AVAILABLE ON DVD
RUNNING TIME: 86 min/ 84 min
FEATURED MONSTERS: GODZILLA, MINILLA, MOTHRA, KUMONGA [SPIEGA in the dubbed version], KAMIKARUS [GIMANTIS in the dubbed version]
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Two men flying a plane see Godzilla heading to Solgel Island. A group of scientists there are conducting weather control experiments. Their efforts are hampered by first the arrival of nosy reporter Goro Maki, then the presence of two-meter tall giant praying mantises called Kamakuras. Goro thinks he sees a woman swimming in a lake, then the first test of the weather control system goes awry when the remote control for a radioactive balloon is jammed by an unexplained signal coming from the centre of the island. The balloon detonates prematurely, creating a radioactive storm that causes the Kamakuras to grow to enormous sizes. They also start to dig an egg out from under a pile of earth, and out from it comes a baby Godzilla, whose telepathic cries for help were what caused the interference……
Right from the title, it’s easy to see why many older Godzilla fans would dislike this movie, which tries to court a younger audience more than ever before in its introduction of a baby Godzilla. It’s also obviously made on an even lower budget than Godzilla Vs the Sea Monster – for a start, Godzilla barely destroys a thing in it, but not all Godzilla films have to be the same. Son Of Godzilla is a decent tropical adventure which is sometimes exciting, sometimes bizarre, and sometimes very cute and touching [two words that some may say should not be used to describe a Godzilla movie!], and overall quite low-key. I’m very glad it was made, but am also glad that it didn’t become a template for many later films, and it does have some downright weird flaws that prevent it from reaching the quality of most of the movies that proceeded it.
Son Of Godzilla basically came about because Godzilla was becoming more and more popular with kids [though it was Toho who was also pushing away many adult fans with their increasingly childish approach to the franchise], and also because a rival studio called Daiei was making a series about a huge flying turtle called Gamera, whose films often featured children in major roles. Sometime in the future, I will be reviewing all the Gamera entries, but for now let’s stick with Godzilla. It seems that Toho’s other 1967 production King Kong Escapes got the front-line talent, probably because of American capital and input, so Son Of Godzilla was made with much the same second-string crew as the previous Godzilla film. Shinichi Sekizawa’s script was churned out quickly, and for the first time in a Toho picture, most of it was shot on a location, here Guam, to avoid the need for costly and time-consuming miniature sets. Teisho Arikawa was officially credited as special effects director for the first time, Tsuburaya by this stage just tending to look in once in a while. Son Of Godzilla did okay in Japan but failed to halt the commercial decline of the series, while in the US it went, as with the one before, straight to TV. Why the Walter Reade Organisation did this when Ghidorah The Three-Headed Monster did well for them is anybody’s guess. At least they made no major changes except cutting out the pre-credits scene with Godzilla.
Yes, you see Godzilla right at the beginning, another sop to young kids who it was thought wouldn’t want to wait too long before seeing their hero, though as with Godzilla Vs The Sea Monster, he’s more of a hero by coincidence. Neither good or bad, he just is. Now I say he, but of course one question fans have often debated is what sex Godzilla actually is? I’ve always assumed male, but the arrival of a ‘son’ makes one wonder. What makes one wonder even more is why does Minilla look more like a baby human ‘freak’ than a young reptile? I honestly don’t know what Toho were thinking when they approved this positively disturbing creation [actually he also resembles an ape, so maybe Godzilla mated with King Kong when they fell into the sea, they did hold hands at one point during their battle], and why on earth did they let Minilla’s design influence Godzilla’s? Okay, it’s a kind of consistency, but it should have been the other way round. At least Toho would do much better with the idea of a baby Godzilla in the 90’s.
Paced a bit slower than Godzilla Vs The Sea Monster, but rehashing many of its ideas and situations including a secret base, a special coloured liquid [again], a ‘native’ girl, and an island teaming with monster life, it initially seems to be mostly about scientists who are experimenting to control the weather because of environmental depletion. The rather timely idea is to hopefully turn arid lands into fertile lands, but of course they end up making things worse for themselves. Godzilla has a superb entrance, swimming face down in the sea towards a beach, his fins creating a column of water until he finally stands up. For much of its length the story alternates the monster stuff [the praying-mantises Kamikuras, Godzilla and his son, eventually Kumonga the spider] with typical tropical adventure human stuff [jungle fever, a pretty female native who almost seems to have a romance with the most handsome male lead, people being trapped in a cave, etc]. The two don’t always seem linked, and despite minor thrills every now and again, there’s little real menace until Kumonga gets into the action, trapping Goro and Reiko in some rocks with his web in a very tense sequence. The fights between Godzilla and the Kamikuras are very brief, and the Godzilla/Kumonga battle is disappointingly static, though they resisted the temptation to get silly with it. And shouldn’t Reiko be enormous as she was caught in the weather “experiment”.
Of course the most memorable bits [and some might say not in a good way] are the Minilla scenes. He mostly acts like a human baby, and never looks like he isn’t made of rubber, but the bits between him and Godzilla are rather sweet. Godzilla usually gets annoyed by his son, who always seems to get into trouble and needs rescuing, but does try to teach him how to breath his radioactive breath [all Minilla can manage is smoke rings until Godzilla steps on his tail] and eventually comes around to showing affection for him. Sadly Godzilla, apart from his first two scenes where they used the suit used in Invasion Of Astro-Monster and Godzilla Vs The Sea Monster, looks awful. Probably the worst suit of the series, it has misshapen fins, a fat tummy, a huge head with large eyes absurdly close together and a squashed-looking face, looking for all the world like Kermit the Frog. At least the insect monster puppets are well designed and articulated. Kumonga, whose multiple leg joints often required twenty puppeteers to operate the monster, looks quite convincing and is accompanied by creepy sound effects. Elsewhere the effects are limited, but occasionally impressive, like a great shot of a burning mantis body part flying through the air above some people. The script succeeds more with the monsters than the humans. Why, for instance, when they find a secret exit, do they all sit around waiting for the cave to fall in like idiots?
Director Jun Fukuda utilises less interesting angles than before but seems to be settling into the series. The cast features Tadao Takashima from King Kong Vs Godzilla in a serious role as Professor Kusumi, Akira Kubo from some other films as the pesky reporter Goro, and stalwarts Akihiko Hirata, Kenji Sahara and Yoshio Tsuchiiya in supporting roles. Beverly Maeda is weak as the ‘native’ girl but her character is weakly written anyway. Son Of Godzilla features Masaro Sato’s best Godzilla score. His catchy main theme subtly evokes the setting and has an uplifting feeling of innocent adventure, his theme for Minilla is appropriately comic, and his rhythmic mantis and spider music manages to be sinister while still remaining fun to hear. There’s even a lovely theme for Riko, though sadly Godzilla never got the same theme twice from Sato. Hardly Godzilla’s finest hour, but sometimes quite unique, Son Of Godzilla is a thoroughly pleasant, relaxing watch, if in the end nothing special. And the rather moving final scene is known to bring tears to some Godzilla fans [I’m not saying a word], as Godzilla and his son finally embrace and begin to hibernate as it begins to snow. Arrrrgh!!!!