Cynema

Cynema

How Cynicism is Killing Entertainment

BIG APES, BIG CYNEMA

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Cynema: The cynical contempt for an audience in the making of product that is devoid of creativity, passion, production value or respect while having the financial and creative means to do better.

 

 

 

"When Jaws die, nobody cry . When my Kong die, everybody cry." - Dino DeLaurentiis, producer

 

Younger viewers have almost no idea who legendary producer Dino DeLaurentiis was. Some saw him as the Italian forerunner of Michael Bay; creator of expensive, big budget, soulless films followed by similar producers like Alexander and Ilya Salkind, Peter Guber and Jon Peters, Jerry Bruckheimer as well as Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich.  DeLaurentiis said this about his humble beginnings in film,

 

"After the war, there was no industry. We lost the war. We had our whole city destroyed. No money. No studio. No film. No camera. No equipment. We would shoot in the street. We had no actors. Nothing. But we wanted to do movies. And we did the best movies in the world. If you lived in a provincial town like Torre Annunziata, where there was nothing to do in the evening but go to the movies with your friends, the cinema was a world of fantasy. I had always been in love with it."

 

He emerged from post WW II Italy making low budget films with his eye on pictures of greater scale to eventually become a legend in the business, a man seen by many as greater than life...much like his movies.

 

DeLaurentiis with his Kong

 

DeLaurentiis made some great films (Serpico, Three Days of the Condor, The Dead Zone, Ragtime, Lipstick) and also his share of cheese to outright dreadful films (King Kong, Orca, Hurricane, King Kong Lives, Flash Gordon, Barbarella, Amityville II & III, and the bankrupting 1984 Dune). 

 

In an alleged argument between DeLaurentiis and producer Jon Peters, the two producers bantered over Peter’s A Star Is Born starring Barbra Streisand beating Dino’s 1976 King Kong remake at the boxoffice. Dino allegedly replied, “Maybe so, but your monkey can sing.”

 

A Man and His Monkey...

 

The 1976 King Kong is kind of fun to watch but blatant rip off of the source material did little to pay homage to the original. The 1976 remake of King Kong follows Cynema formula: big money, big sets, big actors…big deal. The production made a fuss over a life-size “robot” Kong that ended up being used for only seconds in the finished film.Watch carefully (fire up the pause button) you will see the mechanical ape looks NOTHING like Rick Bakers Oscar winning ape suit in the rest of the film.

 

Much of DeLaurentiis’s financing for KING KONG came from foreign pre-sales of the film—fueled by incessant (and, frankly, downright fraudulent) claims of how amazing his giant mechanical Kong would be.(kongisking.net)

 

 

The poster lies: “The most exciting original motion picture…” It’s not original, it's a remake. The poster depicts the immense ape straddling both towers of the World trade Center, holding Jessica Lange and crushing a fighter jet in his bare hands. Nothing like this happens in the film (there are no jets, period.). The poster is also painted with an emphasis on red, white and blue colors as the film was released during the nation’s bicentennial. Kong is an American monster, just as Godzilla is Japan’s.

 

"I no spend two, three million to do quick business. I spend 24 million on my Kong. I give them quality. I got here a great love story, a great adventure. And she rated PG. For everybody."   - Dino DeLaurentiis

 

Poor Ed Wood. All of his films’ budgets combined wouldn’t pay for the catering bill for King Kong. It packs its roster with big name stars Charles Grodin and Jeff Bridges. Jessica Lange still refuses to talk about the film (saying it pushed her into a year of acting lessons) and wanted her image removed from the flashback opening of King Kong Lives and who can blame her as she says to Kong with a straight face:

 

"You…chauvinist pig ape! What are you waiting for? You wanna eat me? Go ahead! Choke on me! [Pause] Oh, I didn’t mean that – honest I didn’t! Sometimes I get too physical. It’s a sign of insecurity, you know? Like when you knock down trees. Nice ape. Nice, sweet, nice, sweet, sweet monkey. You know, we're going to be great friends. I’m a Libra. What sign are you? No, I know, don’t tell me: I bet you’re an Aries, aren’t you? Of course you are. I just know it. That’s just wonderful."

 

 

King Kong 1976 was not made to be a farce or send up. The script however was written by Lorenzo Semple, Jr. most famous for writing the 1960's Batman TV series. It boasted top line people in front and behind the cameras. It was made with the most serious of intentions to rival the original 1933 classic. Kong '76 was considered a boxoffice disappointment, but this is not true. The film recouped its budget and made a profit. It would be two more years before Sequelmania officially took off with Jaws 2, then it would take twelve years, but DeLaurentiis would trot out his monkey one more time for a sequel that made the original look like a masterpiece. The writers of the sequel tell how they overcame the roadblock of Kong's death in the 1976 film,

 

"One day we were sitting around in Dino's office and Dino was saying how he'd love to do another Kong movie but he couldn't figure out how to revive the story, since Kong, the last time we saw him, had fallen off the World Trade Center towers and was dead. Ron piped up, 'That's easy. Heart transplant.' Dino cried, 'Bravo!' and that was it. We worked out a deal and he hired us to write it."

 

 

 

King Kong Lives was Cynema strictly to see if people would get robbed again.The only difference this time around (the budget was big, stars not so big, etc.) was that this film was a study in animal cruelty. The film starts with the only true emotional scene out of the 1976 film--the bloody ending of Kong’s demise and then it quickly cuts to the cheese promising premise: Kong didn’t die that night! The critically injured ape was moved to a secret government base where a giant artificial heart the size of a bathysphere is lowered into his chest(!). (Click Here For Proof) You already read about a psychic shark. Now this. The writers of King Kong Lives recalled the reaction to their film when it was released,

 

"We...were sure we had a hit. Even after we'd seen the finished film, we were certain it was a blockbuster. We invited everyone we knew to the premiere, even rented out the joint next door for a post-triumph blowout. Get there early, we warned our friends, the place'll be mobbed. Nobody showed. There was only one guy in the line beside our guests and he was muttering something about spare change. In the theater, our friends endured the movie in mute stupefaction. When the lights came up, they fled like cockroaches into the night. Next day came the review in Variety: "… Ronald Shusett and Steven Pressfield; we hope these are not their real names, for their parents sake." When the first week's grosses came in, the flick barely registered. Still I clung to hope. Maybe it's only tanking in urban areas, maybe it's playing better in the suburbs. I motored to an Edge City multiplex. A youth manned the popcorn booth. "How's King Kong Lives?" I asked. He flashed thumbs down. "Miss it, man. It sucks." "

 

 

Maybe the chopper guns didn’t kill him. Maybe Kong was tough after all, but how did he survive a 110story drop? Big ape or no big ape, nothing is surviving that; and don’t you think a new spine, skull and a hip replacement might be in order as well? Let’s not even address the fact that Kong has been comatose for ten years and those muscles would be like linguini (Giant ape physical therapy. Now there’s a movie). Then the film does a bait and switch: the rest of the movie is dedicated to the heroes finding a Lady Kong and hooking her up with The King while the US military hunts “America’s Biggest Hero and tortures him in a multitude of ways.  One particularly bad scene focuses on some rednecks that bury Kong up to his neck and play “you’re not so tough” with him until the eventual hilarity ensues. There’s no fun in watching an animal (fake or not) being abused and tortured for 90 minutes.

 

 

 

...the screenplay for King Kong Lives was not banged out by no-talent hacks or studio drones forced to "shine a turd" for their bosses. On the contrary, cowriters Stephan Pressfield and Ron Shusett did great work before and after King Kong Lives. (kongisking.net)

 

The point was to ring what little dollars were left in Kong by doing whatever can be done to make audiences feel something for him and the movie. "Nobody cry when Kong die..." the sequel cynically played on audience sympathy to part them from their money and got over a million people (the author being one of them) to spend their money, yet it failed to regain its original budget. Stephen Pressfield had this to say about his boss,

 

His reputation was as a real philistine whose ideas routinely destroyed any good creative project he produced. But I found him to be a colorful charismatic figure, a bit intimidating but always fun. I was always conscious, whenever I was included in a meeting with him, that I was in the presence of the last of a breed. There were no more Dino DeLaurentiis's coming down the pike.

 

 

Perhaps this last quote from kongisking.net buttons it up:

 

Another factor to ponder regarding the production of King Kong Lives was its odd timing. In 1986, there was no outcry or demand for any sort of Kong film, particularly another from DeLaurentiis and company. It was released to general indifference; I was in college during this period and never even considered going to see it. The bad poster and few TV ads that I saw made very clear that this was nothing to waste beer and Pop Tarts money on (I was in college, remember?). Clearly, DeLaurentiis needed to exploit his Kong rights while he still had them and plowed forward heedless of the public's apathy.

 

If that isn't Cynema, I don't know what is.  

 

 

REMAKING CYNEMA: "FRIGHT NIGHT"

Posterwork for the original 1985 "Fright Night"

 

Remaking a film falls under the old adage: "just because you can do something doesn't mean you should."

 

Netflix reviews, article comments are dotted with such phrases like: "the film is old" or  "it's dated." Better yet, "it's foreign." All three signify a concern in American pop culture: a fixation on the superficial and a refusal to give anything deemed "old" a chance, largely by a generation that prides itself on ignorance and is unappreciative for the work done by others that affords it the indifference it treats anything deemed unworthy of its attention.

 

Horror is a breeding ground for remakes, but the focus of this article will be the 1985 horror hit "Fright Night."  The recent 3D remake of yet another 80's horror film underscores not just the needless exercise in remaking films, but shows that audiences have become truly cynical in the product they pay for.

 

There is nothing inherently wrong with a remake if it is done for the right reasons: one being if the first film had incredible potential but not fully realized due to budget or even technological limitations. Even here the decision needs to be made carefully.

 

While there are dozens of examples,  "Fright Night" best exemplifies the purpose of this article.

"But I liked the new "Fright Night"!" This is not about "liking" something. Everyone has their own taste and this is not what's up for debate. One of principle pieces of this article is that while the original 1985 film endured all these years to become a remake, the remake itself will not be remembered with the affinity of the original.

 

Why? Because the remake has nothing to say.

 

Horror is one of the purest of genres. It works best when it is honest. It falls flat when it has an agenda.

This brings us to both "Fright Night" films.

 

Tom Holland's 1985 film is a loving tribute to the old vampire films of Christopher Lee, Bela Lugosi and in a wider sense every schlocky creature feature that entertained generations on Saturday afternoon "Creature feature" TV shows. It reminds us of the cheesy hosts of these shows all around America-- hosts like Zachary, Dr. Shock, Uncle Ted, Vampira and the list goes on. The closest thing to this since the 1980's would be Elvira, Mistress of The Dark. These were folks who had day jobs, but once a week put on some monster makeup, stood on a badly lit local studio set and had fun with us during the commercial breaks of B movies.

 

 

 

By the summer of 1985, those days were already in the rear-view mirror as the VCR pretty much wiped out the old time shows as people now chose their programming. The film's success resurrected the vampire film. Literally, without "Fright Night" there would have been no "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" or (and this would not have been a bad thing) no "Twilight" as well.

 

No one expected "Fright Night" to be a hit. It was tossed out in the dog days of August as an end of summer throwaway (after such films as "Back to the Future, Weird Science and Mad Max III" tore things up). Within a week "Fright Night" moved from the smallest to biggest houses in  multiplexes. By that fall it was the number one horror film shown on college campuses around the United States. Why?

 

Because "Fright Night" was fun. It invoked a period of filmmaking long gone and was not so much a tribute to it as it was mourning its passing. This could be summed up in Peter Vincent's rant to Charley Brewster outside the studio he was just fired from.

 

"Apparently your generation doesn't want to see vampire killers or vampires either! All they want are demented madmen running around in ski-masks hacking up young virgins!"  -- Peter Vincent, "Fright Night"

 

The second part of that quote could be amended today to include sparkling vampires, CGI monsters, zombies, sadistic doctors and inbred hillbillies. People who watch the 1985 film often say to me, "I don't get it. It was dumb. It didn't make sense." Jerry Dandridge is a vampire. He kills people. Charley finds out, no one believes him and he gets Peter Vincent to help dispatch the vampire. What's there not to get? It's not like this is a Kubrick film. But wait, I know what they don't get! What they don't get are all the nods to previous horror films BECAUSE THEY NEVER SAW THOSE FILMS and have no point of reference.

 

And you know why they didn't see those horror films? Because they're old. Therefore they don't matter and couldn't possibly be entertaining. How dare someone be asked to watch something more than two years old.

 

 

 

Here are some actual questions I got from people I recommended "Fright Night" to watch.                                                                All of these people are 25 years old and under.

 

Q: "So like why is this kid watching all these old movies and why does he like them so much?"

 

A: In the days before texting, IM, Xbox and Warcraft there were things called three channels, basic cable and imagination. People also watched old movies because Hollywood had not really caught on to the cynical idea of recycling the same stories with slicked up newer versions to fool you.

 

 

Q: The vampire seemed gay to me. Why was he dressed like some 80's model?

 

A: And sparkling, feminine looking shirtless vampires who are prettier than their female counterparts are any better? Throughout vampire lore, the vampire's sexuality has always been a blur. Dracula hints at homosexuality as well, whether male or lesbian attraction. Vampires are dead from the waist down. Intercourse for them is feeding. The exchange of fluids for a vampire is a transfusion and this goes back to the earliest vampire tales.

 

Oh yeah, it also takes place in 1985, hence his 80's fashion. Not to mention vampires are almost always fashion plates (except for those animalistic brutes like in 30 Days of Night or similar films).

 

 

Q: Why does the girl's hair get suddenly long after she is bit and then back to normal when they kill the vampire?

 

A: In the old Hammer Film vampire movies like: Brides of Dracula, Dracula Prince of Darkness, Terror of Dracula, the female victims are usually sexually repressed, conservative British types who literally never let their hair down. They have boring fiancees and lead stuffy, boring lives.. Then along comes that sexy undead Count who shakes things up a little and does a little tooth sex romp on her neck and before you can say "Twilight" she's liberated. This transformation was usually shown by an increase in the woman's bust line and her hair was not only down, it seemed to gain inches in length overnight. It's a stylistic thing, not a continuity error, and it became a hallmark of those old-time films. When the vampire was killed, things went back to normal. It's intentional.

 

 

 

Q: What do you mean "Hammer" films? What's that?

 

A: Hammer was and still is a British film studio which put out unique spins on old horror material and basically created a whole new sub genre in horror that was built around grand old actors like Christopher Lee, Vincent Price and Peter Cushing. Many consider Lee's portrayal of Count Dracula superior to Bela Lugosi's iconic count.

 

 

Roddy McDowell's character, "Peter Vincent" is a a play on words from the old Hammer days. It's combination of "Peter Cushing" and "Vincent Price." Of course if you never saw any of these films then you wouldn't know that.

 

PETER Cushing on the left. VINCENT Price on the right. Put 'em together and you get PETER VINCENT

 

There are plenty more but hopefully you got the point. The simple fact is that the 1985 "Fright Night" was meant to be a fun tribute for people who remembered a better time in their entertainment. It's tagline makes this point clear: "If You Love Being Scared It'll Be the Night of Your Life."

 

 

Roddy McDowell's performance as Peter Vincent is nothing less than fantastic. From the deliberately bad grey stage hair coloring to his over the top "I am Peter Vincent, Vampire Killer!" (in a nod to Roman Polanski's vampire misfire, "The Fearless Vampire Killers")  McDowell's unique British accent, his meek yet dignified manner gives credence to his broken horror movie star. Vincent now has to slum on late night local cable, hosting his own films, having his face rubbed nightly into the fact that his best days are now behind him. He nails the cheesy acting in his own films and as a horror host and yet transforms into a genuine hero when forced to confront Jerry Dandridge, the real vampire.

 



Billy Ragsdale's Charley Brewster is your average nice guy, but admittedly a little boring. He's a direct nod to the Jonathan Harker style male lead of previous films who in the end has to man up and inject a little daring-do into his life to save his woman from the dangerous, yet exciting vampire.

 

 

 

Amanda Bearse, best known for going on to FOX's "Married With Children" as Marcy Darcy, plays Ragsdale's sexually repressed, uptight girlfriend, Amy. Again this is a nod to the style of woman mentioned above. She's not so exciting herself until she's bit and then becomes a hellcat of a vampire. The climactic scene in the basement has her trying to entice Charley with her new sexual prowess, sinfully asking him, "What's the matter Charley? Don't you want me anymore?"  And for a moment, it looks like Charley does want her.

 

 

Stephen Geoffries "Evil Ed" character is a correlation to Renfield and played at times for comic relief but then deadly pathos after Ed gives in and takes Jerry's offer of eternal life. His confrontation with Vincent is classic, and plays the psycho vampire henchman well. He gets credit with one of the most famous lines of the film, "You're so cool, Brewster!"

 

 

Chris Sarandon's vampire, Jerry Dandridge is the stylish, updated vampire for the 80's. His long, pleather grey trench coat stands in for Count Dracula's flowing cape. His perma-waved hair and dark good looks are matched by a dark wit as he whistles "Strangers in the Night" as he invades Charley's home and readies to kill him.  Jerry has fun with the old vampire myths such as "A vampire can't enter your home unless invited by the rightful owner." When Charley comes downstairs to find his mother unwittingly invited a vampire into their home "for a couple of drinks", Jerry responds with a line dripping with fun sarcasm, "What's the matter Charley? Afraid I wouldn't come over without being invited?"

 

 

Sarandon's vampire eats fresh fruit and takes time to dance seductively in a disco before absconding with Charley's girl. He plays it right, going over the top when needed in scenes where Charley thrusts a cross in his face, and then subtle-cool when getting inside Peter Vincent's head.

 

All of this is deftly done by Tom Holland as director and screenwriter. It is clear Holland knows his horror but he never becomes cynical to betray it for the sake of a buck. He never forsakes his material or the respect for the genre. He treats it with affection and made "Fright Night" with passion and childhood fondness.

 

The same can not be said for the 2011 remake. I read the script a year before the film was released and knew it was in trouble only ten pages in.

 

The film is slick. It boasts top of the line CGI effects and has good performances, especially Colin Ferrell's Jerry Dandridge. However the film is hollow and empty and underneath its slick package, it's just an empty box.

 

This was a remake for the sake of a remake. Why call it "Fright Night?" Why not just make new character names and call it something else altogether? See that's Cynema: you trade off the name brand recognition. You snag the old generation of fans who will hopefully ring their kids and yet you snag a new generation that has no friggin' clue about the original because "it's old" and yet see something they have no idea is connected to something else.

 

The remake is built with ignorance as a key component.  Peter Vincent means nothing in this film. In the 2011 version he's some sort of low rent Chris Angel and nothing more. His symbolism connects to nothing in the vampire genre: not literature or even previous films. Vincent is a plot device and nothing more.

 

Jerry Dandridge is still cool and sexy but this time around there is a nod to the torture porn genre as Dandridge keeps his victims prisoner in cells inside his suburban home where they are subjected to horrors beyond our imagination. Call me crazy, but keeping female victims prisoner in your suburban development home is not exactly the way to stay off the radar if you're a vampire who fears exposure.

 

Evil Ed is now that sullen kid who many expect to "go Columbine" one day and is stripped of any significance to the vampire genre. And Charley is just Charley, a nice guy but a basic protagonist with little connection to the symbolism that spawned Ragsdale's Charley Brewster. And Amy, this time around is just window dressing.

 

"Fright Night" 2011 had 3D thrown in as an extra gimmick in addition to the remake gimmick and while it garnered generally positive reviews, its boxoffice was less than stellar. There's no connection with "Fright Night", much like the audience it was targeted for. This new audience of filmgoers clamors for something new, but they really don't want it. So a remake gives the illusion something is new but it really isn't. Remakes are safe. They're safe bets for a studio and they're safe bets for an audience.

 

Q: So you thought the new "Fright Night" sucked and you hate remakes right?

 

A: Nope. I thought the new "Fright Night" was slick and well put together. However it was not really "Fright Night" except in name only. It brought nothing new, had no connection to the source material that spawned it and had nothing to say. It was a ten dollar distraction for a matinee and nothing more.

 

I don't hate remakes. I dislike why most of them are made and I don't like that most people are ignorant to the original material and the importance of cultural history to the original films. Remakes like the 1978 "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", or the 2006 "King Kong" are different than remakes like "A Nightmare on Elm Street" or "Fright Night" or even "Let Me In" because they were remade with respect for the original material and were projects made with passion and zeal.

 

The latter films were made to make a fast buck off a generation that doesn't know better and doesn't want to.

 

See the original 1985 "Fright Night" and be cool, Brewster.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HALLOWEEN III: A Second Look

 
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"You don't really know much about Halloween."  – Conal Cochran , Halloween III: Season of the Witch

 

Yeah, yeah, we know, you HATE this one. It's the one without Michael Meyers. It has nothing to do with the other movies. This one sucks. Right? Well you're right on two counts.  Halloween III: Season of the Witch does not have Michael Meyers. It is not connected in any way to the Jamie Lee Curtis storyline started with the 1978 John Carpenter classic and most importantly, it was never meant to. Halloween III is as misunderstood as it is reviled with most of the hostility for the film attributed to the concept of Cynema.

 

"When the [ Halloween II ] script came in I thought it was…the anti-Halloween. All the things that Halloween did so well…had been tossed out the window…I understood that in the intervening time between the first movie and what was going to be the second movie that times had changed, audiences had changed…and maybe the dynamics of the movie and the amount of violence might be impacted by all that. I felt that John was betraying his own legacy. I held my breath and said “no.” …A director really needs to believe deeply in the material."  – Tommy Lee Wallace on turning down directing Halloween II

 

[U]pon being offered Halloween III, John [Carpenter] and Debra Hill told him [Wallace] that neither wanted to do the sequel as John hated Halloween II

 

Halloween III is not a masterpiece but it is not Cynema. Michael Meyers aka The Shape, returned to the franchise in 1988, six years after the failure of Halloween III in the lousy Halloween IV.

 

"I just went back to the basics of Halloween on Halloween 4 and it was the most successful."    - Moustapha Akaad, executive producer of the original Halloween series.

 

    

John Caprneter & Debra Hill onset of "Halloween." Poster for the sequel, "Halloween II."

 

The Only Thing That Kills the Monster is Bad Boxoffice

 

Halloween II is a shining example of Cynema--a sequel for sequel’s sake that duped its fanbase into thinking it was getting something good for its devotion to the first film.

 

John Carpenter himself disavowed Halloween II, as did producer Debra Hill, but they knew there would be one regardless of their feelings. Wallace stated he declined the sequel even though all associated knew it would be a guaranteed boxoffice success. When Wallace vocalized creative concerns  while considering directing Halloween II, he was told by Carpenter, in essence, to back off, as he was a “hire-ling (for lack of a better word)—a  gun for hire as the sequel would require no creativity being a name brand product. Fans would return regardless.

 

The film would direct itself. Film critic James Bernardinelli corroborates Wallace and Carpenter while clearly illustrating Cynema in his scathing and dead on review for Halloween II:

 

"The main problem is the film's underlying motivation. Halloween was a labor of love, made by people committed to creating the most suspenseful and compelling motion picture they could. Halloween II was impelled by the desire to make money. It was a postscript—and not a very good one—slapped together because a box office success was guaranteed."  – James Bernardinelli 

 

The sequels after Halloween III are worse than this hated film because of dedicated fans and their allegiance to the franchise and Michael Meyers. They are dedicated without any critical thinking, just blind emotional fan devotion.

 

The sequels never came to the level of the original 1978 film (even the poorly written and executed H20. That film gets a free pass because they lured Jamie Lee Curtis back) and are of varying quality and collectively represent Cynema for squeezing every last possible dime from the storyline while cynically manipulating the audience into believing it is getting something better than it actually is.

 

"The plot of Halloween II absolutely depends, of course, on our old friend the Idiot Plot , which requires that everyone in the movie behave at all times like an idiot. That's necessary because if anyone were to use common sense, the problem would be solved and the movie would be over."  -- Roger Ebert , film critic

 

Halloween II was a financial success but its two main characters apparently perished in a fiery conclusion, thus concluding the storyline and the franchise. However both John Carpenter and producer Debra Hill were approached for a third installment and they reluctantly agreed only if this were a whole new storyline that did not include Michael Meyers.

 

Tommy Lee Wallace and Debra Hill onset of Halloween III

 

Once again they turned to Tommy Lee Wallace with an offer to direct, and this time the idea of a whole new type of film caught his interest.

 

"What we had worked out was the idea that Halloween was going to become a yearly franchise. A new launch…so there was just endless possibility…year in and year out there would be a new theme."  – Tommy Lee Wallace, director

 

Wallace wanted something new, believing fans did as well and the road to Halloween III was paved with the best of intentions.

 

"The audience pays their money. They go in. Most people don’t read movie posters in any detail. All they’re thinking about is ‘Yeah! Halloween!’ And then it’s like ‘Well where’s Jamie Lee? Where’s the knife? Where’s The Shape [Michael Meyers]?’"  -- Wallace in interview with Rabbit in Red

 

The plan was to do a whole new type of Halloween movie that would not include any of the elements from Halloween I and II. John Carpenter, a fan of British writer Nigel Kneale (most famous for his Professor Quartermass series) solicited a script from the acclaimed writer. The script by Wallace's account was a heavy, dark story with little hope, focusing on a toymaker's use of microchip technology to spread his evil. Wallace estimates about 60% of Kneale's story made it into the final film. The remaining 40% divided equally between an uncredited Carpenter and himself.

 

"It wasn’t horror for horror’s sake. The main story had to do with deception. I hadn’t seen the first films but I knew enough about them to be put off the idea unless it was a brand new story…The theme was to be microchip witchcraft. In the old days in order for a witch to put a curse on you she had to make personal contact. With the advent of the microchip, a spell could be transferred through the Halloween gifts." --  Nigel Kneale, author of the original script for Halloween III.  -- Screenwriter Nigel Kneale on his initial involvement with Halloween III 

 

Author Nigel Neale, original screenwriter for The Season of the Witch

 

Neale was upset over producer Dino De Laurentiis's insistence on blood and gore, and to keep the focus on violence from the first two films.

 

"I said to them, don’t you want some kind of suspense at the beginning?...’Oh no’ they said. ‘You must start in tearing heads off. We’ve got to keep faith with the kids.’ What they actually meant was to extract all the money out of the campus kids within the space of two weeks."                    -- Kneale to Starburst Magazine

 

Neale was forced to hand over his script to John Carpenter for a rewrite before it ended up with Wallace. Kneale subsequently removed his name from screen credit. There were no hard feelings, believing Wallace was also in a tough spot and was forced to bend to DeLaurnetiis and the studio’s demands.

 

"There was nothing he could do. He was driven to it…He’s a very intelligent man with a strong feeling for character."  --  Nigel Kneale on Tommy Lee Wallace .

 

Tommy Lee Wallace with the Silver Shamrock Masks. Watch, kids! Watch!

 

Cynema is clearly at work in the premeditated plan for a “hit and run” release. In fear of losing a quick return on their investment the title Halloween III was deliberately used knowing it would make audiences believe it would be a direct sequel to the previous two installments. Wallace found Universal Studios efforts underwhelming in trying to get audiences ready for a totally new concept:

 

"A lot of things could have happened to set the table for that sort of thing [conditioning the audience for a new type of film]…All that was done by Universal to prepare the audience was this tiny little banner in the corner of the poster. And all it said was: ‘All New!’ like a toothpaste ad. ‘All New’, well what does that mean?-- Tommy Lee Wallace

 

Universal played the odds, knowing a bulk of the audience would return simply because of the title Halloween III. Ten years before the Internet would change the way media would reach us, it would take a good  two weeks for damaging word of mouth to get around: This film has nothing to do with Michael Meyers, and by that time most of its business would be done and hopefully the product would return a profit, even if a small one. Wallace summed up what fans were thinking when buying a ticket:

 

"The audience pays their money. They go in. Most people don’t read movie posters in any detail. All they’re thinking about is ‘Yeah! Halloween!’ And then it’s like ‘Well where’s Jamie Lee? Where’s the knife? Where’s The Shape [Michael Meyers]?’" --  Wallace in interview with Rabbit in Red

 

Tom Atkins has his hands tied with Halloween III.

 

 Universal pulled a “bait and switch” regardless of whose decision to put Halloween III over the title Season of the Witch and betrayed its own filmmakers. FilmEdge.net’s assessment firmly backs up the Cynema that spoiled a truly interesting and fun horror film that could never be judged on its own merits.
 

This cynical switcheroo on behalf of the film's creators and marketers sank HALLOWEEN III's reputation and box office fortunes alone.  Moviegoers in general rejected the 'next' entry in the supposed anthology of films as unexpected and unwanted, regardless of what merits HALLOWEEN III had or lacked on its own.    --  FilmEdge.net

 

Cynema has been clearly defined in the conception of Halloween III but is the resulting film any good? The answer is a strong yes and it deserves to be looked at simply as Season of the Witch and removed from the context of the Halloween franchise completely.

 

"The producers, director and audience seem to agree: if HALLOWEEN III had been eliminated from the title, SEASON OF THE WITCH would have avoided the instant and fatal backlash it suffered upon release." -- FilmEdge.net

 

"It's a trick on the children!"

 

What Works About Halloween III   (SPOILERS)

 

Dean Cundey: The production values are high with legendary Oscar nominated cinematographer Dean Cundey returning to give the film a similar look to the first two films, but a picture that defies its $2.5 million budget. It’s a widescreen, clean and atmospheric picture that betrays its low budget and elevates this film levels above similar horror films of its time.

 

Silver Shamrock owner, Conal Cochran explains his diabolical plan.

Dan O’Herlihy: He would have made a great James Bond villain as well. O’Herlihy’s portrayal of Conal Cochran has just the right amount of gallows humor, corporate authority and pathos to project a truly evil man and one not to be messed with. His scene with Tom Atkins, giving background to his motives is delicious. O’Herlihy is absolute class.

 

Tom Atkins: He’s John Carpenter’s “Every Guy.” In a Bizarro Jaws he would have made a great Chief Brody. Atkins is able to project genuine “world weariness” and when he says “I need a drink” you believe him. Atkins plays Dr. Chalis as a broken man trapped in suburban desperation.

 

Tom Atkins wants it all to stop in Halloween III.

 

Stacy Nelkin: She has just enough Scooby Doo-like wonder as the distraught daughter and enough grown woman to not be totally skeeved out by her and Atkins’s hook up.

 

Alan Howarth’s Score: There’s real menace here, and the opening titles, despite being 80’s computer graphic-laden sets the tone for the entire film. Howarth’s synthesizer score subtly works its way into the fabric of the film in ways far superior to Carpenter’s original Halloween theme.

 

The Silver Shamrock Jingle: Beloved by many, annoying to some, the ditty set to "London Bridge" works with Wallace’s soothing Kentucky voice glazing it into a trancelike piece.

 

"Three more days to Halloween, Halloween, Halloween..!"

 

The Way The Story Unfolds: It pulls you in and no doubt it pulled in audiences in 1982 as they kept waiting and waiting for Michael Meyers to show. However the mystery does peel like an onion and we do want to know what the hell is going on inside the Silver Shamrock factory. The overall story is a great tip of the hat to “The Pod Movie” with “Them” trying to transform “Us.” We can identify with the damaged Dr. Chalis as he is pulled deeper into the mystery with genuine surprise at each revelation. This movie has great atmosphere and is genuinely creepy and fun with Jamie Lee Curtis providing the voice of the “Curfew Lady” and phone operator.

 

What Doesn’t Work About Halloween III

 

The Overall Story: There’s a lot of suspension of disbelief with Halloween III. Here are some questions that should have been addressed before production commenced:

 

Androids? We know Cochran makes novelties and has an affinity for robotics, but how did he do it, how do they drive and are they all factory workers? And if so, why does he need the town of Santa Mira? Cochran praises his creations for their obediency but wouldn’t the residents be more loyal to Cochran if he employed them?

 

A toymaker's robot henchmen from Halloween III.

 

Why the curfews and totalitarian control of the town? It’s clear Cochran has been around the block and knows human nature. He would eventually know there would be rebels (aside from the foul mouthed wino) in this town. His 24 hour blanket surveillance with cameras all over the town add nothing to the story and seem like it would be one more thing he would have to deal with and he’s already so busy with his diabolical plot.

 

Cochran: What is he exactly? How old is he? What was his plan and what was he planning for the day after Halloween? Imagine the aftermath, the public outcry, the lawsuits and the manhunt for Cochran as undoubtedly the mass deaths would be connected with his masks. All we get is “the world is going to change tonight” and that explanation matches how he managed to smuggle a giant block from Stonehenge across the world and into his little factory. “We had a time getting it here! You wouldn’t believe how we did it,”  he chortles to Chalis. No, we probably wouldn’t.

 

 

Are people going to change because the demo we get of one of the masks bizarrely kills but hardly transforms anyone like the aliens in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Did Cochran expect Chalis to escape? Why does he let Atkins do what he does at the end with the Shamrock labels and where are all his robot henchmen to stop it? Cochran succumbs to the Roger Ebert “Curse of the Talking Villain” when instead of doing away with Chalis, reveals his lab and all the behind the scenes specs that give Chalis time to think of a way to disrupt it. Come to think of it, why not just stick him in the same viewing room with Buddy and his family instead of the easy escape room he invariably escapes from?

 

The Masks: Just why are these masks so popular? What  makes them so appealing to children in a sea of masks dedicated to Star Wars and other far more appealing pop icons? Why just three styles and if they are such a hot ticket item, why is the Silver Shamrock factory so run down with such a small staff? It’s clear the masks are a national phenomenon, but we never know exactly why . Why kill Buddy and his family? Cochran knows the masks work, why waste time or risk exposure with a “demonstration” to Chalis?

 

 

The Ending: Why is Ellie Grimbridge transformed? Why not just kill her and Chalis and be done with it? All of this time to set up his dastardly plan and he would risk these two to mess it up? When exactly was she transformed because she allows Chalis to mess the whole place up and wreck the lab room. Why didn’t she stop him as Cochran’s other mechanized employees tried? The final assault on Chalis in his car seems tacked on and why does Ellie decide to attack him then?  Why does Chalis go back to sit in the car? The attacking severed arm has no leverage and would not pose the problem it does in that scene. what should have been a tragic, sad moment for Chalis becomes unintentionally funny and overly cheesy and for some dragged out into a “Just end it!” moment. And...what happened to the real Ellie?

 

The film does make its full transformation into a B-movie in its final moments and in a way makes all of what was just listed all right. The film has the guts to end on an ambiguous, dark note, bucking the growing 80’s trend of happy, or tied up endings to satisfy the audience so they don’t have to think after the ending credits roll up.

 

I have to give credit to the filmmakers of part III for going back to the original concept and making something completely different, despite the fact that this entry is largely ignored by Halloween and horror film fans alike. 

 

Cynema won as the film returned a small profit and Michael Meyers was returned to quiet the angry masses in Halloween IV—and were lulled back into complacency and acceptance…much like the pod movie Halloween III sought to emulate.


 

 

 

GODZILLA vs. GINO

CLICK BOLD & UNDERLINED ITEMS FOR LINKS

 

"We spared no expense." - Sir Richard Attenborough, Jurassic Park

 

Godzilla Raids Again…In Name Only

 

Rumors circulated Hollywood since the early 1990’s of an American Godzilla movie. Writers and directors left the project and by 1996, Toho and Sony/Tri Star came to terms and the producing team of Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich were anointed to bring a full fledged American Godzilla film to the US masses. He would attack New York City; it would boast a big name cast and incorporate state of the art visual effects. There would be no man in a giant rubber suit in this film since Jurassic Park raised the bar for giant reptilian creatures.

 

It's not Godzilla, it does not have the spirit. - Godzilla actor Kenpachiro Satsuma walking out on a Tokyo screening of the 1998 Godzilla.

 

 

According to several stories, Toho insisted that the Hollywood Godzilla film not change the iconic monster’s image. After almost 30 films, Godzilla was an international namebrand. Toho finished off its Heisei series of films that restarted after 1984’s The Return of Godzilla. In the 1990's storyline, none of the other films ever happened except for the original Gojira and its hasty sequel, Godzilla Raids Again. Everything after that was ignored until 1984 when Godzilla resurfaced after a 30 year slumber to wreak havoc on downtown Tokyo once again. The 1998 film intended to “reboot” the entire Godzilla legend. It goes back to Godzilla’s origin…and that’s when fans knew there was a problem only five minutes into the movie.

 

How is the 1998 Godzilla Cynema?

 

Gino: Devlin and Emmerich had no respect for the monster’s legacy. Irate fans quickly renamed the creature GINO (Godzilla In Name Only or 'Zilla). Dean Devlin admitted he had little regard for the original 1954 film.

 

Most of the public, used to watching the hokey Japanese versions, will be thinking of men-in-suits and bad models, a kind of dinosaur hybrid who lumbers about in a semi-comical fashion trashing Lego buildings..

 

Whereas the original Godzilla knocked down "Lego buildings" the
 1998 monster dry humps CGI ones.

 

Devlin and Emmerich paid lip service to Godzilla’s nuclear genesis, but the re-design of Godzilla must be addressed. Devlin and Emmerich decided millions of fans for almost half a century would welcome a major redesign of their monster. Reports state the only instruction Roland Emmerich gave special effects designer Patrick Tatopolous for the concept of the new monster was that he wanted it to run really fast.

 

It was basically my version of GODZILLA - the way I think it should be now. For years, people have seen Godzilla in movies, but I wanted to show them something new...I felt that a lot of the responsibility was on my shoulders since we were creating the title character.

 

 

 

Cynema exercises a blatant disregard for the audience in the desire for profits. Devlin and Emmerich’s hubris told them they would create a new and improved Godzilla for the next millennium, a streamlined creature that just happened to look pretty much like the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park and The Lost World--two films that also happened to bring in bags of cash for Universal, so naturally Tri Star would want their own dinosaur movie while also cashing in on a tried and true brand name like Godzilla.

 

Godzilla 2000, which was released in Japan in December 1999 and in the United States eight months later, is production company Toho's reaction to the Dean Devlin/Roland Emmerich 1998 Godzilla. Toho moved quickly to reverse the resdesign of the American Godzilla by returning the monster to his familiar and accepted image.

 

The American creature would look more like an iguana on steroids spliced with a Komodo Dragon. Reportedly Devlin and Emmerich wanted to keep the new design under wraps from the public as a surprise. Later it was alleged that they didn’t want Toho to see that they violated the company that created Godzilla’s trust and legal agreement by the radical makeover for their monster.

 

We should have released the image of Godzilla a couple of months before to get people used to it. I also would have changed a lot of the story points with the girl which didn't work as well as they should have. But I'm still proud of the whole look of the movie. That's why I hired the same cinematographer, Ueli Steiger,for The Day After Tomorrow.

 

The new Godzilla film blames nuclear testing on THE FRENCH(?). Yes, those evil French and their Pacific islands testing did it. Iguanas were mutated from the nukes. Godzilla’s trademark roar is remixed to incorporate more “animalistic sounds” according to the filmmakers. Did we really need that? The original Godzilla’s roar was created from raking gloved fingers over piano strings, creating a sound that was iconic to the King of the Monsters.

 

During the Memorial Day weekend, Godzilla  took in 74 million dollars. While still a good opening, Sony was extremely disappointed by the take. They were apparently unsure if fans would like the redesign, and the movie in general, and were hoping that the advertising would net them a hefty sum before word of mouth killed it.

 

 

 

Breathing atomic radiation is eliminated in favor of flames borne from incredible breath gusts from the creature. Hazy flame roils over cars scattered like toys when the beast roars, but hardly coming close to anything radioactive. It’s very clear these are orange flames coming from this lizard. 1984’s The Return of Godzilla clearly showed that the monster fed on radiation after he feasted on fallout from a nuclear power plant. Devlin and Emmerich’s beast eats tuna and is even baited by the army into a tuna trap in the middle of the city. Their new Godzilla flees from helicopters and even dry humps a building. This lizard is a hermaphrodite where the original Godzilla was clearly stated as male. Our Metrosexual creature is said to be in search of an ideal island to lay its eggs. Out of all the islands it had to choose from in the Pacific, it swims all the way to the other side of the globe to lay its eggs in the middle of the world’s most busiest and crowded island: Manhattan.

 

There isn't an original or creative moment in this entire film. Godzilla is but an inflated Jurassic Park T-Rex running around New York City. When Godzilla jumps in the water and is chased around by a submarine, Emmerich and Devlin are quick to rip off "The Hunt for Red October." When Dr. Niko Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick), Philippe Roache (Jean Reno), Animal (Hank Azaria) and Audrey (Maria Pitillo) discover Godzilla's lair in Madison Square Garden, the film wastes no time in ripping off "Alien." Mr. Cranky, film review

 

 

 

Makes perfect sense, right? But who cares--it’s a summer blockbuster and you’ll see it. In the end the monster is dispatched by a few jet missiles after clumsily getting hung up in the George Washington Bridge’s suspension cables. Like DeLaurentiis showed, the way to get audience reaction is torture animals and this animal dies a slow, sad death in front of Broderick in an Old Yeller style ending. “Nobody cry when Jaws die...!”

 

 

 

 

Toho is often victimized by many original Godzilla hardliners, but if any should be to blame for Godzilla 1998 let it be Toho themselves. Toho was entirely informed of every detail of the film including plot and script. Roland Emmerich went before Toho studios in Japan in 1997 and it was then that year that Godzilla 1998 was set into motion. Yes, Toho gave some guidelines but they were informed of the changes and even stuff that went against the guidelines. Godzilla 1998 Database

 

Reports vary on Toho's reaction. Dean Devlin said this about Toho's reaction to the new creature design,

 

They took a long time in deciding and then finally said, 'You know what? We don't even want to comment on it; we'll just say yes or no.' And then they said, 'We love this look, we love your idea and we back it 100%. Go do it.' Because it was so different, it was like a whole rebirth of Godzilla. I think they liked that.

 

However Toho has a different take:

 

The executives at Toho initially didn't find the new monster so easy to relate to. When the American team first brought pictures of their version of Godzilla to Japan for Toho's approval two years ago, the Japanese executives were shocked. "It was so different we realized we couldn't make small adjustments," said Shogo Tomiyama, executive producer of the past six Godzilla films. "That left the major question of whether to approve it or not." --   Valerie Reitman, Los Angeles Times, 1998

 

When Toho saw Devlin and Emmerich’s film, they allegedly flipped and took back the rights, vowing to never let America get its hands on their monster again. Less than two years later Toho released Godzilla 2000 to help fix the damage to Godzilla’s image by Devlin and Emmerich. They introduced a redesigned Godzilla who, for the first time ever, had greenish skin and purple dorsal spikes.

 

 

 

"The producer of the original, Tomoyuki Tanaka, was on his deathbed when his successor, Tomiyama, went to visit to explain the changes. Forbidden from taking any pictures outside the studio for fear of leaks, Tomiyama struggled to find the words to describe the new Godzilla. "I told him, 'It's similar to Carl Lewis, with long legs, and it runs fast,' " he recalled." -- Valerie Reitman, Los Angeles Times, 1998

 

In 2003 Toho released a new Godzilla film that broke away from their new “Millennium Series” as a stand alone picture entitled Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: All Out Monster Attack. The new look of Godzilla was even better, taking the creature back to his original sinister look .They even whited out his eyes to give a sense of evil to the monster. The opening of Godzilla: GMK shows the Japanese Defense Force in a lecture over the possibility of Godzilla’s return to ravage the country. A conversation between two officers during the lecture slams the 1998 film:

 

"Didn't the Americans encounter a similar creature in New York a few years ago?"

"Yes... there was a giant monster. But that was not Godzilla."

 

Amen.

 

That's not Godzilla," growled Kasuya [a Japanese filmgoer], 38, who wore his favorite shirt for the occasion--a black short-sleeve silk number emblazoned with yellow and orange Godzilla scenes. "He got killed with four missiles, but the Japanese Godzilla is almost bulletproof. And the Japanese Godzilla is handsome, but the American Godzilla is not." --  Valerie Reitman, Los Angeles Times, 1998

 

Godzilla ’98 was made to make money--without respect for the culture and history that created the original film. If this had been anything but a Godzilla film, it would have fared better in audience and critical reaction. It isn’t even artistic. This movie is expensive and hollow--devoid of meaning and reformatted into a popcorn matinee film. Ishiro Honda and Tanaka’s original was art and  entertainment.

 

 

"The decision to make Godzilla an expensive effects film immediately departs from the series' aesthetic and iconographic tradition, which even resisted stop-motion (as in The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms or the effect Tim Burton captured so marvelously using computer-generated imagery in Mars Attacks!). The onslaught of exploitative digital effects effectively removes Godzilla from the world of juvenile pleasure -- now it would need a gargantuan audience -- leaving nothing of interest for any age. It's not a good adult movie; it's not a good kids movie; it's not a good movie; it's not a movie. It's an Event." --  Gregory Solman, Film Comment

 

The Japanese original offers hope and faith in mankind at its conclusion even after the real life horrors inflicted upon that country. Devlin and Emmerich’s film offers nothing, not even entertainment. It has nothing to say.

 

It was a masterwork of marketing, advertising and product placement with the hope of massive merchandising opportunities. It is one of the few examples where Cynema was largely rejected by the audience that was awake enough to understand the bad bill of goods being offered.

 

 

A great article firmly cementing Godzilla 1998 in Cynema can be found here by Gregory Solman.

 

And Now a Word From Netflix Reviewers on Godzilla ‘98 (Complete with spelling and grammar errors)

 

* To the two people bellow me who made the fail reviews you obviously aren't real godzilla fans and I hope godzilla haunts you as for godzilla is one of the most remarkable creature ever to see I actually like this movie and this doesn't even look anything so what related to jurrassic park if anything jurrassic park copied godzilla if that's what you are saying godzilla was created in 1998 which I believe was created before jurrassic park so frequently I believe that you're so called theory has a lot of errors to it because GodZilla technically came first before jurrassic park as of matter of fact it's been around since eons. I watched this movie since I was ten and right now I'm eight teen and still love this movie. I wonder if anyone out here has nightmares about a gigantic dinosaur demolishing there city I sure have if you're an addicively addicted godzilla fan like I am then this movie is surely good for you to watch. Who doesn't like dinosaurs, they're the reasons why humans exist after all without them being alive in a time on earth we would never have been created.

 

* Godzilla Fanboys loathe this film - My entire family digs it - Great performances from an awesome cast and superb FX - Enjoy and thank me later.

 

* What is the best thing about Godzilla... HIS CALL! Not only do they give him a new, short totally uninteresting call, but its heard all of two times in this movie. Of course the writing/acting/directing etc.is pure crap. Any use of your time, any use (killing yourself incl.) is a better use than watching this dreck. Boom. 

 

* This is my fav godzilla movie the other ones befor this werent so great .the old godzilla was realley just a big t-rex with super breath and spikes on the back. this is the best movie ever and those who hate can just keep sayin it. 5 stars!!!!!!!!!!!! 

 

* It's a great monster movie that I can watch with my 11-yeard old kid. The old Godzilla's are painful to watch because of how silly they are; this version is dated, to be sure, but at least you don't have people's guts and blood squirting out as they are eaten like some of the more "realistic" monster movies made today. With this movie you have crunching noises--and no actual eating on screen. Let's call it a fun movie for kids and adults. Lots of action and suspense. Great monster!

 

 


 

GODZILLA VS. CYNEMA pt. I

CLICK BOLD OR UNDERLINED FOR LINKS

 

Godzilla was the most masterful of all dinosaur movies because it made you believe

it was really happening.   - Steven Spielberg

 

 

There's a new Godzilla movie coming from Legendary Pictures with Gareth Edwards, director of the indie hit Monsters at the helm. Edwards diplomatically promises in interviews to not repeat the mistakes of the 1998 Godzilla disaster that enraged fans and Toho Pictures alike.

 

I guess I will say I’m highly aware – and everyone involved is incredibly aware – of everyone’s opinions on what this film has to do and what it has to be. And no one will do anything but the right thing. Without addressing anything specific, everyone knows how important it is to get it right. - Gareth Edwards on his new Godzilla

 

There is little doubt Edwards is referring to the Matthew Broderick Godzilla 1998 . Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich's big budget example of Cynema. Roland Emmerich admitted he had little interest in the original 1954 film, once again making the connection to Cynema.

 

 

 

Cynema: The cynical contempt for an audience in the making of product that is devoid of creativity, passion, production value or respect while having the financial and creative means to do better.

 

Emmerich justifies his ignorance of the 1954 film's messages with the $300 million his 1998 Godzilla made in addition to one billion in merchandising. Emmerich made it clear in this interview there will be no sequel to such a "successful" film.

 

"It's so strange because people expected it to be the biggest thing ever, then it only did well. They are disappointed, and you have to defend yourself. The movie made 375 million dollars worldwide, and The Perfect Storm made 325 million dollars. Also, Godzilla made a billion dollars in merchandise. Sony Pictures was happy with what they got. They knew that because of the media reception, they couldn't do a Godzilla 2. I told them not to do a sequel...because when you have a hit like Independence Day, people want to see you fall. -- Roland Emmerich"

 

Artist depiction of The Lucky Dragon near the Bravo blast.

 

The original 1954 Gojira was born out of the nuclear age. It was only nine years since Hiroshima and Nagasaki were laid to waste by the world’s first nuclear attacks. In 1953, the crew of a Japanese fishing boat, (ironically named) The Lucky Dragon, fell victim to radioactive fallout from the secret United States Hydrogen Bomb test called Bravo. The entire crew was irradiated and dead within months. The US denied responsibility, including financial reparations to the families of the crew.

 

Looking down on the dark water I wondered, 'what if a dinosaur was sleeping down there under all of that water. And then I wondered, 'what if an atomic bomb woke it?'

 

Producer Tomoyuki Tanaka

 

Japanese film producer, Tomoyuki Tanaka was crossing the Pacific on a night flight to a meeting in need of a story to pitch when the above quote came to him. Godzilla was born. The original 1954 film is a dark and tragic essay on man’s inhumanity to man through his ignorance of science and numbing of morality.The film’s score by Akira Ifukube is haunting--Godzilla’s theme aside, the chilling national prayer theme is heart rending when you understand the  tragedy behind it as a metaphor. Godzilla was created by American technology-- from reckless nuclear folly that created a monstrous aberration. Godzilla’s attacks on Tokyo and mainland Japan are mindless, random events meant to resemble a rolling nuclear attack, the likes inflicted on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

 

I can't believe that Godzilla was the only surviving member of its species... But if we continue conducting nuclear tests... it's possible that another Godzilla might appear somewhere in the world again.- Gojira, 1954

 

 

 

Godzilla breathes ATOMIC RADIATION. Images of cities ablaze, citizens crowding hospitals dying of radiation sickness were horrid memories for thousands of Japanese audiences while watching this film. The closest thing we can come to it would be the two post 9-11 films, United 93 and World Trade Center . US audiences sat emotionally wrecked  in these two films throughout theaters across the country. Director Ishiro Honda served in the Japanese army and witnessed a US fire bombing raid on Tokyo. He found a mother huddled with her children between burning buildings, refusing to leave, awaiting the end to join her husband in the afterlife. This scene appears in Gojira, recreated from Honda's memory.

 

 

Monsters are born too tall, too strong, too heavy, that is their tragedy. - Ishiro Honda

 

From the writing to the effects, this was a film of passion from a deeply wounded nation. While Japan rebuilt its devastated cities in the 1950’s and found its way in dealing with the long reaching damages and effects from the nuclear attacks, America was reveling in its victory over Germany and Japan and its newfound status as world leader and sole nuclear power.

 

Godzilla produced in a Japanese studio, is an incredibly awful film. The whole thing is in the category of cheap cinematic horror-stuff, and it is too bad that a respectable theater has to lure children and gullible grown-ups with such fare. - NYT Film Critic Bosley Crowther 1956 assessment of the Amercian edit of Gojira.

 

 

 

Crowther's review is for the Americanized Godzilla: King of the Monsters that will come to the US in 1955-56. While Godzilla was treated seriously in his native Japan, he was released in America as part of a cheap monster movie line up. Henry Saperstein, an American producer and distributor saw potential in big monster movies and bought the rights to distribute Gojira in the US, but would need a few changes to suit American tastes. The film was radically re-edited with all references to America’s responsibility for Godzilla’s creation cut out. Additionally new documentary style scenes were shot around American actor Raymond Burr and the film is seen through his reporter’s eyes, giving a much sanitized view of the monster’s rampage.

 

"This is Tokyo. Once a city of six million people. What has happened here was caused by a force which up until a few days ago was entirely beyond the scope of Man's imagination. Tokyo, a smoldering memorial to the unknown, an unknown which at this very moment still prevails and could at any time lash out with its terrible destruction anywhere else in the world.    - Raymond Burr as reporter Steve Martin, Godzilla King of the Monsters

 

 

The original Japanese language was re-dubbed with American voices-- giving bad lip synching when the characters spoke. This created a comical effect that will become a hallmark of stand up comedy routines for decades to come. In essence we took a serious film and re-edited it into a comedy. Imagine American reaction to another country doing the same radical re-editing to a US movie on the 9-11 attacks or even Pearl Harbor for that matter.

 

You have your fear, which might become reality; and you have Godzilla, which IS reality. - Godzilla King of the Monsters, 1955

 

The 1954 Gojira was a successful movie but Americans were ignorant to the original Japanese version and the dark dispersions it cast upon the United States and the horrors inflicted by American nuclear power. To his credit, Raymond Burr played the movie serious and adds a solemn voice to the hacked up film. Reportedly his scenes were shot in one day, maybe several tops. However his voice and steel glances added credibility to the American version. Burr felt a kinship with the monster and returned thirty years later to the American version of Godzilla 1985, again playing the part seriously while many of the American actors in his scenes played it as buffoons for high camp.

 

 

Nature has a way sometimes of reminding man of just how small he is. She occasionally throws up terrible offspring of our pride and carelessness, to remind us of how puny we really are in the face of a tornado, an earthquake, or a Godzilla. The reckless ambitions of man are often dwarfed by their dangerous consequences. For now, Godzilla -- that strangely innocent and tragic monster -- has gone to earth. Whether he returns, or is never again seen by human eyes, the things he has taught us remain.   - Raymond Burr's Steve Martin, Godzilla 1985

 

Dr. Serizawa shows his fiance, Emiko Yamane something more evil than Godzilla

 

To be sure, Godzilla 1985 (The American version) is not a great film. The Japanese version, entitled The Return of Godzilla was once again superior as New World Pictures removed all anti-American sentiment and considerably toned down the anti-nuclear message of the Japanese film. After all, it was 1985—Reagan was president and he had an Evil Empire in the Soviets to take care of. We couldn’t afford any negativity, even if it came from a Japanese monster movie.

 

Behind the scenes of "Gojira", 1954

 

The American transformation of both Gojira and The Return of Godzilla into the bastardized versions of Godzilla King of the Monsters and Godzilla 1985 were cynical moves for a quick buck in the monster movie genre.  What keeps Godzilla King of the Monsters from falling totally into Cynema is Raymond Burr, and that was something not planned. Godzilla 1985 (the American re-edit) was released in US theaters to make a fast buck off Godzilla’s 30th anniversary (with lots of product placement by Dr. Pepper). It failed but had a healthy run on home video. Unfortunately, the deep cultural messages reflected in the Japanese version were lost again on American audiences.

 

Behind the Scenes, "Gojira", 1954

 

See Godzilla vs. GINO for the next installment of this "Godzilla" article

 

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