There’s nothing innately wrong with Jun Fukuda’s 1967 monster outing Son of Godzilla, but this film opens up the last third of the Showa series and sets the stage for the lousier films that follow. Godzilla fans know Fukuda is the man behind Godzilla vs. Ebirah, Gigan, Megalon, and the fist Mechagodzilla film. Fukuda’s name synonymous with the kid-oriented films and it shows here.
Son of Godzilla also showcases Toho’s increasing budgetary stinginess. We have no cities for the Big G to smash this time, but a nondescript tropical island. We have no HO scale armies for Big G to fight, just a corrugated metal weather station. In fact, the sets are created from the remains of the set of the 1966 film Godzilla vs. Ebirah.
What we do have are some new monsters, Kumonga (a big spider) and The Kamakuras (three big mantids), plus the dough-boy-esque Minya, a baby Godzilla.
When scientists on a remote island are working on a weather control device their experiments with radiation cause some of the island insects to grow to enormous size. When a giant egg is discovered (shades of Mothra) the insects break it open to reveal Minya, a squealing and mewling little Godzilla infant whose cries bring Godzilla out of the deep and to his rescue.
What we get for the next hour or so is the story of the scientists trying to salvage their experiment and avoid being stomped/eaten by the monsters on the island. The isolation takes its toll on the scientists too and their growing unease manifests in a few violent outbursts. When a beautiful native girl is discovered on the island (shades of Godzilla vs. Ebirah) the crew races to complete their experiment and escape the Island before the monster fighting destroys them and their work.
This film features the WORST Godzilla costume of all courtesy of the special effects team led by Teisho Arikawa. This one has a weird pig-nose and googly eyes (think Cookie Monster). the Kamakuras and Kumonga costumes aren’t too good either. Abandoning the long held practice of giving Godzilla an enemy made of a man in a suit, he instead gets enemies made of large marionettes. Although the strings aren’t totally visible, the Kumonga and Kamakuras monsters are so herky-jerky that they provide both no challenge for the radioactive lizard and little threat to the humans on the island.
The soundtrack is lousy too, perhaps the worst in the series courtesy of Masaru Sato. I dunno, it all sounds off key to me. Sato, for what it’s worth, revels in traditional Japanese music so his compositions here making heavy use of horns is really jarring.
The acting is good though, which is weird for a Godzilla film. Fukuda pulls from his regular staple of Toho actors including the always entertaining Tadao Takashima and Kenji Sahara as well as some who would appear in the later kiddie oriented flicks like Akihiko Hirata.
Where Godzilla vs Ebirah has an interesting history (it was supposed to be a King Kong film), Son of Godzilla has no real reason to be this unusual in the franchise other than what appears to be Fukuda’s desire to compete on the same playing field as Daiei’s Gamera franchise. This is to the film’s detriment. The generally tensionless tone loses the older audience and the lack of humor bores the kids. So we are left with little more than Godzilla whipping on a couple of marionettes.
Columbia Tri Star still manages to release this film well, which elevates the presentation some. Son of Godzilla comes in 19x9 anamorphic widescreen with the original Japanese language track, and a new English dub, English subs, and some cool trailers. The picture is crisp and vibrant and emphasizes the great cinematography of Kazuo Yamada.
For all I’ve said about the effects here, Yamada manages to keep Godzilla in scale most of the time, which if you are familiar with any of these films seems like a challenge.
Son of Godzilla is a rare film, in my opinion the worst of the series, because it uncomfortably straddles the line between kid and adult oriented film and never manages to please either audience. Still, the presentation makes the film a nice reminder of how committed Columbia Tri-Star are in giving these the best possible release. Since we fans have had to suffer with crap-quality pan-and-scan EP speed VHS from any number of fly-by-night distributors, it’s good to finally have a large distribution company committed to Godzilla.