Tag Archives: Kenji Sahara

Godzilla’s Revenge (1969, Honda Ishirô)

I don’t know if I wish Godzilla’s Revenge were better or if I just liked it more. Because I wanted to like it more–I wanted it to be as wacky as the concept would allow. The concept–a little boy (Yazaki Tomonori) gets valuable life lessons involving working parents, bank robbers, bullies and even criminal mischief all thanks to his imagined playtime with the various Toho giant monsters–is ripe for wackiness.

But Godzilla’s Revenge never gets particularly wacky. It’s straight-faced in tone. It’s a movie made for kids. It’s didactic. Sekizawa Shin’ichi’s script is painfully lacking in enthusiasm. It’s not even a question of ambition–no one has any, except maybe some of the effects guys on the footage from previous films. Revenge recycles old Godzilla movie fight footage. It’s done pretty well, but it’s hard to know whether Revenge’s editor, Himi Masahisa, chopped it up a little or if it’s uncut from the first film. I’m not enough of a Godzilla aficionado to look up such details. One has to draw the line somewhere.

Because, for a while, Revenge kind of works. It’s weird and it’s obvious and it’s trying too hard, but there’s actual payoff in the giant monster fights. Director Honda paces it well. Then, as Yazaki eventually befriends (a female-voiced) Son of Godzilla, Revenge tries too hard to manipulate. There’s too much subtext to the wimpy giant monster having a female voice. There’s too much about Yazaki having to “man up.”

Now, it would help if Yazaki were any good. He’s not. He’s bad. He’s not even bad in amusing ways. He’s particularly bad during the scenes when he’s kidnapped–the physical action scenes–and there’s no way it shouldn’t be funny for him to be bad in those scenes. But it isn’t. It isn’t funny. Because there’s just something a little off about Revenge. It’s too “perfectly” targeted at its audience–it is for kids who already give a shit about Godzilla.

It just then goes ahead and tells them they are weirdos but should instead be weird bullies. The moral of the story is… if you’re going to have a youth gang, take over another youth gang, don’t start your own. And praise Minilla.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Honda Ishirô; written by Sekizawa Shin’ichi; director of photography, Tomioka Sokei; edited by Himi Masahira; music by Miyauchi Kunio; production designer, Kita Takeo; produced by Tanaka Tomoyuki; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Yazaki Tomonori (Ichirô), Amamoto Hideyo (Inami Shinpei), Sakai Sachio (Bank Robber Senbayashi), Suzuki Kazuo (Bank Robber Okuda), Sahara Kenji (Ichiro’s father), Naka Machiko (Ichirô’s mother), Ishida Shigeki (The Landlord) and Uchiyama Midori (Minilla).


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THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED IN SUM UP | GODZILLA, PART ONE: SHOWA.

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Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964, Honda Ishirô)

I’m not sure if Mothra vs. Godzilla should be much better, but it certainly should be somewhat better. There are constant problems with the film; little things, big things, but clearly fixable things. Like the composite shots. They’re terrible. Director Honda, seemingly overwhelmed with all the landscape sets, relies on occasional composite shots to give Godzilla scale. The shots should be okay, but the composite printing is awful.

Otherwise, the special effects are solid. There’s some great stop motion in parts too. But Honda has a rough time with some of the Godzilla sequences–in Mothra; Godzilla shows up rather late and (literally) stumbles around before establishing himself to be a big old jerk. There’s no Godzilla behavioral science in Sekizawa Shin’ichi’s script. Godzilla’s just a big dumb, mean animal who acts without motive. But he also manages to be a jerk about it.

In having such a weak script as far as characterizations, which isn’t helped by the charmless lead performances–not to mention Mothra being a sympathetic giant monster (complete with accessible, religious overtones)–the film makes the giant monsters way too interesting. It pays off with the final battle, however, which Honda, editor Fujii Ryôhei and composter Ifukube Akira do wonderful work on.

There are some reasonably competent storytelling twists and Mothra always seems like it should get a lot better any moment. Leads Takarada Akira and Hoshi Yuriko–he’s a reporter, she’s his photographer, there’s some funny business going on–ought to be great. But they have no chemistry at all. Takarada seems bored by the whole film; Hoshi’s got energy, but no one to act off. As the scientist, Koizumi Hiroshi’s in a daze. He has nothing to do.

There’s a subplot about evil amusement park developers, played by Fujiki Yû and Sahara Kenji. It’s a really dumb subplot, but the actors are relatively game. Honda doesn’t direct them well. He doesn’t direct any of the actors’ scenes well. He rushes through the shots, never relying on the actors for anything.

Really bad performances from Itô Emi and Itô Yumi, as Mothra’s talking Barbie dolls.

But Sekizawa’s script does have some imagination. It occasionally sparks with Honda’s own problematic direction and Mothra vs. Godzilla nearly works.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Honda Ishirô; written by Sekizawa Shin’ichi; director of photography, Koizumi Hajime; edited by Fuji Ryôhei; music by Ifukube Akira; production designer, Kita Takeo; produced by Tanaka Tomoyuki; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Takarada Akira (Ichiro), Hoshi Yuriko (Junko), Koizumi Hiroshi (Professor Miura), Fujiki Yû (Nakamura), Sahara Kenji (Torahata), Itô Emi (Shobijin), Itô Yumi (Shobijin), Tajima Yoshifumi (Kumayama) and Tazaki Jun (Murata).


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Son of Godzilla (1967, Fukuda Jun)

Strangely enough, Son of Godzilla ends well. It’s a surprise because the film loses a lot of steam throughout. Whether it’s the human plot or the Godzilla plot, the scene inevitably fails because of director Fukuda. Unless it’s one of the multiple times writers Sekizawa Shin’ichi and Shiba Kazue completely fail. Son of Godzilla constantly starts and stops. There’s no unifying style.

Directing the actors, Fukuda often shows ambition. It’s just there’s no way for that ambition to be realized. While he can intuit how a scene should play, he can’t make the scene play. Fukuda is just a bad director–and, of course, Fujii Ryôhei’s tone-deaf editing doesn’t help anything.

The film has an appealing male lead, a too enthusiastic newspaper reporter (Kubo Akira) who ends up as short order cook for a group of scientists. They’re studying weather conditions on an island where Godzilla and other giant monsters coincidentally are hanging out. The film often plays the giant monsters for laughs. Not well, but still successfully. The interactions between Godzilla and his not quite as giant son, Minilla, are endearing and fun. If incompetently visualized.

Now for a few things deserving standout attention.

First, Beverly Maeda as an island “savage” who’s always saving Kubo. She’s this great character; then, all of a sudden, Kubo’s the boss. But nothing about the characters’ personalities change, just Maeda’s place in the film. Logically, she should still be the hero but she isn’t. It hurts the film a lot. Maeda’s performance isn’t quite good, but she’s definitely appealing. At least until she’s the damsel.

Second, the music. Satô Masaru does this crazy, campy, playful score for the film. For ten minute stretches, Satô’s score makes Son of Godzilla feel like an absurdist comedy. It seems like Fukuda gets that disconnect, but then he doesn’t properly utilize it, which again makes the filmmaking appear inept. It’s as though everything good about the film–except the acting–is accidentally okay.

Finally, the giant mantises who terrorize the humans (who are more interested in the weather than these giant monsters) and Minilla. While the special effects are problematic in the film, the mantises are great. As are the backdrop paintings. Fukuda can’t direct the jungle sets, however. They’re always stagy.

But then comes Son of Godzilla’s last sequence and it’s amazing. Fukuda doesn’t screw up the direction and Satô’s score changes tone and the humans finally say something interesting. The successful ending closes the film on its highest note.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Fukuda Jun; written by Sekizawa Shin’ichi and Shiba Kazue; director of photography, Yamada Kazuo; edited by Fujii Ryôhei; music by Satô Maseru; production designer, Kita Takeo; produced by Tanaka Tomoyuki; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Kubo Akira (Goro), Beverly Maeda (Saeko), Hirata Akihiko (Fujisaki), Tsuchiya Yoshio (Furukawa), Sahara Kenji (Morio), Maruyama Ken’ichirô (Ozawa), Kuno Seishirô (Tashiro), Saijô Yasuhiko (Suzuki) and Takashima Tadao (Dr. Kusumi).


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THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED IN SUM UP | GODZILLA, PART ONE: SHOWA.

Destroy All Monsters (1968, Honda Ishirô)

Wow, it ends with Godzilla and Minya (Godzilla’s son for those unfamiliar–there’s no mama; I’m pretty sure Godzilla’s asexual) waving to the camera. How sweet.

Destroy All Monsters is barely a Godzilla movie, really. The monster only shows up at the beginning for the establishing of the ground situation–the narrator explains it is a near future and all the monsters live peacefully on one island–for a bit in the middle and then at the end for the big monster mash. The story itself doesn’t need an appearance.

It’s a sci-fi action thriller–Earth is under attack from space aliens and this crack UN team of guys races around doing stuff to save the world. It’s ripe for a remake–with the casual misogyny (all the evil aliens are female), maybe Neil LaBute could do it.

The effects are weak (it’s hard to believe it’s from the same year as 2001), but Honda’s occasionally ambitious with the effects work. It doesn’t look real, but it’s neat. Unfortunately, those moments are far and few. The film only runs eighty-some minutes but it drags often. There’s a lengthy sequence with the brainwashed humans in suits acting like it’s a shootout from a James Bond rip-off. And all the sets look like something out of “Star Trek” for the first twenty minutes or so.

The performances are generally fine, except ingenue Kobayashi Yukiko. She’s atrocious.

Ifukube Akira’s music is utterly fantastic.

Still, it’s a chore to get through.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Honda Ishirô; written by Honda and Kimura Takeshi; director of photography, Kankura Taiichi; edited by Fujii Ryohei; music by Ifukube Akira; production designer, Kita Takeo; produced by Tanaka Tomoyuki; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Kubo Akira (SY-3 Captain Yamabe Katsuo), Tazaki Jun (Dr. Yoshido), Kobayashi Yukiko (Yamabe Kyoko), Tsuchiya Yoshio (Dr. Otani), Ai Kyôko (Kilaak Queen), Andrew Hughes (Dr. Stevenson), Tôgin Chôtarô (Ogata), Tajima Yoshifumi (General), Sahara Kenji (Commander Nishikawa) and Itô Hisaya (Major Tada).


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THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED IN SUM UP | GODZILLA, PART ONE: SHOWA.