Godzilla Regains His Throne as King of the Monsters

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When Godzilla was released in 2014, anticipation was high for Warner Brothers and Legendary to do right by Toho franchise. While it certainly surpassed the ill-conceived American film from 1998, audience reaction was mixed. Most fans felt it needed more monster action and less plot. They also wanted to see more of Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe. I enjoyed it when I first saw it but definitely felt like it could have been better. I wanted more monsters! Upon revisiting the film the other night, I have to say that the film doesn’t quite hold up as well as I remembered it. It’s not the worst of the franchise but it did leave me going into the sequel with lower expectations. I can now say that I was pleasantly surprised with Godzilla, King of the Monsters (2019) and I believe fans most definitely got their wish. There are more monsters and a lot more kaiju action on the screen than we’ve seen in a long time.

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Godzilla, King of the Monsters starts off by introducing us to our two lead characters, Mark and Dr. Emma Russell, as they are searching for their lost son in the rubble during the climatic events of the last film. Flash forward five years, their son is gone and the Russells have split up. Mark is shooting wildlife pictures while Emma is working for Monarch, which has come under fire for failing to publicly reveal their efforts to conceal just how many monsters, or titans as they’re called here, are roaming the planet. Their daughter Madison is greatly concerned about her mother, foreshadowing some plot twists that set everything in motion for the monster rumble of all rumbles to take place with Earth as the battleground.

Godzilla gets significantly more screen time here as he is now clearly the protector of Earth against the evil Monster Zero aka King Ghidorah. Our old friend Mothra is introduced as is Rodan, along with several other new kaiju. Godzilla looks better here with minor revisions but mostly because he is much more mobile in this film. Ghidorah has never looked better and Rodan has received some significant upgrades from his early days at Toho. Mothra remains mostly unchanged except for enhancements courtesy of CGI technology. The battle sequences are awesome but here lies my biggest problem with the film. I think the final battle is simply too bombastic. I had the same concerns with Aquaman and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. They could have toned it down a notch and held back a little to get better results. Sometimes, less is more and that philosophy would have worked here. However, I think director Michael Dougherty (Trick ‘r Treat, Krampus) was trying to give fans more after the complaints of the first film. Someone in the editing room should have reined him in a little as the end result seems a little long and excessive. It was certainly a lot of fun but also somewhat exhausting after a while.

The cast includes Kyle Chandler (First Man) and Vera Farmiga (The Conjuringfranchise), both turning in good performances. Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things) was great as Madison and plays a key role in the finale but hopefully she’s given a little more to do in next year’s Godzilla vs. Kong. It was fun to see Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) back and Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister on Game of Thrones) clearly had fun chewing up the scenery as the evil Jonah. He was a perfect bad guy and I think we’ll be seeing him again.

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I also have to mention how fun it was to hear Akira Ifukube’s Godzilla theme and Yuji Koseki’s Mothra music. This homage to the past was amazing. It was also great to hear the classic rock tune “Godzilla” over the end credits but I wish Blue Oyster Cult’s version would have been chosen.

Godzilla fans will definitely be pleased with the 32nd film in the franchise. It’s not perfect but much improved over Godzilla (2014) and it sets the stage for next year’s Godzilla vs. Kong. Kong is casually referenced in this film but absent from the big showdown. Make sure to read the numerous headlines at the end of the film as it establishes that Godzilla clearly has a new rival in the making for the title of King of the Monsters!

All pictures copyrighted by Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures.

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Dread Media – The Curse of La Llorona (2019)

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This week on episode 613 of the Dread Media Podcast, I take a side trip into the Conjuring universe with a look at The Curse of La Llorona (2019). It’s creepy at times but will the predictable jump scares sink this spinoff or guarantee another sequel? As always, tell ’em Monster Movie Kid sent ya!

Martian Mondays – War of the Worlds (1953)

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Martian Mondays: War of the Worlds (1953)
Cast:        Gene Barry as Dr. Clayton Forrester
Ann Robinson as Sylvia Van Buren
Les Tremayne as Major General Mann
Lewis Martin as Pastor Dr. Matthew Collins

Based on the novel by H.G. Wells
Written by Barre Lyndon
Directed by Byron Haskin

Plot: When Earth is invaded by Martians, a full scale war ensues while Dr. Clayton Forrester desperately searches for any weakness the Martians may have. Will he be able to find a weapon to use against the Martians before it’s too late?

Richard’s Review: I have fond memories of watching this on a Sunday afternoon back in the 1970s before we got cable TV. The iconic sound of the weapons has always stuck with me. I loved the flying ships but would have liked to have seen the Martians a little more than we did. Another stronger lead could have made the character of Dr. Forrester pop a little more on screen and Ann Robinson definitely overacted at times. But these flaws are easily forgiven as this is truly a classic from start to finish. I especially find the scenes on the farmhouse very chilling and I think they hold up quite well. I’ve also always thought the final scene in the church with the sounds of destruction juxtaposed with the singing very moving. This is sci-fi classic that everyone needs to see.

Karla’s Thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. I think the ships looked great but I would have liked to have seen more creativity on the Martians. I don’t recall they ever mentioned the meaning behind three ships (and three hands and three fingers). I don’t think Gene Barry had much charisma. In fact, he came across very slug like throughout the film. I think another actor could have done much more with the role. Ann Robinson was good, even if she did overact throughout the film. Despite those few flaws, I would definitely watch this one again.

Trivia:

  • Gene Barry (Burke’s Law, The 27th Day) made his final screen appearance in the 2005 remake as the grandfather prior to his death in 2009 at the age of 90.
  • Ann Robinson appeared in three episodes of the 1988 television series as well as a grandmother in the 2005 film. She’s just turned 90 on May 25 and is still acting, most recently appearing in Tales of Frankenstein (2018).
  • Les Tremayne was a well-accomplished radio actor and was elected into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1995. However, genre fans may best remember his face as he starred in all 28 episodes of Shazam! (1974-1976) as Mentor.
  • Barre Lyndon wrote the screenplays for The Lodger (1944), Hangover Square (1945) and Man in the Attic (1953), as well as three episodes of Thriller.
  • Byron Haskin also directed Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964) and six episodes of The Outer Limits.
  • The film was produced by George Pal, who upon impressing the H.G. Wells estate was given the rights to produce any other Wells story. He chose The Time Machine, which he made in 1960.
  • The classic H.G. Wells story was first adapted by Orson Welles in the infamous 1938 radio broadcast. Jeff Wayne produced a musical version in 1978 and Tom Cruise starred in a 2005 remake, among other loose adaptations.
  • Voice actor Paul Frees appears as the opening announcer and second radio reporter (in an Orson Welles impersonation).
  • Sir Cedric Hardwicke provides the voice of the commentator.
  • Carolyn Jones (Morticia Addams, The Addams Family) appears as a blonde party guest.
  • The Martians were originally going to be tripods, as in the novel, but George Pal didn’t know how to make that possible in 1953. So, they went with flying machines and briefly mentioned visible electronic beams, seen only briefly at the beginning of the movie.
  • Two of the sound effects used eventually were heard again in the Star Trek television series. The sound of the hovering ships became the hand phaser sound while the skeleton ray morphed into a photon torpedo.
  • Sadly, none of the original Martian war machines exist today. They were made of copper and supposedly turned over to a Boy Scout copper drive.
  • War of the Worlds was added to the national Film Registry by the United States Library of Congress in 2011.

Availability: War of the Worlds is sadly out-of-print on DVD and has still not been released on Blu-ray in the United States.

Classic Horrors Club – Friends and Foes of Godzilla

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With Godzilla: King of the Monsters opening on May 31, Jeff and I take a look at three of Godzilla’s friends and foes in episode 31 of the Classic Horrors Club Podcast! We talk about Rodan (1956), Mothra (1961) and Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964). We’re not kaiju experts but we have a lot of fun diving into these Toho classics in preparation for the return of Godzilla to the big screen later this month!

We want feedback! Call us at:

(616) 649-2582

That’s (616) 649-CLUB

or email:

classichorrorsclub@gmail.com

or join us in our clubhouse at:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/classichorrors.club/

Find Jeff at Classic Horrors Club: http://classichorrors.club

KARLOFF Play is Resurrected for Home Video

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My first exposure to Boris Karloff came on a Friday night in the mid-seventies. Our local ABC affiliate was playing Frankenstein (1931). I was instantly hooked and became a monster kid for life. While I certainly love Bela Lugosi, my favorite by far has always been Boris Karloff. Back in 2015, I reviewed many of his films during my annual Countdown to Halloween. At that time, I was given the rare opportunity to sit down and enter the world of KARLOFF, a one person play by Randy Bowser. It was amazing and now you can share in that experience. But first, let’s take a look at Randy Bowser and what his play all about.

I first became aware of this stage performance in 2014 courtesy of my friend Derek M. Koch and his Monster Kid Radio podcast. I became excited over the news that a gentleman by the name of Randy Bowser was doing a play on the life of Boris Karloff. Then, my excitement quickly became envy over the people who could see the show as I discovered the play was for four nights only in Oregon. Fortunately, Randy soon decided to make a very limited number of DVDs available in an effort to continue funding his dream. I quickly acquired a copy and it has been a cherish part of my personal home video library ever since.

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Now, first and foremost, please understand that I cannot review KARLOFF. It is a stage performance and the only way to properly do so would have been to attend in person. However, this professional DVD presentation allowed me to take a glimpse into what the experience would have been like. From the opening menu of the DVD, I knew I was in for something special. Randy’s love and dedication to this project is evident in every second of his performance. From the twinkle in his eye to the changing tones of his voice to the subtle physical decline as Karloff gets older, Randy gives an amazing and most believable performance.

The sparse stage presentation worked incredibly well. The colorful lighting reminded me of a Mario Bava film. However, I could also see how a grander production would not take away from the essence of the play. Randy has written an amazing tale on the life of Boris Karloff. He doesn’t cover every single film, nor should he, but he offers highlights from his journey in Hollywood, Broadway and beyond. There are props to help enhance the various segments, such as a mad scientist wig or the furry Monster jacket. But most importantly, what Randy does not give us is a Karloff impersonation. That was a vital key to making this performance a dramatic effort rather than simply a cartoonish homage. Yes, there are subtle moments where you can hear the Karloff lisp but it’s always done lovingly and never in jest.

Randy Bowser did extensive research for this project and received some invaluable input from Stephen Jacobs, author of the definitive Karloff biography, Boris Karloff: More Than a Monster. He also used Dear Boris by Cynthia Lindsey for some source material. Most importantly, he received an official endorsement from Sara Karloff, the daughter of Boris. Sara was present for both nights of the opening weekend performances. A wonderful Q&A was included on the DVD along with some fun pre-show moments. Sara stated that Randy nailed it and I wholeheartedly agree.

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Now, KARLOFF is available for everyone to enjoy on home media. By going to the KARLOFF website and clicking on the Premiere Video! link, you can purchase video files to download and watch on any device, or you can receive DVD folders ready to burn to your own disc. All of the content from the DVD I have is now available for you to purchase. You’ll receive the pre-show video, the play in two acts and the Q&A session with Sara Karloff. All of this for just $15 via PayPal. Absolutely amazing!

Of course, the play is still available to be licensed for local productions. I know I would gladly attend if this ever came to Kansas City. If you’re interested in making that a reality near you, check out the website for more information.

KARLOFF is an amazing piece of work and I cannot highly recommend it enough. It’s a loving tribute made for the monster kid in all of us.

If you’re still hungry for more, check out episodes 119 and 120 of the Monster Kid Radio podcast where Derek interviewed Randy, as well as his great interview with Sara Karloff.

Photos by Steve Anchell

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article published on Monster Movie Kid in November 2015.