The King of the Monsters adopts an heir to the Throne!
SOG is, unapologetically, my favorite Godzilla film. Sure, the 1967 G-suit catches a lot of flack for its – unconventional – appearance, but I love the new life it gives to Godzilla. The entire film is a joy from start to finish, and the script & cast are the best Toho’s showa films offered us. Packed with classic monster action, fantastic characters, vibrant colors, a terrific score and phenomenal tokusatsu FX work, Son of Godzilla is a true classic with infinite “rewatchability”. – Jon D. B.
In 1967, a scientific experiment of weather manipulation is taking place on Solgell Island in the south pacific. The scientists on the island are becoming restless because of the intense heat, coupled with the fact that there are large praying mantises roaming the island. However, the hard-nosed Professor Kusumi refuses to give up, and presses his men on. As preparations continue, a cargo plane flying overhead drops an unlikely package-a journalist named Goro Maki, who insists the professor allow him to stay and cover the experiment. Finally, the professor allows him to stay, provided he cook and clean for the men. As they near the time for the experiment, Goro happens upon a native woman, but she abruptly disappears as he makes his presence known. Finally the moment of the experiment arrives, and the process is started. All of a sudden, strange radio waves interfere with their equipment, and the experiment is compromised. The explosion of the element in the atmosphere causes a radioactive storm, and intense heat settles on the island, wilting foliage and scarring the facility. After a few days, it is cool enough to venture outside, and once again, the professor pushes to get the project back in motion. On checkingone of the information units, Goro and another scientist discover that the praying mantises have become massive, and they are forced to hide until it passes. Three of the giant monsters converge on a giant rock pile, where they began to dig at the ground. Later on, the praying mantises, dubbed “Kamacuras” by Goro, succeed in unearthing their prize; a giant egg. They begin to smash it open, and a little baby dinosaur pops out. Goro determines it is a baby Godzilla, and then realizes that it was the source of the radio interference. Back at the site, one of the scientists goes crazy, firing off a shotgun and running towards the ocean. The group leader catches him just in time to see Godzilla rise from the ocean. Godzilla heads into the jungle, hearing the cries of the baby. Back at the scene, the Kamacuras are beginning to attack the infant, when all of a sudden Godzilla shows up and challenges them. After a brief skirmish, two are disposed of; set on fire by Godzilla’s atomic breath. The remaining Kamacuras flies away in retreat. Upon returning to the base, Goro stumbles into a cave, losing consciousness. He comes to to find that it is the home of the native girl, named Seiko, and she confronts him. They quickly become friends, and Goro takes her back to meet the team. Meanwhile, Godzilla tries to teach his adopted son lessons on how to roar and breath atomic breath, and puts up with his child-like antics along the way. When the Men all become sick, Seiko tells them of a cure, and she and Goro go to get it. Along the way, she tells him of “Kumonga”, a giant spider buried underneath the ground near there, and to be careful not to disturb him. The cure is administered to the men, and later on, Seiko ventures out into the jungle to find more medicine when she stumbles on a sleeping Kamacuras, who wakes up and attacks her. The baby Godzilla shows up, and he and Kamacuras fight. Goro arrives to rescue Seiko and they escape. During the battle, Kumonga is woken up and chases the two humans. After barely escaping, Kumonga follows them to her cave, and tries to attack them. The baby shows up again, and Kumonga’s attention turns toward him. The baby is no match for Kumonga, who entraps him in a thick web. Only when Godzilla shows up is the baby spared. The professor conclude the only way they can escape the island safely is to start the experiment, and they begin. The experiment is successful, and snow begins to fall on the island as the three-way monster battle continues. Kumonga proved to be a very worthy opponent for Godzilla, and only through the combined firepower of the two monsters do they finally beat him. Kumonga set ablaze, Godzilla sluggishly moves along the beach with his son in tow to find a spot suitable for hibernation. The team of scientists finally receives a rescue submarine, and they leave Godzilla and his son to hibernate on the island.
This to me is one of the more lighthearted and enjoyable Godzilla films of the 1960s. The atmosphere is very happy-go-lucky for the most part, and Masaru Sato’s lively score compliment the “south seas island” feel to the movie. There is plenty of monster action spread out through the movie, and we get several types of monsters. Of course, we Get Minilla (who is nameless in the film – his name would come at a later date), the son of Godzilla, along with Kamacuras; a giant radiated praying mantis, and Kumonga, a monster spider. Godzilla goes without saying. All of which were portrayed in a splendid and believable manner. The Kamacuras and Kumonga puppets were well done, and for what they were, they were handled well. However, the main character of the movie to this day brings a lot of criticism; as he looks absolutely nothing like Godzilla. He looks more like the Pillsbury Dough-boy crossed with a dinosaur. The adult Godzilla suit seems overly bulky, but that was to be expected, as the Godzilla suit had to be a little taller to compensate for the difference in size between Minilla and Godzilla himself. It wasn’t a very impressive Godzilla suit; the head was too big, and it really resembled Minilla more than anything. Whether that was intentional I’m not sure. It doesn’t make the film any less enjoyable. The child-like antics of Minilla and the watchful parent actions of Godzilla make for one of the most enjoyable and heartwarming Godzilla films of the sixties.
The human actors in the movie were very enjoyable. Akira Kubo, Tadao Takashima, Akihiko Hirata, Kenji Sahara, and Yoshio Tsuchiya all doing absolutely superb jobs with their characters. I can’t go without mentioning Bibara Maeda as Seiko. She did an excellent job as well, and is yet another superb and important female character in the Godzilla series (not to mention she is beautiful as can be).
The special effects were impressive. The wilting plants as the heat damage set in, and the shots of the aftermath of the radioactive storm; the buildings with the paint melted off and rusting was a superb job, and really gave a realistic impression. Kumonga’s special effects work was well done also, save for the shots of Goro and Seiko being entwined in his webbing. The Kamacuras, Minilla, and Godzilla fighting with the webbing were truly interesting effects indeed.
Son of Godzilla is in my opinion a sorely underappreciated movie; because of it’s venture away from Godzilla’s traditional character, but that’s just one man’s opinion. I think it is a very well made film, with great acting, great special effects work, and a great score, and makes for one of the most enjoyable movies in the series. This one gets no less than four stars out of five from me!
– The Real McCoy
Produced in 1967, “Son of Godzilla” is the eighth Godzilla movie produced and as the title implies it is the first in the franchise to feature Godzilla’s offspring, who strangely enough would not be given a proper name until his third and last Showa era appearance, “All Monsters Attack,” during which we learn his name is Minya, or rather Minilla as he’s been renamed in recent years (personally I prefer Minya over Minilla, but that’s just me). The film takes place not in Japan, but rather on far away fictional Sollgel Island, where a team of scientists are conducting weather experiments to control earth’s climates, as a means by which to solve world hunger by making the most of environments normally too inhospitable to grow crops. Between the unbearable heat and the island’s population of giant, human sized praying mantises, AKA Kamacuras, the science team has nearly lost all patience with their determined leader, Professor. Kusumi. Matters become even more complicated when a newshound named Goro arrives on the island via plane, parachuting onto the beach and inviting himself onto the research team, who humorously allow him to join so long as he agrees to do “dirty work” like laundry and cooking. While foraging for food Goro even sights a mysterious island woman, though no one else on the team believes him until later in the film when they learn she’s Reiko, the daughter of Dr. Matsumia who came to the island years ago and perished, leaving his only child to grow up alone in the wilderness.
The situation takes a turn for the worse as an unexplained signal emanating from the island center causes their latest experiment to backfire on an epic scale, generating a radioactive storm that triggers a tremendous growth spurt in the already huge Kamacuras, boosting them to a staggering 50 meters in height, same as Godzilla! The Kamacuras soon after uncover a massive egg, which was the source of the strange signal, and after cracking it open, out pops a defenseless infant Godzilla. Fortunately for the youngster, his father soon arrives on the scene and shows the hungry predators who’s King of the Monsters. Goro, Reiko, and the science team then find themselves alone on an island populated by Godzilla, his newborn son, Kamacuras, and a fourth kaiju, the frightening giant spider, Kumonga! What all this entails is a fun and exciting tale about wilderness survival, adorable baby kaiju hijinks, and plenty of rumbles in the jungle between a sizable cast of memorable monsters.
Godzilla is the protagonist kaiju of the film, only not to the point at which the science team feel comfortable when he’s around of course. The MusukoGoji suit used for the film has a short snout and large eyes with heavy lids, which gives him the overall appearance of a grouchy father figure, ideal for his role as a new dad in this film. The suit was designed to give Godzilla a more paternal look and to more closely resemble Minya, but at the same time still look intimidating and powerful. Godzilla’s interactions with Minya provides a fair mix of comedy and heart warming family friendly moments that will appeal to children viewers as well as their parents. Godzilla comes across as inexperienced when it comes to child rearing and more accustomed to a solitary lifestyle, but there can be doubt he loves his son when he rushes to his defense against Kamacuras and Kumonga, and teaches him how to fend for himself as his own monster. Like many baby animals Minya is both playful and curious, making him a friend to the human characters as well as getting him into a good deal of trouble his dad usually has to bail him out of, which of course gives us some nice action scenes in turn. Minya also possesses a wide range of vocalizations that convey his mood at any given time, the sound “wagwa” apparently meaning something akin to “daddy.” Personally, I was a bigger fan of Minya when I was a kid, nowadays I find him less impressive compared to the Heisei era’s more convincing interpretations of the son of Godzilla, especially in the case of Godzilla Junior. However, Minya served his purpose well enough for the Showa era and fits in with the lightheartedness of this particular picture, so whether you come to adore the “little” guy or resent him for his cheesiness is up to you.
In sharp contrast to the Goji family scenes, the antagonist kaiju Kamacuras and Kumonga are quite menacing. Granted, giant radioactive insects and arachnids are far from being something new and different, but despite this they give off far more personality and presence than other movie monsters of similar origins. Kumonga especially displays a surprising degree of intelligence as the jumbo sized spider uses its webbing to both immobilize prey and cut off escape routes, even reaching into cave entrances in pursuit of our human heroes with its long, hairy, claw tipped legs. The marionettes used to portray Kamacuras and Kumonga are very detailed and move convincingly even during fight scenes, making for some wild kaiju combat and scary close-calls with the human cast. However, while we are led to believe the Kamacuras were abnormally large even before the radioactive storm grew them to city smashing size, we never learn as to whether or not Kumonga was always as big as he was depicted or whether the storm increased his girth as well, we only know from Reiko and her father’s research notes that Kumonga was a danger on the island long before the science team arrived.
The tropical island setting was beautiful and the sets used for the monster scenes were quite convincing, and the actors of the film did a pretty bang up job portraying their characters, even if only Goro, Reiko, and Dr. Kusumi were particularly memorable. The musical scores for the film switched back and forth between goofy and epic as the scenes alternated between the family friendly and sci-fi action moments, not my favorite musical themes of the Godzilla franchise but appropriate for the film itself. However, one big mystery never solved was where exactly Minya came from, seeing as that Godzilla is a male monster, has no mate, and unlike the 1998 Tristar creature Zilla, does not reproduce asexually. Due to these reasons, it is generally accepted that Minya was merely a fellow monster of the same species whom was lucky enough to be adopted by the Big G before the Kamacuras could make a meal out of him, Godzilla following the signal he was giving out all the way to Sollgel Island. Regardless, “Son of Godzilla” is an enjoyable Toho film that is sure to entertain old and young monster fans alike.
On a special note, Sollgel Island was the first Island to be referred to as a “Monster Island” by the human characters when the science team muses over how many kaiju have come to inhabit it. As a result, many fans believe Sollgel Island to be one and the same with the famous Monster Island that would remain Godzilla’s home throughout much of the 60’s and 70’s Goji films, though still separate from the Monsterland used to contain the kaiju cast in “Destroy All Monsters.