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Sunday, November 28, 2004

MERRY FUCKING CHRISTMAS – liner notes

Dear readers-
what follows are the liner notes to the CD I compiled while weathering the agony of being at home this Thanksgiving. If you have any suggestions for songs that I need to add to my collection please write in! And now, the notes:

Let’s get one thing straight: I hate the Christmas season. People being so fucking cheerful all the time, society painfully separated into the haves and have-nots, rampant commercialism, ludicrous television holiday specials like the one where the Flintstones celebrate the birth of Christ about a million years before he was born (yes, that actually exists), my mother dragging me off to midnight mass when I could have been getting laid or drunk, people utterly forgetting the point of the whole thing (which really bugs me, and I’m not even the least bit religious) and any number of other seasonal irritants. Yet, number one on my list of holiday dread is the endless, all-pervasive Christmas music. It first starts to wend its insidious way into my brain right around Halloween, and keeps on going until mid-January. Worst of all, my mother is probably the number one fan of Christmas music, so I’m even subjected to it when I go home for the holidays.

As you know, I refuse to bow in the face of oppression, so I began a campaign to save my seasonal sanity by finding pleasing (to me at least) alternatives to the vomitous dreck that I have to hear each year back in 1984. That was the year that I got my hands on the Feederz’s infamous vinyl sacrilege “Jesus Entering From The Rear,” a song that equates Christianity with a homosexual rape with a two thousand year duration. Nearly everyone who has ever heard this record finds it incredibly offensive, but it is such a catchy little punker that it is virtually impossible to get out of your head. From that point on, I have collected oddball Christmas records, and each year I treat myself to the latest in such items.

Here’s a compilation of questionable Yuletide classics culled from Brooklyn’s most infamous record collection, the Vault of El Buncho (over 1000 records and CDs, and still growing). Enjoy (or possibly be offended), and remember the cardinal rule:

THIS ONE AIN’T FOR THE KIDDIES!!!

MERRY FUCKING CHRISTMAS - Mr. Garrison
Nothing goes together like peace on Earth and rampaging ethnic/religious intolerance. “South Park’s” Mr. Garrison gives us his heartfelt sentiments on nations and people who have the unmitigated gall to not celebrate Christmas.

CHRISTMAS IS A COMIN’ (MAY GOD BLESS YOU) – The Shitbirds
This is one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs, twisted or not. This is genuinely fun, and you should check out the lead singer, April March’s first solo album, “Paris In April.” This one has to do with drunkenness and Santa’s elves happily manufacturing “Christmas cigarettes.”

HARK THE HAIRLIP ANGELS SING – John Valby
Easily the dirtiest recording artist in any musical genre in America, I have held this guy in the highest of low estimation for over twenty years, and my opinion has not changed one iota. Here’s a fantastic simultaneous ruination of a yuletide favorite and an offensive gag at the expense of the facially disfigured.

FUCK CHRISTMAS – Fear
The legendary Los Angeles punkers’ contribution to the Yuletide ouvre. I don’t know how well-known these guys are on your side of the pond, but they are best known for such classics as “Have A Beer With Fear,” “Beef Bologna,” “Mengele,” and that undisputed classic “New York’s Alright (If You Like Saxophones).” The vocalist, Lee Ving, doesn’t sing so much as scream like a drunken hockey fan. He was last seen somewhere around 1987 in an episode of the nauseating “Fame” TV series as a sensitive mob enforcer who belts out “The Impossible Dream.” A sad coda to a great crash-and-burn career.

FROSTY - John Valby
Did you ever see that shitty cartoon about Frosty the snowman coming to life, and being pursued by an evil stage magician (with character designs by Mad magazine legend Paul Coker Jr)? I first saw it around 1970, and it has polluted the American airwaves yearly ever since. This is the version of the song that needs a half-hour cartoon! Listen for yourself and see what I mean.

SANTA CAME HOME DRUNK - Clyde Lasley & The Cadillac Baby Specials
An early 1960’s R&B gem in which a black guy in a Santa suit decides to get seriously fucked up on Christmas Eve. Truly amazing.

DON’T BELIEVE IN CHRISTMAS - The Sonics
Another one about getting shafted, gifts-wise. From the long-defunct band that gave the world the classic ode to imbibing household toxins, “Strychnine.”

SANTA CLAUS IS WATCHING YOU - Ray Stevens
I was always a bit creeped-out by the idea of Santa seeing everything that you do, all year ‘round and grading you on it via what you get, gifts-wise. Theoretically, the fat bastard watched you while you were taking a dump or beating off, or stealing money from grandma’s purse, or whatever it is that kids get up to. From the genius who gave the world “The Streak,” this ode to Yuletide paranoia will always warm my heart because of the little kids’ hysterical cries of “He’s everywhere! He’s everywhere!” Sort of like a junior Kevin McCarthy at the end of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” The bottom line: if he sees you fucking up, forget about prezzies.

HOORAY FOR SANTA CLAUS - Sloppy Seconds
A brief bit of back story is required on this one: this is a rockin’ cover to the theme song from “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians,” a film that turns up perennially on lists of the worst movies ever made. Made in the early 1960’s on a budget of less cash than you have in your pockets when you’re naked, it truly must be seen to be believed. The basic plot: Martian children are miserable and lethargic, so the Martian elders decide to kidnap Santa Claus to make them happy. “Mystery Science Theater 3000” had a field day with it about ten years ago, and I run their version of it every Christmas Eve, along with the equally-awful Mexican “Santa Claus” movie (which features allegedly-African children in Tarzan getups with bones in their hair), that instant classic of Yuletide bad taste “Bad Santa,” and the splatter “classic” double-feature of “Silent Night, Deadly Night” and “Christmas Evil.” “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” (and “Santa Claus”) was re-released yearly for nearly two decades, and made a boatload of money over those years. Even at age six, I knew it was staggeringly bad. If you have never seen it, “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” is a film that I could not recommend more as a drunken party film. And it features the screen debut of seven-year-old Pia Zadora, who would later go on to bare all in such masterworks as “Butterfly” (in which her character fucks her father!!!) and “The Lonely Lady” (wherein her character is raped with a garden-hose nozzle by Ray “Goodfellas” Liotta. No, really).

HOMO CHRISTMAS - Pansy Division
The second-greatest gay Christmas song of all time. What’s number one? We’ll get to that…

IT’S CHRISTMAS - Bouquet of Veal
This song comes very close to nailing all of the details of my Christmases from 1985-1990. And, yes, I actually did once have sex with a girlfriend in the snow. I don’t recommend it (the snow part, not the girlfriend. Well, actually…).

BLUE XMAS – Bob Dorough
Bob Dorough is better known to most of us as the southern-accented guy behind the old “Schoolhouse Rock” TV segments such as “Three Is A Magic Number” and “Little Twelvetoes,” and here he demonstrates an incredible, soft-spoken seasonally driven cynicism that I wish I had written. Easily the most intelligent, erudite and musically sound entry on this disc.

A MERRY JINGLE – The Greedies
Thick-accented British punkers from back in the days get into the spirit.

DECK THE HALLS - Metal Mike, Alison & Julia
Why is it that heavy metal and Christmas go together so well?

O COME EMMANUEL - John Valby
The Master strikes again, this time combining stolid church music and ass-fucking.

HERE COMES SANTA’S PUSSY - The Frogs
This is the number one gay-themed Christmas recording. When Santa returns from his round-the-world gift-giving jaunt, Mrs. Claus takes a hike and Santa and the elves have a cross-dressing, bestiality-laden homosexual orgy to blow off some steam. I would love to see Ron Howard direct a feature film of this!

DADDY DRANK OUR CHRISTMAS MONEY - TVTV$
Self-explanatory and very funny.

RUN, RUN RUDOLPH – The Humpers
Nothing naughty or strange here, just a kickass version of the Chuck Berry chestnut.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, FUCK YOU – Jet Boys
What’s the first thing that you do when learning a foreign language? Learn all of the curse words, of course! Here’s what happens when a bunch of Japanese punk rockers get their hands on a translation book and decide to cut a Christmas record.

LITTLE DRUMMER BOY – The Bomboras
A great surf version of a tune that has been covered in a million different styles.

NOTHING FOR ME – The Muffs
Good girl-groups are hard to find these days, but the Muffs give me hope. A great, bitter little tune about getting shafted, gifts-wise.

I DON’T HAVE A CHRISTMAS TREE (SOYLENT NIGHT)
- Mark Mothersbaugh
Ah, Markie… The front man for my all time favorite band, namely Devo, contributes this ultra-disturbing blend of hip-hop, psychedelia and nativity-related cannibalism. Don’t know what “Soylent” is? Rent the movie “Soylent Green” and find out for yourself.

HOLY SHIT IT’S CHRISTMAS – Red Peters
The long-needed upraised middle finger to the odious “Chipmunk Song” from one of contemporary music’s most unashamedly offensive and puerile performers. Almost as funny as his immortal “Take It Out At The Ballgame,” this features Red’s vulgar adventures with a bunch of foul-mouthed hamsters who serve as vile stand-ins for Alvin and his douchey brothers. If the FCC would allow this to be played on the radio it would sell as well as the old Singing Dogs version of “Jingle Bells.”

I’LL BE STONED FOR CHRISTMAS -John Valby
This was the anthem of myself and many a college student in the 1980’s during the holidays.

SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN - Joseph Spence
I don’t know what was up when this guy recorded this one, but he sure as hell sounds drunk to me! Easily the most entertaining version of this song ever recorded. And it’s live, too!

CHRISTMAS WHEN YOU’RE DEAD – Ralph Sinatra
Hands down, this is the funniest Christmas song I have ever heard since it is cheerfully ghoulish and flagrantly disrespects both sappy holiday songs and the incalculably overrated talents of Frank Sinatra (I’m a Bing Crosby man). In a nutshell, this is the corpse of old blue eyes singing about the Christmas experience once he joined the choir invisible. Gains extra points for sending my very religious mother into a state of total apoplexy.

CHRISTMASTIME IN HELL – Satan
Here’s what happens when the Devil himself gets into the Christmas spirit.

NO PRESENTS FOR CHRISTMAS - King Diamond
What the…!!? A Christmas song from the Dark Lord of Nordic Satanic metal? Hey, stranger things have been known to happen.

CHRISTMAS IN JAIL - The Youngsters
A warning about drunk driving.

A SURFER’S CHRISTMAS LIST – Surfaris
Nothing naughty here, just some fun from the geniuses behind what may be the most famous surf instrumental, namely “Wipeout.”

KANSAS CITY – John Valby
The perfect coda to all of this seasonal bad taste, here’s one of Santa’s elves desecrating the 1960’s classic about going to Kansas City in search of chicks by turning it into a heartfelt ode to the fine art of titty-fucking.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

A LITTLE SEASONAL SACRILEGE

Thanks to the snowballing of Christmas commercials, music and decorations, I have chosen to whip out this timeless classic from the 1970's run of national Lampoon magazine, one of the seminal influences (for better or worse) on my sense of humor. When reading the following, think of it as a parody of John Lennon's early solo vitriol. And to think, two nice Catholic boys came up with this one!

MADONNA VOMIT (P.J. O'ROURKE & SEAN KELLY, 1973)

Away in a manger,
No crib for his bed,
His mother blew her lunch
All over baby Jesus' head!

CHORUS
Madonna Vomit!
Uuuuuuullllllllgggggh!
Madonna Vomit!
Uuuuuuullllllllgggggh!
Madonna Vomit!
Uuuuuuullllllllgggggh!

Jesus came from heaven
To save the human race,
But even Virgin Mary
Shot her cookies in his face!

CHORUS

The seraphim are gathered
And the whole angelic squad
To see the Blessed Virgin
Flash the hash all over God!

CHORUS

A tender little tableau
The star shines down upon:
The Virgin treating Jesus
To a Technicolor yawn!

CHORUS

The boss
On the cross
Died
Clyde


Friday, November 19, 2004

FISTED UP THE NORTH STAR: THE DESECRATION OF AN ANIME CLASSIC

There is no shame in self-awareness and I am painfully aware of the fact that I am a geek. Film, music, comics and television all have me venting my geekish spleen on a daily basis to all who are within earshot, and so here I go again. One of my geek faves is back in new animated installments, namely the pioneering classic in Japanese animated post-apocalyptic carnage FIST OF THE NORTH STAR, and being the hardcore that I am I wanted to bring you the skinny right away.

ADV Films has obtained the American rights to the new made-for-DVD series NEW FIST OF THE NORTH STAR and has begun releasing the chapters of this would-be series relaunch. However, as many of you are no doubt aware, if one knows where to look the intrepid hardcore geek can obtain the native language DVDs with fan-provided subtitles months — sometimes years — before a domestic release. I have seen the the entire trilogy in said form, and I will shortly tell all.

A while back I wrote a piece for the Pulse that would serve as an introduction to FIST OF THE NORTH STAR (being reprinted in the US at the time by the now-defunct Raijin Comics), and if you were a novice to the series while reading that I urge you to stop reading right here. The following review is for long-term fans who've read the whole long-assed saga, know it inside and out and are waiting for new developments in the adventures of Kenshiro, the post-apocalyptic successor to the unspeakably deadly martial art of Hokuto Shinken, so those who want to start fresh have been warned. Ready? Here we go:

Following the finale of his manga adventures, NEW FIST OF THE NORTH STAR finds Kenshiro continuing his wanderings and handing out ass-whuppings to those in need of serious killing in order to foster the after-the-bomb rebuilding of human civilization. Having ditched his holy robes and beads with no explanation, our hero encounters a group of villagers being wiped out by the requisite biker scum who populate the series. After swiftly dispatching the bad guys (in extra-gory fashion that — unlike the animated feature — is not blurred out), he takes the lone survivor to "Miracle Village" for treatment by a beautiful healer named Sara. She can heal even the most dire of wounds using a technique similar to the healing techniques of Kenshiro's discipline, and this leads to her kidnapping by the villains from "Lastland". The ruler of Lastland, Sanga, claims that a god lives there, and the god can create uncontaminated water with a mere gesture, so having a healer of Sara's ability only puts icing on the proverbial cake. Sadly, if you want any of the holy water, you have to willing to utterly subjugate yourself to a lifetime of slavery. Needless to say, Ken decides to rescue Sara and the alleged god (a kid who is more than he seems), and more ass-whuppin' ensues. So much for volume one.

As for volume two, after a brief recap of chapter one, Kenshiro must obtain medical supplies to save the young water-maker from death within two days, but he must take on the deadly dwellers of a forbidden mountain to get what is needed. The cliffdwellers fight with a style similar to Ken's, and they prove to be guardians of a grave secret... Meanwhile, back at the city of Lastland the vanquished dictator Sanga is replaced by the bitter Seiji, a man whose evil is rooted in his tragic childhood. Sara the healer looks to be the target of rape by Seiji; will she escape his lustful clutches? And what will happen to the people of Lastland when Seiji orders his army to kill all who oppose him, in other words the entire population?

Volume three is nothing more than an interminable festival of talking heads and the final confrontation between Ken and Seiji is a total snoozer.

FIST OF THE NORTH STAR has been justly famous for twenty years for its action-first, plot-second approach, but the new DVD adventures reverse the formula and as a result the new series falls flat on its ass. The whole appeal depends on the tenuous soap opera logic common to kung fu films; you know, just enough plot to get you to care about the heroes and villains and make you scream like someone dropped two cups of live tadpoles down your undies when the ass-whuppin' commenced. I'm all for plot but no one — repeat, NO ONE — wants that with this series. The fun lay in the idea of guys with Superman-level powers (and beyond in some cases) throwing down with hard-earned martial skills that veered into godlike territory, and in the current DVD series the viewer is utterly screwed out of that. If you ever saw the TV series from the 1980's you know that one fight could last for as long as four or five episodes with body-counts literally well into the hundreds, and the new version is barely tepid at best.

Another major point that sinks this effort from the get-go is the fact that Kenshiro righteously exterminated all possible worthy foes during the original manga. He has faced and killed the gargantuan last exponent of a style used by the Hindu gods, a warlord who could change his skin to impenatrable steel, a child-enslaving megalomaniac who derived his powers from a direct link to a phoenix, for fuck's sake, and even a guy who channeled what amounted to the Japanese answer to the Devil himself; what the hell else could possibly be left for him to conquer? The answer: nothing worthy of his skills. At the end of the manga he had resigned himself to perpetual wandering and quelling the pissant warlords who still remained. Unless telekinetic martial artists from the planet Zagron XVII show up, it's over, folks.

Oh, and the character designs are downright ugly as well, so this horseshit isn't even fun to look at.

Bottom line: the new DVD series is a major disappointment and since the final installment is not a non-stop avalanche of carnage that might have made up for stealing three hours from your life you would do better staying at home and mine your own butt-crack instead of wasting your time on this feeble dud. TRUST YOUR BUNCHE!!!

MOVIE GEEK HEAVEN: AN EVENING WITH RAY HARRYHAUSEN

I cannot believe that I neglected to post until now, but better late than never...

When it comes to entertainment that absolutely turns me on there are three creators who I revere with a love most people reserve for their chosen deities: Jack Kirby — key architect of what would become the Marvel Universe, Frank Zappa — a brilliant, irreverent trickster-god-as-musical-genius, and Ray Harryhausen. Ray Mother-Fuckin’ Harryhausen.

In case you just stepped out of the mothership, Ray Harryhausen is the man whose obsessive stop-motion animation skills breathed life into such unforgettable cinematic creations as the terrifying Medusa in CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981), the stunning cyclops and fire-breathing dragon of THE 7th VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1957), and the show-stopping gang of warrior skeletons in the wonders-laden JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963). The man is the very model of patience and professionalism but, most important for the world, he is the wise and loving grandpa who took our youthful minds on journeys into all manner of fantastic worlds filled with adventure, heroism and romance. The effects that he crafted were extremely personal, each one a glimpse into one man’s unique imaginative vision, a vision that in turn fired the imaginations of generations of children, many of whom would follow in his footsteps to create the next level of visualization of the impossible. His work has touched me in a very deep way and I truly feel for the audiences today who, having been weaned on a diet of CGI-realized spectacle, find the painstaking work of Harryhausen and his patient brethren…quaint. Well, fuck those people in the ear! I love the guy’s work — even in sub-par offerings like THE THREE WORLDS OF GULLIVER (1960) and SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER (1977).

On May 6th, while most of the country was glued to their in-house cathode-ray teat watching the final episode of the interminable monument to mediocrity that was FRIENDS, at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade theater there unspooled a cornucopia of fantasy and sheer movie magic that drew a sold out crowd of the faithful. I don’t know where they found them, but the Walter Reade film society unearthed cherry archival prints of both JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS and THE 7th VOYAGE OF SINBAD and the icing on this film-geek’s cake was the presence of Ray Harryhausen himself — who sat through the 6:15 show of JASON — who kindly did a Q & A session with the fans and also sat down for a signing of his autobiography, "Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life" (co-written with Tony Dalton and published by Billboard books).

The Q & A session was highlighted by the presence of an original model of one of the aforementioned sword fighting skeletons, and a bit later on the actress who played the princess in SEVENTH VOYAGE, namely Kathryn Crosby (formerly billed as Kathryn Grant in her pre-Der Bingle days), showed up to greet the fans. This event was the second time that I met Harryhausen; I met him some five years ago in Atlanta at a convention, spent about forty-five minutes talking with him one-on-one since the comics geeks in attendance didn't give a shit about some old fossil and did not turn up at his signing table, and I also tried to get him a book deal with a guy I know at Del Rey books, but that went nowhere. I'm assuming that the current book is the result of him finally getting a publisher interested in what is a no-brainer of a book that should have been published from the get-go.

UBER-GEEK SIDE NOTE: having secured my autographed copy of the autobiography I returned to my seat and waited for the second feature to start. I promptly saw Miss Crosby leave the auditorium in search of the concession stand and thought to myself “Am I that much of a fanboy?…Hell yeah!” and ran off in pursuit of the princess’ autograph. I humbly asked her to sign my book and she was flattered that anyone even wanted her autograph. She was utterly nice, gracious to the nth degree and a real old school lady. I will get rid of that book only under pain of death.

As for the book, if you are a Harryhausen fan this tome is tantamount to being handed the Holy Grail. The hefty 303-page hardcover mamma-jamma is loaded with exhaustive photos, design sketches, movie posters and everything a fan would want to read, all told in the words of the master himself. I have already read the book cover-to-cover four times and was enthralled by each page. Folks, if you accept no other recommendation from me, run to your local bookstore or comic shop and plunk down the $50 bucks for this gorgeous edition. If you give even the slightest bit of a damn about this stuff, it isn’t even like spending money.

IS "THE INCREDIBLES" THE BEST SUPER-HERO MOVIE EVER MADE?

Never one to shy away from unequivocally stating my opinion, I would like to officially nominate Pixar’s THE INCREDIBLES as the best super-hero movie ever made. Period.

Admittedly, such a statement is debatable, not only because of the number of films in this particular genre — a rather narrow field in which to find works containing any sort of excellence whatsoever — but also because of the difficulty of pinning down exactly what constitutes a super-hero flick. My own personal definition of what comprises a super-hero movie boils down to two criteria:
  1. The film in question must have as it source material a work in which the main character or characters are considered to be in some way “super,” whether they possess powers as part of their own physical abilities or not. Or:
  2. The film in question must have characters who are in some way “super” regardless of whether they come from a pre-existing source or not.
That’s rather simplistic, but it works for me. By allowing any “super” stuff to count, I open the category to include stories that have nothing to do with comic books, such as certain martial arts movies that go beyond the people-on-wires flying about that is pretty common to the genre (for example classics such as FIVE DEADLY VENOMS, THE STORY OF RICKY and MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE), tales of costumed adventurers and thieves (SUPERARGO AND THE FACELESS GIANTS, DANGER: DIABOLIK!, THE HEROIC TRIO) and intriguing explorations of the overall nature of the super-hero (UNBREAKABLE). By my definition THE INCREDIBLES falls squarely into the second category, since despite obvious tips of the hat to certain archetypes and specific characters, it is created from the ground up and not from any established source.

“So what makes THE INCREDIBLES so fucking good?” I hear you sneer. Let me break it down for ya:

AN ENGAGING STORY WITH CHARACTERS THAT YOU GIVE A SHIT ABOUT
All good movies begin with a solid story, a vital ingredient overlooked by the majority of super-hero movies. The Spider-Man movies and the first Superman films were winners because they took the time to let you get to know their heroes and that’s very important for engendering viewer interest. THE INCREDIBLES establishes a world in which super-heroes exist — or rather existed prior to being censured and banned by the government — and we are expected to take that as a given. The characters have the quality that made so much of Marvel’s work from 1961 on so much fun, namely they are written as normal, feeling individuals who just happen to have cool powers and a relatable quotient of everyday dysfunction. In the case of the Parr family, we are presented with a married couple of “supers” who have been together for fifteen years, had three kids (two of whom engage in the usual sibling warfare only with super-human skills thrown into the mix), cope with the inevitable signs of aging such as increasing girth, hair loss and sagging asses, life in a cookie-cutter suburban home, and, saddest of all, having no choice but to hide their fantastic abilities or else face prosecution. You really feel for Bob “Mr. Incredible” Parr as you witness the crushing mundanity of his job at an insurance firm and share in his frustration and impotence when confronted with his pint-sized asshole of a boss and company policies that care nothing for the people that they purport to help; gone are his days of fighting the good fight and making a difference in a world which needs him and those of his crime-fighting ilk, and now his only excitement is had by covertly listening to police radio bulletins with fellow unwilling super-retiree Lucius (aka Frozone) in hope that they can secretly once again aid society at large. He deeply loves his wife Helen (aka Elastigirl), who has been relegated to the role of stay-at-home mother to painfully shy tweener daughter Violet (whose power of invisibility is a physical complement to her insecurities), rambunctious super-speedster Dashiel ((Dash for short), and infant Jack-Jack. Bob and Helen argue about Bob’s projecting his need for recognition of superness onto Dash’s desire to compete in sports, an endeavor that would be unfair for obvious reasons, and it is plain that this is an argument that they have had many times before. Helen also fears that her husband is involved in an extramarital affair and her suspicions are only bolstered by a mounting batch of evidence that leads her down a path of sadness and eventual anger at the assumed betrayal. Super-powers or not, we know these people from our own experiences and we cannot help but be drawn in when they are all forced into action by the machinations of Syndrome, once a brilliant boy who idolized Mr. Incredible and whose irritating fanboy attentions lead to a long-ago snubbing by his hero, a snubbing that festered into sociopathic madness, a spree of mass murder against “supers” and insecurity-fueled megalomania.

THRILLS UP THE YING-YANG
One of the major failures of many super-hero flicks is that fact they simply are not exciting in even the most minute of ways. Name me even one truly thrilling moment in any of the Batman movies…You can’t, can you? Well, rest assured that THE INCREDIBLES kicks the audience in the ass once things start happening, and the plot leading up to the action is compelling in the first place so the cool stuff is all gravy! We have displays of super-powers from the second the films starts, but the truly adrenaline-pumping bits start with Elastigirl’s plane journey to Syndrome’s James-Bond-villainesque island lair in search of her husband, her two eldest kids having stowed away on board, and the missile attack that drops mom and the kids squarely into a situation that means life or death for the entire family. Upon reaching the island, Elastigirl informs her children in no uncertain terms that the bad guys they are about to face will not hesitate to kill them and they should take the spot that they are in as seriously as a heart attack; if threatened they are to look after each other and use their super-powers without hesitation. So with parental approval the kids can finally cut loose with what they can do, and that’s a damned good thing too, since their mother was absolutely right and these bad guys are out to exterminate them with extreme prejudice. We can actually feel Dash’s joy and exhilaration at being able to run at fantastic speeds, even as he’s being chased by heavily armed hovering pursuit vehicles; it’s what he was born to do, and it’s glorious to see him revel in his own specialness. Violet also shines when she discovers strengths and levels of her own powers that she didn’t even know she possessed, and we are right there with her, sharing in her triumph. Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl kick much ass as well, and when the action swiftly migrates back to the big city we are treated to a downright spectacular display of teamwork, sheer bravery and just plain damned cool visuals of super-people doing super things. And Frozone’s style makes the dyed-in-the-wool comics fan scream, “Eat your heart out, Bobby Drake!” NOTE: for the non-geeks reading this, Bobby Drake is better known as Iceman, one of the original five X-Men.

VISUALS TO DELIGHT THE EYE
Comics have always been a buttload of fun for many reasons, but the colorful images are one of the linchpins of the medium. No super-hero movie before now has really gotten across that particular aspect of the genre’s appeal, and the digital wizards at Pixar have pulled out all of the stops, unleashing a palette of vibrant colors, flawlessly animated movement, appealing character designs and intelligently-thought-out depictions of super-powers. When the Fantastic Four movie comes out I guarantee you that Reed Richards’ stretching powers will be little more than a pitiful, wet fart when compared to the work done in THE INCREDIBLES on Elastigirl; the animators really put a lot of thought into how her powers would look, and if she were a professional stretching hero like she is, she’d have her malleable skills down to an art, with a quick-witted reaction time to go with it, and Elastigirl has that in spades.

STELLAR VOICE ACTING CAST
Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Jason Lee…’Nuff said, although special mention should be made of writer/director Brad (THE IRON GIANT) Bird’s turn as the tiny cross between James Bond’s Q and legendary Hollywood wardrobe designer Edith Head, Edna Mode; Edna steals every scene she’s in and is a comedic masterpiece. If there were an Oscar category for best supporting animated actress, Edna would be going home with a little gold nekkid guy in March.

No bullshit, folks, THE INCREDIBLES could only be better if it handed you a six-pack, a righteous blunt of Maui Wowie, a Beef Wellington prepared by Wolfgang Puck, and a night of bedframe-destroying, fluids-a-flyin' fucking with the fantasy celebrity of your choice, complete with the willingly-agreed-upon option to get it on videotape to prove that it actually happened. Do yourself the favor and make sure that you see it on the big screen so you can be awash in the spectacle as it is truly meant to be seen. There is movie magic aplenty to be had in THE INCREDIBLES and in these days of soulless films-by-committee, that’s a precious commodity indeed.

And that’s my argument for THE INCREDIBLES, so please write in with your own nominee for the best super-hero movie ever made, along with a decent argument to prove your point. And I don’t give a damn what any of you say: all of the live-action Batman movies sucked ass. They are visually murky, boring, void of anything resembling action and scripted by talent-free hacks (Akiva Goldsman, anyone?). The only good Bat-flick is the animated MASK OF THE PHANTASM and I thank the gods of cinema that I got to see that one on the big screen during the fifteen minutes when it was in theatrical release! So there!

50 THINGS I LEARNED FROM THE MOVIES

Lemme set you straight on something right now: I have seen a shitload of movies in my mere 39 years on this planet. No, really. I'm such a fiend for films that I will sit through virtually anything, including GIGLI, which by the way was bad, but not as bad as you've been lead to believe. Anyway, from the thousands of movies that I have enjoyed (and in many cases subjected myself to) I have managed to glean many gems of wisdom that the filmmakers most likely did not intend to include in the finished productions. Truth can be found in the unlikeliest of places, even in the smoking ruins of an Ed Wood movie. What follows are just some of the many things that the world of cinema has taught me over the years. Read on, geek-boy, and ya just might learn something.

1. Women in prison are the cleanest people on the planet because they seem to shower every fifteen minutes or so.

2. Musical numbers can and will break out at any time or place for no adequately explained reason.

3. Criminal Masterminds bent on world domination always tell the hero about the intricacies of their plans in graphic detail, thereby fucking their own schemes in the ass.

NOTABLE EXCEPTION: Auric Goldfinger was smart enough not to do this;

instead he went straight for the option of killing James Bond outright, by cutting him in half, nuts-first, with an industrial laser beam, but let him live for possible interrogation. Bond then escapes and just happens to overhear the details of "Operation Grand Slam" while in hiding.

4. All Asians will totally kick your ass. Run for your life if the person in question suddenly removes his shirt, or if he/she's really old with long white hair. Trust me on this one.

5. The number one place not to live in, for any reason, is Tokyo. Homeowner's insurance rates must be astronomical! Transylvania comes in a distant second.

6. If Jennifer Jason Leigh is in a movie, she will, at some point, be naked.

7. Giant monsters never shit. NOTABLE EXCEPTION: Gyaos (in GAMERA-GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE).

8. Most extraterrestrials speak fluent English or Japanese.

9. If you are a parent character in a Disney film, you probably won't survive until the end of the movie.

10. People in Foreign films are either very boring/pretentious, or exceedingly violent/nude.

11. Elvis mastered every profession known to man and used all of the as an excuse to sing, fight, and bang hot chicks.

12. James Bond must be sterile and is apparently immune to all forms of venereal disease.

13. If the house that you and your family just moved into was once the site of any event with the words "Massacre," "Terror," "Horror," or "The (FILL IN THE BLANK)ing" in it, move out immediately.

14. Satan is everywhere, employing myriad forms and names, and he will get you. Period.

15. Never have premarital sex anywhere, especially not at a summer camp.

16. Monolithic (and mono-syllabic) Teutonic guys played by Arnold Schwarzennegger always have names like "John Matrix," which seems perfectly normal to everyone who knows him.

17. All Black people can dance, speak the hip lingo of the day, and are expert marksmen with the majority of extant firearms.

18. Pam Grier is the most perfect woman ever to walk this earth. She still looks terrific, and she survived dating Richard Pryor!!! Runner-up: Ursula Andress, c. 1962.

19. Guys, if you're going to whip it out on camera, at least have something worth whipping out; formerly known as "Richard Gere's Law," this has re-designated in recent years as "Ewan MacGregor's Law, in honor of his mighty flesh-truncheon.

20. The Three Stooges were the greatest martial artists in screen history. They would have offed Bruce Lee in about a minute.

21. Women die of mysterious "women's diseases," and get more beautiful as they get closer to the final curtain (as in LOVE STORY and countless others).

22. In the world of action heroes, firearms have little or no recoil whatsoever.

23. Charleton Heston is simply incapable of playing "Joe Average."

24. Contrary to popular belief, Marlene Deitrich was not a man.

25. Cigarette smoking makes you manly (see Humphrey Bogart).

26. Alcoholism is not only zany, but hardcore alcoholicscan function as though virtully unimpaired (see any of the THIN MAN flcks).

27. People can make friends with dangerous animals with little or no effort, and the animals in question will obey their every whim without hesitation.

28. Any guy, no matter how butch, can make a convincing female impersonator (see SOME LIKE IT HOT, TOOTSIE, TANGO AND CASH, I WAS A MALE WAR BRIDE, and most especially David Carradine in SONNY BOY).

29. In the 1950's most alien worlds were inhabited by stunningly nubile young women longed to be taught the Earth "art" of kissing.

30. If a meteorite crash lands near you, do not examine it or its contents.

31. In war, your comedic sidekick — usually named "Brooklyn" — will inevitably die tragically, spurring you on to a feat of near-suicidal heroism.

32. In the 1950's, women's breasts were shaped more like rocketry than mammalia.

33. White people in blackface are completely believable as Negroes.

34. Surfers' hair stays perfectly dry and styled, no matter what kind of waves they've been battling ("Avalon's Law").

35. Despite living in the jungle with apes for over twenty years, Tarzan does not smell bad or fling his feces at those he does not like.

36. There must have been a plague that at some point wiped out most black people, since we seldom show up in the future.

37. Cavemen/women existed at the same time as the dinosaurs, and had hairstylists and beauticians available at all times.

38. Cars that engage in high-speed chases are nearly indestructible and have the shock absorbers of the gods.

39. When he wasn't killing people, the Frankenstein Monster was a pretty cool guy.

40. In WWII, all elite Nazis wore monocles.

41. Despite his flamboyant outfits, Flash Gordon was not gay.

42. If the films of Woody Allen are to be believed, black people do not exist and New York City is an urban wonderland full of witty intellectuals. I live in the Five Boroughs, and I can tell you without a doubt that that is bullshit.

43. There is a very good chance that your parents may be crazy/cannibals/space-aliens/intergalactic despots.

44. Anthropomorphic cartoon animals are the most dangerous creatures on the planet. Plus, they are indestructible.

45. Glass makers in Hong Kong must be the wealthiest guys on the planet, due to the inordinate amount of people shooting/being thrown through window panes and glass sculptures.

46. Nothing signifies cool like a slow-motion closeup (see James Woods in JOHN CARPENTER'S VAMPIRES).

47. Absolutely anyone can learn any form of elaborate/improbable style of martial arts in virtually no time at all, as evidenced in MY KUNG FU 12 KICKS, DRUNKEN MASTER, CHALLENGE OF THE LADY NINJA, THE CRIPPLED MASTERS, and countless others.

48. Death does not neccessarily mean that your social life is over.

49. It must be illegal to be anything less than stunningly beautiful in Italy, Spain, Brazil, and France since there are apparently no ordinary looking people in any of these countries...except Gerard Depardieu and Roberto Benigni.

50. Even a whiny geek can defend the galaxy. Yeah, I'm talkin' about you, Luke Skywalker!

Thursday, November 11, 2004

DAIKAIJU 101: A FIELD GUIDE TO TOHO'S GIANT MONSTERS

After watching GHIDRAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER yet again a few days ago, I started thinking about the rich pantheon of giant monsters (or "daikaiju" as the japanese call them) that the geniuses — and to be honest, also hacks, specifically Jun Fukuda — at Toho studios have allowed to run rampant onscreen since 1954. Many are majestic and mystical, some are ass-out ridiculous and some are just plain embarrassing. If you are reading this then you are also part of a dying breed of monster fan, and it’s now time for the hardcore geek-out. Much like the endless debate among comics fans about “who’s strongest?” there are many such debates raging at all times regarding the monstrous spawn of the Land of the Rising Sun, and while you may be well-versed in such matters you probably aren’t at my Sir Kenneth Clark-like level of geekish knowledge on these affairs, so it’s my duty to set the record straight on giant monsters and it’s your duty to disseminate the following utterly useless assessment among those whom you know to be like-minded. Just remember that Gamera, despite the 1990's Toho-produced trilogy, was originally a competitor from Daiei studios, so he and his many low-rent foes ain't gonna be discussed here. So without further ado:

GODZILLA

Somehow managing to stay completely awesome for over fifty years (!!!) and many series entries that turned him alternately into both a puppy dog and a pussy, there is simply no substitute or equal for the Big G. Originally envisioned as a symbolic anthropomorphization of the horror of nuclear devastation, Godzilla has since muscled his way into the popular consciousness as the unstoppable juggernaut par excellence of the whole daikaiju breed; armed with an atomic heat ray, regenerative powers that pretty much make him invulnerable, that cool-ass roar, an incredibly bad attitude and the most identifiable signature theme tune this side of James Bond and Shaft, Godzilla just plain rules.

VERDICT: a solid 5 out of 5, despite years of wimped-out versions and that fucking Hanna-Barbera cartoon.

ANGUIRUS

Showing up in the first sequel to the original Godzilla and sticking around ever since (despite being decisively killed during his first appearance, much like Big G himself), Anguirus is basically a gigantonormous hedgehog. No cool powers, no interesting origin, just simply some dude crawling around in a goofy costume and letting loose with a cry not unlike an asthmatic wheeze. Other than its recent appearance in GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK, Anguirus has never been more than the sidekick who accompanies Godzilla when he has to kick some tag team ass on other rubber-suited critters in such anti-epics as GODZILLA ON MONSTER ISLAND (in which it talks! Talks, for Christ’s sake!!!) and GODZILLA VERSUS MEGALON.

VERDICT: a useless motherfucker if ever there was one, Anguirus should have been retired after its first appearance, but is somehow nonetheless considered a welcome presence due to its longevity. Fuck that shit, this Spiny Norman wannabe is lame. 2 out of 5.

VARAN

Showing up only once after its own self-titled movie, Varan is perhaps the biggest failure of the Toho monsters who were intended to spawn a series. Just like the original concept for Big G, Varan is an ancient monster who shows up in the then-present day to wreak havoc, the difference being Varan can’t carry a movie. Basically another giant lizard, Varan has some sort of super-breath and the ability to fly thanks to membranous wings that stretch from its armpits to its ankles. The original Japanese version of VARAN THE UNBELIEVABLE (1962) contains nearly a half hour of monster mayhem footage that was excised for no apparent reason for the American version and subsequently replaced with incredibly boring footage of some American GI and a kimonoed Japanese woman who looks suspiciously like she was found hanging out on Sunset Boulevard; in short, both versions suck out loud. Not seen since DESTROY ALL MONSTERS (1968), let’s hope that this oversized Rocky the Flying Squirrel will continue to languish in well-deserved obscurity.

VERDICT: so lame that it needs a crutch, Varan earns the dreaded 1 out of 5.

RODAN

The textbook example of how initial potential can be subsequently squandered, Rodan has not fared well over the years but is still kinda fun. After a spectacular debut in the first of the color Toho monster films, Rodan was reduced to a google-eyed, cartoony-looking puppet that didn’t do much but fly around in circles. In the first film, there were two of the damned things, and they are among the few giant monsters that actually ate people. I earnestly hope for some sort of decent handling of this character in future, but it seems unlikely, and that’s pretty sad for a monster that seems to have inspired the lyrics from Gas Huffer’s “Crooked Bird”:

When you hear that crooked bird, just close your shutters tight
Heed the warning written here and live to see the light
If you look into the sky you’ll catch its eye
It will alight…

VERDICT: the monsters seen in the first film get a solid 4, but the later goofy version and the so-called “Fire Rodan” each get a 2.

MOTHRA


Despite being pretty much ruined after its 1960’s appearances, Mothra started out in what is arguably the best of Toho’s monster/fantasy epics and was at the time the only Toho monster that was actually a god (or goddess if you include the first two appearances). The American version tries to pass off the ludicrousity of a Giants Stadium-sized moth by attributing such gigantism to the ever-popular atomic radiation excuse, but in the original japanese version Mothra had actually been worshipped as a deity by those South Seas Islanders for quite a while; long enough for a culture to have grown around said worship, along with the presence of those tiny twin chicks who are explicitly stated in the Japanese dialogue to be a couple of faeries. No other monster since Godzilla has caused so much fucking destruction that it can be considered a force of nature; rules of science and modern weaponry simply do not work against Mothra since such human concepts pale before the power of primal Earth magic. Mothra’s origins and qualities are strongly Shinto in many respects, and who other than those wacky Nips would come up with such an idea as a world-shattering caterpillar? I mean, we’ve all seen it swimming across the ocean, looking like nothing so much as giant “floater” doody, as the navy endlessly bombards it with everything they’ve got and Mothra just swims blithely on in a single-minded mission to rescue her priestesses. Cities crumble in its wake, and though a goddess of peace, Mothra’s main lesson is simple: “Don’t fuck with my faeries.” And who can forget when she decides it would be easier to get around if she could fly, so she constructs a huge cocoon on the Tokyo Tower?

When the army hits the cocoon with an atomic heat ray and the now winged Mothra emerges with nary a scratch — and a cry that makes me think she’s screaming an especially mocking “Nyaah Nyaah!” — you realize that she just can’t be stopped. Once she gets the faeries back she ceases all ass-kicking and heads home, happy as Michael Jackson at a Cub Scout gathering. Sadly, that Mothra croaked during her next appearance but her mantle was carried on by her twin offspring, neither of whom come off as anywhere near as tough as their mom. In subsequent features there is only one Mothra, with no mention of what happened to the other (shades of Rodan!). And do not get me started on the 1990’s revival wherein Mothra is a fucking alien who protects the Earth or some such bullshit! NOTE: don't miss the rerun of CHEERS where the guys go to a Toho festival at the drive-n and Frasier snobbily blurts out "What the hell is that? A giant moth?" and is promptly given a patient and informed guided walk-through by the bar's resident idiot, Woody, on just who the monsters are.

VERDICT: The original Mothra is one of the all-time great monsters, so she gets a rock-solid 5. The subsequent critters to bear the name are all pretty and shit, but they just don’t have the godlike awesomeness of the original. They all get a 3.

KING GHIDORAH

Easily the most visually splendid of the Toho menagerie, Ghidorah (or Ghidrah if you prefer) is pretty much like some Lovecraftian space alien, only on crack and with the ability to breathe focused microwaves. Sheer, balls-out evil, Ghidorah has always managed to be a hell of a lot of fun even when the movies that he’s in suck out loud. And I defy you to find a cooler entrance than when it first showed up as unformed energy erupting from a psychedelic fireball in the Kurobe Gorge; I once watched that one on mushrooms and HOO BOY was it cool! However, I won’t discuss MechaGhidorah since who needs to see such a kickass monster turned into what amounts to a cyborg nitro-burnin’ funnycar?

VERDICT: Visually awesome, a total badass, Satan in a three-headed rubber suit. Need I say……5?


GOROSAURUS

A lackluster sort-of Tyrannosaurus who looks exhausted after taking a really major jalepeno dump. It evidenced some sort of super-kick against King Ghidorah for about two seconds in DESTROY ALL MONSTERS, but other than that feeble display Gorosaurus really serves zero purpose.

VERDICT: A stone-cold bore, but he gets a 2 from me because he isn’t offensive, just boring. "Borosaurus," perhaps?

KING KONG

Okaaaay… The real (read “American”) Kong is the greatest movie monster ever. Period. Kimono Kong showed up only twice and during its first appearance it was one of the flat-out most bogus-looking creatures ever to stomp a city, and he was a fucking drunk to boot! And as much as I hated the comedy of KING KONG VERSUS GODZILLA, I have to confess that I love the famous publicity photo of Kong with his arms outstretched while Godzilla is burning off his nuts with an atomic heat ray blast (which I have yet to locate online). The suit is a bit better in KING KONG ESCAPES since it no longer looks like a black Donald Duck in a fur coat, but he’s still not all that.

VERDICT: Even the Dino DeLaurentis version is better. 2

MINYA

I fucking hate Minya, him and his mutated/retarded-looking ass. End of subject.

VERDICT: 1 is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do…

BARAGON

Is it just me, or does this critter resemble a huge, goofy puppy with a horn on his forehead? All it does is burrow around a lot, occasionally breathe fire and look really silly — which is hard to do when you’re starring opposite a 130-foot-tall Japanese Frankenstein. Oh well, at least it eats people.

VERDICT: 2

FRANKENSTEIN

The origins of this monster remain somewhat cloudy; he’s either a creature that generated out of the disembodied heart of the Frankenstein monster which is irradiated at Hiroshima, or he’s an orphan who ate said irradiated heart and subsequently gets hit by the ugly stick and sprouts up like a motherfucker. I go with explanation number one, but it is specifically mentioned that his features are not Caucasian, so who the fuck knows? Anyway, other than the fact that he’s a giant Frankenstein with astounding regenerative powers this guy has nothing going for him; sure, he kicks Baragon’s ass, but so could pretty much any monster. Sadly, Japenstein has been relegated to the vaults of memory since his one and only starring turn.

VERDICT: Frankenstein earns a 2 solely for the sheer goofiness of him being a giant ugly Japanese dude in a Tarzan suit. And that Fred Flintstone fashion sense is pretty damned kooky; I mean, where did he get animal skins that big?

MECHAGODZILLA

The name says it all, however the merits of this character vary widely from film to film. Its two Seventies appearances come off as nothing more than feature-length toy commercials and its design only drives that point home more bluntly, but since the Godzilla series had degenerated into straight-up kiddie flicks by that point that comes as no surprise. Aggressively silly, Mechagodzilla was pretty much a saurian version of Giant Robot from the TV series Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot, complete with those missile launcher fingers. The nineties were kinder to Mechagodzilla as his revamp in 1993’s GODZILLA VERSUS MECHAGODZILLA proves in spades; now basically a vehicle controlled by yet another anti-Godzilla paramilitary team rather than the tool of evil space aliens, Mechagodzilla is a seriously ass-kicking piece of hardware who gives Big G a run for his money.

Things only get better with the latest incarnation, which features a semi-cyborg version infused with Godzilla’s own DNA. Visually impressive and packed with weaponry up the ass, this is an opponent worthy of the Big G. And that Absolute Zero Ray…fucking awesome!!!

VERDICT: The early version was a joke, but the two most recent variations are cool enough to warrant a solid 5, especially the most recent one.

MECHAKONG

Predating Mechagodzilla by nearly ten years, this robotic version of Kimono Kong was developed to dig for radioactive ore that the real Kong couldn’t handle. It inevitably gets into a rather ho-hum fight with the real deal and that was that. Not very interesting but at least it looked cool.

VERDICT: 2 purely for the visual.

SPIGA

Known as Kumonga in Japan, Spiga occupies a unique place on the roster of the Toho beasts because it is actually scary. In case the name doesn’t ring a bell, we’re talking about that big-ass spider in SON OF GODZILLA; remember it now? That motherfucker had me under the coffee table when I was a wee Bunche and it still looks sinister. Basically a big, hairy marionette, Spiga had a grace of movement unusual for a giant monster and that only makes it more disturbing.

VERDICT: Spiga gets a 4 for being different.

MANDA

A classical Asian dragon brought to life by a none-too-convincing puppet, Manda is pretty useless as a threat. Other than getting its ass kicked by the super-submarine Atragon and derailing an elevated train in DESTROY ALL MONSTERS, Manda is wicked boring.
VERDICT: 2

HEDORAH

Better known as the Smog Monster, Hedorah is pretty badassed for something that looks like a crazed egg fu-yung surmounted with a big pair of greasy testicles. Able to spew incredibly corrosive farts that melt people on contact — no, seriously! — and armed with an appetite for industrial smokestack bonghits, Hedorah is the personification of pollution (which its name literally translates as) and for that reason alone it needs a serious ass-kicking. It’s also apparently female, since after Godzilla decisively kills it, Big G gorily reaches into its abdomen and removes its eggs.

VERDICT: Visually unpleasant, greasy, wiggly and about as close to a Cthulhoid critter as you’ll find in one of these flicks, Hedorah is major bad news and sort of resembles a walking ocean of frat boy vomit, in fact I swear you can almost smell it. Its movie may have been pretty bad, but I really, really love this monster. 5

EBIRAH

More commonly referred to as “the Sea Monster,” this giant escapee from an Arthur Treacher’s shrimp special has nothing going for it other than looking pretty realistic. Godzilla kicked its ass pretty easily, but then again what do expect from a monster whose name literally translates as “shrimp-rah?”

VERDICT: Earns a 3 purely for its visual and that mean batting claw.

KAMIKIRAS

The group name for those big-ass praying mantises in SON OF GODZILLA. These guys were visually interesting, but that’s about it.

VERDICT: 2

GABORAH

This guy was the big, electric bully monster in the infamous GODZILLA'S REVENGE, and his appearance was the second major harbinger of the kiddie-oriented direction that the series was headed in (the first bad omen being Minya). Fantastically silly-looking, colored like a rotting banana and possessing one of the most annoying monster noises ever, this guy was a loser from the second he showed up on screen. I mean, how tough can you be when you live to pick on Minya? Yeah, I know that standing up to bullies was pretty much the point of that film, but these are fucking monsters for Christ’s sake, not humans, and to see them act like people is just plain ludicrous.

VERDICT: 2 solely for the fact that just seeing this guy makes me laugh.

BATTRA

The visually stunning “battle version” analog of the 1990’s Mothra. Craggy, covered with horns and looking sort of like a Big Daddy Roth hot rod adapted to bug form, Battra was the one good thing to come out the movie that spawned it.

VERDICT: 4

GIGAN

A strong contender for the stupidest-looking Toho monster, Gigan has the distinction of being able to almost single-handedly restore fun to even the worst of Big G movies (see GODZILLA ON MONSTER ISLAND). Let’s break him down: a one-eyed bird head, foofy fairy wings, tusks, horns, gigantic singular claws instead of hands and feet, and la piece de resistance — a big fucking buzzsaw that stretches from its neck to its nuts. Always evil and with a bad attitude, Gigan exists to goofily kick ass and is a joy to behold. Easily the best thing to come out of the kiddification of the series.

VERDICT: A solid 4 for sheer entertainment value; so what if he doesn’t make a lick of sense?

DOGORA

Pretty much forgotten these days, this bizarre alien only showed up once in the movie bearing its name. It was pretty much a huge, floating jellyfish-thing that ate diamonds, which was a downer for the jewel thieves who were the protagonists of the movie. No personality to speak of, but it was really cool looking. Too bad the movie's boring like no other Toho flick before or since...

VERDICT: 4 for the visual.

SANDA and GAIRA

The brown and green Gargantuas, respectively, from the much-beloved WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS. One good and shy, one evil and man-eating, everybody loves these guys because of their tragic brotherly interdependence. These guys score very high on the character meter despite a total lack of superpowers other than their size (although the Gaira can survive underwater). By the way, in a detail obscured by the American version of their film, Sanda and Gaira are the result of cells shed by Japanstein in the ocean and the woods

VERDICT: A solid 4 for each of the big boys.

TITANOSAURUS

A so-called “gentle monster” who is controllable by humans. That’s pretty much it, folks.

VERDICT: 1

MEGALON

Another of the great silly monsters, Megalon is basically a “mega-roach” with a bad attitude, drill hands and a hankering to kick ass. His one film really sucks the hairy nutsack until he shows up with Gigan in tow to tag team Godzilla and everyone’s favorite blatant Ultra-Man ripoff, Jet Jaguar. That fight is a classic of sheer stupid fun, and should not be missed. And when all is said and done Megalon is a pretty hardassed monster!

VERDICT: A well-deserved 4.

MOGERA

The first of the giant Toho robots (from 1957’s THE MYSTERIANS), Mogera is pretty much a blending of a giant robotic mole and feudal samurai armor design with ocular death rays thrown in for good measure. Reinvented as “the ultimate weapon” in the disastrous GODZILLA VERSUS SPACE GODZILLA, Mogera has never been terribly interesting and deserves its place in relative obscurity.

VERDICT: Mogera gets a 2 purely for its first appearance, wherein it looked cool wandering around the countryside blowing shit up.

BIG-ASS OCTOPUS

For some reason the Japanese really like big octopi — hey, me too! — and they turn up frequently in giant monster movies and their small-screen equivalents. The three best known of these in the Toho stable (referred to in print as “Oodako” or, loosely translated, "big-ass octopus") are the ones that showed up in KING KONG VERSUS GODZILLA, WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS and the infamous — and hilarious — excised footage from FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD. With no superpowers to speak of other than obvious gigantism, the big-ass octopus is always fun to see, but it is rather disturbing to see a live octopus slithering along miniature sets obviously gasping to breathe. The Toho crews claim to have eaten the live animals used once their scenes were over, but it’s still harsh to observe. Remember, kiddies: cruelty to animals is never cool.

VERDICT: Since tentacled wigglies are always welcome, big-ass octopus gets a solid 3.

BIG-ASS CONDOR

Imaginatively named Ookondoru — or “big-ass condor” — in Japan, this loser showed up once in GODZILLA VERSUS THE SEA MONSTER in order to be swiftly flash-roasted in midair by Big G, and again in stock footage for GODZILLA'S REVENGE. Not worth discussing, and I couldn't even find a shot of it online, so I subbed it with a shot of the title monster from THE GIANT CLAW (1957), a monster even more bogus than Big-Ass Condor, and THAT'S saying something.
VERDICT: 1

KING SEESAR

An Okinawan monster-god who is another in the long line of protector deities, King Seesar is utterly without interest.

VERDICT: Seesar gets a 2 purely for its crazy, carnival-like appearance.

BIOLLANTE

A gene-splicing of Godzilla, a rose bush and a young Japanese girl…Surprisingly, no LSD was involved in the creation of this visually amazing kaiju, and it has a visual that is both beautiful and incredibly weird. Basically a treestump with a crocodile head, a radiation-absorbing organ on its chest (?) and a multitude of tentacles with mouths on their ends, this is one strange mamma-jamma.

VERDICT: A solid 4 for its visual and conceptual uniqueness.

MEGAGUIRUS

A big, pissed off dragonfly with a deadly stinger. Hands Big G a pretty heavy ass-whupping, but that’s about it.

VERDICT: Earns a 3 for sheer toughness.

ORGA

This is that alien thing from GODZILLA 2000 that starts out looking like a tentacled bicycle seat

and ends up as a pretty dull Ultra-Man reject with a death ray that emits from its shoulder.

Whatever…

VERDICT: Earns a 2 for its first form, but that’s about it.

SPACE GODZILLA

Spawned from the DNA of Godzilla that went through a black hole and emerged from a white hole, Space Godzilla is one wicked fucking stupid monster. Those idiotic crystal shoulders… That’s it, my patience has finally run out.

VERDICT: 1

Oh, and before I forget, my research yielded this rare shot from the "lost" 1960's Godzilla opus, GODZILLA VERSUS THE SEMEN MONSTER (1969) or, as it was retitled for U.S. distribution, GODZILLA'S ASS-FUCK RAMPAGE.

Sometimes it pays to be a cinema scholar!