Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Year of Godzilla

The latest G-FAN depicts the G we're all waiting to see. It's hard to describe the excitement that's building for Legendary's film. Each day seems to bring a new TV spot or revelation online. Facebook is the locus for such information. Even better, the more that comes to light about the film, the better it looks in every respect, from special effects to acting chops. Memories of the bitter disappointment of 1998 are beginning to fade, and hopes are running high. In my estimation, Gareth Edwards and Legendary are doing everything right. On the G-FEST front, I'm happy to report that the Ifukube concert has been fully funded on Kickstarter and plans are moving forward. We are proud to be backers of this event, which may in fact become a genuine once-in-a-lifetime event. We have also been re-enlisted to organize the G-FEST Kid's Thread; there are some very special surprises in store this year which will include exclusive, limited run souvenirs. Stay Tuned! Speaking of merchandise, a tidal wave of Godzilla-related products is beginning to swell, some of which is related directly to the new movie, and some of which proceeds from the franchise in total. Of great interest to us are the numerous Blu-ray releases that are forthcoming, and, of course, the many toys that have already become available online and in select stores. Sean Linkenback's upcoming poster book will also be a welcome addition to the Monsterland Ohio Library. If you're one of our friends who still checks in here from time to time, I thank you. Chances are we will being seeing you soon. If you're new to MO, feel free to leave a comment. It is a fantastic time to be a proud Godzilla fan. You're invited to join us also on Facebook; just search for Cuyahoga Kaiju Club.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

G-FEST Blast from the Past


 
Akira Takarada, Toho Icon and 'Classmate of Godzilla'

Monday, January 20, 2014

Book Review: "Atomic Drive-In"

 
 
 
Long-time G-FAN and Scary Monsters contributor Mike Bogue has released an impressive collection of short stories entitled "Atomic Drive-In." The title story is the longest entry, falling into the 'novella' category, and tells the tale of two friends who are transported through time to a parallel earth that has been ravaged by atomic war. Fans of 1950's science fiction will get a charge out of both the direct and subtle references made to films and characters from the genre. "Atomic Drive-In" is more than just an exercise in nostalgia, however. A number of surprisingly deep themes are explored, suggesting that whether your challenges are personal or apocalyptic, it is always possible to make a heroic choice.
 
 Bogue's command of the short story form is evident throughout this collection, and he has a gift for creating compelling characters, some of whom are appealingly unapologetic monster movie fans. G-FAN collectors may recognize "Going Back," a poignant tale of love and loss that appeared in issue 58. Also reprinted from the book "Daikaiju 3: Giant Monsters vs. The World" is "A Calculated Sacrifice," a nightmare vision of angry kaiju gods ruling modern-day Japan. Three other stories are included, one of which, "Mrs. Finney's Special Vine," is particularly evocative in its depiction of a friendship in its final days. This is science fiction with soul, and I give it my highest recommendation.
 
To pick up a copy of "Atomic Drive-In," go here.
 


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Happy New Year!


 
2014 is here, and there is much excitement in the Godzilla fan community over the leaks and updates surrounding Legendary's film, which hits theaters in a mere four months and nine days.
 
One hopes that there will be a wave of merchandise and kaiju-related products that will hit the market, in similar fashion to the wave that accompanied Tristar's Godzilla. Some photographs have surfaced online of apparently official prototypes, but they may reflect works in progress as opposed to finished products.
 
We had a good Christmas here at Monsterland Ohio. The kaiju highlight is pictured above. We presented Grampy with his own framed picture of Godzilla 2000, signed by this past year's G-FEST guests. I received the Johnny Sokko DVD box set and Andy was given a number of issues of Marvel Comics' Godzilla series, including the first. We also supplemented our Marvel Masterworks' "Tales to Astonish" collection, which we sort of "backed into" via the G-FEST Dealers Room last year.
 
Speaking of which, we have made our registrations for G-FEST XXI. No word on guests or movies yet. After a one-year hiatus my folks will be joining us again, so there is much to anticipate.
 
The Year of Godzilla is here! Hope yours is happy and fulfilling.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Retro Reprint: The Legend of Boggy Creek

This article first appeared in Martin Arlt's fanzine "Mad Scientist" #22, which is now sold out. Inspired by the season premiere of Finding Bigfoot, I have reproduced my salute to Boggy Creek here.

On the Track of the Ultimate Bigfoot Movie:

“The Legend of Boggy Creek”
 
 
             Bigfoot and I go way back. I owe my introduction to the hairy hominid to Sid and Marty Krofft, whose “Krofft Supershow” (1976) featured fifteen-minute episodes of “Bigfoot and Wildboy.” Needless to say, my four-year-old self envied Wildboy’s friendship with the big biped, and the show inspired many imaginary adventures played out in the wilderness of my basement. The same year saw Steve Austin tangling with Bigfoot (as played by both wrestler Andre the Giant and actor Ted Cassidy) on “The Six Million Dollar Man.” Sasquatch ruled the small screen in 1976, much to my delight.

            Over the next couple of years, I could not help but dig deeper into Bigfoot lore, and since my research took place during the “Bigfoot Boom” of the 1970s, my local library yielded no shortage of Sasquatchiana. Marian T. Place’s “On the Track of Bigfoot” became my primary text. While comprehensive and readable, it gave the distinct impression that Bigfoot was exclusively ensconced in the Pacific Northwest. It wasn’t until I got my hands on works such as Elwood Baumann’s “Monsters of North America” and Place’s subsequent “Bigfoot All Over the Country” that I learned that reports of giant man-apes were far more widespread than I had been led to believe. What is more, Baumann’s book devoted three whole chapters to a series of sightings in Fouke, Arkansas—sightings that had evidently inspired an honest-to-goodness Bigfoot docudrama called “The Legend of Boggy Creek,” made in 1972. It became a fervent hope of mine to see this movie, although the chances of catching it on television seemed about as good as seeing a seven-foot-tall hairy primate in my own backyard.

            For years, Baumann’s description of “The Legend of Boggy Creek” fired my imagination, and I had come to accept that the images it produced in the theater of my mind would probably have to suffice. My hopes for seeing the film would rise, however, whenever it was mentioned in books such as Janet and Colin Bord’s “The Bigfoot Casebook”—at the very least, I could take comfort in knowing the movie really existed, and that someone, somewhere had seen it.

            And then one day, in my early teens, it appeared. There, in the television listings, which I habitually scoured for monsters of all persuasions, was the title: “The Legend of Boggy Creek.” It was scheduled to run far too late for me to stay up and watch, but fortunately, my family had purchased our first Video Cassette Recorder. With the precision of a surgeon I set the timer, double-checking my work, and then it was done--all I could do was wait and hope.

            The next morning I rewound the tape, took a deep breath, and pushed play. These orange words appeared against a plain black background: “THIS IS A TRUE STORY. Some of the people in this motion picture portray themselves—in many cases on actual locations.” After years of waiting, the legendary Bigfoot was in my possession.

            When I finally had the long-awaited pleasure of watching “The Legend of Boggy Creek,” I was not disappointed—if anything, it was more absorbing than I had hoped. Moreover, it felt plausible, and some of the vignettes were genuinely unnerving, beginning with a sequence in which a young boy runs from the sound of a howling Bigfoot, admitting in voiceover that “I was seven years old when I first heard him scream. It scared me them, and it scares me now.”

            After quickly establishing the geography and general culture of Fouke (which is to say, the Deep South of the early 70s), two eyewitnesses report their experiences on location in a matter-of-fact tone that roots the proceedings in reality. One of the men eerily relates the tale of his two-hundred pound show hogs being carried away—by something—over a barbed wire fence.

            Two re-enactments follow, in which hunters run across the creature ambling through the woods. These scenes avoid sensationalism and give the viewer a sense of what seeing an unknown creature must be like. The costume used for these scenes is effective, in that it is never glimpsed in much detail, and the suit actor moves about naturally, giving the impression of something large and hairy yet not abnormal.

            Next, three women and a baby living in a back-country shack are terrorized by a nighttime visit from the creature. The monster’s appearance is only hinted at, yet the sequence is gripping. It also concludes with a mildly disturbing image of a cat that had been “scared to death” by its close encounter with the cryptid.

            That is followed by an intense segment in which an adolescent hunter brings the hominid to its knees with a couple of rifle shots. The young actor in this segment is convincingly spooked, and the viewer is, too.

            The film offers a slight breather at this point, showing hunting parties and tracking dogs searching in vain for Bigfoot. More unpredictably, a musical montage begins! The plaintive “Ballad of Boggy Creek,” written by Earl E. Smith (and probably sung by Charles B Pierce), is set to shots of both the natural beauty of the Sulphur River bottoms and the lonely Fouke Monster trudging along the creek bed. The lyrics ask:

            “Here the Sulfur River flows, Rising when the storm cloud blows, This is where the creature goes, Lurking in the land he knows. Perhaps he dimly wonders why, Is there no other such as I? To love, to touch before I die, To listen to my lonely cry.”

As one musical interlude ends, another takes its place. This one is dedicated to Travis Crabtree, a teenage trapper and outdoorsman. We learn that Travis, in his forays up and down the river, occasionally visits Herb Jones, a man who lives in seclusion deep in the swamps. Jones, who seems like someone who should know, steadfastly declares that “there ain’t no such thing” as the Fouke Monster.

            Jones’ denial notwithstanding, evidence is presented in the form of large, three-toed footprints, discovered in a bean field. This serves a transition to another recreated sighting. Three young children lead their aunt to the place where they claim they saw “a wild man”—and right on cue, he appears upon their return. It is a simple set-up, made effective by the panicked reaction of the woman, who paradoxically screams “Don’t run!” as the group flees in horror.

            The scene that follows is one of my favorites, because it depicts a staple of Bigfoot sighting lore: the old “road crossing” scenario. It happens quickly—in less than five seconds, the thing has crossed the road and hidden in the woods. This is a situation I had read about and visualized for years, and to see it captured on film was oddly thrilling.

            Another creepy vignette portrays the monster stalking a trailer full of teenage girls. Their fear is palpable as they pull out Daddy’s gun and fumble for bullets on the kitchen floor. When one of the girls musters up the courage to peek out the window, the viewer knows what is coming, yet it is hair-raising all the same.

            The final portion of the movie is its longest set piece; an account of the events experienced by the Ford family as something Big tries to enter their homestead. The most dramatic elements of the real-life Ford encounter (as documented in Baumann’s book) are brought to life, such as a hairy hand reaching in through an open window, and Bobby Ford crashing in through the screen door in an effort to escape the creature’s clutches.

            Unfortunately, this sequence features both the most and least convincing monster appearances in the film. When the shadow of the creature slinks across the porch, and the boards creak under its weight, the effect is chilling. However, when Bobby Ford finally collides with the creature in the front yard, an ill-fitting gorilla mask, complete with loose eyeholes, is easily glimpsed by the viewer, and the spell of suspense is broken. That is the only misstep that the movie makes in portraying the monster, and it is a shame that it takes place during what is effectively the climax of the film.

            “Boggy Creek’s” denouement is a moody shot of a man (the narrator and grown-up version of the boy in the prologue) inspecting an old cabin while reflecting, in voice-over, on the mystery of the Fouke sightings. The viewer almost expects one last shock to occur, but it never does, and the movie seems to coast to a stop, like the funhouse ride it is.

 

            Charles B. Pierce caught lightning in a bottle with “The Legend of Boggy Creek,” managing not only to bring the Fouke Phenomena to light, but also to preserve a snapshot of Southern culture in a way that does not feel exploitative. Whether by design or budgetary necessity, “Boggy Creek” is a study in understatement, which is perhaps a strange thing to say about a Bigfoot movie. What is far stranger is that Pierce would take precisely the opposite approach in filming “Boggy Creek II: And The Legend Continues…” in 1985, employing crude Southern caricature, mild lasciviousness, and much monstrous melodrama. It is a film custom-made for the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment, which it received in 2004. (At one point, host Mike Nelson quips, “With a degree in Boggy Creek studies you can pretty much write your own ticket.”) While it makes for a fantastic MST3K episode, “Boggy Creek II” raises questions about Pierce’s true feelings for the subject matter, illustrating that there is a fine line between cult classic and B-movie embarrassment.

            In addition to Pierce’s own ill-conceived “sequel,” “The Legend of Boggy Creek” inspired a wave of Sasquatch cinema, such as 1975’s “The Mysterious Monsters,” a straightforward documentary narrated by Peter Graves; 1976’s “The Creature from Black Lake,” an affable tale featuring the menacing talent of Jack Elam; and 1978’s “Sasquatch: the Legend of Bigfoot,” which seems consciously patterned after “Boggy Creek’s” docudrama structure. Bigfoot stomped his way onto the small screen as well, in the aforementioned “Bigfoot and Wildboy” and “Six Million Dollar Man” series, as well as more sober fare such as the Leonard Nimoy-narrated “In Search Of…” Pierce, who died on March 5, 2010, helped make Bigfoot a household name in the 1970s, and in the process enjoyed modest financial success.

            The peculiar, haunting quality of “The Legend of Boggy Creek” gave some viewers not just a few moments of escapist entertainment, but a calling to pursue. In his book “Bigfoot! The True Story of Apes in America,” renowned cryptozoologist Loren Coleman names no less than ten prominent individuals whose participation in current Bigfoot research is a direct result of seeing the “Boggy Creek” movie. One of those named by Coleman is Chester Moore, Jr., the author of “Bigfoot South.” His comments are fairly typical of those whom Coleman profiles: “Seeing “The Legend of Boggy Creek” lit my interest in the Bigfoot phenomenon into a full-blown passion. While the Pacific Northwest seemed a world away to me, Arkansas did not…The impact it had on me as a youngster was immense.”

            Moore’s statement helps explain “Boggy Creek’s” enduring appeal. The picture suggests, especially to younger viewers, that deep mystery might lurk closer to home than anyone expects. While hardly told from a skeptical viewpoint, the film is earnest in its presentation of regular people grappling with inexplicable events, with the documentary style heightening the sense of “extreme possibility.” Pierce’s film is nothing less than a great American campfire story: scary, fun, and just believable enough to make you reconsider your next woodland hike. My hunt for this elusive quarry was well worth it.

 


Bibliography

 

Bauman, Elwood (1978). Monsters of North America. Xerox Education Publications. U.S.A.

 

Bord, Janet and Colin (1982). The Bigfoot Casebook. Stackpole Books. Harrisburg, PA.

 

Coleman, Loren (2003). Bigfoot! The True Story of Apes in America. Paraview Pocket Books. New York, NY.

 

Place, Marian T (1974). On the Track of Bigfoot. Dodd, Mead & Company. New York, NY.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Finding Bigfoot on November 10th

Ranae Holland and Andy at Deerasic Park

Excitement and loud howling fills the air as we get ready for the season premiere of Animal Planet's unlikely success story, Finding Bigfoot, which airs Sunday, November 10th at 10 p.m. Readers of this blog are well aware that we had the pleasure of being part of the taping of an episode at Deerasic Park, just outside of the main entrance to Salt Fork State Park.

Animal Planet has been showing repeats of the show in preparation for the season premiere. Some of them are done in the entertaining "Further Evidence" format, which is reminiscent of VH1's "Pop-Up Video," for those of you who remember such things.

We wish Ranae, Cliff, Matt and Bobo all the luck in the world as they continue their quest!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

 
 
 
It's time for tricks, treats, and things that go bump in the night. A person who has greatly enhanced my enjoyment of all things spooky and unexplained is Loren Coleman, pictured above with Andy. I have read almost everything he has written, and many of his books, such as "Mysterious America," are in my annual reading rotation. We had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Coleman this year at Salt Fork State Park and were impressed by his kindness, not to mention his baseball knowledge. Getting to talk to him about the Toho movie "Half Human" was a distinct treat, too, and will be a memory I will savor this All Hallows' Eve.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Imperial Find


 
Some of the best collectible finds happen when you aren't really looking. We were in a Goodwill store in Coschocton, Ohio when Andy spotted this 1985 Imperial Godzilla. He wasn't all that thrilled about going in the store to begin with, but his attitude quickly changed when he saw this figure and its $2.00 price tag!

Monday, September 30, 2013

G-FAN & Pacific Rim


G-FAN 103 has been released and has found its way to most mailboxes. I'm pleased to have written one of three articles reviewing "Pacific Rim" in this issue. The other two were composed by G-FAN stalwarts Mike Bogue and Lyle Huckins. It was pretty cool to see the movie from their perspective, and to note that all three reviews were quite favorable. I'm not aware of any news regarding a PR sequel, although the worldwide box office take suggests that one ought to be made.

Issue 103's incredible cover was done by Ohio's own Matt Harris. This portrait of Godzilla was on display at G-FEST XX.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Kaiju Club Discovers Zilla's Remains



The above photo is the only evidence that exists of a clandestine meeting of the Cuyahoga Kaiju Club held nearly two weeks ago. The body of Zilla, pictured here, was obtained in Chicago this summer and transported to an undisclosed location in the Buckeye State, where the CKC has engaged in a thorough examination.

A kaiju campout was held in conjunction with this development over Labor Day weekend. Participants enjoyed swimming, good food, kaiju collectibles, and (of course) monster movies. Viewed on the BIG screen were: Gamera vs. Viras/Destroy All Planets (with Carl Craig commentary track); Cloverfield; Godzilla vs. Biollante bonus features; and last but not least (OK, maybe least), The Creeping Terror, which was mercilessly (or mercifully, perhaps) riffed by the CKC. Joel and the 'bots would've been proud. The writers of this blog are very fortunate to have become connected to the CKC and its outstanding members, whom we also consider our friends.

Search for the Cuyahoga Kaiju Club on Facebook and join in the fun-

 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Postcards from G-FEST XX: It's Pigmon!


Thursday's double-double feature is always a great start to G-FEST. What could be better than watching four kaiju flicks knowing that the whole weekend is ahead of you? This year there were a few sweet surprises at the evening showing. One was a Pacific Rim trailer, and the other was an entire episode of the original Ultraman, "The Small Hero," which features Pigmon and the feather-wielding Geronimon. The Science Patrol on the big Pickwick screen was an unexpected treat.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Total Kaos at Packrat Comics

Bryan "Stratos" Borgman begins his intro to Kaiju Kaos
 
 Bryan Borgman, creator of the tabletop game "Kaiju Kaos," invited us to a demonstration of his game at Packrat Comics in Hilliard, Ohio, and we are glad he did. It is a testimony to Bryan's game engineering and patient teaching ability that in less than a half an hour, our kaiju were duking it out, and we were having a lot of fun.

Kaos is about to strike!
 
Packrat Comics hosted this event, and this was our first time visiting. Quite frankly, we were blown away by this store. Behind its unassuming door lies a vast array of comics, gaming supplies, and collectibles. G-fans take note: S.H. Monster Arts and X-Plus are both represented here; a careful sweep through both floors (!) will yield some treats. I don't want to say too much, as we intend to return in the near future, and we don't want to see the walls bare!
 
"How do you double-punch again? When can I throw my rock?"
 
 The version of the game we learned was a streamlined, one-on-one battle simulation. Once you get into the basic flow of the game, there is a satisfying give and take that occurs, like a kaiju fight that you would see in a movie. Your monster can advance, parry blows, evade attack, and, of course, fight, using claws, rocks, beam weapons and more. Depending on what you roll, you can miss a punch, or decimate your opponent. There is strategy, imagination, and big helpings of over-the-top monster fun to be had. We were absolute newbies coming in to this experience, and still were able to pick this up relatively quickly. Once we get past being self conscious about rules and scoring formulas, the rhythm of the battles will become more natural and it should be even more fun to play. Even if you don't consider yourself a "gamer," Godzilla fans owe it to themselves to give this a try. You will be amazed at how the action mimics the combat portrayed in your favorite films, and you just might gain a new perspective on your favorite hobby!

Bigfoot vs. Earwig: a conflict you will only see in Kaiju Kaos
 
For more information about Kaiju Kaos, go here. Bryan maintains a Facebook presence for the game here. And visit Packrat Comics here, but go in person if you can!
 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Postcards from G-FEST XX: The Pickwick and Park Ridge

A happy sign of summer

This year, the G-FEST experience began more abruptly than in years past. We drove from home to the Chicago area in one day, and were up and at 'em on Thursday, itching to get to Park Ridge.

(When I say we were itching, I mean that literally...we woke up Thursday morning peppered with very itchy bites. Sue got the worst of it. We had obvious concerns about bed bugs (which we brought home once from a Columbus, Ohio hotel), but the bites didn't fit the profile. I'm fairly certain that we had gotten nailed by a biting fly that was buzzing around home just before we left. It wasn't a big deal, but it was a deal. These really hurt. Fortunately, the immersive experience that is G-FEST took our minds off of the discomfort most of the time.)

As I was saying, we got to Park Ridge early, in order to hit Trader Joes and to take in the annual "Taste of Park Ridge" sidewalk sale that has coincided with G-FEST for a number of years running. (It makes for some minor parking headaches, but we've got our "secret" spots that are almost always available.) I'm glad we arrived when we did, because the Pickwick Theater had a stack of two-sided movie posters on a table, and Andy and I were able to score this Pacific Rim poster for the whopping price of $4.00. It'll cost 6 times that much to get it framed, but it will be worth every penny, and more importantly, it was one of those cool "lucky" moments that G-FEST memories are made of.

Our $4 Pickwick Pacific Rim Poster



From the Pickwick Box Office
They weren't kidding about the projector.
More on that later.