Friday, July 1, 2011

Preview: Monsters from Beyond

Embrace your inner geek, it's science fiction week!

For goodness sake, stop feeding money to Michael Bay and his silly Transformer exercises. If you simply must geek out at the movies, you have to do it in style at The Paramount Theatre. No crappy emerald CGI suited Ryan Reynolds or Shia LeWhat'sHisName standing next to a new open-mouthed bimbo while rock 'em sock 'em robots carry on. Here, we do things old school. There's plenty to choose from in the realm of sci-fi this week, and it starts with big, bad creatures.

Monsters make for great icons when it comes to sci-fi. There's so many to choose from when it comes to giant critters running rampant across the country or in the city. Most, if not all of them can fall into those "cautionary tales" subgenre of sci-fi. The message is usually "don't eff with mutha nature." And the undisputed heavyweight champs of all these "monsters from beyond" is Gojira. That's Godzilla to you Americans.

Wait. I'm not referring to horrendous incarnation from the 1998 remake by Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, those Independence Day (ID4) guys. That was an awful piece of cinematic trash and a sully to the Godzilla name. Seriously, in all my years I've never met anyone who thought the '98 version was good in any shape or form. That's saying something in a day when trash like Transformers 3 can make $100+ million dollars in its opening weekend. Heck, even Jar Jar Binks must've had fans when he first appeared, right?

No, I'm talking about the real Godzilla. The one that everyone instantly identifies and loves, zippers warts and all.

Made in 1954, it was an impressive undertaking in spite of the limits faced by the film makers. The movie was made quickly to satisfy Toho Studios demand after a previous project fell through. As a result, most everything about the production of Gojira was a happy accident, from the chilling black & white photography (color film rejected by Toho) to the infamous rubber suit itself (stop motion proved too costly). And yet, the film makers carried on...

See the original Japanese trailer here:

The results were gangbusters in Japan, despite many feeling this tale of an atomic monster exploited the real-life horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Always eager to make a buck, American producers made a "remix" of the film and released it as Godzilla: King of Monsters! in 1956. Using footage from the 1954 Japanese version, the American release edited in scenes with Raymond Burr, effectively making a whole new film.

When unleashed on American audiences, Godzilla tore it up. The film was a phenomenal success, and helped stamp the monster as a global icon. To this day, Godzilla-mania is everywhere. He's a regular staple of pop culture, and has been featured in books, Saturday morning cartoons, video games, comic books, songs, and even a Nike ad campaign with Charles Barkley!

My personal favorite? This funny cartoon short I remember seeing in my youth:

Ahhh. Good times.

Japan may have the good on the king of the monsters, but they certainly don't have a monopoly on such films. Here in the good ol' U.S. of A., we had our own giant creature film to contend with, 1954's THEM! A movie manifested out of nuclear uncertainty in the early days of the Cold War, the movie is about giant mutated ants that grow from radioactive fallout in the aftermath of New Mexico atomic tests.

Although it may have a slightly silly premise, THEM! is a very well made sci-fi film with solid performances, distinctive special effects, and tight editing. Oh, and who can forget that creepy sound effect for the ants? Seeing this as a youth, nothing stuck with me more than that noise.

A solid money maker for Warner Brothers, THEM! spawned a line of similar "irradiated giant critter" movies: Tarantula (1955), Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957), Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959), The Giant Behemoth (1959), The Killer Shrews (1959), Night of the Lepus (1972), and scores more that were often lampooned on TV's "Mystery Science Theater 3000."

But for now, suspend you inclination to laugh at the somewhat cheesy 1950s sci-fi production values. Appreciate the film as a landmark of science fiction excellence on par with the original verisons of The Thing from Another World and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, two other films that preyed on the paranoia of the Cold War years. Stifle that giggle and allow yourself to get caught up in the terror of THEM!

Bigger than life, badder than bad, and ready to lay waste to the foolish humans who played with atomic power, these monsters have come from beyond to teach us a lesson. SCREAM in fear or ROAR in delight. Experience two of the best from either side of The Pacific this week, and enjoy these sci-fi creature features.

Showtimes for the films:

Gojira (Godzilla)
Tuesday, Jul 5th
Wednesday, Jul 6th

Tuesday, Jul 5th
Wednesday, Jul 6th

Final Notes about the screening

$2 from each ticket for Godzilla will benefit the Japan Red Cross relief fund

Double Features:
"When two movies are grouped together under the same thematic heading, one ticket is good for both features when viewed back-to-back on the same day." (cha-ching!)

"Hassle-free downtown parking available for $6 at the One American Center for all summer films! Since you’re also supporting the theatre when you buy parking, they're giving you a free small soda each time you park there for a film. Buy online with your film tix and print out your confirmation e-mail or buy directly from the garage attendant (cash only). Attendant will have your soda ticket as well."

No comments:

Post a Comment