On June 20th, 2015, the Historic Bal Theatre in San Leandro, CA hosted it’s fourth “Godzilla Night”. GN is a mini film festival of movies featuring the king of the kaiju. This night, they were playing Godzilla, King of the Monsters and a collection of newly discovered monster films called Kaiju Gaiden.
But the film I went to see was the ultimate beast brawl, King Kong vs. Godzilla. It was the first Godzilla movie I saw as a child. Released in 1962, KK vs G pits the ultimate American movie monster (Kong) against the ultimate Japanese movie monster (Godzilla). A Japanese pharmaceutical company that collects narcotic berries from some jungle island (I forget where), is pressured by a tv exec whose show is sponsored by the company, to go back to the island and “find him a monster”. So two men named Sakurai and Furue go to the jungle island. Did I mention that the natives there worship a giant god? Did I also mention that the two explorers give the gift of cigarettes to the natives (including a child)? Did I forget to mention that a giant octopus attacks the village? Seriously, why aren’t we talking more about the giant octopus?
As I said previously, a giant octopus attacks the village. One hut in particular has a young woman and her son in it. In the nick of time, Kong shows up and fights the octopus. After that long and tedious fight, he needs a couple of drinks. Cue the berry juice which puts him to sleep. The natives show their thanks with song and dance. How he sleeps through it is anyone’s guess. A knocked out Kong is brought back to Japan.
But wait, someone else has returned. Why it’s none other than Godzilla whose only objective is to…um, uh, destroy Tokyo! How do we stop him? With rocket launchers? With a nuclear bomb? No! To fight a monster, we need a monster! Bring in the giant gorilla! An awaken, cranky Kong and Godzilla duke it out. There’s much destruction in the process. People flee! Camera’s roll! And Kong and Godzilla tumble into the ocean. Godzilla disappears and Kong, fed up with civilization and radioactive dinosaurs, decides to swim back home.
While not as strong a classic like the original 1954 version of Godzilla, it was a fun movie experience. I arrived at the theatre at 2:30 (the program started at 3 pm). Flashed the ticket I bought online. Went to purchase some popcorn, soda and candy and sat down to an orchestral recording of the Godzilla soundtrack and watched a slideshow of kaiju artwork done by children and local artists (you then could go online and vote on which artwork you liked best). Then the announcer came on stage and introduced two people dressed as King Kong and Godzilla. A woman handed them two “boulders” (they were grey beach balls) to throw into the audience. Whoever caught them won a free Godzilla t-shirt. I know what you’re thinking. No, I didn’t win one, I was sitting too far back.
After the film, I went to three different kiosks that were selling Godzilla merchandise. I bought a small Godzilla figurine for $5.
There wasn’t a huge crowd for the afternoon event but it was a sizeable assortment of people of all ages from the young to the old with some avid Godzilla fans sprinkled in. I’m not a huge Godzilla fan myself but I recently bought the Criterion Collection release of Gojira, which I was impressed with because of it’s message of nuclear disarmament and it’s depiction of Japanese culture. It’s one of the best films of the 50s.
I also went because I prefer smaller, more intimate, “Geek” events as opposed to larger, more lucrative, commercial events like Comic Con. The former (for me) is much more affordable, more easygoing and requires less travel than the latter.