Jun 30, 2024

The True Lizard King

Son Of Godzilla-Palooza
Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
We have gotten to see a heck of a lot of Godzilla flicks at various events held at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater over the past few years.  Most of these took place one year ago at a four day weekend event called Godzilla-Palooza Raids Again, which was the second kaiju weekend held on the lot.  It was such a big hit that it's came back for a third time this weekend for a four day event called Son Of Godzilla-Palooza.

Show banner designed by Andrew Kern
Show poster designed by Jason Cortez

The third chapter in the Godzilla-Palooza saga was eight movies across the last four nights of June 2024.  The only night we didn't go to this year was Thursday night's screening of Godzilla 1985, but only because we had already watched it at the Mahoning not too long ago when it was screened during Schlock-O-Rama VI.

The 14 foot tall Godzilla statue was just as big of a hit this year as it was last season.  It's an extremely sturdy kaiju that has survived for a full year on the lot.  Thanks to some touch-up work done over the past few weeks by Jason, Zeneca, Riggz, and Cheryl, it looked and sounded just as amazing as it did when they first unveiled their creation last year.

So... about that weird expression on my face.  I was trying to make a face like I was scared of Godzilla, and I thought that's what Angie was going to do too. Instead, she just smiled like a normal human being and I look like a weirdo who's mesmerized by her chest.

Dave created a lot of fun Godzilla-themed slides that were shown on the screen before the start of the first movie and during the intermissions.  I didn't get pictures of all of them, but I hope someone on the staff is keeping the original images somewhere safe and sound.  It would be pretty awesome to see all of them compiled in a photo book with the awesome banner, t-shirt, and poster art.

My favorite bonus of the weekend were the incredible stop-motion animation films that were created and provided by Cressa Maeve Áine.

I believe she provided four different videos to the Mahoning, but this is the only one of the four that was available to stream on her YouTube channel as I am writing this.

One of the guest vendors was selling toys and statues of Godzilla and other kaiju characters.  I'm not much of a collector of that sort of thing, but I'm a sucker for a good mystery bag, so I picked up one to share with some of our friends.

The item out of the grab bag that I kept for myself was a CD of Akira Ifukube's music.  He composed over a hundred movie scores including many Godzilla films.  His work includes the iconic Godzilla theme that first appeared in the original 1954 film and in nearly every Godzilla film that followed, including the ones that were filmed after his death in 2006.

I also kept this little blue guy because nobody else wanted him.  After doing a Google Image search, I learned that his name is SolBraver from a Japanese series from the early 90's called Super Rescue Solbrain.  Now he lives on my bookshelf.
The Friday night Son Of Godzilla-Palooza lineup was a triple feature of the fifth, sixth, and eighth movies in the Godzilla universe which were shown in order of their original Japanese release dates.

Friday night's first movie was the 1964 film Ghidrah The Three Headed Monster.  It was the only one that was presented this weekend in its original Japanese language with English subtitled.  All of the other movies were either dubbed, or released in the United States in English in the first place.  I typically prefer subtitles to dubbed movies when it comes to foreign films, but when it comes to Godzilla flicks, it really doesn't matter to much to me one way or the other.  Whether the voices are in English or in Japanese, it's going to be fun!

Next up on Friday night was Monster Zero.  It was originally released in Japan in 1965 and is the next film in the franchise after Ghidrah The Three Headed Monster.  We saw this movie for the first time at the Mahoning during a Tunnel Vision Tuesday screening in August 2022, but I was happy to see it included in the lineup because it's one of my favorite Godzilla films.  If you ever wanted to see the big guy dance a happy jig on another planet, this is the movie for you!

The final movie of Friday night was the 1967 film Son Of Godzilla.  As the title suggests, this is the movie that introduced Minilla, the son of Godzilla who hatched from an egg and looks a bit like a sentient potato.  He helped his father defeat a bunch of giant mantises and a giant spider before the humans inadvertently used their weather machine to freeze them on the island.
Saturday night's triple feature was the eleventh, twelfth, and fourteenth Godzilla films to be released in Japan.

The first movie of Saturday night was originally released in Japan in 1971 under the title Godzilla vs Hedorah.  It came out in the United States one year later as Godzilla vs The Smog Monster, which was the title on the banner and in the advertisements for Son Of Godzilla-Palooza, so I was kind of shocked to see it on the big screen under its original title.

This is an odd duck in the Godzilla filmography.  It kind of plays out like a Captain Planet episode mixed with late 60's rock, psychedelic imagery, and the occasional animated exposition which reminded me of the Mr. DNA scene from Jurassic Park.  It also has some of the goriest human deaths in any Godzilla film that I've ever seen.  Hedorah (aka "the Smog Monster") is a giant blob who dissolves the skin of whatever it touches down to the bone, and secretes a gas that kills entire cities of people.

The second movie of Saturday night, and the sixth movie of the weekend overall, was Godzilla vs Gigan.  This was released in the United States as Godzilla on Monster Island, which was on the title card of the print that was shown.  This is another movie that we had seen previously at a Tunnel Vision Tuesday screening at the Mahoning back in July 2021.

This is the movie in which both Godzilla and Anguirus speak to each other, and I don't mean in roars and grunts.  I'm not sure if it's like this in the original Japanese language version, but the one that's dubbed in English has the two monsters speaking actual lines of dialogue to each other before battling Gigan, King Ghidorah, and the intergalactic cockroaches disguised as human beings who are using them to do their bidding. 

The final movie shown on Saturday night was the 1971 film Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla, which was released in the United States six years later as Godzilla vs The Cosmic Monster.  This one has a special place in my heart because I'm almost positive that it was the first Godzilla movie that I ever watched when I was a kid.  I was seven years old and living with my mother in a half-double on First Street in Hazleton at the time.  We spent a lot of time hanging out with the family who lived in the other half of the building.  The father of that family, who we called Zap, was a big Godzilla fan who had a bunch of the English dubbed released on VHS.  Those tapes were my introduction to the world of kaiju movies, and I'm pretty sure this was the first of those that I got to see.
Sunday night was, for me, a reminder to never allow public sentiment to sway your opinion of something before you've had the opportunity to experience it for yourself.

The only real exposure that I had to Roland Emmerich's 1998 Godzilla prior to tonight was when I briefly worked at Taco Bell when I was a teenager.  The management and my co-workers weren't bad, but I didn't get many hours and the ones I did get were miserable because there were way too many people in too small of a space, so I ended up leaving after just a couple of months to go work at a department store called Value City.  One of the only things I can remember about my time working at Taco Bell was the fact that it coincided with their Godzilla promotion.  My uniform shirt was the one you see in the photo above.  I probably still have it in a box buried somewhere in my garage.

All I ever heard about this movie is that it was terrible.  There were all sorts of different reasons given for this, including the fact that the character's backstory didn't hold true to its Japanese origins, to the size of the monster, to complaints that the story didn't make sense (as if any kaiju movie prior to this ever did).  It was so universally hated that I had just written it off as something that I wasn't interested in.  I didn't go to see it in theaters, and I never rented it on home video.  Frankly, if it wasn't for the couple of months that I worked at Taco Bell, I might have forgotten that this movie existed altogether.

I originally bought tickets to Friday and Saturday night of Son Of Godzilla-Palooza and wrote off Sunday because that's the night that they were showing the "terrible" movie in the series, but I had a change of heart.  After all, when was I ever going to get a better opportunity to give this movie a fair shot?  Nothing short of a private screening with Matthew Broderick would live up to this opportunity to see it.  And you know what... it wasn't bad at all!  In fact, I'd go as far as to say it's in my top five favorite Godzilla flicks of the 20th century.

Godzilla '98 is the first movie in the franchise that was produced in the United States for a North American audience, so you have to go into it expecting a film that has a very different style and tone from movies produced decades earlier for a Japanese audience.  If you can get past the fact that it's meant to be an Americanized kaiju film, it's a hell of a lot of fun!

And that's a wrap on the Mahoning Drive-In Theater's third Godzilla weekend.  Coming up next is Easy Rider on Thursday, the AGFA Triple Ripper on Friday, Big and 13 Going On 30 on Saturday, and A Hard Day's Night on Sunday.