Sunday, May 30, 2010

rock monster of the week

it wasn't a rock.. it was a rock snake!  sure, this feature has been missing for a few weeks, but I've been busy.

preparing to fire at the Zero-X crew!
our monster today is an indigenous life form from Mars.  shown in the fine fun film Thunderbirds are Go! (1966) these monsters wake up after being mistaken for lumps of rocks dotting the planet.  they can shoot deadly projectiles out of their mouths at their enemies. 

in the movie they come across as pretty hostile, but then the astronauts did blast a sleeping one into pieces, so one can understand why they might be a bit cranky at the crew.

the design is very cool, and the marionettes are well manipulated in the movie.  the scene is one of the highlights of the film, and the editing is done for maximum excitement and viewing pleasure.  besides, all movies need Martian rock snakes in them!

another plus in the movie is the appearance of Cliff Richard, Jr and the Shadows. one can only imagine the impact it had on kids of the day (including the People's Poet!).

Friday, May 28, 2010

quick, the smokes!

it's common among Godzilla fans to hate (some vociferously) the US version of KING KONG VS GODZILLA (1962). however, this was the first Godzilla movie (and first King Kong movie) I ever saw, so I'm not one of those fans.
bad aim!

I saw this at Christmas time, about 1971.  it was an amazing experience to watch, not having any idea what I was getting into.  I may have known something about King Kong, but I don't recall now.  that was almost 40 years ago.

the movie frightened me back then, especially when it appears Godzilla is chasing down the woman from the train.  it's such a great Godzilla suit, one of the most reptilian of all of them, and very menacing (especially if you are six years old).

tanks are useless against him!
the movie remains the Godzilla film that sold the most tickets in Japan to this day.  so it did something right.  

the Japanese version is a better movie, overall, but had it not been for the US cut, I might not be the giant monster fan I am today.  there's a lot of humor in the movie, both versions, which really helps make the characters likable and distinct.  I'm not sure if people even like any kind of humor in movies these days.

recently I got a fan made cut of the movie, which restores much of Akira Ifukube's music to the US version.  it's really something, and helps the movie tremendously.

one of the good things about the needless and mostly useless remake of King Kong was the release of this movie on DVD.  previously it had only been seen in a pan and scan version, and now it looks better than Toho's DVD. sadly, the really cool and sensational trailer is not included on the disc, but that's OK, we all know where to find it.

and for the record- every kid in 1971 knew who the winner was in this movie.  and it wasn't Godzilla.

Gamera DVD

not a catchy title, but that's OK, it's about Gamera!
Gamera sinks the ship!

it's odd that my professional monster career (such as it is) has been more associated with Gamera than Godzilla.  I like Gamera, and love several of his movies, but you know, he's not Godzilla.  or Ultraman. or... well, you get the picture. 

and yet I have had my name on two different Gamera projects now.  the first was the Gamera vs Guillon (aka Gamera vs Guiron and Attack of the Monsters) VHS tape from Neptune Media.  this was an excellent presentation, especially at the time.  widescreen and complete with original AIP-TV English dub from the fine folk at Titan/Titra.  my involvement there was completely accidental, I was writing an overview of the Gamera series for Scary Monsters magazine and I sent it to Neptune.  Bill Ferguson called me and asked if he could use the introduction as liner notes. done and done!  

some day I will present those notes here.

and now I have a special thanks for the fine new DVD from Shout! Factory of Gamera: the Giant Monster.  I highly recommend this DVD, as it's really great.  the picture is astounding as is the sound.  

there is a great documentary on the original Gamera series, talking to the director, the late, great Noriaki Yuasa. that alone is worth the price of the disc, since the movie on it's own merits isn't that great.  Gamera's best movies are a few years away (yes, that means the next two are not the best ones, deal with it).  Gamera has never looked better.

a lot has been written about the lack of the US version, Gammera The Invincible.  while I wish that it had been included, it's not like a good copy can't be found in various places (and I don't mean the 16mm versions floating around).

Friday, May 21, 2010

a cool exec with a heart of steel

 in 1994 the tv was awash in Marvel Hero cartoons.  this was a response to the excellent DC Batman cartoons. this included X-Men, Spider-man,  Fantastic Four and the subject here in, Iron Man.

like the other series of this type, it's not bad, but nowhere near as good as DC cartoons on at the same time.  it deals with Iron Man fighting the Mandarin ALL the time.  at least in the first season that I have watched. I don't mind a running villain, but I like the menaces to be mixed up every so often.

seems like the DC toons had better scripts to work with.  the voice cast here is just fine, but some of the lines are just cornball.

Iron Man himself looks pretty good, but the sleeker look of the DC cartoons would also work with the Marvel toons.  we also get to see War Machine, Hawkeye, Spider-Woman/Julia Carpenter (II), some guy named Century I don't know at all, the Scarlet Witch and a variety of guest stars.

looks like there were two seasons.  I watched some of this when it aired originally, but kept forgetting to tape it. 

there are some references to the overall Marvel Universe, but of course, properties licensed for other shows wouldn't be on this one.  it corresponded with a line of toys with a ton of Iron Man armor varients (what a surprise) damn toy companies!
they used then current storylines from Iron Man comics, though I've never been a huge fan I knew some of them.  very cool to see Fin Fang Foom animated though, and some of the lesser heroes.

still, I'd love to see Bruce Timm take on Captain America, especially if he was set back in the 40s.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Horror Hop!

this is what a Purple People Eater brought us to!  and it's just the tip of the iceberg, as horror and monster influenced songs abounded in the 50s and 60s.

there are only 31 tracks on this CD, and not every one is my cuppa.  however, at least half are fun and all are interesting in their own way. some, like "Big Chief Buffalo Nickel" are only very loosely connected to the monster/horror theme, but most are directly related.

worth a listen!  where are the cool monster songs these days?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Killed Bill

was talking to a friend about the Kill Bill movies.  I liked the first one OK, the second one not so much.  mostly they made me want to watch all the movies Tarantino "borrowed" from instead.

I pondered this, and came up with this reason.  the Bride is only in it for revenge.  she's not trying to kill the assassins she used to belong to for noble reasons, just her own self-centered ones.  that doesn't make her a very noble or likable character.  the fact she takes out a dangerous cadre of killers is secondary to her desire for revenge.

in a better example, take Shiro Kazami. he had his family murdered by Destron.  he wanted revenge for that, begged Riders 1 and 2 to make him a cyborg.  they rightfully said heck no. but when it did happen, he didn't keep fighting for revenge.  he decided to keep fighting to stop Destron for the good of humanity.

now that's a hero.  I know it's not "cool" to say negative things about QT's movies, but these sure weren't the be all and end all of martial arts movies.  not an original idea in them, and his supposedly hip dialog... really?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ultra weapons

one of the coolest things about Japanese superheroes is they have really cool weapons.  some are based on martial arts weapons (see Sentai groups, usually) and lots are not.

take Ultra Seven, if you will.  here we see his famous Eye Slugger, on it's way to slicing some alien creature apart. very effective, and like Thor's hammer Mjolnir it would return right to his hand after bisecting or even trisecting the defeated invader. 

this weapon is very similar to Ultraman's "shredding halo" and later Ultraman Jack's "Ultra Bracelet" among many others.

here we see Ultra Seven using his Emerium Beam (sometimes "Emelium" but I think it's spozed to be from emerald so that works for me just fine).

not quite the most common pose for him to fire it in though.

just a sample of the cool powers that make Japanese heroes a different flavor than their Western counterparts.  here's a cool opening theme song, too!