Friday, May 16, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Godzilla vs. Monster Zero (1965) *½

G, 93 min.
Director: Ishirô Honda
Writer: Shin’ichi Sekizawa
Starring: Nick Adams, Akira Takarada, Jun Tazaki, Akira Kubo, Kumi Mizuno, Keiko Sawai, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Kenzô Tabu

In the opening credit sequence it’s called simply “Monster Zero”. On the IMDb website it’s called “Invasion of the Astro-Monster”. Whatever it’s called 1965’s “Godzilla vs. Monster Zero” is when the Kaiju movies made like Fonzie and jumped the shark. I think Inoshiro Honda and Shinichi Sekizawa just lost it with this one. Their plot has just gone crazy, the monsters have totally adapted human characteristics, including celebrating their victories and caring about the humans. They’ve taken Godzilla and Rodan into space and brought a ridiculously misogynistic alien race to Earth. An American who sounds like a gangster plays the lead of the film; you know, to appeal to the American audiences. It’s all kind of crazy.

As we open a crew of two men is sent to Planet X to discover its mysteries, only to find an alien culture hiding beneath the surface of the planet as Ghidorah, the same monster that came to Earth in the previous film, ravages its surface. The aliens call him Monster Zero. They wish to broker a deal with the leaders of Earth to bring Godzilla and Rodan to Planet X to get rid of the troublesome Kaiju, which is just what happens. However, it is all a trick by the aliens so they can secretly establish a base on Earth and use Godzilla and Rodan along with Monster Zero to take over the Earth.

Am I confused to think that a culture that names everything with numbers—hence “Monster Zero”—wouldn’t use the word “monster?” And doesn’t it then seem inefficient to name the other two monsters “Monster Zero One” and “Monster Zero Two?” Strange English translations aside, this movie is just plain strange, and not in a particularly great way. Only the Earth scientists seem less intelligent than the alien ones. The special effects, which have always been in the low fidelity end for the Toho Kaiju films, are worse than ever. Some are just reused shots from previous films.

Anyway, the movie can no longer bear the weight of the Kaiju eccentricities. Gone is any semblance of meaning. The monsters are no longer any threat and are in fact heroes were it not for the aliens manipulating them. But “Monster Zero” does give us one thing bound to bring joy to anyone who sees it—the Godzilla celebration dance.

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