Friday, February 26, 2010

Cuyahoga Kaiju Club Lives On

At an "undisclosed location" in Northeast Ohio, the Cuyahoga Kaiju Club continues to celebrate all things Godzilla. Andy and I were fortunate enough to be invited to a meeting recently and had a great time, thanks to the hospitality of "Don Kaiju" and his family and friends.

The CKC has been around for over fifteen years, and these days their meetings take on the atmosphere of a family reunion. Father and son kaiju fans know they're in the right place when (1) within a minute or two of making introductions with folks, you're playing Godzilla Unleashed on Wii; (2) someone asks you if you have seen "Orochi: the Eight-Headed Dragon" (3) everyone gathers around to watch GMK while making MST3K-like commentary (without, mind you, making a "ha ha...their lips don't match their voices"-type crack).

It was also enjoyable to meet Tom, a founding member of CKC and the artist behind the American Greetings Godzilla ornament collection, Far East Monsters products, and tons of kaiju artwork and models seen in the pages of G-FAN. He kindly allowed me to page through his CKC archival material, which included a photograph of the CKC on the set of "Big Chuck and Little John," a longtime Cleveland television staple. I would've loved to have pored over the material in that binder, but not wanting to look like a total geek, I flipped through the pages rather quickly. That material, though, is a really cool document of an exciting time in American G-fandom, by someone who has made things happen within it. Tom is so down-to-earth, he'd probably downplay that statement, but I think it's true.

As for the afternoon's activities, we ended up watching a Monster Movie clip show, an episode of the BBC sci-fi show "Primeval" and GMK (Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah) before Andy and I had to head home. There's talk of a summertime "kaiju campout," and some of the other G-fans I met are planning to be at this year's G-FEST, so I am looking forward to our paths crossing again. It has been said many times in the pages of G-FAN, by J.D. Lees and others, that Godzilla fans are some of the nicest people you will ever meet, and I was pleased to discover that is certainly true of the Cuyahoga Kaiju Club.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Photos from "The Coop"

Our local "Craft and Antique Co-op" (AKA "The Coop") has yielded a surprising variety of Godzilla items over the past several years. Someday I will post pictures of the Godzilla lamp I found here.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

G-FAN Magazine # 38 "Gamera Takeover"

It took us years to get our hands on a copy of Gamera 3 (The Revenge of Irys/Incomplete Struggle), but the online marketplace that is ebay provided the opportunity at the right price (given the film's "out-of-print" status), so at long last we were finally able to view the movie that some have called "the greatest kaiju film ever made."

In light of such effusive praise, it is somewhat intimidating to render a personal verdict--but here it is anyway. Gamera 3 is an incredible work, highlighted by jaw-dropping, utterly convincing special effects. It is a rare monster movie in which the plot is more than just filler between creature scenes--for in truth, the kaiju are used sparingly. It puts a memorable exclamation point on the modern Gamera trilogy and withstands (or is it "invites"?) repeated views. Having said all that, I cannot bring myself to christen it the "Greatest Kaiju Film Ever." There are at least five films I would rate ahead of G3 on that list. The bottom line for me is that G3 suffers for the brevity of monster action. The kaiju sequences in the film are brilliant. A preliminary bout between Gamera and Irys--or a more kinetic final battle--would have made a "best of all time" rating harder to argue against. As it is, G3 is a classic, and is the kind of movie you are compelled to talk about after watching (provided you can find someone who would like to talk to you about an awesome giant turtle movie). With its mythic underpinnings, one can definitely see how the "Kaneko touch" transferred to GMK a few years later.

G-FAN #38 is the perfect companion piece to G3, with no less than 25 pages of thoughtful and wonderfully illustrated coverage of the film. Ed Godziszewski and Norman England provide definitive commentary and reaction to the 1999 release, and England explores the promotion of the film's Japanese debut in a thoroughly intriguing article. (An exhibition took place in the very Kyoto train station "demolished" in the film.)

There is an abundance of fan artwork in this issue, as well as engaging fiction by Skip Peel and J. Christian Grymyr (the latter of which is a concept spun off of an MST3K sketch about Gamera!). Factor in a J.D. Lees review of Gamera on VHS and a Gamera-themed merchandise report, and you have what might be the most Gamera-centric G-FAN ever published. Issue 38 is required reading for those who wish to fully enhance their G3 viewing experience.

In a bit of happy Gamera serendipity, the word is out that Shout! Factory will be releasing the original Gamera films on DVD beginning with Gamera the Giant Monster Special Edition in May of this year. What's more, August Ragone (author of Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters) will be preparing booklet material and audio commentary for the film. For more info check out his blog at

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Discovered Under the Christmas Tree Pt. Three

Amercian Greetings did it again this Christmas with a tribute to 1954's Godzilla. The trainyard explodes with a flash at Godzilla's feet and the iconic roar (sounding much like the King Kong vs. Godzilla version) is sounded at the push of a button. The Heirloom Ornament Collection provides the annual thrill of walking into an American retailer and purchasing original, authentic Godzilla goods--a rare treat, and one that has become highly anticipated each year.

Monday, February 8, 2010

G-Fest Location Announced; Double-Double Feature Confirmed

G-Fest XVII will take place at the Rosemont Hotel at O'Hare, just a few blocks from its previous location, according to information recently posted at Room rates and parking look to be very reasonable, and, in fact, are scaled back slightly from last year, if memory serves.

Equally as exciting is the news that a "double-double feature" has been planned for Thursday, July 8th, at the Pickwick Theater. Two kaiju ficks in the afternoon and two in the evening will make for a rip-roaring prelude to the main festivities, which will feature actor Akira Takarada, whose distinguished career includes both the first and last Godzilla films (and many more in between).

G-Fest will take place July 8--11 (counting the "double-double"), 2010, in Rosemont, Illinois. For more information, click on the above "G-Fan" link. For a first-person account the "G-Fest experience," check out the earliest posts right here at Monsterland Ohio.

Hello Zoffy

Big Fun toy shop near Lakewood, OH came through for us again in the form of this cool Zoffy (Ultraman) figure. I can't decipher the imprint on the back, but that does not hamper our enjoyment of this unexpected find.
Zoffy made his first appearance in the shocking final episode of Ultraman. He comes to Earth to escort his fallen "brother" home to Nebula M78, and at first is somewhat dismissive of Ultraman's bond with humanity. The affection that Ultraman has for the people of earth ultimately changes his mind, and he confers upon Hayata the power to live again apart from Ultraman's life force.
The final episode of Ultraman is noteworthy for a number of reasons. Akhiko Hirata returns in his role as Dr. Iwomura, and he gets to play the villain when the Z-ton alien takes over his body. The plot sets the template for all Ultraman series finales to follow--typically centering on an overwhelming invasion force dealing out near defeat to planet Earth. It is remarkable that Ultraman actually suffers defeat and must return home a wounded warrior, while human ingenuity (in the form of Dr. Iwomura's newly invented weapon) saves the day. Finally, there is surprisingly no "reveal"--Hayata manages to keep his alter ego a secret for the duration of the series, even after Ultraman's departure. "Farewell Ultraman" is a fitting conclusion to a groundbreaking series which excelled in taking chances and circumventing conventional storytelling.

Monday, February 1, 2010

"Fake Monsters" February

It's not too late to get your own "Fake Monsters of Japan" Parody Calendar by going to

Loaded with facts, humor, and clever visuals, this is a calendar that you'll actually want to hang on to even after 2010 is gone. Pick up a copy today!