POP HAZMAT HOLIDAY EDITION presents FATHER of the MILLENNIUM (Monster Edition) by JONATHAN KIERAN
TODAY’S HONOREE: Godzilla, Patient Father of Irritating Shame-Child, Minilla
PRIME EVIDENCE OF FANTASTIC FATHERLY SKILLS: Son of Godzilla (1967, Toho Studios) Godzilla’s Revenge (1971)
RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: Perhaps still reeling from this week’s revelation that Tokyo’s youth are so detached from common sense and reality that they’ve taken to licking each other’s eyeballs, I thought I’d showcase a “Father’s Day” figure from the twisted depths of Japanese culture who’d rather be caught dead than allow his progeny to tongue-bathe someone else’s pupils. That esteemed and sturdy hero is, of course, none other than the Biggest, Baddest Daddy of them all: Godzilla — icon, savior and symptom of all that is warped-yet-curiously-wonderful about the Empire of the Sun.
Given the parade of mutated and progressively ludicrous monster-characters that Toho Studios was trundling-out like the Fabulous Factory of Foolishness that it was in the 1960s (e.g. giant bats, giant silkworms, giant flying turtles, giant moths, giant pterodactyls, giant globs of toxic waste) it was inevitable that some brain-trust would come up with the idea to provide mighty Godzilla with some offspring. “Minilla” the Son of Godzilla, however, was decidedly not introduced as a “chip off the old radioactive dorsal fin” in his 1967 Toho film debut. Tubby, vulnerable, talentless and somewhat retarded-looking (think Kim Jong Un after a rowdy night of cheap champagne and chasing the nimble daughter of a fishmonger around some underground nuke reactor), Minya’s actual parentage was a bit shadowy and indeterminate from the start.
The existence of a “Mrs. Godzilla” had ever been so much as hinted-at, much less introduced to the monster-loving masses, and no sweaty team of frantic scientists in any previous Toho production had ever mentioned the possibility that Godzilla (presumably as male as they come) possessed the ability to lay his own eggs.
Never the less, out of an enormous, blotchy egg hatched Godzilla’s little boy, whose immediate peril in the face of giant praying mantises (the “Kamacuras”) caused Godzilla’s presumably dormant paternal instincts to kick into high gear. He capably rescued newborn Minilla from the hungry mantis-monsters, though I recall sort of wishing, as a child, that one of the insectoid behemoths might’ve at least taken an arm or maybe part of the tail off that goofy-looking little brat. Minilla seemed to have been patently created to play the role of a helpless dimwit, perhaps for the purpose of appealing to children who believed themselves to be dimwitted and a trifle useless. Who can say? I considered myself to be a rather spunky and self-sufficient brat, so Minilla’s clumsiness and infantile whining repelled me in no uncertain terms. He sounded like one of those fat, anatomically correct Baby Dolls that wheezed like a broken bicycle-horn as you stepped on its belly, over and over and over again, when your sister wasn’t watching. But I digress.
The Son of Godzilla was clearly conceived as a vehicle wherein Japan’s Greatest Star might establish his lovable, Father of the Year credentials for posterity. In addition to the battle against the pesky gang of mantids, there were several helpful lessons in the art of radioactive fire-breathing (Minilla, being a learning-disabled monstrosity, could only muster a few unconvincing blue smoke-rings) and a terrifying climactic encounter with a giant spider that looked for all the world like the hairiest Kardashian sister, the big ungainly one. Finally learning to exhale a reasonably scorching plume of atomic halitosis at the last minute, Minilla seemed on the verge of a developmental breakthrough and you sort of got the idea that he would be a “monster to watch” in future Toho extravaganzas.
Boy, was I ever wrong. Minilla’s next cinematic appearance found him in even more pathetic fettle than ever. Ostensibly written as a coming-of-age fable in which children must learn to beat schoolyard bullies at their own game, Godzilla’s Revenge (1971, also known by the more blatant and just-blurt-it-out-already title, All Monsters Attack!) was the story of a Japanese latchkey-kid named “Ichiro,” who had thankfully not yet been exposed to the joys of eyeball-licking as a way to pass the time while his parents slaved to make a living in the competitive chaos of Tokyo. Lonely, runty and a bit of a misfit, Ichiro copes with the absence of his parents and the taunting of street-punks (who no doubt wanted him to lick their eyeballs) by toying around with his ham-radio and fantasizing about being the special guest of Godzilla’s son, Minilla, on legendary Monster Island. The story itself was one of the more charming and well-written of Toho’s myriad monster offerings, but the film was marred by the use of clunky old footage that any Godzilla-freak worth his or her salt could immediately recognize and resent.
Why the producers opted to make that movie on-the-extra-cheap is a mystery, but at least we got to see more of Godzilla’s fatherly instruction and surly frustration with the persistent wimpyness of his son. That was pretty satisfying. A particularly nasty (but spectacular) new monster was introduced, as well. “Gabra” had the horns of a demon atop the head of a cat with distemper and could send snap-crackling bolts of lightning onto his enemies when he grabbed them. This was a monster that kids definitely wanted to see a great deal more in the movies — a monster who could’ve easily headlined his own series of spin-off films. As a kid, I was just dying to know what sorts of painful and vile things Gabra might be able to do to Mothra or to those irritating little Fairy Princesses that were always jabbering-on about their beloved worm. In the end, however, Gabra was defeated by Minilla and presumably banished from Monster Island to hang his head in perpetual shame, never to grace the Big Screen again. Naturally, Godzilla helped his son cheat his way to an undeserved victory, and isn’t that basically the epitome of successful fatherhood?
It is for this reason, among any, that Pop HazMat is pleased to award the Father of the Millennium trophy to good old Godzilla — emblem of Japanese power & creativity and no-nonsense parent to mealy mouthed monster-spawn who need a good shove out of the nest and into the unforgiving gauntlet of city-wrecking adulthood.
EXPERIENCE THE MAGIC: Behold the classic “tail-stomping” scene in which Godzilla gives his offspring a little help in the radioactive fire-breathing department. Father-Son bonding … it almost brings a tear to your eye. (But watch out — a Japanese teen might lick it dry before you can cry!)
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