Here are capsule reviews for the Showa Godzilla movies that were released in the years between 1966 and 1969. Only minor spoilers are given, with only the barest of plots to preserve some of the joys of the films. Longer reviews will appear when warranted.
The four castaways wake on an island that is, unfortunately, far from deserted. It is the base of the military group known as the Red Bamboo as well as the home of the Kaijû Ebirah, a massive man eating lobster. On top of all of this, the four find Godzilla sleeping in an underground cave. With discovery by the Red Bamboo’s search parties only a matter of time, they form a desperate plan: wake Godzilla and hope to find a way off the island in the resulting confusion.
From this point on, Jun Fukuda is the regular series director. Unlike the majority of Honda’s films, Fukuda’s Godzilla films are decidedly absurd and do nothing for the radioactive dinosaur’s fearsome image.
Nevertheless, they are entertaining films and Nankai no daiketto is one of the best of the bunch, with one incident following the next so quick that one has little time to wonder at how daft it all is. (But afterwards… oh, afterwards…)
Originally, this film was to star King Kong and it shows. Godzilla uses physical attacks far more often than usual, and at one point shows a decided interest in a beautiful woman, something far more suited for his erstwhile ape opponent. Ebirah is, while somewhat impressive visually, a poor choice of monster to pit against the aquatic fire breathing dinosaur.
Note that this an inversion of the previous film, Kaijû daisenso, in which not only the Guardian Kaijû defeated by the Invader, he is defeated twice.
(One could make a case for Godzilla being a Guardian Kaijû as well, as he does show an interest in the beautiful woman, to the point of rescuing her. However, that particular moment goes nowhere. He never returns her phone calls and later pretends not to know her.)
aka Son of Godzilla
Director: Jun Fukuda
A scientific research team, located on a jungle island plagued by giant mantises known as the Kamacuras, learns that they also share the island with a lost egg belong to Godzilla. Unfortunately, the egg has been emitting a distress signal and Godzilla arrives to rescue his newfound son, destroying the team’s camp in process. Now the scientists have to deal with the savage Kamacuras, a sudden illness, and a radioactive dinosaur teaching his son the tricks of the trade. If that isn’t bad enough, the island’s true threat, Kumonga, wakes and begins to scuttle about the island for food.
This movie is notable for several reasons, primarily the introduction of the mildly disturbing son of Godzilla, Minya. The second is that, while the Kamacuras and Kumonga are both inclined to eat the Humans, they also lean towards dinosaur meat, making them a markedly different threat than Godzilla’s previous foes. Finally, this is one of the rare Godzilla films that end with Humanity triumphant over Godzilla.
After a wee slow patch at the start, the movie takes off and, like the previous Nankai no daiketto, does not let up. Most entertaining, so long as you like goofy movies.
(Small note: the English version refers to the Kamacuras as Gimantis and Kumonga as Spiga.)
Kaijû sôshingeki (1968)
aka Destroy All Monsters
Director: Ishirô Honda
In the far flung future of 1999, all of Earth’s Kaijû have been contained on a single island known as Monster Island. This proves to be a less than sound an idea as aliens invade the island and take possession of the titans, sending them out to beat Humanity into submission.
The return of Honda to the series brings with him a mild return of form to the series. The movie spends entirely too much time on the search for the alien invaders, but as nearly every one of Toho’s monster roster is on display within its running time, it’s hard to complain.
At one point intended to be the end of the Godzilla series.
Gojira-Minira-Gabara: Oru kaijû daishingeki (1969)
aka Godzilla’s Revenge
Director: Ishirô Honda
A troubled young boy imagines himself to be Minya’s best friend and learns a little bit about courage in the process.
The Showa Godzilla series drops straight to the bottom with this film. That’s not to say there aren’t good moments in this movie; there are. Unfortunately, they’ve all been stolen from previous Godzilla movies. This film is little more than a rehash episode with a few new sequences added in.
It’s tempting to label this not only the worst Godzilla movie of all time, but also the worse Kaiju movie ever released. Sadly, this is not the case. Three other future Showa Godzilla movies would rivaling it for the spot.
On this is the existence Uchu kaijû Gamera (Super Gamera) which redefines pain. It uses the same cost cutting measures as Oru kaijû daishingeki, using footage from earlier Gamera movies. Only, unlike Oru kaijû daishingeki, it is without the wit, humor, and intelligence a kick to the head provides. Avoid. At all cost.
This ends Part Two of this look at the Showa Godzilla.