Saturday, February 8, 2014

Gigantis - The Fire Monster (1955)

Godzilla Raids Again (ゴジラの逆襲 Gojira no Gyakushū?, lit. "Godzilla's Counterattack"), is a 1955 Japanese Science fiction Kaiju film produced by Toho. Directed byMotoyoshi Oda, and featuring special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya, the film starred Hiroshi Koizumi, Setsuko Wakayama, and Minoru Chiaki. The second film in theGodzilla series, this was a direct sequel quickly put into production to capitalize on the box office success of Godzilla the previous year. This was the first film in the series to feature a "monster vs. monster" scenario, as it introduced Godzilla's first foe, the quadruped monster Anguirus. This scenario of Godzilla battling other giant monsters would become a staple for the rest of the series.

The film was released theatrically in the United States in the Summer of 1959 by Warner Brothers as Gigantis, the Fire Monster. This American version of the film was heavily edited as it not only gives Godzilla a modified roar and a new origin, but also changes his name from "Godzilla" to "Gigantis", trying to pass the monster off as a completely new character. This move was considered a failure, and all subsequent American cuts of Godzilla films would use the character's proper name.

The Plot
Two pilots named Shoichi Tsukioka and Koji Kobayashi are hunting for schools of fish for a tuna cannery company in Osaka. Kobayashi's plane malfunctions and is forced to land near Iwato Island, an uninhabited strip of rocks formed by volcanic eruptions. Tsukioka then looks for Kobayashi and finds him safe, with only a wrist sprain. While talking, the two men hear some strange sounds and find two monsters fighting. Tsukioka immediately recognizes one of the monsters to be Godzilla. The two monsters then fall off a cliff, into the ocean. Tsukioka and Kobayashi report to the authorities in Osaka, and find out that the other monster Godzilla was fighting is Anguirus. A group of scientists with the two pilots research Anguirus in a book written by a Polish scientist. Godzilla and Anguirus lived around the same time millions of years ago, and there was an intense rivalry between the two monsters.
Archaeologist Kyohei Yamane, who experienced Godzilla's attack in 1954, is also present at the meeting, and shows a film (composed of clips from the 1954 film) of the original Godzilla attacking Tokyo. He confirms that this Godzilla is a second member of the same species, and that it and Anguirus were probably brought back to life by the same hydrogen bomb tests that awoke the original Godzilla. Yamane states that there is no way to kill Godzilla, and that Daisuke Serizawa, the inventor of the Oxygen Destroyer, had died and burned the formula. Yamane, though, suggests that the military should use flares on Godzilla to attract the monster away from the shore. Godzilla becomes angry when he sees lights because the hydrogen bomb's bright explosion had awakened and mutated him. Godzilla arrives on the shore of Osaka. While a blackout of all city lights is enforced, jets are sent to shoot flares from their planes to lead Godzilla away from the shore. Godzilla sees the flames, and, as Yamane predicted, starts to leave.

Meanwhile, a prison truck transports dangerous criminals to another part of the country. All of the criminals, using body language, convey to each other that the cover of darkness caused by the city's blackout provides a great opportunity to escape from prison. The prisoners beat up the two policemen guarding them inside the truck, and run away. A few of them find a gasoline truck, and use it to escape. The truck crashes into an industrial building and starts a massive fire.

The fire, much brighter than the planes' flares, attracts Godzilla back to the shore of Osaka. A few minutes later, Anguirus swims to shore and attacks Godzilla. The two creatures fight an intense battle, while destroying several buildings, including the tuna cannery that Tsukioka and Kobayashi work for. In the course of the battle, the criminals are drowned in the subway when it is flooded by the thrashing of the two monsters. Godzilla finally bites Anguirus's neck, and throws him upside down into a moat near Osaka Castle. Godzilla then fires his atomic ray at Anguirus, burning him to death in the ruins of the famed castle.

Tsukioka and Kobayashi are transferred to a Hokkaido plant. During a company party, Tsukioka and Kobayashi are notified that Godzilla destroyed one of the company fishing boats. The military and Tsukioka begin a massive search for Godzilla. Tsukioka spots Godzilla swimming to the shore of a small, icy island. He notifies the cannery, and Kobayashi takes off in his plane to switch shifts with Tsukioka. Kobayashi dives his plane towards Godzilla to distract him from walking back into the ocean. Tsukioka, who has transferred to the air force,travels on a jet with an old college friend. They drop bombs on Godzilla but are unsuccessful. Godzilla then wades towards shore. Kobayashi dives towards Godzilla again but Godzilla fires his atomic ray on Kobayashi's plane. The plane then crashes on an icy mountain, killing Kobayashi. Tsukioka is devastated but realizes that the military can shoot missiles at the mountain, and bury Godzilla in an avalanche, thereby freezing him to death. The jets fire their missiles, and bury Godzilla in snow and ice up to his waist.

The jets return to base to reload, and Tsukioka is authorized to fly in his own jet. The jets return to the icy island, only to find that Godzilla is digging his way out of the previous avalanche. They fire a fresh round of missiles at the mountain, triggering a new avalanche, burying Godzilla up to his neck. Tsukioka then fires his own missiles, burying Godzilla completely, thereby finishing the job. The men return home and receive the homage of a grateful nation, and Tsukioka and the woman he loves are at last able to go forward with their lives in peace.

Instead of merely re-dubbing the film, Henry Rybnick and Edward Barrison planned on a radically altered Americanized version called The Volcano Monsters which was planned for a 1957 release. All scenes with Japanese actors would be cut, saving just special effects scenes, and these would be altered to reduce the apparent size of the monsters to a more dinosaur like scale. In addition, all scenes with Godzilla breathing fire were to be cut. A totally new script was written by SF screenwriter Ib Melchior, and Ed Watson to be shot with American actors. New special effects footage was to be shot as well, and to that end Toho sent the suits for Godzilla and Anguirus to the United States.

The Volcano Monsters never went into production because the studio that was supposed to produce it, AB-PT Productions, closed its doors in 1957. In 1958, producers Paul Schreibman, Edmund Goldman and Newton P. Jacobs bought the rights to Godzilla Raids Again and planned to dub the film since The Volcano Monsters fell through. While the finished product was much closer to the Japanese original thanThe Volcano Monsters would have been, it still differed greatly from Toho's original movie. Instead of marketing the film as a sequel to the original Godzilla movie, Schriebman decided to rename the monster "Gigantis" and change his trademark roar to Anguirus' roar to convince the audience that they were seeing an entirely new monster. This act of changing Godzilla's name and roar was greatly criticized by fans and critics, but contemporary publications and articles made in the following years did not acknowledge its existence as a sequel.

Schreibman, Goldman and Jacobs hired Hugo Grimaldi to dub and edit the film. George Takei, who would later play as Lt. Hikaru Sulu in the original Star Trek television series, was among the voice-actor cast, in addition to Keye Luke, Paul Frees, Marvin Miller, and James Yagi (who would later appear as Yutaka Omura in the U.S. version of King Kong vs. Godzilla). The film was dubbed at Ryder Sound Services in New York. ~ From Wikipedia

82 MIN

Saturday, August 31, 2013

It Conquered the World (1956)

It Conquered the World is a 1956 American science fiction film about an alien from Venus trying to take over the world with the help of a disillusioned human scientist. It was directed by Roger Corman, written by Lou Rusoff (with uncredited contributions by Charles B. Griffith who didn't wish his name on the film), and starred Peter Graves,Lee Van Cleef, Beverly Garland, and Sally Fraser.
Dr. Tom Anderson (Van Cleef), an embittered scientist, has made contact with a Venusian alien with his radio transmitter. The alien wants to take over the world using mind control devices, but claims it only wants to bring peace to the world by eliminating emotions. Anderson agrees to help the creature and even intends to allow it to assimilate his wife (Garland) and friend Dr. Nelson (Graves). The alien then disrupts all electric power on Earth, including motor vehicles, leaving Dr. Nelson to resort to riding around on a bicycle.

After killing a flying bat-like creature which carries the mind control device, Nelson returns home to find his wife assimilated. She attempts to force assimilation on him with another bat, and he ends up killing her. By then the only people who are free of control are Nelson, Anderson, Anderson's wife and a group of soldiers camping in the woods. Dr. Nelson finally persuades the paranoid Anderson that he made a horrible mistake about the alien's motives, allying himself with a creature bent on world domination. When they discover Tom's wife took a rifle to the alien's cave to kill it, they hurriedly follow her. The monster kills Mrs. Anderson before the two doctors can rescue her. Finally seeing the loss of everything he holds dear, Dr. Anderson kills the monster himself, dying in the process.

The script was originally written by Lou Rusoff, but before it was finished his brother died and he had to leave for Canada. Roger Corman called in Charles Griffith to rewrite it two days before filming commenced. The creature design was an idea of Corman's. He thought that since the creature came from a big planet, it would have been designed to deal with heavy gravity and would be built low to the ground. Corman later admitted this was a mistake, saying the creature would have been more frightening if it was bigger or taller. When Beverly Garland first saw the creature she commented "That conquered the world?" and kicked it over.
From Wikipedia

69 MIN

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Ice Station Zebra (1968)

Ice Station Zebra is a 1968 cold-war era suspense and espionage film directed by John Sturges, starring Rock Hudson, Patrick McGoohan, Ernest Borgnine, and Jim Brown. The screenplay by Alistair MacLean, Douglas Heyes, Harry Julian Fink, and W. R. Burnett is loosely based upon MacLean's 1963novel of the same name. Both have parallels to real-life events that took place in 1959. The film was photographed in Super Panavision 70 by Daniel L. Fapp, and presented in 70 mm Cinerama in premiere engagements. The original music score is by Michel Legrand. The movie has an all-male cast.

148 MIN

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Flesh Eaters (1964)

The Flesh Eaters is a 1964 American horror/science fiction thriller, directed on a low budget by Jack Curtis and edited by future filmmaker Radley Metzger. The film contains moments of violence much more graphic and extreme than many other movies of its time, making it one of the first ever gore films.

A wealthy, over-the-hill actress named Laura Winters (Rita Morely) hires pilot Grant Murdoch (Byron Sanders) to fly her and her assistant Jan Letterman (Barbara Wilkin) to Provincetown, but a storm forces them to land on a small island. They soon meet Prof. Peter Bartell (Martin Kosleck) a marine biologist with a German accent who is living in seclusion on the isle. After a series of strange skeletons wash ashore (human, then fish) it turns out the water has become inhabited by some sort of glowing microbe which apparently devours flesh rapaciously. Bartell is a former US Government agent who was sent to Nazi Germany to recover as much of their scientific data as possible. He was chosen for the job for his scientific skills and knowledge of the German language. Using the methods learned there he hopes to cultivate a group of monstrous "flesh eaters" that can devour the skin off a screaming victim in mere seconds. A beatnik named Omar (Ray Tudor) joins the group after becoming shipwrecked on their shore. Tensions mount after the plane drifts off into the ocean, leaving the castaways and Bartell as potential meals for the ravenous monsters.

High-voltage electrification (from a battery system devised by Bartell) is utilized in an attempt to slay the monsters. Bartell explains that he has been tracking these creatures and attempting to cultivate them to sell as biological weapons. Soon after it is discovered that the electrical shock instead increases their powers. The high voltage causes the numerous smaller creatures to join into a larger version. By accident, the survivors stumble upon the solution. The creatures devour flesh but not blood, as in each case that remains have been found blood has been present. Bartell surmises that the creatures have a negative reaction to hemoglobin and when directly injected with it the creatures are indeed slain. Following a struggle Bartell is killed just before Murdoch destroys the last of the creatures. The film has developed a cult following due to its gruesome, if primitive, special effects, including some memorably bloody death scenes. One character is eaten from the inside out by the titular monsters, resulting in a gushing fountain of intestinal matter. Another victim is stabbed with a wooden stake, then shot twice in the face, with resultant gaping bullet holes. These scenes, as well as some occasional unintentionally campy moments, have helped to make the film a favorite for late night TV fanatics for decades.

The deep focus cinematography was the work of director Jack Curtis (working under a pseudonym, Carson Davidson), who shot every scene outdoors under the sun of Long Island. The film was scripted by comic book writer Arnold Drake (The Doom Patrol, Marvel's Captain Marvel, et al.). Drake storyboarded the film, so every shot has the careful, formalized composition of a well-drawn comic strip. One shot, for example is a shot in deep focus: the right profile of the hero dominates the left-side foreground of the frame; in a moment, two or three tiny figures at the far-removed shoreline move left to right, from behind the actor's head, and in focus. ~ From Wikipedia

87 MIN

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Cycle Savages (1969)

With its sleazy violence, psych-rock soundtrack and wooden acting, The Cycle Savages (1969) ticks all the boxes of the outlaw biker gang film. Trashy even by the standards of this trashy genre, it wheels along without a hope of being a leader of the bikesploitation pack – unlike The Wild One (1953), with its iconic performance from Marlon Brando, or The Wild Angels (1966), featuring Peter Fonda’s famous nihilistic ‘we wanna get loaded’ speech. The Cycle Savages instead brings up the rear alongside roadhogs such as The Born Losers (1967), She-Devils on Wheels (1968) and Satan’s Sadists (1969).

Yet it is also a film about the power of art. Clean-cut, law-abiding Romko (Chris Robinson) is an artist who witnesses a sadistic biker gang called Hell’s Chosen Few terrorizing customers at a local diner. He makes speedy sketches of the criminals at work. The drawings are formally stiff, heavy on workman-like shading, but made remarkably quickly given the circumstances. Rumour of his sketches reaches Keeg (Bruce Dern), the gang’s psychotic leader. A local bartender warns Keeg about Romko. ‘He’s been drawing pictures alright. Plenty of ’em. You give him any trouble, he’s got pictures of you and your whole gang he can take to the cops.’ Hell’s Chosen Few are involved in running a prostitution ring and Keeg’s paranoia grows: ‘What’s gonna happen when The Man gets hold of these, huh?’ he asks his greaser hoods. ‘If they get hold of these pictures they’re gonna start connecting things up, right? The automobiles, the trips to the border, even the girls! Now you think we want pictures like this, huh, hanging all over town?’ He hatches his cruel revenge: ‘We gotta find a way to get these man’s hands, and wreck ’em. ’Cos without his hands, he ain’t gonna make any more drawings.’

Remarkable throughout is the bizarre and unquestioning belief on the part of everyone involved – from bikers to cops – in the veracity of the drawings. Never is it suggested that the artist may have made up the scenes he depicts. Romko’s art is treated as hard evidence, his pencil and paper as good as any photographic proof. The Cycle Savages is, in its own schlocky way, about art speaking truth to power, a fantasy of art having a clearly defined and practical social role.

Romko is fearless, and stands by what he makes, as all artists should. When the gang tries to intimidate him outside his apartment, and Keeg pulls out a flick-knife, the artist, unafraid, sneers at him: ‘My friend, the art critic.’ -Dan Fox frieze

BILL BRAME  (1969)
82 MIN / USA