I’ve already seen every classic Godzilla film, most of them multiple times.  I wrote about a bunch of them back in 2008.  This week I decided it was time to give some other kaiju their due.  I tried to get my hands on a film from North Korea (seriously this thing looks awesome) but didn’t have any luck, so most of these are flicks you can pick up at a good video store or on Netflix.

The Films
Death Kappa (2010) dir. Tomoo Haraguchi
Rodan (1956) dir. Ishiro Honda
Gamera The Brave (2006) dir. Ryuta Tazaki
Daimajin (1966) dir. Kimiyoshi Yasuda
Ultraman Gaia: Battle in Hyperspace (1999) dir. Kazuya Konaka
The Mighty Peking Man (1978) dir. Meng Hua Ho
Yongary, Monster from the Deep (1967) dir. Ki-duk Kim

Death Kappa
From the studio that brought you Machine Girl and Tokyo Gore Police comes another cheesy, low-budget genre homage–this time in the form of a kaiju film with practical effects!  If you can get past the intentionally lowbrow stuff, Death Kappa has some fun moments.  Studios are still making serious attempts at rubber suit Kaiju films these days so I don’t know why this one needed to be quite this shoody.  Think of it this way– Death Kappa : Gamera :: Black Dynamite : Shaft.  Let’s break it down.

Kaiju Roll Call
Origin: Brought to life by evil military scientists who want to conquer the world as revenge for Japan’s loss in WWII (jerks)
Powers: Fire Breath
Failed Attempts to Stop Him: Tanks, Infantry Soldiers, Helicopters, Jets (typical)
Our Best Defense: Gorgon Monster Death Ray (ineffective)
Weakness: His own fire breath
Rubber Suit Quality: Nice and colorful, like a cross between Godzilla and a Chinese dragon

Death Kappa
Origin: Traditional turtle-like goblin grown to giant size for no good reason
Powers: Energy Breath, Sumo Skills, Nun-chuck Skills
Likes: Cucumbers, J-Pop
Dislikes: Hangyolas, Humanity
Weakness: Head Plate and his love of J-Pop
Rubber Suit Quality: Excellent, with red glowing eyes

Death Kappa

Death Kappa is transfixed by a song.

Ishiro Honda and Eiji Tsuburaya continued to innovate after the success of Gojira and Rodan is a perfect example of that.  The film is serious, truly reaching for scares in the beginning with horrible acts of violence perpetrated in the shadows.  The movie also ends in the perfect place, like so many of these early kaiju films, without any denoument or space to wrap things up.  The monsters are killed, it feels tragic, and humanity shuffles on in shame.

Kaiju Roll Call
Dragonfly Larvae
Origin: Prehistoric beasts unearthed in a coal mine
Powers: Sharp claws
Failed Attempts to Stop Them: Handguns (come on guys, handguns?)
Weakness: Large quantities of coal, Rodan
Rubber Suit Quality: A great, weird design like a centepede with claws

Origin: A prehistoric beast hatched because of nuclear bomb testing (and global warming)
Powers: Supersonic Flight, Shockwaves
Failed Attempts to Stop Them: Jets, Tanks, Rocket Launchers
Weakness: Volcanoes
Rubber Suit Quality: Superb!

Rodan Attacks

Strings Attached

Gamera The Brave
In this kid-friendly reboot of the Gamera franchise we get to see the origin of a new Gamera from adorable, tiny box turtle to still somewhat adorable fire-breathing kaiju turtle!  It’s like The Water Horse except the kid’s pet turns into a 60 meter tall monster of mass destruction.  What I love about Gamera though is that he is, from the outset, here to protect people.  There’s no wishy-washy Godzilla stuff where Gamera protects us by accident because some other monster has pissed him off.  The production value in this latest Gamera film gives me hope for more contemporary man-in-suit mayhem.

Kaiju Roll Call
Origin: Unknown
Powers: Prehensile tail, Tongue Spear
Favorite Food: People in Nagoya
Failed Attempts to Stop Him: None–everyone just runs away
Weakness: Fire Breath
Rubber Suit Quality:  Excellent!  He’s a colorful giant lizard with a purple spear tongue!

Origin: Hatched from a mystical egg
Powers: Understands Japanese, Fire Breath, Flight, Self-Destruct Mode
Alias: Toto the Turtle
Weakness: He is just a baby!
Failed Attempts to Stop Him: The children won’t let the military have him!
Rubber Suit Quality:  Great–he retains his juvenile look all the way to the end

Gamera the Brave DVD

Box art perfectly sums up the tone of this film.

Daimajin is a fantastic change of pace–a kaiju film set in feudal Japan instead of modern-day Tokyo!  For the first hour it plays out like a typical Samurai film with lots of townspeople being put upon by the treacherous lord.  Once the Majin is released from his stone statue, he unleashes his wrath on the town in the typical fashion of destroying buildings, crushing people underfoot, and generally making a mess.  This is one in a set of three films that were all released in 1966.  The concept has been revived for a 2010 TV show set in modern times–I’m anxious to see that.

Kaiju Roll Call
Origin: A god sealed up in a stone idol is released
Powers: Wind power, Anger
Failed Attempts to Stop Him: Hammers, Swords, Arrows, Rifles, Catapults, Flaming Hay
Signature Sound Effect: An echoing footstep
Weakness: Tears
Rubber Suit Quality: The face makeup is a little heavy and the rubber hands in some shots are a little rough


Daimajin--you wouldn't like him when he's angry.

Ultraman Gaia: Battle in Hyperspace
In our world where Ultraman is just a tv show to sell toys, a child finds a magical red ball that grants him wishes.  He uses it to bring Ultraman out of a parallel universe, the school bully uses it to summon a monster, and the game is on.  Somewhere in there is a moral about reading books, loving your mom, and not taking the easy way out by just wishing for things to be done through magic balls.

Kaiju Roll Call
Origin: Summoned to Earth through magic
Powers: 1000 Degree Ray, Claws, A serious-sounding name
Failed Attempts to Stop Him: None
Face: None
Weakness: Ultraman’s powers
Rubber Suit Quality: Pretty neat design, though they are a dime a dozen in this series

King of Monsters
Origin: Summoned to Earth through magic
Powers: Splits into three monsters including Bajiris and Scylla (more toys!), heat rays, yadda yadda
Failed Attempts to Stop Him: None
Weakness: Ultraman’s powers, karate
Rubber Suit Quality: Again, good, but it all seems a little too clean and polished

Ultraman Gaia (Tiga and Dyna)
Origin: Men grab a thing, shout a word, turn tall and battle monsters
Powers: Ultrabeam, Flight, things listed on Wikipedia as Zeppellion Ray,  Photon Stream, and Solgent Ray!
Failed Attempts to Stop Him: None–he is on our side
Weakness: A low battery
Rubber Suit Quality: Is it just me or have they actually emphasized the zippers on the suits to the point of making them a feature?

Ultraman Gaia

Seriously, look at the zipper on that guy!

The Mighty Peking Man (aka Goliathon)
The Shaw Brothers’ King Kong knock-off is like those “MIKE” shoes you sometimes see in Chinatown.  It has basically all of the trappings of the original, right down to the Peking Man climbing a building at the end, but it just isn’t stitched together quite right.  The jungle woman who runs around the movie in a loincloth was a nice touch, but really, is a cash-in on the crummy remake of King Kong really worth the time?

Kaiju Roll Call
Peking Man
Powers: Strength, compassion
Origin: Unknown
Failed Attempts to Stop Him: Tanks, helicopters, chains
Motivation: To save Samantha, the feral girl he raised
Weakness: He’s a big sap and also he isn’t impervious to fire
Rubber Suit Quality: Like a bigger version of the apes in 2001

Peking Man

Goliathon is not a fan of helicopters.

Yongary, Monster from the Deep
This South Korean kaiju film owes a lot to Godzilla.  An earthquake shakes loose an ancient underground beast who feeds on energy.  There’s a bomb going off in the Middle East, the monster eats oil and spits fire, and the Koreans are sending up a space probe.  Yeah, there’s a lot going on and it doesn’t always connect.  Thankfully science wins in the end.

Kaiju Roll Call
Powers: Horn, fire breath, energy ray
Origin: Climbed up from beneath the Earth’s surface
Failed Attempts to Stop Him: Tanks, jets, missiles, Ammonia Compound 1
Weakness: Ammonia Compound 2
Little Known Fact: Enjoys dancing to surf rock
Rubber Suit Quality: About on par with others of the era except for the eyes–those eyes!

Yongary Poster


Other Movie Weeks in 2011:
Woody Allen Week
Secret Agent Week
Asian Action Week