Son of Godzilla (1967)

Let a series go on long enough and, chances are, we'll get an "adorable" tyke added to the cast to liven things up.  Sometimes it's just an inevitability due to the show or movie series itself, while other times it is just the fact that the writer has run out of ideas of what else to do.  The latter was the case of Shin'ichi Sekizawa, who had written, or co-written, almost all of the Godzilla films of the 1960s.  He had contributed his talent to other Toho monster films as well, but as Godzilla became more kid-friendly Sekizawa felt it was time to move on to other things.  Direct Jun Fukuda agreed with him.  Unfortunately, Toho did not, so Sekizawa gave Godzilla a family and then quickly went about trying to get out of his contract by violating it.   

In Son of Godzilla, we get just what the title suggests in the form of Minira ("Little Man" Machan), a pint-sized version of Godzilla that tries hard to live up to Dad's example.  Unsurprisingly Minira became a divisive character, largely despised by American audiences but a crowd favorite in Japan, and popular enough to be brought back (although in not as family friendly a manner) in the 1990s Heisei era Godzilla series.  There is a prevailing opinion that this period of the Showa series was a low point, and Fukuda was never happy about the films he did in the series.  Still, despite Son of Godzilla being a huge departure from much of what came before, I find it to be one of the more unfairly maligned of the '60s movies.

Professor Kusumi (Tadao Takashima) and his crew of scientists are running an experiment on Solgell Island, a deserted tropical isle in the South Pacific.  Right before the big experiment is to be done an uninvited guest shows up in the form of a reporter named Goro Maki (Akira Kubo), who has somehow learned about the experiment, a weather-control device that is supposed to be able to change climates to make land in remote areas of the planet habitable and arable.  With no other option they take him on as a cook while he writes his story.  

The experiment is interrupted by some sort of interference that causes one of the devices to malfunction, creating intense heat on the island and scalding thunderstorms.  It also causes the kamacuras, oversized mantises native to the island, to grow to an even greater size.  Maki is also concerned about a native woman (Beverly Maeda) he saw, and if she survived.  It turns out that the interference came from an egg that, when dug up by the kamacuras, contains Minira, and the interference was him calling to his father, Godzilla.  Of course the old man arrives, fights the kamacuras and tries to teach Minira how to be a big tough lizard.  Meanwhile the humans try to figure their way off the island, particularly when a giant spider named Kumonga awakens due to all the activity.

By all accounts I should despise this movie.  I was relieved to find that Minira didn't speak, which I was dreading, although I guess that does happen in All Monsters Attack, a movie I confused this one with due to vague childhood memories.  Still, just the very concept of adding a kid to the mix typically makes me role my eyes, especially since the costume department went to great lengths to make Minira look as cute as possible.  On top of that he is given a penchant for causing problems that Godzilla must come and solve, when it seems like all the big guy wants to do is have a well-deserved nap.  He also doesn't exactly seem too happy with fatherhood. 

Despite that I found Son of Godzilla to be one of the better Showa-era films.  Sure, it is nothing compared to Mothra vs. Godzilla or Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, but at least it isn't just Godzilla as a last-minute substitution for the Japanese version of King-Kong as in the preceding film, Ebirah, Horror of the DeepThis is a true Godzilla film and, surprisingly, not cheaply assembled from stock footage like some of the films that came after it.  It has great special effects - flaming limbs from the kamacuras flying into the jungle are quite memorable - and it manages to make the mantises and Kumonga look convincing, something difficult to do with movies that typically relied on puppets and guys in suits rather than stop-motion.  I would rate the fight between Kumonga, Godzilla and Minira one of the best monster battles, as it actually feels like there are some stakes, since both of the big lizards seem vulnerable Kumonga's poison spike.

Even the human part in this isn't annoying, although it is kind of weird to hear the idea of man-made climate change (something that we have been convinced for decades will be our destruction) being used in order to save humanity from food shortages due to overpopulation.  Long-time Godzilla actors Akihiko Hirata and Kenji Sahara are back as two of the scientists, while Haruo Nakajima is back for the water scenes involving Godzilla, while a couple others take over much of the other stunt work inside the suit.  There are some comedic scenes during a few of the monster fights, but nothing as outright slapstick as in some of the movies before, and the cast largely plays everything straight.  It was a lighter tone, but I was expecting out-and-out clowning, which happily there wasn't.  

I don't know if there are enough differences between the Japanese and U.S. versions of Son of Godzilla to where the opinion of the film could change depending on which version is watched, other than I know when dubbing oftentimes the translation was barely accurate.  There are a few of the usual head-scratchers, like how Maki made it back to the headquarters before the heat wave hit, or what the opening prologue had to do with anything going forward, but I found this to be a fun, enjoyable film with great battles and one of the best endings of any movie in the series. 

Son of Godzilla (1967)
Time: 84 minutes
Starring: Tadao Takashima, Akira Kubo, Beverly Maeda, "Little Man" Machan
Director: Jun Fukuda



Popular posts from this blog

Zack Snyder's Justice League (2021)

Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)