Monday, March 23, 2015

WolfCop (2014)

One of the perks of being a genre fan is that, ever so often, a movie comes along that you're certain was made especially with you in mind. Sometimes you realize this during something like the containment purge sequence of The Cabin in the Woods. Other times it's a promising concept that still requires a trailer to fully sell you, like Pacific Rim. And other times the concept is so beautiful you have to see it, even before you see a mostly promising trailer.

Naturally that brings us to 2014's Canadian horror comedy, WolfCop. Given the film was at least partially crowdfunded, you could argue it's the most literal example of "made for genre fans" you can imagine. I mean, just look at the basic concept and tell me it doesn't sound like it was made for me: a loser deputy becomes a werewolf and uses his new found powers to fight crime.

I was so sold that, even though I know that werewolf movies are often awful, I came this close to buying it on Blu-ray, sight unseen. And since I've become a father, that particular dangerous impulse has become a lot easier to curb.

Sadly, I am forced to report it's a good thing I have this newfound self control.

The town of Woodhaven used to be a pretty nice place to settle, apparently, but these days it's a dump whose biggest business is Liquor Donuts ("What more could you want?" is their slogan) and its only claim to fame is its annual "Drink'N'Shoot" and the legendary "Woodhaven walking bear" (as opposed to a crawling bear, I suppose), a local equivalent of Bigfoot. It's also overrun by gang activity--most notoriously The Piggies, a bunch of goons in pig masks--and meth dealers. The local Sheriff's department is considered an impotent joke, but that may be because the whole department appears to be staffed by two deputies: Sergeant Lou Garou (Leo Fafard, and yes that really is the name they gave him) and Sergeant Tina (Amy Matysio). Tina is a marvelously competent cop, as evidenced by the "Officer of the Month" plaque that has her name engraved under every month.

Lou is a completely other story, however. We're introduced to him as he wakes up late in his filthy house--note the fish tank with a beer bottle in it--next to some half-naked woman he clearly doesn't know, and downs another bottle of beer before stumbling out to his patrol car and dropping his gun under it. It's not exactly surprising that crime is pretty much unopposed in Woodhaven, is it?

The Chief (Aiden Devine), who doesn't actually seem to be the Sheriff, is well aware of Lou's bumbling alcoholism on the job, but doesn't seem in any hurry to fire him despite chastising him in front of everyone whenever he can. It's uncertain if this is more because of the fact that the Chief can't find anybody else to take his place or because Lou's father used to be one of Woodhaven's finest and the Chief is still hoping Lou will somehow straighten up and make his father's legacy proud.

That doesn't seem likely to happen any time soon, though. Sure, Lou makes a token appearance in the office to relieve Tina from her night shift and he does actually go to investigate a disturbance call from his friend Willie Higgins (Jonathan Cherry), the town's local gun shop owner and resident conspiracy theorist. But as soon as Lou concludes that the footage of "Satanic activity" that Willie shows him as an explanation for all the missing pets of late is actually a bunch of teenage metalheads having a party in the woods, he heads right to the Tooth and Nail. As you might imagine, the Tooth and Nail is the local bar and its current proprietor is the far-too-hot-to-be-a-backwater-barkeep Jessica (Sarah Lind), but we'll later find out it used to be run by Tina's father.

The bar quickly is invaded by two unwelcome intruders. The first is an unnamed local crime boss (Jesse Moss), I'll call him Teardrop due to the tattoo on his face, who harasses a few patrons in full view of Lou and then settles into a corner booth with his lackeys. The second is Terry Wallace (Ryland Alexander), a young politician seeking to be the first person to run against incumbent Mayor Bradley (Corinne Conley) in a long time. Poor Terry and his megaphone are booed right out of the joint, though.

However, that won't be the biggest obstacle to Terry's political career. When Lou decides to go investigate another disturbance call in the woods outside town, he finds Terry hung upside down from a tree. Terry has just enough strength to warn Lou that someone's behind him, but it's too late--Lou is clubbed over the head by someone in a hooded robe and plague doctor mask.

He wakes up in is own bed, but something is clearly amiss. He gets flashes of mysterious robed and masked figures surrounding him and carving an inverted pentagram into his chest, like something from a half-remembered dream. It's probably not a good sign that he actually does have an inverted pentagram carved onto chest, and the fact that his stubble immediately grows back before his eyes when he tries to shave is a bit weird. Even weirder is that as soon as he steps outside, he is overwhelmed by sounds he shouldn't be able to hear and smells he shouldn't be able to perceive.

Worse than that, he's immediately called to the woods where Terry Wallace has been found with his throat torn out and thoroughly exsanguinated. Terry may not be hanging from a tree any more, but it's understandable that Lou is a bit reluctant to mention what little he remembers of the previous night. The Coroner (James Whittingham) rules it an animal attack. The Chief is reluctant to release the information to the public, but Mayor Bradley promptly goes on the local news where she announces that The Drink'N'Shoot will be canceled due to the concern for public safety. So, amazingly, you can't accuse the film of going the expected Jaws route.

Tina offhandedly asks Lou if he can remember when the last time The Drink'N'Shoot was canceled. That gets the detective gears in Lou's head to start grinding again, rusty though they may be. As a matter of fact, the Drink'N'Shoot seems to get canceled in a clear pattern: once every 32 years. Even more bizarrely, Lou seems to think it is somehow related to the upcoming solar eclipse. Mind you, whatever lead Lou is following is not enough to keep him from warming his seat at the bar. And, for some reason, Jessica decides that that night is a good time to close early so she can set up a fling with Lou after getting him roaring drunk.

Unfortunately, it's a full moon and Lou is suddenly overcome with nausea and has to rush downstairs to the men's room. Jessica, still oddly committed to sleeping with a guy who was seconds away from puking on himself and her, decides to amuse herself while she waits by playing a song on the jukebox and sweeping up. Thus she doesn't notice three henchmen sent by Teardrop who sneak into the bar with baseball bats to head down to the bathroom after Lou. Naturally, this is a mistake on their part, because Lou has just been struck by his first werewolf transformation.

"Oh my God! I thought that was just an old wife's tale!"
Now, this is one of the oddest aspects of the film. Lou doesn't turn into an actual wolf or even a bipedal wolf, like in The Howling or Dog Soldiers. He just turns into the sort of wolfman you expect to see in a Lon Chaney, Jr. or Paul Naschy film. Yet, his transformation involves his human skin tearing apart and being shed to reveal the werewolf underneath, with all the gore and slime you'd expect from that. It doesn't really seem to fit. Even worse, this first transformation starts off with Lou urinating, the urine turning to blood, and then a prosthetic of his penis bursting like a hot dog in a microwave to reveal a completely furry one (!) underneath. I'm sure it will please the kind of people who love Troma films, but it struck me as a bit much.

Well, now that Lou Garou has lived up to his name, the goons that were after him naturally don't fare too well. The first two he messily takes apart, the third just gets his short torn off and flees. Jessica goes to investigate, but a glimpse of Wolf Lou sends her running and screaming, too. However, we'll soon see it wasn't to the nearest phone. Meanwhile, the goon who returns to Teardrop emptyhanded gets his eye stabbed out as punishment for his failure, as Teardrop is unmoved by the man's insistence that Lou turned into a wolf.

Lou wakes up, naked but for his underwear, and cuffed to an unfamiliar bedframe with fuzzy handcuffs with a dog sitting on him. It turns out he's in Willie's apartment, as Willie greets him with the not at all alarming, "How's your butt?" This will actually prove to be a non-sequitur, because when Willie gleefully shows Lou the footage of how he tranqed the werewolf version of him, the darts we see are only in Lou's upper back. Lou is understandably skeptical, even when Willie serves him scrambled eggs and Lou promptly chokes on them because Willie seasoned them with wolfsbane, which is for werewolves what garlic is for vampires.

Luckily, Willie helpfully washed Lou's uniform--which was very bloody, he notes--because Lou's wolf senses tell him Tina has just arrived to pick him up. In one of the many ways this film's plotting is poorly constructed, you'll note that Lou at some point in the previous sequence has suddenly just accepted he is a werewolf. Tina takes him to the murder scene at the bar, where she notes that among the corpses is a chunk of skin that sure looks a lot like Lou's face. She just uses that to mock Lou, though, and not to conclude he is involved. Lou raises her suspicions when he offers to cover the rest of her shift, which he never does, However, she can't detect any obvious ulterior motive and agrees.

In the meantime, Lou hits the local library to comb through past articles on The Drink'N'Shoot. You wouldn't think he'd need to do this, however, because what he uncovers is that his father went missing after Tina's father was killed under bizarre circumstances and then his father was found dead days later. Per the article, Lou was ten at the time and you wouldn't think that even a perpetual drunk could forget how his father mysteriously died when he was ten years old. Lou then finds an Occult Mythology book (by shouting at the librarian, "Hey, you got any books on Devil Worship?") and checks it out so he can go over it with Willie.

According to the book, a werewolf is created by choosing a person--usually the "village idiot" so ythe creature is easier to contain--and cutting the pentagram into their chest before draining the blood of a sacrifice onto them. Then, at the time of the solar eclipse, when the werewolf will be weakest, it is ritually killed and drained entirely of blood. The blood is then either imbibed while fresh or crystalized for later use. Who would want to drink werewolf blood? Why, shapeshifters, of course--the blood of a werewolf maintains their unnaturally long lifespan. If you're anything like me, you'll note that the picture of a shapeshifter in the book is a lizard man and begin immediately hoping for a climactic lizard man vs. werewolf throwdown.

Lou's plan for that evening is to lock himself in a jail cell, while Willie films his transformation for science. Tina walk in on this plan, but Lou somehow convinces her that what he's doing makes sense and gets her to leave before his transformation hits. Once it does, Lou immediately demands Willie provide him the nearby huge bottle of whiskey and box of donuts, both courtesy of Liquor Donuts, of course. After that he's pretty relaxed in the cell, until a call comes in. Over Willie's objections, Lou suddenly feels a need to fulfill his "Protect and Serve" duties by responding to the call of a robbery at Liquor Donuts.

Thus, Willie is dragged along as WolfCop makes his debut. Three of The Piggies are robbing the joint, and the leader sends his subordinates to run crates of liquor to their van--where they are intercepted and killed by Lou. Lou charges in to deal with the last Piggie and we get the exchange that almost makes the whole film worth watching by itself:

Piggie: "What the fuck are you?"
WolfCop: "The fuzz."

Lou decides to not kill the last Piggie after a hostage standoff ends with the criminal fainting in fright. As he departs Liquor Donuts to return to his car, Willie amusingly implores him to hurry with, "Why don't you kill someone else on the way to the car?" After Lou's wolf strength causes him to pull the driver's side door off his car, he gets the idea to go into the nearby body shop and...customize his car. Weirdly this mainly involves festooning it with various "W" symbols, turning the light on top so it runs lengthwise instead of crosswise, and most noticeably not replacing the driver's door.

WolfCop's next stop is to pee on some taggers (!) before driving out to a barn in the countryside that houses a meth lab. It's also where we just saw Teardrop snorting some kind of red, crystalline powder. Hmm, could Teardrop be one of the shapeshifters that turned Lou into WolfCop? Well, luckily for Teardrop, he's not there when WolfCop bashes into the barn and begins shredding Teardrop's henchmen. The highlight of this is definitely the guy who gets his face ripped off, whereupon WolfCop throws the face onto his windshield and Willie's freaked out eaction is to try and get it off with the windshield wipers.

Eventually, WolfCop departs just ahead of the meth lab he smashed exploding and obliterating the barn. This is actually a really good effect, but also a delightfully obvious miniature.

Meanwhile, Tina and the Chief are completely baffled when they get to Liquor Donuts, because the only description they can get out of the witnesses is, "It was a big Wolf Cop!" Dawn is approaching so WolfCop and Willie return to the police station...where Jessica is waiting, dressed up like sexy Red Riding Hood. Wait, what? Jessica immediately intimates that she wants to WolfCop to do a little huffing and puffing, if you know what I mean. Bizarrely, Willie objects to this--I say bizarrely, because his objection is only that WolfCop might be too strong and pose a danger to Jessica. The fact that Jessica somehow knows that Lou is a werewolf and is not just cool with it but turned on by it, doesn't strike either man as really damn bizarre.

"What? You didn't know most bartenders are into furries?"
WolfCop tells Willie in no uncertain terms to go wait outside, and then he and Jessica bang in the jail cell, which is set to music only slightly less appropriate than the use of "Hallelujah" in Watchmen. This is a bizarrely tasteful scene for a film that earlier featured exploding genitals (well, as tasteful as a guy in a werewolf suit simulating sex with a naked woman can be), and while it's definitely another excuse to flash some breasts at the audience it doesn't seem to be played for any obvious joke. You'd expect it to be as broad as possible, and the lead-up with the expected "what big eyes you have" joke certainly is, but unless we were just expected to find the sequence funny on the mere basis of it being a love scene with a wolfman, I can't be certain it was actually meant to be a joke. As my girlfriend observed, you kind of get the feeling somebody involved in the film's production really wanted this scene to happen for, um, personal reasons.

Afterwards, Jessica naturally covers herself in a sheet like it's a dress while they both enjoy afterglow cigarettes. Jessica comments that she's really glad that she waited to sleep with "this better version of you." WolfCop is completely okay with being told that, so suck on your lesson about embracing your true self, Teen Wolf!

Except that Jessica then puts the horse tranquilizer that Willie brought Lou earlier into WolfCop's drink. As it takes effect, Jessica suddenly changes into Mayor Bradley. Yep, Jessica and Mayor Bradley are not only the same person--which must mean that being Mayor of Woodhaven is incredibly easy if she has time to be a sexy bartender on the side--but she is a shapeshifter. Oh, and Willie was also in on the conspiracy all along, too. In fact, he warns her that Lou is stronger than the other werewolves, maybe because of the alcoholism. Mayor Bradley chastises him for having grown attached to Lou* and then makes him destroy the tape he earlier made of Lou's transformation, as there can't be any evidence. Somehow, neither conspirator notices the obvious security camera pointed right at the jail cell.

[* One of the weirder things throughout the film is the implication that Willie and Lou might be attracted to each other, but with Willie being a bit more interested than Lou. It's clearly deliberate, but it ultimately comes to absolutely nothing. Which is a real shame, because the two have way more sexual chemistry than Lou and Jessica]

Tina arrives at the station after Lou has already been taken to where the shapeshifters intend to sacrifice him, with their surviving human goons standing watch. For some reason after Tina reviews the security camera footage, she figures out that she needs to load up with guns and ammo and head to the woods where her father's body was found before the solar eclipse takes place. And holy crap, the solar eclipse is an unnecessarily embarrassing CGI effect. Here's a tip for filmmakers: you can't actually see the details of the moon during an eclipse, so just making a featureless black silhouette of the moon is actually more convincing.

Lou wakes up chained to a tree, and discovers that there are three shapeshifters looming over him: Willie (who is also the Coroner), Jessica (who is also Mayor Bradley), and Teardrop (who is also, dun dun dun, the Chief). The three have been creating and sacrificing werewolves in Woodhaven for ages, the last time around Lou's father and Tina's father were their chosen victims. And whatever feelings Willie may have toward Lou, they aren't enough to stop him from going through with the ritual.

Luckily, Tina arrives just as Lou transforms into a werewolf during the eclipse--and despite the earlier talk about him being at his weakest, we don't see any evidence of that here--and Mayor Bradley stabs him with a sword so Willie can collect the blood in a goblet. As the shapeshifters sip from the goblet, Tina makes her move by first shooting the one-eyed henchman in his remaining eye. She then shoots Willie in the head, whereupon he falls down and transforms into his true reptilian form.

I'm going to go ahead and break your heart right now. Despite the fact that the shapeshifters' lizard faces are obviously either masks or props, albeit pretty good ones, they only turn into lizard people after they have been killed. This made me more upset at the movie than any of its other missed opportunities because you do not go out of your way to show me a lizardman and then fail to have it fight your werewolf! Haven't the filmmakers ever heard of Chekov's lizardman?!

It also doesn't help that the combination of the red filter and the fact that it's taking place in the woods immediately makes the climax remind me of Versus. That's a really hard movie to top (just ask Ryuhei Kitamura; he hasn't been able to manage it), especially since its climax was a badass sword fight between two undead superhumans. Meanwhile, even after WolfCop beaks free and guzzles a flask like Popeye gobbles spinach, this climax is just a bunch of people shooting at each other--for some reason Teardrop/Chief carries a blunderbuss--and a brief physical scuffle between Tina and Jessica. So it's not even close to the awesomeness of the movie it will inevitably remind many genre fans of. Eventually all the bad guys are dead and WolfCop is free to carry on his crusade of justice.

Oh, and as the terrible "WolfCop" rap theme plays, the film ends by announcing WolfCop II will be coming in 2015. Which, as we all know, is about the surest way to guarantee there will never be a sequel. There's also a credit cookie involving WolfCop taking revenge on an abusive dog owner that's not even worth getting into.

"I came here to kick ass and lick myself; and I'm all out of spit."
I really hate a wasted concept, so I've probably been even harsher on this film than it deserves. The problem with WolfCop isn't that it's terrible. I mean, that would definitely be a bad thing, but the trouble with WolfCop is that it takes a stellar concept and proceeds to settle for mediocrity. As you might expect, for instance, if you've seen the trailer you've basically seen the best parts of the movie. Stephen Colbert once joked that movies are "watered-down trailers" and this is the sort of movie where that statement is genuinely accurate.

Hell, if I didn't know better, I'd assume the trailer was made before the movie. I touched on earlier that character motivations and decisions often make no sense or characters have to make impressive leaps of logic. That's clearly because the filmmakers had a lot of genuinely good set pieces in mind--not counting the fairly dull climax--but had no idea how to bridge the sections in between. And the reveal that several characters were actually manipulating things all along doesn't make it better. For a reveal like that to work, you need to be able to look back and go, "Oh yeah, so that's why they did that!" If you look back at this film while knowing its ending, it still doesn't make sense.

Is WolfCop a waste of time? I wouldn't say that. I definitely got more than a few laughs out of it, and there are some great bits like the face-ripping I mentioned earlier. The cast is definitely solid, with nary a bad performance in the bunch, and the make-up effects are mostly good--even if the transformation scenes are more silly than impressive. And then there's the Lou/Willie relationship that threatens to become genuinely interesting before the film's twist forces them to drop it--which is really gonna hurt the sequel. I mean, imagine if Willie had turned to Lou's side and helped him defeat the other shapeshifters before becoming his sidekick. WolfCop and Lizard Dude would definitely make me give this "franchise" another chance.

If you're a huge werewolf fan or a big into horror comedies, I wouldn't say you should rush out and see WolfCop, but I also wouldn't say to avoid it at all costs. It's not terrible, but in the end it's a movie that I don't regret watching but doubt that I'd ever get the urge to watch ever again. Considering how much I love werewolves, that ought to tell you something.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Yeti: Giant of the 20th Century (1977)

In 1976, the big blockbuster being hyped up was Dino de Laurentiis's King Kong. Good old Dino was convinced he had a film that would make Jaws look like a bomb, and would be so amazing that audiences would forget the beloved original. He played up the film's full-scale robot Kong (that would ultimately appear in about 6 seconds of screentime, for good reason) and the hype machine was in full swing. However, I'm sure we all know by now that Dino was flying too close to the sun. The film still made a bit of a profit, otherwise Dino wouldn't inexplicably have made King Kong Lives ten years later, but word of mouth killed it almost immediately.

Well, the great worldwide rip-off machine was already geared up to expect the film to be a hit by the time it crashed and smoldered. While, for obvious reasons, the film never generated the amount of rip-offs that Jaws did and still does, the amount it did generate is pretty impressive. From Hong Kong's The Mighty Peking Man to England's Queen Kong and the utterly inexplicable Korean/American co-production of A*P*E, it seemed like almost every country's film studios were trying to get in on the giant simian act.

Naturally, you didn't think the Italians were going to be left out of this monkey barrel, did you?

However, even if you are familiar with Italian rip-offs you are unlikely to anticipate exactly what this film has in store for you. For starters, it manages to cash in on King Kong and the then-current Bigfoot craze, while also pilfering elements from King Kong vs. GodzillaLassie, and The Creature Walks Among Us! Its effects are, hilariously, a direct copy of its model (a full-sized Yeti body prop, full-size prop limbs, but with a guy in a suit representing the creature for most of its screentime) and yet rendered in a radically bizarre fashion. Its script sounds like it was translated to English phonetically, it has an overall feeling of being aimed at children while simultaneously being very violent and containing possibly the smuttiest non-porn parody interaction between its Kong and Fay Wray equivalents that you can imagine.

Let's just say that unlike "king kong watching women give birth" (?!) anyone brought to my site by the search keywords "yeti nipple play" will not have been directed here under false pretenses.

We begin with an apparent attempt to capitalize on the then-new theory of man-made global warming, as we watch footage of icebergs breaking apart. We don't know it yet, but somewhere in that melting ice is our titular (heh, titular) Yeti. Incidentally, the Yeti's theme is introduced here under the credits and if it sounds frustratingly familiar, that's because it's a very slight reworking of "O Fortuna"! If that's not weird enough, it will later be revealed to have bewilderingly nonsensical lyrics and the end credits inform you:

The Theme "Yeti"
                              if played by The Yetians.

Yes, that is verbatim. Maybe The Yetians performed the theme, maybe they didn't. We may never know.

Anyway, we'll find out what the deal with the Yeti is soon enough, as we are introduced to our bumbling, unscrupulous Capitalist for the evening, Morgan Hunnicut (Edoardo Faieta), when he arrives somewhere in the Canadian wilderness by helicopter. In case that doesn't sound ridiculous to you,that's because I didn't mention that he arrives seated in a finely upholstered couch, inside a box dangling under the helicopter from a cable! Already the guy is more like Mr. Tako from King Kong vs. Godzilla than Charles Grodin's character in King Kong, if Mr. Tako was a fat man in suspenders. In fact his motivation for seeking out the reclusive Professor Waterman (John Stacy) are more in line with the former's ambitions.

Waterman and Hunnicut are apparently old friends who had a falling out, and thus Waterman is not at all pleased to have his fishing interrupted by the bumbling captain of some kind of industry.  And that's before Hunnicut sits down and begins helping himself to Waterman's meal. Ha! It's funny because he's fat. Waterman's annoyance doesn't dissipate when Hunnicut explains that he's there to enlist his aid in "a humane expedition" in Northern Canada. Waterman scoffs, reminding Hunnicut that he's a "paleonthnologist [sic]" and wants no part of whatever swindling scheme the "Over-nourished Overweight Daddy Warbucks who calls himself a friend" has in mind this time.

But the mention of Hunnicut's grandson and granddaughter softens Waterman's resolve, since he feels himself an uncle to those two. Still, he insists that he wants nothing to do with Hunnicut and there's no way he's going.

Comedy jump cut to Waterman heading Hunnicut's "humane expedition," naturally. Komedy! Said expedition involves the discovery of an enormous hominid in large chunk of ice, apparently by Hunnicut's grandson. We'll meet said grandson shortly, but first you'll want to observe that maybe Waterman was a bad choice to head this expedition. Remember, frozen in the ice is a completely unknown species of hominid* roughly twenty feet tall. So you'd think you'd want to be very careful with the specimen, right?

[* Sure, there was a prehistoric ape that was around ten feet tall, Gigantopithecus, but you'd never mistake it for a hominid]

Well, Waterman has ordered a squad of men with flamethrowers to surround the priceless specimen and spray it with fire to thaw it out. And we know that this is not supposed to be Hunnicut's irresponsible idea, either, because Waterman even orders the flamethrower garrison to increase the flames!

Watching all this are Hunnicut's grandchildren, teen aged Jane (Antonella Interlenghi) and pre-adolescent Herbie (Jim Sullivan), along with their loyal collie, Indio. (Oh no) Herbie is the one who found the frozen giant, but don't ask me how or when. Herbie's also a mute, which is due to the accident that killed their mother and father--as Jane explains to Cliff Chandler (Tony Kendall), who is some kind of security chief hired by their grandfather. You've probably already figured out this early in the film that Cliff is the kind of handsome fellow who will inevitably turn out to be a complete shitheel, and you honestly won't have to wait very long for confirmation.

I do have to give the movie credit: Herbie never undergoes a miraculous recovery to regain his voice.

The two kids get right up close to look at the actually pretty decent full-size prop feet of the creature (this being the kind of movie where you really have to work to find something nice to say about its effects), ignoring the fact that that puts them in the middle of streams of burning napalm. Waterman, meanwhile, goes to his trailer to communicate with Hunnicut via the 1977 equivalent of Skype. Hunnicut is eager to know what exactly Waterman has found, and considering how little of the creature has been uncovered to sufficiently figure out what it is, Waterman declares it to be a Yeti. He further elaborates, "We call him a ‘Sasquatch’ here in Canada. In the States he is known as the Big Foot. And in the Himalayas, where his footprints were first discovered, he’s called the Yeti, the Abominable Snowman. Why the ‘abominable,’ I don’t know."

That already sounds pretty ridiculous even before you factor in that this is where we first discover that the majority of the cast pronounces "Yeti" as "Yay-tee"! Waterman then conjectures that the creature froze millions of years ago, then somehow the ice he was in broke up and fell into the Arctic Ocean and then the creature drifted from the Himalayas to "New Found Land [sic]."

Waterman furthermore states that the creature is so perfectly preserved that they may be able to "activate something" in it, "like the nerves of his hand, or maybe even his heart." That Waterman talks of just reviving a part of the creature's anatomy means I am instantly giddy at the idea that Ridley Scott may have seen this movie and it was the inspiration for the idiotic scene in Prometheus where the scientists try to wake up a severed alien head.

Of course, while Waterman wants to wake the Yaytee up for Science, Hunnicut wants to wake the Yaytee up for Profit. Yes, in a direct rip off of the 1976 King Kong, Hunnicut wants to use the beast as his new spokes-monster. Sure, why not? Of course, Hunnicut somehow got to be the head of a multinational corporation despite being utterly incapable of doing proper background checks on the employees he allows into his boardroom/office and one of his underlings is actually a corporate spy who intends to pass on the news of Hunnicut's plan to his other bosses. Then again, the same thing happened to John Hammond and we weren't supposed to think he was a moron.

So, if you were to revive a 20-foot tall Yaytee, what do you suppose would be the best technique to do so? Well, if you're Professor Waterman you'd decide the best idea is to lift the creature into an upright position with chains, load it into a glass cage that looks like an English-style phone booth, chain that to a helicopter, and then fly the whole thing up to about 5,000 feet! Supposedly this is to recreate the elevation and conditions that the Yaytee would be used to in the Himalayas. Waterman, who was the one who was gung-ho about reviving the creature in the first place, now suddenly wonders if they have the right to, "even in the name of science." Cliff scoffs at this, and Waterman quickly drops his objections.

For some reason, the helicopter is crewed by a pilot, Waterman, Cliff, and Jane instead of, oh, I don't know--two other scientists or doctors? When they get up to the right altitude, they spray the Yaytee down with water to get the excess ice off of him. Then Waterman explains that the atmospheric conditions--the concentrations of ozone and ultraviolet rays--are perfect for what the creature would be used to, millions of years ago, before then asserting that they'll be pumping enriched oxygen (!) into the cage because, "That's the air we'll make him breathe!" As opposed to making him breathe chlorine gas, I suppose. Of course, since nobody else in the helicopter is an actual scientist, nobody asks what the point of waking the creature up thousands of feet into oxygen-thin air was if they're just going to pump oxygen to him.

Well, the Yaytee wakes up, naturally--and oh my God, this film's idea of a Yeti has to truly be seen to believed. First off, the Yaytee is played by Mimmo Craig and I mention the sit actor's name because unlike your average giant ape monster flick, the guy in the suit is not wearing a mask. So, imagine if Kenny Rogers decided to get himself some feathered hair and then started to turn into a werewolf. Even better is that Mimmo Craig's facial expressions range from "snarling" faces to "sitcom actor reacts to joke," with the occasional "what's my cue, again?" And most of his snarling faces are accompanied by a high-pitched stock dinosaur roar that sounds like it was derived from an elephant. For once they'd have been better off copying the hilarious method that Hanna-Barbera used for their Godzilla cartoon series and dub over Ted Cassidy going "Rar, grr, arrgh!" Hell, even "Iggly Ooogly Argh!" would sound less silly.

Oh, sorry, that's just a photo of me before I have my coffee.
So, what do you suppose happens when a 20-foot monster wakes up from a millennia-long coma, dangling several thousand feet in the air? Yep, the Yaytee throws a fit that nearly crashes the helicopter. Luckily, Jane flips a switch that supposedly pumps knockout gas into the cage, but really looks like they're spraying the actor with cocaine. (That would explain a lot) At first it doesn't work because somehow a window was left open in the cage (?!), but somehow the window is closed with a flip of a switch and the Yaytee goes to nose candy dreamland.

Somehow, despite the fact that the Yaytee almost crashed their helicopter, Jane is horrified to discover upon landing that Cliff has ordered his security team on the ground to carry rifles. "He's a human being," she objects. Yes, he's a hero; a real human being. (Oh man, somebody remake Drive with a Yeti in place of Ryan Gosling right now) Cliff is naturally unmoved by her argument, seeing as how actual human beings aren't 20 feet tall and covered in fur--and, oh yeah, this creature proved strong enough to nearly wreck their helicopter and could easily turn out to be wildly aggressive.

At any rate, Waterman sees nothing wrong with inviting the press to crowd around the cage as the Yaytee wakes up. "Prepare to meet an ancestor of ours," he declares. Um, how did you reach that conclusion, Professor? At any rate, naturally the Yaytee wakes up in a bad mood again. This time, though, there is the addition of Indio barking his fool head off at the Yaytee and the old standby--photographers using flashbulbs on the creature. The Yaytee easily tears out of his cage and...just wanders around, roaring. Apparently nobody thought that maybe they should spring for some miniatures for him to smash in his initial rampage.

Jane stops one goon from shooting the Yaytee, but Waterman is less successful when he tries. Not only is the Yaytee shot in the hand, but Waterman is left holding the rifle. Hilariously, his attempts to communicate "it wasn't me" in body language do not convince the Yaytee and the scientist just stands there as the Yaytee stomps towards him. Luckily, Cliff intervenes and the scientist does not find out why they call the snowman "abominable" after all.

The only real damage Yaytee (everyone in the movie calls him by species name, like he's a damn Pokemon, so I might as well, too) does is pick up a tree and toss it. However, he's interrupted in his rampage by Indio's barking, as Indio pulls the first of several Lassie moments by leading the beast to where Jane and Herbie lie, unconscious, after apparently being trampled by the panicked crowd. The two wake up in time to see Yaytee looming over them and...then things get weird.

As you might expect, Yaytee has fallen for Jane at first sight. He shows this by playing with his hair, like a stereotypical schoolgirl with a crush. He then scoops up Herbie and Jane in one prop hand and carries them off, with Indio following behind. Both Jane and Herbie are surprisingly cooperative with this, but then maybe they're just afraid of the creature getting angry if they struggle. waterman will later hypothesize that the kids' fur coats made them remind Yaytee of his lost mate and child, which I suppose is better than being just another monster who immediately wants to bang human women even if they're the size of his thumb.

Speaking of which, the most baffling sequence in the film occurs now--which is really saying something--when Jane loses her balance momentarily and puts her hand on Yaytee's chest to steady herself. Her hand brushes up against his nipple (!) and he looks down at her, waggling his eyebrows and smiling (!!), and then his nipple hardens and becomes erect! I told you I was not kidding about "yeti nipple play." And keep in mind this means someone was responsible for building a giant, hairy nipple that could be inflated. I wonder if they put that on their resume?

Naturally, Jane freaks out when she realizes what she's touching, pulling her hand back and acting like she just touched a giant slug. Everyone involved just pretends it never happened, but Yaytee seems maybe a little disappointed.

Waterman, Cliff, and the goon squad are following the trail of Yaytee (on foot, naturally) but somehow have lost him. I mean, he's only 20 feet tall and walks at a speed of about five miles an hour. Luckily, after Yaytee sets the kids down in a cave, Jane tells Indio to go fetch the professor or they might never track the beast down. Yaytee leaves the kids alone for a bit, and Jane tries to get a reluctant Herbie to leave. She implores the boy by reminding him, "Don’t you know cannibals are always nice to their victims before they eat them?!" Well, obviously, everyone knows that. However, their escape attempt is thwarted when Yaytee sneaks up on them. His offended expression is unlikely to leave any viewer able to maintain a straight face.

"...I was going to make espresso!"
Well, they especially can't leave now that Yaytee brought two fish--one small one for Jane and Herbie to share, and one the size of a large tuna. I have no idea where or how he caught that one. Jane and Herbie pretend to eat the fish, wile Yaytee happily eats his. Indio brings the search party, who couldn't tell that a creature that leaves footprints at least four feet long had turned away from the lake they were all staring at, to the cave just

Okay, so if you've seen King Kong you know there's a truly bizarre scene where Kong bathes Jessica Lange in a waterfall and dries her by blowing on her. Lange reacts as if having a huge, wild ape exhale forcefully on you is a wonderfully sensual (!) experience instead of foul-smelling and weird. As bizarre as that sequence is, its analogue here is even worse. Yaytee, having somehow chewed all the meat clean off his fish's skeleton, uses the skeleton to comb Jane's hair. Jane reacts as if this a tender, wonderful moment instead of how any woman I have ever met would react to having a dead fish covered in Yeti spit rubbed into her hair.

Yaytee is calm, however, when the search party approaches. Waterman explains to Jane that Yaytee thinks that she and Herbie are his mate and child. Cliff smugly jokes that she "might have some duties" if she spends the night. Well, yeah, tweaking his nipple like that might just maybe have given him the wrong idea. Still, I can't fault Jane for being disgusted that Cliff just joked about her having sex with a giant ape.

After spraying Yaytee's wounded hand with a thermos-sized bottle of some kind of bactine the search party just had for some reason--which Yaytee oddly seems unbothered by--Jane is easily persuaded to help them lead Yaytee back to civilization. Much like the "heroes" of Mighty Peking Man, and it will prove almost as disastrous an idea. At any rate, Jane talks to Yaytee much like Lt. Watson talked to Kong, "," and this is somehow sufficient to get him back to where they want him.

Well, Hunnicut apparently wasted no time in slapping Yaytee all over his company's merchandise, because it's time for a montage! An ad for Hunnicut's gas stations literally invites you to, "put a Yeti in your tank!" We see grocery stores and department stores with crude images of Yaytee in their windows being swarmed. But most perplexing of all is the shot of several women exiting a store wearing t-shirts that have blue hand prints covering their breasts (!) and on the back say, "Kiss Me Yeti."

Sorry, ladies: Yaytee only likes to have his breasts played with.

Apparently, Waterman is not pleased by all this publicity. Especially since Hunnicut wants to have Yaytee airlifted to Toronto for a public viewing. The two argue over Skype as Hunnicut is receiving a straight razor shave. Waterman snaps, "That slave of yours should cut your throat." Hunnicut, oddly, reacts by shooting the barber a look that says, "I goddamn dare you to, pansy."

Hunnicut apparently wins out, because we next see Yaytee back in that phone booth cage, being flown to Toronto by first passing over Niagara Falls (!), which is such a good idea. Naturally, this makes it even harder to figure out where the film was taking place up to this point. There's no place in Newfoundland or anywhere in what could be correctly described as "Northern Canada" that I can see that would require a route that makes you pass Niagara before reaching Toronto.

Wait, I'm expecting a film that thinks defrosting a frozen specimen with flamethrowers is a good idea to bother doing even the barest amount of geographical research.

Meanwhile, as the funky disco remix of "Yeti Fortuna" plays, we see footage a Carnavale-style parade and celebration that is ostensibly in Yaytee's honor but is very clearly an actual celebration the filmmakers happened to record or find stock footage of. Not everyone n Toronto is happy to see Yaytee, as we cut to a shady meeting of Hunnicut's competitors voting on how to deal with the problem of how much business Yaytee is drawing away from them and giving to Hunnicut. They have a plan to deal with this, however, because they have a mole on the inside. And you'll never guess who the bastard is that intends to betray Hunnicut for--

What's that? What do you mean you already guessed it's Cliff?! Well, you're right. It's Cliff

So, you're probably thinking the plan is to bring Yaytee to a baseball stadium or other open area so people can gawk at him, right? You'd think, but no. The genius plan that Hunnicut settles on is to have Yaytee set down on the roof of a hotel in Toronto. Jane, Herbie, Hunnicut, and Cliff are already there, bizarrely super-imposed in front of the footage of the rest of the crowd--even though they're actually in the crowd footage a few shots later. Cliff is hitting on Jane, but she's having none of it.

Oh, and the plan turns out to be having Yaytee open the cage and step out onto the roof! Yes, nothing can go wrong here. Oh, wait, nobody bothered to tell the press not to use flash photography. Sure enough, Yaytee flies into a rage and everybody flees back down as he...wanders around the rooftop. He does at least smash through a really fake wall this time. Cliff has dragged Jane into the hotel, but she breaks free to go back to the roof to calm Yaytee down and is immediately carried along by the panicked crowd and crammed into an exterior elevator. It's unclear whether Cliff's hilariously half-hearted attempt to retrieve her from the crowd is meant to indicate his villainy or just bad acting.

Yaytee somehow finds the controls for the elevator on the roof and begins using it as a yo-yo, to the horror of the crowd inside it. Yaytee realizes Jane is in the elevator just as the cables break and it plunges to a sudden stop as the emergency brake catches it. The crowd manages to climb out to safety, but an escaping old man deliberately pushes Jane back into the elevator as he makes his escape. So, somehow, Jane ends up being left dangling by her hands when the elevator breaks loose and falls away. Yaytee immediately springs into action, by pulling a reverse King Kong and climbing down the side of the hotel.

Fun fact: the Yeti auditioned for the part of the love interest in Ninja III: The Domination, but was told he "wasn't hairy enough."
Hilariously, despite the fact that the window wells seem to offer him footholds as they are, Yaytee deliberately kicks every window in as he climbs down. This is much to the alarm of several occupants. Naturally, Jane slips just as Yaytee punches through a window and catches her in his palm--mere feet from the ground. Of course, given this is a movie and Spider-Man isn't involved, Jane is just knocked unconscious instead of killed.

Yaytee then goes on what can generously be called a "rampage." Basically, Yaytee walks around in front of bad bluescreen footage of Toronto, alternating between snarling and looking confused. At no point does he interact with anything directly because the filmmakers had the worst decision-making process when it came to when it was time to spring for miniatures. The most amazing thing is just how shocked the residents of Toronto seem by Yaytee's presence every time he rounds a corner--especially given his size ranges from 20 to 100 feet tall depending on how he's been integrated into the footage. Apparently Canadians have no peripheral vision and their fleeing crowds are too polite to continue screaming after the monster they're fleeing from is no longer visible.

Somebody eventually calls the police, although the fact that the cop cars are all bright yellow with two "cherry tops" on their roofs makes it look like the production hired taxi cabs by mistake. Hilariously, a quick Google search confirms that Toronto cop cars actually looked like this in the 1970s. A shame, that, because it's one less bit of idiocy I can lay at the film's feet--not that I really need more.

The cops are bizarrely far away, so Jane has time to wake up and realize that they need to get Yaytee out of sight. Somehow this is managed, because next thing we know it's night and Jane is slipping out of an alley by herself to slip into a payphone to call her grandfather. Hunnicut is delighted to hear from her but naturally wants to know where Yaytee is. Jane assures him that Yaytee is safe for the moment, but the cops are sure to find them sooner or later. I'd bet on sooner, given we next see that, rather than hiding in that alley, Yaytee is standing dumbly in front of a supermarket. Yeah, he'll sure escape notice there!

Hunnicut directs her to take Yaytee to a nearby auto parts warehouse, since it belongs to a company Hunnicut used to represent. Unfortunately, Hunnicut orders Cliff to accompany Waterman to the warehouse so we know something is going to go awry. You'll also note that we don't see how Jane got Yaytee into the warehouse, but hilariously he's already laid out inside the building when Waterman, Herbie, Indio, Cliff, and two armed goons arrive. To Jane's great alarm, Yaytee is nearly comatose (!), but luckily Waterman has brought a oxygen tank (!!) in anticipation of just this eventuality.

Okay, so presuming Yaytee's present state is because of tooling around Toronto instead of an area at his native altitude--how is pumping more oxygen into his system going to help?! Well, that's what Waterman does, anyway. Cliff takes his leave, and Jane and Herbie also briefly depart, but clearly Cliff say his opportunity and passed a plan on to his subordinates. For the minute that Waterman falls asleep, the two goons replace the mouthpiece on the nearby phone (?) and then somehow sabotage the oxygen tanks so that all the air leaks out. Though, given the size of Yaytee compared to the tanks, you'd think this would happen all on its own.

Waterman wakes up as Jane and Herbie return, discovers the tank is empty, and urgently sends them to get more oxygen before Yaytee asphyxiates. From, uh, where are they supposed to get this oxygen, exactly? Hilariously, Jane and Herbie are barely out of sight when the two goons grab Waterman and bash his skull in by banging his head against some patently empty boxes. Naturally, this is where the film has decided to rip off The Creature Walks Among Us, because their plan is to frame the Yeti! Indeed, when Herbie and Jane return the two goons are lying on the ground and pretend to regain consciousness and claim Yaytee lashed out and killed Waterman.

Now, I'm not a detective, but I don't think you need to be Sherlock Holmes to see holes in two healthy men claiming that the dead guy they were found next to was beaten to death by a third guy who is immobile and hooked up to an oxygen tank. Especially since they didn't even bother to try and dislodge the oxygen tubes from Yaytee's face!

Unfortunately for the conspirators, Yaytee woke up just enough to see them killing Waterman but not enough to stop them. So when the new oxygen feed somehow revives him (why the first didn't is beyond me), Yaytee roars to his feet--somehow still fitting in the building he's at least as tall as--and begins pelting the goons with empty boxes. The goons flee into a nearby yard full of heavy construction equipment, which they hide behind in a way that suggests a 20-foot tall could somehow sneak up on them.

So, naturally, Yaytee does just that. The first goon gets the movie's most memorable death. Yaytee prepares to crush the dastardly villain with one foot, but suddenly lifts his foot up. The goon seems relieved until the foot suddenly grabs the man by the throat with its toes and strangles him. To top it off, Yaytee seems to actually snap his neck!

"You call this a pedicure?! I'll fix you!"
The second goon hides in another warehouse, but this warehouse has a huge window in it. Sure enough, Yaytee does his thing and smashes the window--which somehow kills the goon. I don't know how, given broken glass doesn't appear to be dangerous in this film's universe.

The cops have arrived at the warehouse to investigate Waterman's death, but Jane's insistence that Yaytee is innocent is somewhat undercut by the report that comes in that Yaytee definitely just murdered two other people. So now the orders are to shoot Yaytee on sight. Jane really shouldn't worry, since apparently the Toronto police can't actually see the Yeti. We briefly see that Hunnicut is informed of Waterman's death and, to the film;s credit, the one-note character actually mourns for his friend.

Of course, Jane has already come to the conclusion that Cliff was somehow responsible for Waterman's death. She has no proof, of course, so Cliff brushes her off. He's still a villain, though, so naturally he goes to sit in his nearby car to talk with his other goons about how great that murder they planned has paid off and maybe they ought to bump off Jane, too. Herbie and Indio are nearby, however, so Herbie overhears--and Indio helpfully barks and alerts Cliff to their presence. Way to go, Lassie. Cliff and goons decide that the boy who can't talk knows too much and give chase.

They catch Herbie in the warehouse just as he reaches Jane. Indio bites the goon holding Herbie and is mortally stabbed for his troubles. The movie then takes an even darker turn as Cliff slaps Jane around, and appears to be about to rape her before settling on just strangling her while Herbie watches helplessly.

The movie's not that dark, however, because Yaytee has somehow found his way back to the warehouse district unnoticed by all the cops and does a Kool-Aid Man through the warehouse wall. Given that this is not a Hollywood superhero movie from the past ten years, I'm going to assume the fact that the hole he leaves behind is cross-shaped is a coincidence.

Cliff and the goons flee, taking Herbie as a hostage, while Jane cries over the dying Indio. Even Yaytee takes time to mournfully stroke the dog's fur, before pulling a rage face and smashing through another wall of the warehouse to pursue the kidnappers. This causes something to explode (!) by Yaytee's feet, but he ignores it.

We next cut to daytime, as Cliff's car and two other cars of goons that he meets up with along the way, speed through winding roads somewhere in the countryside. In the city, several police cars apparently give chase, despite not being anywhere near the same area. Luckily, Yaytee has somehow gotten ahead of the speeding cars. He dispatches one car by chucking a tree at it--and throwing the tree makes his upper torso turn completely transparent--and the other car is taken out with a boulder after they helpfully back up so Yaytee can reach them easier. Luckily, Yaytee somehow knew that neither of the cars he just blew up had Herbie inside it.

Cliff's car turns off into a construction site in the middle of nowhere, as the pursuing police cars suddenly appear on the same mountain road. Cliff's surviving goons are apparently where Disney got the idea to murder lemmings for a "documentary," because they flee from the approaching Yaytee and manage to fling themselves off a nearby ledge to their deaths. Even Yaytee looks confused by this development.

The cop cars catch up to Jane, who has somehow managed to nearly reach the construction site on foot, and one car picks her up. Okay, did Cliff and his goons drive in a fucking circle for several hours? Cliff tries to shoot Yaytee with a grenade rifle, which Herbie does nothing to stop, even though he's not restrained and could clearly reach Cliff because the turncoat had to crawl into the front seat to fire. Amazingly, Cliff misses by several yards. Look, I realize the guy isn't Lee Van Cleef, but that's an astounding failure. Again, even Yaytee seems amazed by his foes' incompetence.

Yaytee picks up a rather woeful miniature of the car, forcing Cliff to do a Shatner roll to escape. Yaytee rescues Herbie from the car just as the police pull up. Hilariously, the police cars are all full to capacity with armed cops. Didn't they have vans for that? Jane has to stop one officer from shooting Yaytee--which you'd think wouldn't be necessary since the creature is obviously holding a young boy! Yaytee drops the car in surprise after the shot goes wide, but rather than flying into a rage he sets Herbie down--just in time for Cliff to go all Carnosaur and try to attack the beast by backing into it with a truck that has a crane on the back.

Somehow being stuck in the gut with the crane only annoys Yaytee instead of impaling him or even drawing blood, and he lifts the ruck up by the crane so Cliff is forced to jump out. Hilariously, Yaytee then flips over a model of the truck that explodes in flames before it hits the ground. Naturally, Cliff still hasn't been dealt with so, in full view of a dozen armed cops, Yaytee stomps him to death. It's Cliff's own fault, really. Rather than crawl towards the cops that are scant feet from him, he rolls to his side over and over until he's in a mud puddle and yards away from help.

Mind you, the cops could still have ignored Jane's initial objections and pumped Yaytee full of lead--especially now that he's not near Herbie--but I guess they knew Cliff was guilty of conspiracy to commit murder and decided it was cheaper than a trial and gives them an excuse to kill a giant ape man.

Bizarrely, Hunnicut arrives by helicopter at this point and happily reunites with Herbie. The cops prepare to shoot Yaytee, but Jane stops them again. She turns to Yaytee and implores him to "go back to the wilderness." Hilariously, she ends her plea to the Yeti with, "Please. Go away." Somehow, after looking briefly hurt, Yaytee gets the hint and nods at Jane. The police captain, humbled, orders his men to lower their guns and just watch as the 20-foot ape man that they just witnessed killing a man, and that they ought to know by now is responsible for the deaths of around ten others even if they don't still think he killed Waterman, turns and wanders back into the countryside.

Herbie cries on Jane's shoulder until suddenly he hears--

You're not going to believe this. Herbie hears Indio barking. Yes, Indio, whom we last saw lying in a pool of his own blood, has somehow made it all the way over here on foot. And, indeed, Indio is completely unharmed, without so much as a limp. Given that dog first appears at the crest of a hill with the sun behind him, I immediately quipped to the group I was watching this with: "I return to you now, as Lassie the White."

Herbie and Indio have a slow-motion reunion, and the movie closes with a tearful Yaytee standing in front of crumbling iceberg footage. The End, as The Yetians (or maybe not?) close us out with that damn theme song.

Available on vinyl!
It's hard to really explain Yeti: Giant of the 20th Century to someone who hasn't seen it. It's far from the worst of the crop of rip-offs that sprung up to get in on that sweet "Everybody'a cry when Kong'a die" money, but when the nicest thing you can say about a movie is, "It's better than A*P*E," you've set the bar so low that it's fallen through the Earth's crust. It's hard to say if it's even the most inexplicable of those rip-offs because, again: A*P*E.

However, the film is definitely bizarre. For starters, the Yeti itself. I can only assume the filmmakers decided that creating a mask that was as expressive as the one Rick Baker created was impossible. Their attempt to fix this by just having the suit actor's face be uncovered, however, manages to be even sillier. After all, you'd have to be as callous as the film's "hero" to not find Mighty Peking Man a sympathetic character even with his suit's woefully inadequate mask. This film's Yeti, meanwhile, is impossible to empathize with because he's fucking ridiculous. Trying to emote believably as a speechless Yeti would probably be a challenge for Olivier, but Mimmo Craig is hilariously not up to the task. If you an get through this movie without cackling at Craig's facial expressions at least once, you are made of sterner stuff than I.

And that's before you find out that the original Italian version features a bit during the sequence where the Yeti is dying that sees either the Yeti or Jane having a fantasy of the two of them dancing romantically. I think it's supposed to be the Yeti having this fantasy, but I'm honestly not sure. While it would have made the Yeti even harder to take seriously, I am kind of amused that it was considered too goofy for international audiences, even when compared to the rest of the film.

The truly amusing thing is that the idea to have the Yeti actor's face uncovered must have been conceived early on because while we wisely never see the full-size Yeti prop from the front in the film itself, promo shots reveal it has a human face, too.

A very confused face, at that.
The rest of the cast doesn't fare much better than the Yeti, to be fair, but Mimmo Craig's performance is so ridiculous as to overshadow everyone else's awfulness. Their goofy performances are just part of why this is a silly, silly film but I'll be damned if it doesn't feel completely serious all the way through. Hilarious as it may be, I cannot find any indication that the movie is in on the joke. Just look at its clear attempts to be funny, which are naturally not funny at all.

All in all, it's an absolutely strange film. If you love B-Movies and have a fondness for giant monsters, you definitely need to watch this one. Hell, inflict it on someone who isn't a hardened B-Movie veteran and cackle with glee at their horrified incomprehension.

Hell, if my review hasn't sold you, then maybe this music video for "Yeti" by The Yetians will convince you.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)

Desite their reputation as "cheap" because the effects were not often up to Hollywood standards, the Godzilla series was actually a fairly expensive property for Toho Studios. Even with all the obvious shortcuts involved--such as only building them to be viewed from certain angles--those model cities required a lot of construction and attention to detail. Worse, all that work goes into something specifically made to be destroyed, so it's not like you can just reuse the exact same city set over and over. Sure, the studio could just set a few entries on tropical islands and forgo building the city sets all together--but then they still had to build a miniature island set.

And then there's the series' true "stars" to take into account. Godzilla may not have ever been exactly the work of Rick Baker or Stan Winston (well, okay, he almost was once), but he still required a lot of craftsmanship. A Godzilla suit is not cheap--and then you have to consider that from 1955 until 1975, Godzilla films required at least two monster suits because the very first sequel to the original film set the standard that Godzilla had to have at least one other monster to fight. So monster suits cost money, miniature cities cost money, and you damn well better believe remote controlled tanks, small explosives, and optical effects for beam weapons cost money.

Godzilla films are not actually the low-budget farces that people think they are. I don't say this as a defense of a film genre that I love: I say this to give you some idea of what the filmmakers tasked with creating Godzilla films (and, for that matter, Gamera films) were up against in the 1970s. Godzilla had never been a cheap property to bring to life on the screen, but while there was still clearly some public demand for kaiju eiga, interest in the genre was rapidly on the decline. Some of that was thanks to American films like 2001: A Space Odyssey showing audiences a new level of what films could be. Guys in rubber suits wrestling among balsa wood structures while fire crackers bounced off of them seemed increasingly quaint.

Godzilla had already wandered into the sea for an unplanned (temporary) retirement two years earlier, but I can only imagine he decided to stay there after Star Wars came along and further raised the bar.

As a result of the public's waning interest, Toho Studios did what studios always do when they fear for their bottom line: they asked their filmmakers to keep cranking out films, but at a fraction of the budgets that had earlier received. Such was the case with Godzilla vs. Gigan, which producer Tomoyuki Tanaka hurriedly set to work on after he saw the finished print of Godzilla vs. Hedorah and declared that Yoshimitsu Banno had "ruined Godzilla."

Tanaka hired Jun Fukuda, who already had two Godzilla films under his belt, to direct. He envisioned the film as a return to a "traditional" Godzilla entry, where Godzilla would thwart an alien invasion. Not just any alien invasion: the film would see King Ghidorah return* for another bout with Godzilla, accompanied by new monsters Gigan and Megalon. Godzilla, being no slouch, would enlist the aid of Anguirus and new monster Majin Tuol (something like a cross between Daiei Studios' Daimajin and Toho's later creation, King Caesar). Talk about an all-out monster brawl!

[* The best way to try and make sense of Godzilla continuity is to always just assume "whatever is convenient to the plot of the current film." The earlier film Destroy All Monsters was the last time King Ghidorah faced Godzilla and that battle pretty definitively ended with King Ghidorah being curbstomped to death and buried under tons of dirt and rock. However, that film took place in 1999, while Godzilla vs. Gigan takes place in 1972 so in the film's reality that battle hasn't taken place yet--however, a big aspect of this film's plot is that all the world's monsters have already been collected on Monster Island!]

What's that you say? That script idea would mean the creation of three new monster suits? Not with the budget Toho was thinking! Okay, how about King Ghidorah, Gigan and Mogu (I have no clue what Mogu was intended to be, but concept art indicates a dragon-like winged beast) facing off against Godzilla, Varan, and Rodan? That only requires two new monster suits! Oh, wait, the only Varan suit was made back in 1958 and it was nowhere to be found ten years later for Destroy All Monsters, where the creature appeared only as a flying prop that was already falling apart.

So, finally, the filmmakers had whittled their kaiju down to four, with only one brand new suit between them. However, that wouldn't be the last casualty of the shrunken budget. Not by a long shot.

The first indication of what kind of cutbacks the film had to deal with appear to us in the film's pre-credit opening. Godzilla appears, wandering Monster Island during a rainstorm (the rainstorm being a completely invisible detail on VHS, I might add). He's in a cranky mood and blasts the camera with his flame breath to present the title card.

Several things immediately present themselves here. First, Akira Ifukube is back on the soundtrack! But the music sounds...oddly familiar. Hey, it's Ifukube, though, the man was gifted but not above basically recycling his own work. However, in this case it's because the filmmakers actually just decided they needed Ifukube's gravitas but didn't want to hire him to create new music. Every bit of music in the film is lifted from earlier Ifukube movies, some of them Godzilla and some of them not.

Secondly, you've definitely seen that Godzilla suit before. While it certainly has its fans, the Destroy All Monsters suit has always struck me as the second worst Godzilla suit ever made (just behind Son of Godzilla's puffy Toadzilla suit that was a sad attempt to make Godzilla look like Minilla). Unfortunately, it happened to come along right at a point when the filmmakers were desperate to save money by reusing suits. Outside of the use of older suits as "stunt" suits so the primary suit wouldn't get ruined in water scenes, no prior Godzilla suit had ever been used in more than two films in a row. The 1968 suit was used in an unprecedented four films in a row. The suit already looks tired in the opening of the film, but by the end it will be literally falling apart before your eyes.

"Please...kill me."
The audience can therefore be forgiven for briefly thinking the film has decided to cut costs by presenting the rest of the film as a motion comic when we come back from the opening credits to a series of comic book panels of panicked civilians fleeing as an unseen monster approaches. Actual sound effects and voices accompany the comic panels, including tanks rolling out and--predictably--being obliterated.* "The monster Shukura!" the cartoon people cry out, before we flip to a blank page.

It turns out that the unfinished comic is something that manga artist Gengo Kotaka (Hiroshi Ishikawa) whipped up for the approval of the editor of a publication centered around Astonishing Stories-style anthology comics. The editor asked Gengo to come up something that kids hate or fear. Gengo settled on the telepathic emissions of children beaming into space and their hatred of homework forming a monster, Shukura. The editor is unimpressed, so Gengo doesn't get the job.

[* I've always wondered how, in the world of kaiju eiga, giant monster movies/comics/novels are viewed. Especially in the world of a Japan regularly besieged by giant monsters. Are they considered bad taste and, like action movies about terrorist attacks, constantly having their releases rescheduled to avoid insensitivity to victims of the monsters' most recent rampages? This is not the movie to provide the answers, alas]

However, Gengo's girlfriend, Tomoko Tomoe (Yuriko Hishimi), is apparently sick of him not carrying his own weight. (And well she should be, when we see how extravagant their apartment is) Over his objections when they have coffee later that day, she gives him a card and tells him it's the next interview: The World Children's Land Committee. Gengo's heard of them, of course. They're building a theme park whose main attraction is the life-sized Godzilla Tower. He's reluctant, but Tomoko is firm that he will be making the appointment. Gengo responds to this by calling her a "hard bitch" under his breath, but when she asks him to say it louder he responds expositionally that he's not about to risk it when she has a black belt in karate.

Hmm, looks familiar, doesn't it?
Gengo does, in fact, go to the interview. He quickly finds that Kubota (Toshiaki Nishizawa), the man interviewing him, is a bit on the odd side. First off, he keeps talking about how the best part of their theme park is its focus on "perfect peace," and when Gengo observes that there doesn't seem to be a connection between monsters and peace, Kubota explains that you have to be a child to appreciate what it is. It should probably be a bit of a red flag when Kubota actually likes Gengo's pitch of increasing the amount of monsters in the park by featuring his original monsters, Shukura and Momagon ("the monster of too-strict mothers"), but it's definitely bizarre how Kubota reacts when Gengo points out the obvious fact that all the world's monsters are housed on Monster Island.

Over stock footage from Destroy All Monsters, establishing the various denizens of Monster Island, Kubota explains that they didn't forget this obvious source of inspiration. However, the monsters kept there are "hardly peaceful." So Kubota's company plans to make replicas of all the monsters and then destroy Monster Island. Gengo is shocked by the suggestion, but apparently decides that a paying job is a good enough reason to not rush immediately to the authorities to report that someone is planning to attempt to destroy an island full of easily angered, nigh indestructible kaiju.

Still, while Tomoko is happy that Gengo finally has a job--or at least until she notices that Momagon's scales and her favorite jacket seem to "coincidentally" share the same pattern and color--he can't shake the feeling that something about Children's Land doesn't add up. So, when he heads to an appointment at the committee's Tokyo office--which will be the only time we see the organization operate out of anywhere but their theme park or Godzilla Tower itself--and he nearly gets bowled over by an attractive young woman who drops a tape while fleeing the office, he points Kubota and his goons in the opposite direction when they ask where she went.

Gengo pockets the tape and goes in to meet the Chairman, Fumio Sudo (Zan Fujita), who sits in a chair that a Bond villain would envy whilst using advanced equations to calculate the orbit of something called "Nebula M Spacehunter" (or "Nebula Spacehunter M", depending on who's talking) for fun. The "Chairman" is also all of seventeen, so Gengo is already even more certain that hanging onto the tape is a good idea before Kubota returns empty handed and the Chairman agitatedly explains that the woman who stole it is an "enemy of peace" and that tape is the basis of their "entire plan," which doesn't sound ominous at all.

The "enemy of peace" confronts Gengo outside his apartment that evening. He is content to try and brush her off, until the fat hippy with her pokes him in the back with something he mistakes for a gun. When Gengo recovers from his faint, he finds the "bandits" have brought him home, the "gun" was a corn cob, and then his bizarre attackers introduce themselves: the hippy is Shosaku Takasugi (Minoru Takashima) and the young woman is Machiko Shima (Tomoko Umeda). Machiko's brother, Takashi, was working for Children's Land when he vanished mysteriously. Machiko suspects from his last diary entry that he had uncovered some diabolical scheme, and Shosaku assumes that the organization realized he was onto them and locked him up.

I know, it's ridiculous that they wouldn't just kill him, huh? Oh, it's dumber than that. For while Gengo is recovering the stolen tape from the pay locker he stored it in, we cut to a futuristic control room in the head of Godzilla Tower. Kubota is there and he turns and says, "Shima: no sabotage," like he's telling a dog to stay off the couch. For not only did they not kill Takashi (Kunio Murai), they are just letting him walk around their control room unrestrained! Though they do knock him cold when their computer alerts them that someone is playing the "action tape," and Takashi starts violently demanding answers.

The "action tape" does not have any answers for Gengo, Machiko, and Shosaku. It contains nothing but electronic beeping. Changing the speed does nothing to help them understand it--but all the way on Monster Island, the tape's signal wakes Godzilla and Anguirus right the hell up. You see, whatever language that tape is using means nothing to human ears, but as the Chairman explains, "The monsters on Monster Island can understand it!"

And then, possibly the goofiest scene in Godzilla history takes place.

See, in the Japanese version, the film kept to its comic book aesthetic by having Godzilla and Anguirus converse via weird tape sound effects and animated speech bubbles. Certainly this is strange, but it at least makes sense. However, when Toho produced the international dub, they apparently decided that it would be too much work to recreate the speech bubbles in other languages--so they just dubbed the monsters. Mere words cannot describe this silliness, so here's a video (that actually incorporates the Japanese version with the dub's audio track):

At any rate, Godzilla sends Anguirus to go check out the weird signal rather than going himself. Maybe he incorrectly assumed that Anguirus appearing in Japanese waters would be less likely to send the JSDF into a panic than his own radioactive mug. While Anguirus swims to Japan, Gengo manages to find Takashi's lighter--with engraved "T.S." initials--in one of the Godzilla Tower's "eyes." Where exactly Takashi is at that moment is anyone's guess,but Machiko confirms it's her brother's lighter when Gengo shows it to her later. Clearly their suspicions were correct.

Shosaku turns out to be the brains of the outfit when he suggests the three go investigate the World Children's Land to find out the company's background. The search doesn't turn up much--the headquarters are conveniently located in Switzerland and the company survives off of donations that come without any strings attached. Machiko turns up something more useful: the hometown of Fumio Sudo and Kubota.

It's odd enough that the two biggest bosses of the company would happen to hail from the same town, but when Shosaku and Gengo go to the address belonging to Fumio Sudo, they discover the boy has been dead for a year! He was killed during a mountaineering accident along with his beloved English teacher--and when Gengo objects that he saw Fumio in Tokyo a week ago, the distraught mother goes to fetch a photo of her son. The visiting priest laughs when Gengo says that Fumio appeared to be a genius, because Fumio was a complete moron. (For those of us who've seen the rest of the movie, that doesn't prove it's not the same guy) Naturally, the photos of the late Fumio are a dead ringer for the mysterious Chairman, and can you guess who Fumio's equally dead teacher was?

Meanwhile, Anguirus comes ashore in Japan. Unfortunately, the Commander of the JSDF (Gen Shimizu, who is bafflingly dubbed by two different people--one of whom sounds more like an old woman) has arranged to meet her* with all the stock footage from Destroy All Monsters, Mothra vs. Godzilla, and War of the Gargantuas that he can muster. This marks the introduction of the fan favorite Maser Cannons into the actual Godzilla series, via this stock footage. Now, in War of the Gargantuas said cannons were actually effective and nearly killed one of the titular beasts--but starting in this film and all subsequent appearances, they are so useless that you begin to suspect whomever manufactures the damn things has a government contract with the JSDF.

[* Kaiju genders, aside from any time one is explicitly shown to be pregnant, are essentially meaningless. I go back and forth on Anguirus's gender, but I think it makes more sense if you assume the second Anguirus that Godzilla considers his close friend is female, while the first Anguirus that he brutally killed was an overly aggressive male. That Anguirus is dubbed with a male voice in this film is also meaningless because it makes no sense]

Though, to be fair, the bombardment of artillery and Maser fire that follows the instant she puts a single paw ashore is sufficient to convince poor Anguirus to turn tail and swim back to Monster Island. What was the point of Anguirus being sent to investigate the tape signal in the first place, you ask? Beats me. Padding out the running time, probably.

So, now that he knows the Chairman and Kubota have both assumed the identities and faces of two dead people, Gengo still manages to make his snooping as obvious as possible. He gets caught talking to Takashi through the door that the captive man is attempting to lock pick, and the obviously suspicious Kubota gives Gengo a pack of cigarettes with the most sinister grin he can muster. You might think that Gengo would suspect something was off about this, but the dumbass happily takes the pack home while smoking them and even sharing them among the rest of the Scooby gang.

Yep, the cigarettes have tracking devices in the filters and Kubota and two armed goons confront Gengo, Machiko, and Shosaku in the cartoonist's apartm--wait a minute. Gengo works for them. Didn't they have his address already? The genius wasn't holding his Enemies of Peace meetings in some abandoned dockside warehouse. They literally just had to go to his house to catch him and get their tape back.

At any rate, after taking back their crucial tape, the only thing stopping Kubota's goons from perforating or vaporizing our heroes with their silly guns is that Tomoko comes home just then. Tomoko quickly assesses the situation and promptly beats the crap out of the gun-wielding intruders. Now that Tomoko is in on the plot, the group takes their story to the police. Unsurprisingly, the cops are unwilling to raid Godzilla tower on some rather flimsy evidence. And the report the cops receive from the control tower on Monster Island that Godzilla and Anguirus have "broken out" and headed for Japan means they have their hands full enough already.

Of course, given that we then cut to Godzilla and Anguirus leisurely walking down Monster Island's beach before wading into the sea, I'm left to wonder exactly what they "broke out" of. There was also no such advanced report for Anguirus earlier, naturally.

Well, since the police won't help, it's time for our heroes to take matters into their own hands. I mean, surely two hippies, a cartoonist, and a black belt are enough to take on what you by now should realize are alien invaders. If you haven't cottoned to that yet, well, I'm sure you'll make the connection when the Chairman plays the action tapes and says, "We came to this planet in search of peace. Perfect peace for us all," and then the tape's signal summons two space monsters to our solar system, traveling in an asteroid and a giant diamond.

The first space monster that bursts out of the asteroid (and no, I haven't a clue why the monsters are bursting out of their containers while they're still in space) ought to be familiar, even if the plastic model used to render him is less than adequate. Yes, it's King Ghidorah! Who's that in the diamond, then? Why, only my absolute favoritest kaiju (sorry, Anguirus, you're second place): Gigan! This new kaiju is a truly bizarre creation and while I've previously expressed a bias towards the less bizarre, more dinosaurish kaiju--Gigan immediately spoke to me. I can't fully tell you what Gigan is: he's apparently some kind of cyborg given his glowing, electronic eye and the fully functional buzzsaw in his belly. Beyond that, he's the most completely alien kaiju that Toho ever created for the series: a bird-lizard-fish with metal hooks in place of hands and feet, insect-like mandibles beside his beak, and three rows of spiny fish-like fins on his back.

Man, King Ghidorah's performance in this movie sure is stiff.
Gigan is introduced via a stiff plastic model as well, but he comes off a lot better simply because he doesn't have any parts that need to be in motion during flight. King Ghidorah has huge wings, remember. Gigan also doesn't have ridiculously badly scaled tufts of fur on his head(s) and his eye(s) is supposed to be a featureless, glowing red. If the woeful plastic model entrance didn't make the film's evil kaiju team look ridiculous enough, it's quickly followed by them doing a loop-de-loop accompanied by airplane sound effects. In space.

At Godzilla Tower, Gengo and Tomoko sneak in via the stairs to rescue Takashi while Shosaku and Machiko wait below. Tomoko successfully disarms and knocks out two guards that Kubota belatedly sent to execute Takashi. However, Kubota and more armed guards block their escape. The three are taken to the control room so that the aliens can explain their plan in great detail. First of all, the reason Kubota and the Chairman are dead ringers for two dead people is that they're all wearing dead people as "uniform," which is exactly what it sounds like. (No, at no point is it explained why they would choose to assume the identities of people known to be dead as a disguise) They're not killing Gengo, Tomoko, and Takashi right now because they intend to use them as "uniform" for more of their kind.

The aliens come from a dying world, somewhere in the vicinity of Nebula M Spacehunter. (No, we never see a nebula when we're shown their planet, but given most of their planet is shown via stock footage of Earth that isn't surprising) A world where the humanoid species that dominated it polluted and poisoned the world until they drove themselves to extinction. Then the aliens' species took over, evolving and developing new technologies--but the planet was already too poisoned even for their incredibly resilient species. What species is that? Well, you probably guessed it even before a completely random lightning bolt forces the aliens to switch to creepy emergency lighting: and reveals that the shadows they cast are those of giant cockroaches!

I really hope this is where Men In Black got the idea for its antagonist. And no, I'm not sure how they're casting shadows of their true forms if they're wearing human suits. It's probably more likely, especially given the events of the film's climax, that they're supposed to be projecting some kind of disguise via pheromones but need actual humans to create the illusion.

At any rate, the JSDF's "Laser Radar" detects the incoming space monsters and once again the stock footage is rolled out to meet them. First, King Ghidorah and Gigan swing by the Godzilla Tower to circle its head. This only seems to serve the purpose of allowing the aliens to introduce their monsters to their captives. It also serves to be the film's most embarrassing effects gaffe (which is saying something). Remember, Godzilla Tower is supposed to be life sized. Yet, the King Ghidorah and Gigan flying models are about a fourth of the size of the tower prop and the actual suits. You'd think somebody would have realized this and not filmed the tiny models buzzing around the head of the Tower, but somehow nobody noticed. So unless King Ghidorah and Gigan were shrunk for space travel, it makes no sense.

At any rate, the Chairman gives the order for Gigan and King Ghidorah to destroy Tokyo. Gigan actually gets to destroy some new miniatures that range from pretty good to, "Store mannequins are basically just big dolls, right?" King Ghidorah, on the other hand, becomes stock footage of himself from Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster. This is obvious even if you somehow, tragically, have never seen the movie because not only does that Ghidorah suit look different, but the attack there happened in daylight. The attempts to darken the footage don't disguise that at all. There's also the obvious fact that Ghidorah's lightning bolts in Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster and Invasion of Astro-Monster were carefully hand-animated, but the lightning bolts for this film's new footage are little more than pin-scratches on the negative.

On the plus side, the new footage of Gigan destroying buildings at least gives us the amazing shot of him illuminated by flames.

[Insert Metal Horns Here]
Oh, and if you've seen any poster art featuring Gigan, played a video game where he was featured, or you've seen Godzilla: Final Wars, you may be asking when Gigan fires a laser beam from that small aperture in his forehead or from his main eye. The answer is he doesn't. Despite whatever memo the poster artists got, Gigan has no distance weapons: he's strictly a melee fighter. Although, he does at one point use the aperture on his forehead to flash a signal for King Ghidorah to shoot something for him. So...there's that.

"Ugh! I wish I had good skin like Godzilla. My forehead is so shiny!"
Somehow Gigan and ing Ghidorah end up in the mysterious vast countryside that Japan apparently has, if kaiju eiga are to be believed. A battalion of maser tanks attack the pair and one scores a direct hit on Gigan's eye, which causes him to fall to his knees and crawl through a grove of trees as the maser's beam chops the trees in two as it follows him. If this footage seems like it doesn't fit Gigan's behavior or body structure, that's because the monster crawling through the trees is actually Gaira in stock footage from War of the Gargantuas, a humanoid monster that could believably crawl like that. Of course, the maser operator gets cocky and shoots Ghidorah, who didn't bother coming to his ally's aid but promptly fires back when he's attacked. Here we see that the film is also perfectly content to take destruction footage from movies that King Ghidorah was not in and just animate his lightning bolts over it--as Ghidorah melts the tanks from Mothra vs. Godzilla.

Eventually, Gigan and King Ghidorah make their way to an oil refinery by the sea.  A squadron of planes attacks Gigan and he bats them out of the sky with his hooks because they stupidly fly too close. I mean, yes, Gigan can fly--but he barely has to jump to get these guys. Luckily for whomever else pulled the short straw in the air force division of the JSDF, Godzilla and Anguirus appear in the harbor. King Ghidorah hilariously lets Godzilla just slowly walk up and body check him, and then Gigan begins promptly wailing on Anguirus. Because he's a dick.

Whatever else you can say for the film, though, from here on in it's full of monster battles only occasionally interrupted by scenes in the Godzilla Tower control room, or Gengo, Tomoko, and Takashi's silly escape that involves a weather balloon and a zip line--during which the aliens reveal that they have a laser beam in the Tower's mouth when the aliens destroy the car they assumed the heroes were in. The battles themselves are a mixed bag. Gigan does a lot of the actual fighting, presumably because his suit requires the least amount of wire assistance. King Ghidorah is so lethargic in his non-stock footage appearances that if he were an actual human, you'd think he was drunk or hungover.

The stock footage, of course, is a different story--and a source of much inadvertant amusement. For one thing, while Anguirus and King Ghidorah's suits look different in this film from the earlier appearances being recycled the differences are subtle enough that only a sharp-eyed viewer or truly obsessive Godzilla nerd is likely to pick up on them.* However, the Godzilla suit's appearance varies so wildly in the new footage and the stock footage from Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster and Invasion of Astro-Monster that even a casual viewer is likely to notice there seems to be three very different Godzillas being shown to them. And that's even before you factor in the fact that Godzilla casually strolls past Mothra in one scene, clear as day!

[* Hell, since Destroy All Monsters was unavailable on US home video until the late 1990s, for years I didn't even know that the famous bit where Anguirus clings to King Ghidorah's neck while the space dragon takes flight was stock footage from that film! Although it seemed hilariously obvious in hindsight, given the poor attempt at darkening the footage]

The heroes go to the JSDF Commander with their story about cockroach aliens. Obviously, he's a bit more willing to believe them than the police captain was earlier. However, he insists that they can't get close to the Tower and "only Godzillia (?!) has a chance." I'm well-accustomed to the use of Hong Kong dub actors leading to that peculiar tendency of the English accent to turn an "a" at the end of a word to "er," which gives us "Godziller"--but I've never heard that pronunciation anywhere else!

Takashi suggests that they send in a small squad of troops as that will likely escape the aliens' notice. In fact, the Scooby Gang has a plan. They'd better hurry up with said plan, because Gigan has successfully herded Godzilla into Children's Land--after being the first monster to ever draw blood from Godzilla by slicing his shoulder with that buzzsaw. Upon seeing his doppelganger, Godzilla challenges it...and gets a faceful of laser beam. Whatever that laser is made of, it's powerful enough to seriously hurt Godzilla. Anguirus tries to come to Godzlla's aid, but Gigan blocks her path--and then slashes her face with his buzzsaw, which sprays blood onto the camera.

Luckily for Godzilla, the Scooby Gang puts their plan into effect. What is their plan? To load a bunch of TNT onto the Godzilla Tower's elevator, cover it with a drawing of the Scooby Gang that Gengo somehow found time to do in between talking to the JSDF and implementing the plan, and then sending the elevator to the top floor. Ah, you say, so they'll detonate it when they get to the top, right? Nope. Far as I can tell their plan is entirely contingent on the aliens being stupid enough to just shoot the dynamite without investigating.

"Knock, knock."
Naturally, the aliens are exactly that stupid. The head of Godzilla tower is blown clean off. The Chairman, pinned beneath debris, calls out to Kubota and wonders where the machines went wrong and then turns back into his true form, which is just a regular cockroach on its back super-imposed onto the footage. A secondary explosion ensures the aliens are all dead, and rains debris onto the unconscious Godzilla. Gengo observes that the space monsters aren't being controlled any more, but aside from briefly being confused that doesn't change their behavior at all. Gigan is the first to snap out of it and begins beating the weakened Godzilla bloody, while Anguirus tries to take on Ghidorah by herself.

However, being knocked into Godzilla Tower somehow allows Godzilla to shake off the stupor he's been beaten into and he finishes smashing the Tower, then turns around and begins to beat Gigan to a pulp. You can theorize that Godzilla absorbed the energy from the alien machinery or whatever you want, but the only explanation the film can offer is Tomoko eagerly crying out, "Godzilla's strong again!" Hilariously, it's during the scenes of Godzilla wailing on Gigan that the Godzilla suit begins to fully give up the ghost--with huge, obvious chunks of rubber sloughing off.

Godzilla is forced to go save Anguirus from King Ghidorah, who has her pinned. Gigan attempts to charge Godzilla, but Godzilla dodges--and then the two space monsters briefly fight. Anguirus then sneakily jumps backwards into Ghidorah. Gigan, seeing that the tide has turned, flees into space. Godzilla and Anguirus curbstomp King Ghidorah a bit, but then he flees as well. We last see the two space monsters loudly roaring back and forth at each other as they disappear from view--no doubt laying blame on each other.

After Tomoko is frightened by a cricket--the apparent running joke being that a badass karate expert is terrified of insects, since she earlier fainted at the sight of the shadow cockroach--the heroes muse that maybe the insects will someday take over the Earth if humans don't get their act together. And how! Then everyone waves goodbye to Godzilla and Anguirus, as they swim off into the sunrise accompanied by the goofiest Japanese pop song this side of Jet Jaguar's theme song.

"Group picture, everyone crowd in!"
There's no question that compared to genuine classics like the original film or Mothra vs. Godzilla, this film is a dire mess. The stock footage, the stock music, the poor condition of Godzilla and King Ghidorah's suits, and the small amount of new miniatures all make the film feel as cheap as it probably is. The fact that its hero is a cartoonist and its villainous aliens are a bunch of incompetent boobs should tell you how obviously the story is aimed at children as well, and like the average Hollywood production you can tell at least someone involved went, "It's for kids, who cares if it's good?"

Yet, even with the obvious marks against it, this film is just too much fun to dislike. First off, I can't help but be a bit fond of a film that introduced a monster as delightful as Gigan. Secondly, there's the fact that it really does deliver on the monster goods, which should please people whining about the diminished amount of Godzilla in Godzillaand it manages to avoid becoming too repetitive. (Though, honestly, director Jun Fukuda would have served himself better by using less stock footage: it would make the film look less cheap and would tighten the pace more) Thirdly, despite being obviously aimed at kids and being book-ended by films whose heroes were Kennys, there is not a single annoying child in sight.

If someone is not a Godzilla fan, this is likely to be the kind of movie that they will cite as a reason why. It's cheap, childish, and just plain silly. Anyone viewing it with a critical eye is unlikely to believe that Godzilla can be serious cinema. On the flip side, many Godzilla fans will be annoyed at how completely unserious the film is because it doesn't fit with the recent trend of insisting that Godzilla is always the most serious of business.

Fie on both groups, if you ask me. This film is fun, plain and simple. It may not be very well-written and the budget has more visible stretchmarks than a python that swallowed a rhino, but if you're willing to just let the film entertain you, you will be entertained. And I don't mean "turn off your brain," either. Some of the most fun you can have with the film is reveling in how stupid it can be and if you try to match its stupidity you're going to miss out.

Even I will admit that this film is rather unlikely to appear on my top five list of best Godzilla movies, or maybe even my top ten. That doesn't mean I don't love it, but I recognize that it's not exactly good.

It does do one thing really well, however: the friendship between Godzilla and Anguirus. Keep in mind, at this point in time Godzilla and Anguirus had appeared in exactly two movies together (not counting the stock footage appearance of Anguirus in Godzilla's Revenge). In the first, Godzilla Raids Again, the two were sworn enemies in a fight to the death and in the second, Destroy All Monsters, they barely interacted at all. After this film, Anguirus and Godzilla appear together on film exactly three more times: once in Godzilla vs. Megalon when they barely interact in one scene, once in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla when Anguirus attacking "Godzilla" is our clue that it isn't Godzilla, and finally in Godzilla: Final Wars when they were once again portrayed as enemies.

Yet, Anguirus is usually thought of as Godzilla's best friend and sidekick; the Robin to his Batman, if you will. That's entirely down to how their relationship is portrayed in this film. Without this film, Anguirus would only be remembered as Godzilla's first foe--but she's barely remembered as that now! If nothing else, you have to give props to a film for so effectively rendering the relationship between two giant reptiles that it changed how they were viewed forever.

"♪ Girl, you're my best friend... ♪"