Horror fans are always asked what initially got them into the genre, and each one of us has a different answer. For some, it was Jaws, or Gremlins, or maybe Freddy. We all have that one quid essential monster that served as a gateway to the incredible world of beasties. For me, it was none other than the King of the Monsters himself, Godzilla.
Godzilla may have entered our world in 1954 but he didn’t crash into my life until 1983-84. I was just a toddler and upon seeing the radioactive behemoth my imagination was awakened!
Oh, hells yeah! The time has finally come for me to talk about Godzilla, the Monster of Monsters! I’m lucky enough to remember – all be it briefly – all the way back to some of my earliest days on this planet. I’m like 3 or something and my little Manic nose is glued to the TV screen while TOHO’s giants are tearing one another to pieces over the fate of the Earth. The earliest films I remember ever watching are firstly Godzilla vs Mothra and then soon afterward King Kong vs Godzilla. Interestingly, I was going over this with my mom and she confirmed that Godzilla vs Mothra was one of the very first movies I ever watched and began mimicking.
I’ve always loved Godzilla – as if you couldn’t tell by now. I mean just look! Look at little me romping around in my very own homemade Godzilla costume!
My Granny spent God knows how many hours at the sewing machine to make this dream come true and my Mom had one Hell of a time trying to get me out of it. Once I had that on I no longer existed. A perfectly harmonies symbiotic relationship between myself and Godzilla was formed while I had that on, the two of us became one, and woe to all who stood in our way.
Sadly I outgrew that little costume but neither my love nor passion for the King of the Monsters could be diminished. This particular fandom though was not met without its fair share of challenges. One of the chief being the sheer scarcity of these movies back then!
Things weren’t like they are today. There were no streaming services. We had three channels. Three! If you were a kaiju fan while growing up in the mythical ‘80s you were lucky AF if your local horror host aired one of Godzilla’s movies during their Saturday late-night specials. TV guides were bought primarily so kids could bug the crap out of their parents on whether or not any Godzilla or King Kong movies would be on that upcoming week. Sometimes you’d luck out and there would be a giant monster movie! It felt like some kind of reward for all our patience.
Thanks to TV special airings I was able to get Godzilla vs King Kong , Godzilla vs Megalon, and Godzilla vs Monster Zero recorded on tape to watch as many times as my psychotic little heart could handle!
And it wasn’t like you could just go to K-Mart and find copies on video. So fans could only rely on the movies they were lucky enough to record off TV. Although, I do remember one Christmas morning very vividly. So there I was greedily tearing away wrapping paper from all the goodies Santa brought me when I came across an obvious shoe box.
I remember being disappointed already before even removing the colorful wrapping paper and just sitting it to the side. What little boy wants a pair of bleeping shoes on Christmas? But my mom – being the psychotic mastermind she is – insisted I open it. Reluctantly I did, but what was awaiting me was not a boring old pair of sneakers, but 4, oh hell yeah, 4 Godzilla movies. I still own them. Among them being Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla and Godzilla vs Gigan! These videotapes were treasures to a fan like me!
This lack of movies also meant if you found a copy at your local video rental you were about to have a really good weekend. It was almost like a sacred quest and no less ambitious than any adventure Indiana Jones ever went on. We were kinda like paleontologists digging through movie shelves trying to discover just a single copy of a movie we (oh dear God, please oh please) had not already seen.
I remember my cousin and me storming through one video store to the next just trying to get a copy of one of these monstrous relics. And then one Friday it finally happened! The stars came into alignment, God was merciful, or maybe Cthulhu was having a good dream, but, whatever the reason, there it was! A mother-loving Godzilla movie we had never seen yet – Godzilla vs the Smog Monster!!!
I think we watched that movie every single chance we had. Like soon as it ended we would rewind it just to hit play again. I remember we even tried to get a video camera out and film ourselves making fun of the movie by adding our own little quips and inputs to ‘enhance’ the dialogue and greatly entertain ourselves. Yup, we had the idea for MST3K before Tom Servo or Crow ever sat front row to do what we loved them for.
Another challenge was, well, just being a fan for the sake of being a fan. Being a Godzilla fan was almost like an underground thing.
There weren’t many people back then who loved the big guy like the few of us did. As result, there just wasn’t a market for it so collecting Godzilla stuff was nearly impossible.
Today all you have to do is go to Target and you’ll find lots of amazing Godzilla stuff – mostly thanks to NECA. It’s a very different world from the one I grew up in and that’s a great thing!
People my age can now easily find copies of these incredible movies to show their own kids and there are so many toys to now collect. We may have grown up but we have every right to play Godzilla with our little ones and spread that love to the next generation. Isn’t it amazing how that turned out?
It’s a good time to be a Godzilla fan. What with the new movies being released by Legendary that gives us a faithful upgrade to the Showa Era monsters we grew up with.
The Criterion Collection just recently released the entire Showa Era Godzilla collection on Blu-ray meaning all those movies that we might have missed out on seeing are now available!
And I can’t believe that I now own a bona fide Godzilla figure from the very movie that got me into this whole giant monster craze, Godzilla vs Mothra. The details of the figure are uncanny. It’s like it was taken straight out of the classic film. I now own 6 different NECA Godzilla figures alone! It’s a new sickness that I’m convinced my loved ones will initiate a well-planned intervention for me soon.
So here we are. Nearly 40 years later and still I’m a fan of the King of the Monsters, a title he has rightfully earned over the years. The greatness of Godzilla isn’t simply found in one movie, or even in a series of movies. It is how one single idea about identifying the nuclear age in the body of a new cinematic monster has gone above and beyond TOHO’s wildest dreams.
Godzilla is a cultural phenomenon and unites people from all walks of life. He’s such a big deal in Japan that there’s a place for him at the Museum of Japanese History.
So he might not have been the first giant monster to awe audiences but ever since his appearance in ’54 he’s taken the world by storm. He’s inspired a massive franchise that is still ongoing to this day.
The latest TOHO installment was Shin Godzilla back in 2016 and returned Godzilla back to his destructive roots. He’s seen as a plague of sorts upon a world of carelessness towards nature.
This time around Godzilla appears in three evolutionary stages. The third and primary stage gives him this sickly macabre look some fans call ‘Zombie Godzilla.’ It’s a dark commentary on Japan’s politics during times of crisis and is a special effects masterpiece. A must-watch for hardcore fans!
Currently, on Netflix, there is a three-part Godzilla anime for fans to enjoy. Though there have been other animated representations of Godzilla this is in fact the first anime he’s ever had.
I already mentioned how Legendary has given the Godzilla universe a very respectful and epic American update to the King of the Monsters. There are currently 3 movies in this new MonsterVerse: Godzilla (2014), Kong: Skull Island (2017), and Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019).
As someone who’s been watching Godzilla movies since before I had a fully formed vocabulary I can say I genuinely love what Legendary is doing with these big guys. We’re all waiting for the next installment, Godzilla vs Kong which was slated to show this year but with COVID19 we’ll have to wait and see what happens.
Godzilla has been the representation of nuclear terror, an unstoppable force risen against all humanity, a monster without pity or compassion. He has also stood tall as a symbol of hope as he withstood the odds and protected the Earth from extraterrestrial invaders bent on destroying the planet.
Over the years he’s been our reckoning and our protection, a destroyer and a savior, two sides of the same coin. He’s starred in over 30 movies and shows no signs of slowing down.
In some cases, he is a nuclear-enhanced dinosaur. Sometimes he’s a mystery risen from the sea. And he’s even been a surviving titan come back from a prehistoric time to face the newly awakened challenges threatening our world today. He even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Ok I know, I know! I gotta stop already or this could go on forever. People familiar with my writing know how much I love Hellraiser and Dracula, but had it not been for Godzilla I have to wonder if I would have as much admiration for Pinhead or the vampiric Count? Godzilla was my gateway monster and has remained a trusted constant in my life.
Godzilla is timeless.
So hey if you crave all those warm retro feels and want more Godzilla goodness stay tuned and follow us here where nightmares and nostalgia are explored.
Have a favorite Godzilla or kaiju memory and would like to share with us? Let us know down in the comments below.