I’m a huge Godzilla fan. I’m actually excited to see that the big G will be returning in a movie by Gareth Edwards. Yes, Monsters was slow and a bit preachy, but then, so was the first Godzilla movie.
But as much as I love Godzilla, and as big as my affection for the scaly radioactive monster is, he’s been in some pretty awful movies. Like, agonizingly awful. There have been some real gems: the entertainingly ridiculous Final Wars, or even thoughtful like Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack.
But there have also been somebombs, especially as the Japanese film industry began to struggle in the ’60s and ’70s. Here are the five worst. Note that we’ll be sticking with actual Godzilla movies, not disaster movies featuring iguanas, even if the resulting cartoon was actually pretty good.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Don’t get me wrong, the original Gojira is a fairly interesting movie, if for no other reason than its anti-nuclear message is front and center and the movie isn’t shy about, say, showing Godzilla crushing a war widow and her children. It hasn’t aged well in some respects, but it’s a serious movie and deserves at least a treatment as such.
The re-edit with Raymond Burr, though, hurts. It was actually important: It was part of a wave of movies that slowly broke down the racist stereotype of the Japanese propagated during World War II. That said, though, it’s bad. It’s really bad. The political message is simply yanked completely, and Burr is blatantly cut in, even as he gamely tries to seem in the scene.
It’s interesting as a historical curio, but really, now that the original is freely available in the US after years of stalling by Toho… why bother?
Godzilla has a rare honor among film franchises: It was one of the few that tried to sucker audiences by slapping together a clip show and passing it off as a movie. Bonus points for featuring the incredibly irritating Minilla.
Godzilla Vs. Gigan
I’ve seen these movies in both their American cuts and their original Japanese cuts. The American cuts tend to be… less than ideal, although it must be said that the Japanese movies stick to a very rigid formula that isn’t remotely better. For example, you can always count on the Japanese cut of any Godzilla movie starting with some sort of meeting or press conference, so they can cram in all the exposition up front and get to the monster fights.
Godzilla Vs. Gigan, though, is a mess by pretty much any editing standard, and it kills the entire movie. The first half is all exposition and set-up that’s bad even by Godzilla movie standards, and all the monster fights fall in the second half of the movie. Worse, several of the monster fights are badly edited as well.
Still, it could be worse.
Son of Godzilla
I’ve ragged on Minilla enough: The annoying blob knows what he did. No, I want to rag on this movie because it has some of the worst monster fights in the series.
It’s not that I’m opposed to Kumonga or Kamacuras, as kaiju. Insects add a little variety, and they’re not nearly as badly designed as, say, King Caesar. The problem is they’re not guys in suits, they’re puppets, so Godzilla can’t touch them.
This is a series that, at this point, was defined by two things: guys in monsters suits, and wrestling. You take both out of the equation and what you have is a slightly more interesting Horrors of Spider Island. Why didn’t they just make a bug suit?
Godzilla Vs. Megalon
Oh, right. They did.
This movie had pretty much nothing going for it. The giant robot character Jet Jaguar was created by a kid, which Toho was hoping would launch an Ultraman-esque franchise. When it became clear that wouldn’t be happening, it was retooled as a Godzilla movie, and shot in three weeks. The Godzilla costume was rushed out in a week, and it shows.
As bad as the Japanese version is, the American version was worse, since it was released with minimal cuts at first and then chopped into more and more over time. By the time Mystery Science Theater 3000 finally got their hands on it, the movie was unrecognizable.
But, hey, at least there were no iguanas.