MovieBob - IntermissionKaiju Crush: The Monsters You've Never Heard OfMovieBob - Intermission - RSS 2.0
This week's big new blockbuster is Pacific Rim, and for a change it's actually worth running right out and seeing. A splashy, flashy, brazenly old-fashioned story of man versus monsters that's broad and arch enough for just about any audience but invested enough in its own cinematic heritage to name its giant monster antagonists Kaiju.
Translated literally from the original Japanese, it means "strange beast." But it's come to be the global shorthand for the towering creatures that headline "daikaiju eiga" - aka "Japanese Giant-Monster Movies" - which attained a level of international ubiquity rather staggering in scope for films made outside of the U.S. or Europe before the digital age, perhaps owing to their main characters communicating in the universal language of roars and punching.
Godzilla is the best known figure in this massive, franchise-spanning genus of creature (which also frequently includes the larger enemies of tokusatsu series like "Power Rangers" or "Ultraman"). Though, thanks to MST3K, plenty of people have heard of Gamera the giant turtle. The genre has spread even wider, well beyond the borders of Japan and even filmmaking itself. Here, in celebration of Kaiju once again invading U.S. theaters, is a short catalogue of some of the most obscure and unusual examples to have come before...
From the Daimajin series.
The Daimajin franchise is an oddball fusion of Kaiju action and samurai melodrama from the Godzilla team, based around a giant stone statue of a Samurai warrior that comes to life and wreaks havoc, usually against human villains, in feudal-era Japan. The first (and best) film in the series sets the template for all that followed: A local noble is oppressing the people, who turn to praying to a giant idol-statue in the mountains for deliverance. In a cute twist, he has a monster-face reminiscent of a samurai faceplate under his more humanoid plate. Once the bad guy's action become egregious enough, Daimajin comes to life and stomps down the mountain so the film can get to its reason for existing: Imagining how people might fight off a Godzilla-style assault with medieval weaponry.
Dogora isn't one of the better scifi movies launched by Toho in it's 1960s golden years, but its title creature is one of the most original. One of the few cinematic representations of an atmospheric beast, Dogora is a huge translucent jellyfish that eerily drifts down from the clouds to siphon up carbon. Preferably diamonds, which puts it into amusingly odd conflict with a cops and robbers subplot playing out on the ground.