Thursday, September 30, 2010

Now Playing: Gamera vs. Viras

When a movie begins with an outer space battle between a bumblebee-patterned flying saucer and a giant, jet-powered flying turtle, you know you've got "the goods." Shout Factory's amazingly vivid presentation of "Gamera vs. Viras" jumps out of the gate to the tune of the [in]famous Gamera song, signalling that this kaiju flick is not going to take itself too seriously.

If you're not into "wacky," you'd better avoid this film. But if you are like me and enjoy heaping portions of "wacky," you will not be disappointed. There is a spirit to this film I just love, from the subversive, submarine-sabotaging boy scouts to the final battle, in which Gamera rides Viras around like a jet ski before being mercilessly gored. [How does he survive that again? Oh, nevermind.]

Gamera purists might bemoan the inclusion of copious stock footage in this film, but I actually like the section, which plays as a clip show of Gamera's greatest battles. This is audacious fun, strictly for kids at heart.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Monster Fandom Starts at Home

Here's my nephew, Zachary, sporting his very own giant monster T-shirt. His cousin Andy can't wait to introduce Zach to his favorite Japanese monsters and superheroes! We love you, Big Z!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Mini Marusan Sub

Andy and I satisfied an urge to model today with the completion of a tiny replica kit of the SSN-571 Nautilus. When completed it is about five and a half inches long. It is shown here with a GMK Godzilla gashapon, in a loose recreation of the scene where the big G is first discovered. We got a set of these mini-models, which includes the JASDF North American F-86D Sabre Jet Fighter, as well as Godzilla, Baragon, and Ebirah. Although very small, the sub was easy to work with, snapping together quickly, requiring no glue and just a little bit of trimming. We also like the artwork on the box. Thanks to the folks at Extreme Collectables for making these available at a very reasonable price.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Return to G-FEST XVII: The Videos

Some great video of G-FEST XVII has been added to Re-live your memories or see what you're missing!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I almost forgot to post this photo, taken at the Geauga County Fair on Labor Day Weekend. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction...

Monday, September 20, 2010

G-FAN # 92 "Monster" Review

John at Monster Magazine World has posted a complimentary review of the latest issue of G-FAN on his comprehensive Blogspot site.

To check it out, click here:

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Baragon Mauls Madison

Here is a sample of what you'll see at Spaceman Floyd's Cosmic Toys in Madison, Ohio, courtesy of Matt Evangelista. While there this week, we saw people reacting to the models with amazed delight. I bet if you go see them, you will too!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Any resemblance between these two photographs is purely coincidental.
Happy 64th birthday to my monster mentor!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Perry Library Showcases Cosmic Toys

Regular readers of Monsterland Ohio know that we have gained a little experience in putting display case exhibits together. It is at the point now where you might even call it a hobby. So when we learned that Jason, the owner of Spaceman Floyd's Cosmic Toys, had been asked to do a display at the Perry Library, we jumped at the chance to help out. Our enthusiasm to volunteer may have shocked him a little bit, but he agreed to our offer. So, the next morning, he met us at the library, talked about some of the concepts for each shelf, and let us go to it.

The display is a good cross-section of the types of vintage toys that are available at the store. If you come visit, you will see Star Trek, Star Wars, WWF wrestlers, Twilight Zone, Godzilla, King Kong, the Visible Woman being assembled by other feminine toys, and even Teddy Roosevelt riding a dewback (a big lizard from Star Wars). And yes, there is much, much more. Hurry in to see it, because it will only be there through the end of September.

One more thing: Jason is doing a presentation at the Perry Library on December 2 at 7:00 p.m. He will be talking about vintage toys, of course, mixing toy history with the psychology of boys' and girls' toys, and all of it fun and fascinating. Hope to see you there!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Godzillapalooza at Spaceman Floyd's

The exceptional model-making skills of Matt Evangelista are currently featured in a one-of-a-kind display at Spaceman Floyd's Cosmic Toys, 46 West Main Street, Madison, Ohio. One doubts that a kaiju exhibit of this caliber has ever been staged in North America outside of a G-FEST. Godzilla and "garage kit" model enthusiasts within driving distance of northeast Ohio are strongly urged to make the trip to Madison's new vintage toy store to see these phenomenal figures.

As you can see, Andy was invited to participate in setting up the display, to the extent that Geneva's Kaiju Modeler gave Andy creative control of the location and position of the monstrous models. Andy especially enjoyed putting each individual bomb on Mechanikong's belt. Stretching the boundaries of credulity, this was the second display that he was involved in setting up that day--the first was a case we arranged for Spaceman Floyd's at the Perry Public Library!

Take advantage of this opportunity if you are able--you will not be disappointed. It is far more likely you will be astounded and delighted. But do not delay--a Christmas-themed window will likely appear in mid-to-late November, so catch the kaiju while you can!

Spaceman Floyd's Cosmic Toys is open Monday--Saturday, noon to eight.

Andy, Matt, and Jason survey a job well done--come check it out!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

From the Toybox...King Ghidorah

Here is one of my favorites...the 1992 Bandai reissue of the classic Bullmark figure. I love the menacing faces of King Ghidorah on this, not to mention the wild paint job. All hail Monster Zero!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Return to G-FEST XVII: Sunday Surprises

A first place blue ribbon was waiting for Andy on Sunday
My assumption was that Sunday morning was going to be low-key. I had volunteered to oversee the Art Room, and was looking forward to some time to "just be." But I had no sooner settled into my post, than I received a text message from my wife that Andy's model had been awarded a blue ribbon! Mere moments later, Andy appeared in the doorway, ecstatic with the news. It was a tremendous feeling to have spent many a winter Saturday assembling our kit--those memories in themselves are cherished--but then, to be recognized with a first place ribbon at doesn't get much better for a boy and his dad. He was soon off to other things, but my inner smile remained as I made small talk with visitors to the Art Room, or stared out the window at the hotels across the way, reflecting on the wonder of the past few days.
The art display was serendipitously situated across from the Main Hall, so as I sat there minding the collection I could also catch portions of the presentations being offered. It was in this way that I was able to catch most of J.D. Lees' thoughts on "Godzilla 2000." It was fun to hear him talk about some of the "interesting" English dubbing that was done for that film. ("Great Caesar's ghost! etc.)
I also speculated that I could have one more "close encounter" with Akira Takarada, as he was scheduled for another interview in the Main Hall before noon. I had no idea how right I would be, for one moment I was flipping through pictures on my phone, and the next I was welcoming Mr. Takarada and Robert Scott Field to the Art Room! Trying to remain as cool as possible, I showed the international star around, pointing out which entries had won and answering his questions about them. He especially seemed to like the impressive "kaiju plush" figures which are available for viewing in an earlier "G-FEST Gallery" post on this blog.

Seizing the moment, I asked if Mr. Takarada would mind posing for a photo, and he happily complied. Scott snapped the picture using my phone, so there I was, between two of the most recognizable Godzilla actors on the planet, just having a good time. Fortunately, Sue and Andy showed up in time to get a family picture taken with "the face of Japanese sci-fi cinema" himself. Mr. Takarada's interaction with us was filled with warmth and good humor, and he made sure we were satisfied with our photograph before moving on to grant other requests.

Even as I write this--a couple months after the event--I cannot help but smile as I remember Mr. Takarada's charm, class, and down-to-earth kindness. After he and Scott left the Art Room, I recall thinking that these moments would certainly stand as my penultimate memories of the weekend.

But they don't. What happened next would actually top them. There was one more kaiju-sized surprise left for us at G-FEST XVII!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Andy's Artwork Studio Presents...Gappa!

Gap-pa! Gappa isn't angry; he wants to be friends! It ain't easy bein' triphibian, ya know.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Retro Reprint: Wonderland Records "Godzilla: King of the Monsters"

Seeing as how G-FAN # 91 is now sold out, I thought I would post this brief article, which appeared in its pages. It was great fun going back and listening to this album, and I hope that translates into the writing...

Godzilla! A prehistoric monster, born in the modern world. Some say a friend; some say foe; and where will he surface next?”

So begins the story “Godzilla vs. Amphibion,” which, along with “Godzilla vs. the Alien Invasion,” comprises the Wonderland Records L.P. “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.” Produced by Cinema Sound, Ltd. and featuring Herb Trimpe’s artwork on the cover, this record epitomizes the standing that Godzilla had come to occupy in American popular culture in the late 1970’s. It was also a foundational part of my early G-fandom (I was five years old at the time of its release), so I approach this recording not with ironic detachment towards some kitschy pop artifact, but with the goodwill and good humor one reserves for the souvenirs of his childhood. Dropping the needle on the Godzilla L.P. is as close to time travel as I will ever get. Travel with me for a few moments back to the late 70’s, a wondrous era for the young imagination—an era populated by droids, interstellar battles, Bigfoot sightings, and a radioactive monster named Godzilla.

SIDE A—Godzilla vs. Amphibion

Our story begins with one Mr. Bishop and the captain of a fishing vessel witnessing Godzilla’s pursuit of Amphibion through the waters of the Bermuda Triangle. At the Miami Marina bar, the unlucky duo tries to process what they have seen. The boat’s captain urges silence (and booze) upon a rattled Bishop, but he seems adamant about reporting the sighting to the proper authorities.
Not too much later, Captain Rick Thompson is taking his son Tommy on a distance run in a fighter jet over the Bermuda Triangle. Spotting an unusual disturbance in the waters below, they swoop down to take photographs.
Captain Thompson and Tommy take the developed photos to Larry Jennings, a “trained paleontologist.” After initially being dismissive, Jennings identifies the creature in the photos as “the next best thing to the Loch Ness Monster”—Godzilla! In Jennings’ considered opinion, Godzilla is a long dormant plesiosaur awakened by nuclear radiation.
After receiving a report from a commercial airline pilot about two giant creatures approaching Miami Beach, Commander Radley orders Captain Thompson to scramble nuclear fighter jets to stop the monsters. Jennings, an apparent stickler for “accuracy,” corrects Commander Radley by insisting that Godzilla be referred to as a plesiosaur. Thirty years ahead of his time, Commander Radley responds with an impatient “Whatever, Jennings.”
Just before take-off, Jennings advises Thompson to avoid killing Godzilla, as he seems to be trying to defend Florida from attack. Thompson pledges to try.
Two surfers, Bill and Shorty, are catching the “five-footers” off Miami Beach, when Bill gets a little foolhardy and perishes beneath the giant fin of Amphibion. Amphibion’s roar is heard for the first time, emitting a guttural growl that sounds curiously like a gentle Chewbacca.
Jennings, Tommy and Captain Wilson watch in amazement as Godzilla chases Amphibion onto the beach, and we get our most complete description of Godzilla’s foe, which includes a one-hundred foot fin, claws like a giant lobster, and a radioactive glow. Captain Wilson gives the order for his men to “fire at will,” and heavy artillery begins to pound the creatures. Godzilla bellows his distinctive roar, and Jennings implores Captain Wilson not to target the King of the Monsters.
Thompson leads a bombing run, nuclear warheads at the ready, but they prove unnecessary. Godzilla makes short work of Amphibion, snapping the sea creature’s neck like a celery stalk.
While taking pictures of the fallen monster, Jennings arranges for Amphibion’s carcass to be taken back to the military base for study, radiation evidently no longer a concern.
Captain Thompson gives orders for his squadron to return to base, letting Godzilla return to the ocean depths. As he streaks home, he says, “Well done, Godzilla, old boy.” Godzilla sounds his good-bye.

SIDE B—Godzilla vs. the Alien Invasion

Two sailors on a timber barge in the northern part of Lake Michigan watch in terror as Godzilla surfaces and heads in a southwesterly direction towards the Wisconsin shoreline. The monster’s radioactivity kills their radio, so they have no way of communicating what they have seen. The narrator assuages our concern at these developments by saying “Obviously, these sailors don’t realize that Godzilla is friendly toward mankind.” Whew!
Next, we are taken inside an alien spacecraft hovering one hundred miles north of Chicago. Commander Bruton expresses condescending amusement at the earth name “Mich-i-gan.” The craft lands and his assistants Talem and Lonar plant alien birth pods in the cool lake water.
Meanwhile, two college students, Billy and Linda, have been commissioned by Dr. Scott to head to Port Washington, Wisconsin, to investigate a rash of U.F.O. sightings in the area. Immediately upon arriving at the scene, they spot the extraterrestrial saucer in flight. As if that weren’t enough excitement, a couple of two-hundred-foot-tall slimy green creatures burst out of the water, with sparks shooting out of their arms and red eyeballs aflame. Seconds later, Godzilla surfaces as well, prompting Billy to declare, “If that’s not a prehistoric lizard, I—I don’t know what!” After easily dispatching with the aliens, Godzilla heads south. Billy estimates him to be four hundred feet tall.
Aboard their interstellar vehicle, the aliens learn that two of their birth pods have hatched prematurely, causing Commander Bruton to adjust his plan. He decides the time is right to unleash their full-scale invasion of earth.
Billy and Linda return to show Dr. Scott their incredible photographs, and the professor confidently labels Godzilla a “two legged plesiosaur.” Intrigued as only a U.F.O researching coed can be, Linda asks, “Where did Godzilla come from—originally?” Dr. Scott replies, “Godzilla is an ancestral Tyrannosaurus Rex” who had been “jostled to radioactive life from a long-dormant state in the Sea of Japan.” Dr. Scott continues, “He’s a friendly creature, really, he’s just too big for the modern world.” This elicits a moment of sympathy from Linda, who then cheerfully labels the alien mutants “overgrown string beans—except for their big red eyes!” Dr. Scott, standing among his bubbling test tubes, resolves to contact the authorities to prevent Godzilla from being attacked.
Twenty of the pods hatch, and together with an alien fleet of ships, the invasion abruptly begins. Fighter jets engage the saucers, while Godzilla makes quick work of the “overgrown string beans.” In a matter of seconds, the invasion is thwarted. Godzilla roars in triumph.
Dr. Scott arranges for an alien mutant’s carcass to be taken back to his laboratory for study (he and Larry Jennings from Side A must have received the same post-monster-attack training). Linda shouts “Thanks Godzilla!” as the Big Guy disappears into the waters of Lake Michigan.

These briskly paced episodes are undeniably fun, and I am fond of them largely for nostalgic reasons. But the truth is Godzilla isn’t given much to do in either tale. His original roar is used liberally throughout both stories, but the fights are perfunctory, and are resolved more quickly than the battles in Godzilla: Final Wars. In the case of the alien invasion, Godzilla handles the situation in less than ten seconds. That isn’t much in the way of a payoff for the listener. Godzilla’s origins are treated in a dubious fashion, as well. The pseudo-paleontology the “experts” spout is nonsensical, and Godzilla’s true beginning is glossed over, in part to protect his reputation as a “friendly creature.” In both narratives, Godzilla’s character (undeveloped as it is) is a direct reflection of the 70’s Toho films that cast him as a defender of Earth. The writers and producers were working on the assumption that Godzilla is kindly disposed towards humankind—a sign of the times, certainly, and a kid-friendly approach that spawned many fans.
Taken on its own merits, this recording provides a fascinating mash-up of 70’s sensibilities. One can sense the influence of Charles Berlitz’s Bermuda Triangle books; popular writing about the Loch Ness Monster; public fascination with U.F.O.s, which reached new heights in the 70’s with movies like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and countless dime-store paperbacks on the subject, (such as Erich Von Daniken’s “Chariots of the Gods”); Steven Spielberg’s Jaws is referenced in passing; and even such low-budget movies as The Creature From Black Lake in which a college professor sends students out to look for cryptids, may have factored in somehow. Just add Godzilla to the mix and you have a trippy time capsule, evocative of an era when the bizarre began to go mainstream, all wrapped up in a tasty package for kids like me to digest.
In 1998, Golden Drive Records re-released this recording on C.D., with the addition of two club-style dance cuts. One incorporates dialogue from Amphibion and Alien Invasion; the other loosely marries Ifukube themes to a thumping drum track (yet another sign of the times, for better or for worse). Although it is nice to have this recording in an easy-to-use format for road trips and the like, nothing beats putting the vinyl on the turntable and letting those childhood flights of fancy come flooding back, all starring Godzilla, undisputed King of the Monsters.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

From the Christmas Toybox...

A Facebook post from Cuyahoga Kaiju Club member Brian Hendricks tipped us off to the fact that Tom Tvrdik's American Greetings 2010 "Burning Godzilla" ornament was available in stores. Here you see the display ornament at our local Carlton Cards store. The ornament features extended audio of Godzilla's roar, complete with an injured-sounding utterance at the end, and of course, the Big Guy glows from within. This is an exceptional collectible, as you can see. Fortunately, my wife had called and placed a hold on one, as there were no boxes left on the shelf!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Return to G-FEST XVII: Where It All Started

The Pickwick marquee modestly declares an incredible event
Saturday afternoon and evening were filled with activity. Andy and I ducked into Damon Foster's presentation and found it to be simultaneously hilarious, bizarre, and informative. After pin-balling back and forth from Dealer's Room to Model Exhibit to Artist's Alley, we took a break for supper.
Grown-up G-pardy was next, and if memory serves, the contest came down to the final answer, just as it had in the junior division, with Skip Peel emerging as repeat champion.
The costume contest began soon after, and once again, the parade of monster characters drew an appreciative crowd. Among the many highlights was seeing J.D. Lees stomp about in his own G-Fantis costume. Andy and I happened into floor seats right where the costumes entered the hall, and, as a result, got unobstructed video of each creature's first appearance. As the parade drew to a close, we were able to speak with Ultra-fan and video purveyor Lenell Bridges about our heroes from the Land of Light.

The final event on the G-FEST calendar for Saturday was also one of the most unique. The phrase "once in a lifetime" has been dulled by overuse, but it truly applies in this case. Probability strongly suggests that your average American kaiju fan will never again have the chance to watch the original "Godzilla" on an actual movie screen in the presence of one of its lead actors. This was simply not to be missed. I happened to arrive at the Pickwick Theater just as Guest of Honor Akira Takarada was having his picture taken with the Japanese Consulate under the theater marquee.

I also was standing in the foyer when his party, including G-FEST's Brett Homenick, who looked to be having the time of his life (understandably so), entered the venue.

This famous still greeted Godzilla-goers to the Pickwick on Saturday
A festive atmosphere welcomed the special guests, and their remarks were enthusiastically received. When the opening credits rolled, many goosebumps were induced when wild cheers went up at the appearance of the names Ishiro Honda and Eiji Tsuburaya. But then an even more intense ovation was reserved for Mr. Takarada. One wonders what his thoughts and feelings were at that moment.
The film print itself was impressive, making it doubly unfortunate when it broke; thankfully, a potentially embarrasing situation was avoided by the advance planning of the convention committee, who had a backup DVD waiting for just such an eventuality.
Seeing the original "Godzilla" in an authentic theater setting was a vibrant reminder of why the genre became popular in the first place. It remains my favorite installment in the series, in part because is was not a conscious "series launch." It stands on its own as a specific story, with indelible imagery, haunting score, and excellent performances.
At the film's conclusion, another standing ovation ushered Mr. Takarada out of the Pickwick, and following the crowd out into the summer night, I savored the singular pleasure of a true once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

G-FEST Gallery: Saturday Sights

MechaniKong and Madame X survey the Dealer's Room
Jadon and Andy Present...
King Ghidorah vs. Mecha King Ghidorah:
All Out Three Headed Decisive Mega Battle

Save the Earth! Hedorah Invades the Costume Parade

Henshin! It's "Andy 7" and Lenell "Ultra" Bridges