out to sea and getting gassed, then staggering back to dry land, shaking their little green fists.

The science base on Monsterland goes out of communication. This is just like JURASSIC PARK, only rubberier. Top scientists call for an investigation, sending the nearest available task force, which is currently, er, on the Moon. On the Moon? Is that really the closest we’ve got? Anyhow, within minutes the rocketship is touching down and finding possessed scientists, missing monsters, and space aliens. And now the giant monsters are burrowing up from the earth (never explained, this bit) all over the world! Godzilla in New York! Rodan in Peking! The late Baragon in Paris! To quote Mystery Science Theater: “Oh the humanity! Oh the Japanity!”

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Godzilla stomps. “Imagine meeting him on a -” Roddy pauses, for once fazed by the fact that his catchphrase, “on a dark night,” seems unapplicable to the cheerfully daylit nightmare before him. “- on a day like that,” he finishes, accurately.

“Uh-oh” Roddy said this a few times. Once was definitely in response to Manda, perhaps the crappiest of the monsters, essentially a big snake with little legs. Apart from being stupid-looking, he’s called Manda. I call him Amanda, just to piss him off. What’s he going to do? He’s on television.

The other thing Roddy says a few times is “Where’s that giant spider?” Which I can’t answer because I  haven’t seen the movie, just the trailer. But the trailer definitely had a G.S. in it.

Mothra, in caterpillar form, smashes a train. “Typical monster,” pronounces Roddy.

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A sexy space alien! “Cor, she’s nice.” This sparks a reverie — “I tell you what I was watching last week. [Hospital soap opera] Holby City. There’s some nice nurses on that.”

Possessed lady scientist. “Mmmm, who’s she then?”

Ten minutes later, out of the blue: “I would love to go into Holby, as a patient.”

Me: “You’d have to get sick. What would you want to be ill with?”

“That’s a good question.”

“You could get swine flu,” I suggest.

“Or piles!” remarks Roddy, brightly. Here, my heart breaks a little. It’s not decent to feel sorry for people who are really perfectly happy in themselves. But I feel some sympathy for anybody who dreams of getting hemorrhoids just so pretty women will look at his arse. Which they’re not otherwise lining up to do.

Something in the sky! A poorly-dubbed bit part player wonders what it is. “An aeroplane, ya donut!”

“What’s he doing on the railway track?”

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It turns out that the aliens are controlling the monsters with some kind of spherical device. “This one was found inside a coconut in Guam.”

“That’s typical, isn’t it?”

Sidenote — you know how they made Godzilla’s voice? All you need is a double bass and a catcher’s mitt. Loosen the strings and seize them firmly in the mitt, straining them firmly through the leather, and you produce the requisite inhuman roar. Try it at home!

“What’s that they’ve found?”

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“Where’s that…eight legged creature?”

The giant spider, named Spigon I think, eventually shows up, out of nowhere, and joins the giant monster rally, which is basically all the monsters ganging up on poor old King Ghidorah, the space monster. “That’s racism!” says Fiona.

Ghidorah makes a cute electronic sound effect, like a character from The Clangers, as they all kick the shit out of him.

Finally, Godzilla’s son, who isn’t actually called Godzooky, and is probably the least successful attempt at a cute monster since the Turkish E.T., blows a smoke ring that encircles one of Ghidorah’s three throats and throttles him. It must have been his main throat.

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The movie ends. “So, what have we learned?” I ask.

“Loads of things!”

“Yeah? What like?”

“The giant spider… destroyed all the monsters.”

Which isn’t quite accurate. But it’s a shorter summary than mine.

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Books 3: Cult Culture

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , on July 11, 2009 by dcairns

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A few people on Twitter mentioned Danny Peary’s Cult Movies books as being an influence on their film scholarship, and I’d be remiss in not giving credit to it also. Peary has great taste, and gathered up a really disparate bunch of movies. For those of us outside London or New York, it seemed impossible that we would ever get to see many of these films —

ANDY WARHOL’S BAD

BEDTIME FOR BONZO

BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR

DEEP END

EL TOPO

THE HONEYMOON KILLERS

KISS ME DEADLY

PRETTY POISON

THE SHOOTING

WHERE’S POPPA?

Today, almost nothing in Peary’s first volume is particularly hard to see, but when I was a teenager you couldn’t even buy a VHS of A HARD DAY’S NIGHT, let alone PANDORA’S BOX. Peary’s book is like a collection of titles that needed to be released. It was also exhilarating to see high-art and trash jumbled together like that, so you had Peckinpah and Joseph H Lewis next to Ophuls and Pontecorvo, Herzog and Cocteau rubbing shoulders with Russ Meyer and John Waters (before it became respectable to do so). And Peary still had standards, or rather, he knew when he was dealing with a film of visceral impact or nostalgic appeal rather than real artistic excellence. But his enthusiasm was unfaked, regardless. He didn’t always like the films he was dealing with, but he’d make the effort to understand them and find interesting things to say about them.

“There were three films I saw repeatedly as a child in the mid-fifties: John Ford’s The Searchers (1956), Nicholas Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause (1955), and Howard Hawks’s Land of the Pharaohs. They impressed me equally. One had John Wayne, another had James Dean, and the third had a bunch of bald, tongueless priests who allowed themselves to be buried alive, some cowards who get thrown into an alligator pit, and a statuesque beauty with a bare midriff.”

Or

“I admit nostalgic affection for Ishiro Honda’s flying reptile film Rodan (released in America in 1957) because it scared me into screaming ‘Japanese! Japanese!’ in my sleep when I was a kid.”

Peary’s cinephilia is rooted in both childhood and dreams, and he relishes the dreamlike narrative of VERTIGO (not yet placed at the zenith of Hitchcock’s corpus).

There are lots of things I disagree with in Peary: he thinks Bava went downhill after he started shooting in colour (!), for instance, but it was relatively rare for anybody to write about Bava at all, much less between the same covers as considerations of DUCK SOUP and THE SCARLET EMPRESS.

Confession: I never owned any of Peary’s books. I used to go and read them in different bookshops, though. Somehow I never saved my money to buy them, but devoured them, a chapter at a time, in bookshops long since closed: Bauermeister Books, George IVth Bookshop, The Cinema Bookshop, James Thin’s Bookstore. And then, years later, I met Fiona, who had the whole set.