Jul 2, 2023

The Monsters Are Due On Seneca Avenue

Godzilla-Palooza Raids Again
We were lucky enough to be in attendance to enjoy Godzilla vs. Gigan in the summer of 2021, and both Godzilla 1985 and Godzilla vs. Monster Zero last summer, but we missed out on the original Godzilla-palooza weekend which was held two years before we started coming to the Mahoning.  I was hoping that a Godzilla weekend would return to the drive-in, and I'm glad to say that it came back in a big way!

Show banner designed by Andrew Kern

Godzilla-palooza Raids Again was not only a return of Godzilla weekend at the Mahoning, but an extension of the original concept with eight films being screened from original 35mm prints.  We weren't able to make it to the second triple feature on Saturday, but we were there on Thursday, Friday and Sunday to see five of the kaiju flicks that were shown over the weekend.

The poster and t-shirt for this weekend was designed by Jason Cortez of Sons of Thunder Studios, and naturally, I picked up one of each.  I was a little too late to get one of the green shirts in my size, but I was lucky enough to grab a black one in 3XL before they sold out.  As cool as the show banner and poster were, there was one piece of art on the lot that overshadowed everything else... literally.

Not long after we arrived on the lot on Thursday, a U-Haul truck pulled up under the screen, and we saw Jason, Zeneca, Ryan, and Cheryl unpacking and setting something up.  We had some idea of what this was going to be, but there's no way that we could have known that it was going to be as massive and incredible as it was!

By the time they were finished, a nearly 14 foot tall Godzilla, complete with sound effects and a mouth that shot out smoke and his trademark atomic heat beam stood underneath the Mahoning screen.  There was a steady parade of fans at the drive-in who walked up to this incredible labor of love to take pictures, and of course, we were no exception!

Seriously...look at how huge he is!  From left to right, that is Kate, Anthony, Susan, Angie and me standing at the feet of the massive Godzilla statue.  It's was as wide as five or six full grown adults, and probably just as wide from torso to the end of his tail.

The Godzilla statue also attracted the attention of my hometown newspaper, the Standard Speaker.  When you get top billing on the front page of the newspaper over the President of the United States, the Supreme Court, PennDOT, and legalized weed, you've got to know that you've done something pretty damn special!

Standard Speaker - Hazleton, PA  (July 1, 2023)
Click to enlarge

There's no upstaging that statue, but I've got to spend a little time talking about the food.

The special concession item of the weekend was Dogzilla, which was a hot dog topped with chili, cheddar cheese, lettuce, and tomato.  We had the vegan version, which came complete with a vegan hot dog, vegan chili and vegan cheese, and I honestly couldn't tell the difference between it and a chili dog made with real meat and cheese.

The first movie of Godzilla-palooza Raids Again was the 1973 classic Godzilla vs. Megalon.  It's the 13th film in the Godzilla universe, and one of the ones that I saw on VHS at my neighbor's house when I lived on First Street as a kid.  As the title suggests, it features Megalon, as well as Gigan and the Ultraman-inspired Jet Jaguar (or "Robot Man", as he is referred to in the film's trailer).

This movie is Godzilla at his cheesy best.  It definitely has a less serious tone than many of the other Godzilla flicks, but it's a hell of a lot of fun.  If you have a high tolerance for alcohol, you can add to the experience by doing a shot every time Rokuro shouts "Jet Jaguar".

We were at the Phillies game for my birthday on Saturday night, but I'm very happy to have been on the lot for Friday night's triple feature.  Not only did it include my favorite kaiju movie, but it gave me the opportunity to celebrate my birthday on the lot with my wife and our friends during the second intermission after midnight rolled the calendar over to the first of July.

The first movie of the night was the 1975 film Terror Of Mechagodzilla, which was renamed as The Terror Of Godzilla when it was released to theaters in the United States three years later.  We got to see a 35mm print of the English dubbed version from 1978 which was heavily edited to remove violence and brief nudity, but since I've only ever seen this version of the movie before, I didn't notice anything was missing.  I picked up a nice box set of the Shōwa era Godzilla films on Bluray from the Exhumed Films table, so I'm going to spend some time this winter binging the original Japanese versions.

This film is the direct sequel to Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla and begins with a submarine mission to the retrieve what's left of Mechagodzilla, but their efforts come to an abrupt end when they are attacked by the ocean-dwelling monster Titanosaurus.  We learn throughout the story that Titanosaurus is being controlled by disgruntled scientist Shinzô Mafune, who wants to destroy humanity as punishment for mocking and discrediting him when he goes public with his discovery of TitanosaurusMafune partners with the Black Hole Aliens in their efforts to rebuild Mechagodzilla so that it could team up with Titanosaurus to conquer the world, but a certain King Of The Monsters has something to say about that!

The second movie of Friday night is my favorite kaiju movie of all time, the iconic 1961 film Mothra.  I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the Mahoning was screening an original 35mm print of the Japanese film with English subtitles because I've only ever seen the dubbed version before.  It's been a long time since I watched it in its entirety, and it is every bit as beautiful as I remember it being when I first saw it when I was growing up.

This is the one movie out of all of the kaiju films that I've ever watched that I would recommend to everyone as a must-see.  You can rent it with subtitles on FlixFling or dubbed on YouTube.  Whichever you choose, I can promise you that the haunting song of The Shobijin will echo in your memory long after the credits roll.

The final film of Friday night was Godzilla 2000, which I had never watched before this past weekend at the drive-in.  I'm going to have to watch it again before I can give an even slightly coherent synopsis or review though.  I didn't fall asleep, but I was awake for about 20 hours by the time the opening credits rolled on this one, and my brain was feeling a bit foggy to say the least.  I definitely enjoyed it enough to want to see it again after I've had a proper night's sleep and can give it the attention that it deserves.

Godzilla-palooza closed out with a bang on Sunday night with one of the most fun Toho films ever made; the 1968 kaiju ensemble classic Destroy All Monsters.  The movie begins in the futuristic world of 1999 in which the world is at peace, and all of the monsters are confined to Monster Island.  However, the peace is broken by a devious alien race called the Kilaaks who use their mind control technology on human beings and monsters alike.

The Kilaaks use their powers to break the monsters free from Monster Island and force them to invade cities all over the world, with Godzilla attacking New York City, Mothra attacking Beijing, Rodan attacking Moscow, Manda attacking London, and Gorosaurus and Baragon attacking Paris.  This is done to allow the aliens to distract the humans away from Japan while they set up their secret base beneath Mount Fuji, after which they command the monsters to join together and attack Tokyo.  After our human heroes overcome the Kilaaks mind control, the monsters begin to fight for them against the alien threat, but they still have one final boss to overcome when the Kilaaks summon the three-headed dragon, King Ghidorah.

This movie is balls-to-the-wall monster mayhem from start to finish, and it was the perfect way to end Godzilla-palooza weekend!

There are so many Godzilla films that have been made over the years that they could bring this event back in the future.  I'm not sure which movies have accessible 35mm prints or which ones would be challenging (or impossible) to license, but if anybody can figure out how to do a third Godzilla-palooza weekend, the Mahoning can.

So... is this really the end of Godzilla at the Mahoning?  I wouldn't bet on it!