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THE WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS (1966) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in Japan, movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2014 by goregirl

There are dozens and dozens of films I love and adore that came out of Japan in the 1960s. It was the golden age of Japanese cinema; the Japanese new wave as it is sometimes called. Mikio Naruse, Hiroshi Teshigahara, Kaneto Shindô and Akira Kurosawa; just a few of the brilliant directors whose work I adore. For all of my admiration and the considerable artistic merits of the aforementioned there is no Japanese director whose work I have seen more of, or given more repeat viewings to then the work of Ishirô Honda. In fact, there may be no other director period, except for John Waters (ain’t NOBODY topping Mr. Waters) whose films I have re-watched more times than Ishirô Honda’s. There are a few terribly corny stories I like to share when I discuss Godzilla or Mr. Honda. I have shared these stories on this site and elsewhere but dammit I’m going to share them again. My parents took turns holding me as they watched Godzilla the day they brought me home from the hospital. I loved Godzilla even as a toddler and would make roaring-like noises and stomp on toys. In grade school I put up with being mocked by my little girlfriends for carrying a Godzilla lunchbox. I have always, and will always love the original 1954 Godzilla. I re-watch it regularly. It is not the only Ishiro Honda I have watched repeatedly. It is possible that I have seen Destroy All Monsters almost as many times as Godzilla over the years. These two films were the first DVD purchases I made. Other multiply watched Honda faves are Mothra, Mothra Vs. Godzilla, Rodan, Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster, The Terror of Mechagodzilla and today’s subject review The War of the Gargantuas. On a recent buying frenzy I finally replaced my VHS copies and bought all six of these Toho films for my collection. These films are tremendously entertaining and admittedly part of their charm is that they take me back to my childhood. As a grown up however I can appreciate these films on a new and different level. The tremendous and tedious work of putting together these epic adventures is pretty mind-blowing. They feature a tremendous amount of hand-made miniatures created only to be smashed to bits. The men who play the monsters which I covered briefly in a feature last week should be given the respect they deserve for performing in these hot heavy costumes for hours on end. Some of Japan’s most talented actors and actresses are featured in these films too. The wonderful Takashi Shimura (a huge favourite of mine), Ken Uehara, Minoru Chiaki and Kyôko Kagawa to name a few. Once in a while an American actor was brought in like Raymond Burr for the Americanized 1956 version of Godzilla (Godzilla, King of the Monsters!) and Russ Tamblyn for The War of the Gargantuas. I could recommend any of the Toho films I’ve mentioned here as I love them all; Godzilla (1954) and Destroy All Monsters are still my ultimate two favourites however but since I have reviewed them both I was forced to make a choice. It was a damn tough choice too! After much inner turmoil I thought The War of the Gargantuas was the most worthy of a review. The titular Gargantuas get more screen time than most of the monsters in the aforementioned titles. It has the most empathetic and human creatures, some of the best miniatures in the series and has one of the most epic monster battles in any of the Toho films I’ve seen. I love The War of the Gargantuas so much that the words get stuck in my throat.

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“Captain, a giant octopus!” The giant octopus grabs the man and death is imminent. But Suddenly the Octopus disappears! He peeks cautiously through the window to see Gargantua attacking the giant octopus!

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“That is…Frankenstein. I told you before, Gargantua looks like a Frankenstein!” The authorities are anxious to know what happened to the other four crew members of the lost vessel. They refuse to believe the lone survivors story that the other four men were attacked by a Gargantua. Come on now Japanese authorities! Do you, or do you not have a problem with giant monsters? By 1966 Japan was overrun with them!

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They have recovered clothing belonging to the ship’s crew. “Why are they torn like that? They look like they’ve been chewed and spat out.” Suddenly lone survivor’s story ain’t sounding so crazy eh Cheif Izumida? Eh?

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Cheif Izumida makes a call. “Make a long distance call to Kyoto. Office of Dr. Stewart, the expert on Frankenstein.” See what I mean? A “Frankenstein Expert”? The fact that there is a “Frankenstein Expert” should automatically legitimize any claims of such existing. Or at very least given some serious thought!

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“Professor, it’s a call from Yokosuka Maritime Safety Agency.” Dr. Stewart “frankenstein expert” and his team.

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Akemi (love interest), Dr. Stewart’s assistant working with the baby Gargantua. Dr. Stewart refuses to believe that the Gargantua/Frankenstein they raised in their facility would ever harm a human being, never mind eat one.

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More Gargantua related terror! Disaster at Uraga Strait!

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“It’s a Gargantua! Run! Run!” Yet another headline and sighting of a Gargantua! “Is it Frankenstein? Terror at Miura Peninsula”

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Dr. Stewart and Akemi hike up the mountain with a team to investigate a Gargantua sighting.

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“Haneda Airport is in an emergency situation!”

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Folks enjoying a lounge act on a lovely summer evening. The rousing version of The Words Get Stuck in My Throat ends with a visit from Gargantua. The delicious looking songstress is just about to be dinner when the place is set aglow with light. It turns out that Gargantua has a fear of light; he drops the songstress and makes for the water.

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Time to bust out the military.

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They do some damage to the Gargantua.

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A larger brown Gargantua shows up to save it! What? Two Gargantuas?! SHIT!

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“From now on sea Frankenstein will be called Gailah and mountain Frankenstein Sanda.”

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Sanda peeking through the trees.

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Gailah emerging from the water.

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Dr. Stewart’s team finds some skin and wonders if it is Gailah’s. “It looks like his tissues.”

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Sanda’s and Gailah’s cells are identical “This proves that these two Frankensteins are brothers.”

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“Hold on Tight!” Akemi slips and falls and Sanda comes to her rescue. “You remember me!” Sanda does seem to remember his time in the lab with Akemi.

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“If we attack them Sanda and Gailah will be blown to pieces. Their cells would be scattered not only over Tokyo but all of Japan! Than countless Sandas and Galiahs would emerge!” Not good.

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The menace Galiah attacks another part of the city.

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Dr. Stewart and Akemi are attacked by Galiah.

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First Dr. Stewart tells Akemi she is the most important person and then he admits that her theory was correct about Sanda. Someone is definitely getting laid tonight.

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Sanda. Ready!

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Galiah. Ready!

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Lasers are employed to kill the creatures.

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Sanda picks up a boat like it is a toy and attacks Galiah.

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Underwater volcanoes erupt around the giant creatures.

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End.

War of the Gargantuas opens with a giant octopus and Gargantua fight and never lets up. This is one of the liveliest of the monster movies and has very little chatter between creature sightings. The monster mayhem is evenly scattered throughout. The first half of the film focuses specifically on Galiah who is a giant wrecking ball! I loved the scene when the military is attacking him and and he is picking up tanks one by one and smashing houses with them! The Gargantuas are the most human-like of any of the Kaiju; sort of a cross between a man and ape with a Frankenstein twist and a wee bit of yeti vibe. There are not too many creatures in the world of giant monsters that elicit empathy but Sanda is definitely one that does. Sanda was raised by humans and still feels a connection to them where his counterpart sees them as the enemy and a snack. Sanda comes down from his mountain home to save Gailah; a home where he managed to safely avoid human beings. Sanda puts his life in peril not once but twice. Once to save Galiah from the humans and again to save the humans from Galiah. It is a bittersweet story; very much like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The minatures are amazing and very realistic; the airport is particularly impressive. Almost all of these Kaiju flicks seem to have a love interest bit but the connection between Dr. Stewart and Akemi is very low-key and not at all unpleasant. Kumi Mizuno who plays Akemi is a lovely, likable and talented actress who fits her role perfectly. Russ Tamblym is dubbed in Japanese but is nonetheless a handsome and beguilling presence as Dr. Stewart. Dr Stewart and Akemi are really the only two human characters that get focus, everyone else comes and goes with little impact. The real highlight here of course are the Gargantuas Sanda and Gailah. I recently did a feature on suit acting where I focus on Toho’s most prolific performer; Haruo Nakajima. Besides the original Godzilla, Nakajima considers his role as Sanda to be his best creature performance. Part of the effectiveness comes from Nakajima’s ability to emote with his eyes. Sanda is the only creature suit he donned that exposed an actual part of his face. Yû Sekida is also outstanding as Gailah. The two men worked extremely well together. The battle between them in the film’s finale; mutually coordinated by the men is one of the best in any creature feature! My only complaint is not about the film itself but rather the quality of the DVD. This was a Toho Masters Collection DVD and the images were not clear and the night shots were very dark. If you click on any of the pictures to make them larger you will see what I mean. The War of the Gargantuas has everything you could ask for in a giant monster movie. A solid story, an energetic pace, monster sightings at regular intervals, copious chaos and destruction, great effects, a groovy soundtrack and an epic monster battle to end it all. The War of the Gargantuas gets my highest of recommendations; a perfect score.

Tomorrow…music from The War of the Gargantuas!!

Dungeon Rating: 5/5

Directed By: Ishirô Honda

Starring: Russ Tamblyn, Kumi Mizuno, Kenji Sahara, Nobuo Nakamura, Jun Tazaki, Hisaya Itô, Yoshifumi Tajima, Ren Yamamoto, Kipp Hamilton, Kôzô Nomura, Nadao Kirino, Haruo Nakajima, Yû Sekida

LISZTOMANIA (1973) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in movies, UK with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 29, 2013 by goregirl

lisztomaniaDirector Ken Russell throws everything but the kitchen sink into Lisztomania! It is a biography, comedy, musical, drama, war, horror, fantasy thing. Franz Liszt is a flamboyant womanizing rockstar-esque classical composer and his peer Richard Wagner is a Nazi vampire who uses his compositions for evil. Needless to say Russell takes liberties with the composers’ lives! By the way, the Pope is Ringo Starr. Strangely, Lisztomania is not nearly as well-known as Ken Russell’s Tommy which was made the same year and also stars Roger Daltrey. What a shame because Lisztomania is definitely the superior film. Was it because of the Nazis? Did the living relatives of Richard Wagner protest? In my opinion, Lisztomania is one of the 1970s greatest underappreciated gems!

lisztomania2Lisztomania opens with Franz Liszt caught in bed with the wife of a Count. The Count challenges Liszt to a duel but settles with sealing Liszt and his cheating wife inside a piano and places them on a railroad track before a train  approaches. The flash of a camera brings Liszt back to the present where he is about to perform a piece of music written by Richard Wagner. Liszt’s theatrics provoke his bonnet-wearing female audience to scream at him like a rockstar, and Liszt throws some chopsticks into the composition much to Wagner’s horror. During his performance he motions towards women in the audience to whom he would like to become acquainted. One of these women is Princess Carolyn. There will be more on her later.

lisztomania1There is a heavy emphasis on Franz Liszt’s relationship with Richard Wagner in Lisztomania. Liszt’s and Wagner’s first interaction in the film speaks volumes about the nature of their relationship. While Wagner has been participating in an uprising Liszt has been locked away composing music. When Wagner reappears he is a wanted criminal asking Liszt for money. At this point we learn Wagner is a vampire. You read that right. Richard Wagner is a vampire. Richard Wagner is one character that will stay with me forever and ever! This is one of the most outrageous and hilarious fictional interpretations of a real person’s life I have ever seen! Wagner is not only a vampire composer of classical music but an embracer of Nazi propaganda, which he incorporates into his compositions. Wagner’s Nazi leanings have compelled him to use his music for evil. Wagner is also a mad scientist and is working on a creature that will rid the world of Jews! Paul Nicholas is the cat’s ass as Wagner! As much as I loved Wagner it is Liszt who gets most of the focus. It is hard not to admire Roger Daltrey’s enthusiastic performance as Franz Liszt; he is just perfect as the arrogant and showy composer. Recruiting a rockstar to play a classical “rockstar-like” composer was sort of a no-brainer really, but Daltrey is nonetheless an excellent choice.

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lisztomaniaLook at those mad set pieces in Liszt’s boudoir!! Garish and showy like the man himself. Have I mentioned that Liszt is married with three children?! Liszt…you are such a dog! All is not well with this marriage. Franz and Marie’s ensembles are as gaudy as their interior design. Franz’s robe coordinates with the room! Marie’s voluminous frilly bright pink dressing gown is like a moving gaping wound. The sets and costumes are superb throughout Lisztomania; colorful, creative, quirky, and often comical!

lisztomania3Princess Carolyn wastes no time seducing Liszt with a proposition! For control of Liszt’s life, Princess Carolyn will grant him the ability to compose brilliant music. Princess Carolyn is a cigar-smoking, humorless and intimidating woman with a magnificent wardrobe. In Liszt’s hallucination, the Princess appears to him as the Devil and oh what a truly magnificent outfit she wears for the occasion! Princess Carolyn completely dominates Liszt’s life but like everything else, it too shall pass.

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Lisztomania14lLiszt has a hallucination that he is being attacked by five of the Princess’ female attendants. But Liszt is able to tame the wild women with his music. They react so passionately to his music that it gives him an erection large enough for five women to ride like a carousel horse. They watch it grow and grow and grow and grow! I am not really a fan of musicals but I sure did enjoy this rousing crowd-pleasing number! It begins with a giant cock and ends with a guillotine. I am sure I would watch a lot more musicals if they incorporated giant cocks.

Lisztomania5Richard Wagner mad with power! Artist! Vampire! Villain! Nazi!

Lisztomania10Liszt decides to live his life as an abbot?! He is visited by the Pope who catches him in bed with a woman. The pope lays down the law; Liszt is to exorcise Wagner or he will be excommunicated and his music banned forever!!

lisztomania7Liszt arrives at Wagner’s castle where he lurks in the shadows observing a ritual where a man portraying a Jewish brute is seen raping and tossing women like rubbish.

Lisztomania8Wagner unveils his creation to Liszt. The Frankenstein-inspired Thor creature was concocted by Wagner to kill Jews. Unfortunately the creature does not react in a manner that suits Wagner so it is back to the table for Franken-Thor. The creature is played by Rick Wakeman of Yes, who also scored the film.

Lisztomania12Liszt’s eldest daughter Cosima is seduced by and marries Wagner. She fully embraces Wagner’s principles and together they lead an army of spirited children to world domination. “We will be the master race!” The children march in Superman like costumes that boast “W” in Wagner’s honor. “The flowering youth of Germany was raped by the beast!” Cosima’s Nazi leanings and her hatred for her father makes her Wagner’s perfect ally.

Lisztomania4Nazi Franken-Wagner rises to kill the Jews!

lisztomania14Cosima leads Nazi Franken-Wagner through Berlin with an electric guitar machine gun!

Lisztomania11No detail is spared…look at the work on that electric guitar machine gun!

lisztomania2I don’t want to spoil the whole damn movie for you but the finale is as wonderfully cuckoo as the rest of the film! “Peace at last!”

Lisztomania is truly one of a kind! It is cheeky, clever and funny as hell! I laughed heartily and often throughout. The film is perfectly cast and the performances are top-notch by all. The music is an interesting mix of rock and classical with a score from Rick Wakeman of Yes and lyrics written by Ken Russell and Roger Daltrey. The sets and costumes are astounding. The story while clearly a loose biography does actually draw from some non-fictional sources including Marie d’Agoult’s book Nélida. And Lisztomania is a term accredited to Heinrich Heine who used it to describe the response to Liszt’s actual performances. Lisztomania has been one of my favourite film experiences of the year and makes me excited to check out more of Ken Russell’s work! My highest of recommendations with whip cream and a cherry on top…a perfect score!

***Thanks for another fan-fucking-tastic recommendation Mr. Arrate!***

Dungeon Rating: 5/5

Directed By: Ken Russell

Starring: Roger Daltrey, Sara Kestelman, Paul Nicholas, Ringo Starr, Rick Wakeman, John Justin, Fiona Lewis, Veronica Quilligan, Nell Campbell, Andrew Reilly, David English, Imogen Claire

Goregirl’s Werewolf Project: FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (1943)

Posted in horror, movies, USA with tags , , , on May 1, 2012 by goregirl

If you missed last week’s post, I am working on a top ten favourite werewolf film list. I will be highlighting the films that did not make the shortlist until the project is complete.

Why is this film called Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man? It should be called The Wolf Man Meets Frankenstein! Wolf Man owns this film! This could have been the perfect sequel to the wonderful 1941 original Wolf Man, but the addition of Frankenstein’s monster does muddy things up a bit. We begin a few years after the original Wolf Man ended. Bludgeoned to death by his father with a sliver walking stick; Lawrence Talbot now lies in the family crypt. Two men break into the crypt in hopes of scoring some booty and inadvertently awaken the Wolf Man. Talbot awakes disoriented in a hospital in another town. When questioned, the confused Talbot can not recall the events that brought him there. He does however remember his name is Lawrence Talbot and he hails from Llanwelly. When they check with the Llanwelly authorities they are told that Lawrence Talbot is dead. Talbot begins to recall the strange and horrifying truth of his existence. Desperate to be rid of his curse he escapes from the hospital. He sets out to find Maleva; the old gypsy woman whose son was responsible for his infliction. He finds Maleva who agrees to help him. Maleva knows of a doctor by the name of Frankenstein who may be able to help Talbot.

The film takes a turn, not necessarily for the better once Frankenstein’s monster is introduced. It seemed unnecessary to include the monster. He really is a non-entity in this story. He is more of a nuisance to Talbot than anything else. Of course, there is the finale featuring the two monsters. The prominent image on its theatrical poster shows Frankenstein and Wolf Man locked in battle. This is such a brief scene right at the end of the film. The two were actually quite chummy up to that point. I don’t want to spoil all the fun; although flawed; the story is still quite entertaining. Lawrence Talbot is a likable and empathetic character and Lon Chaney Jr. is the perfect bloke for the role. I really dig this old school furry-faced werewolf! The transformations are nicely done and Chaney’s movements while in werewolf form really help sell it. The sets are fantastic and it has an excellent dark and foreboding mood. The visuals overall are beauty. Bela Lugosi is okay as Frankenstein’s monster; but it is not his finest hour by a long shot. He doesn’t speak a word, and as mentioned, he really does not have much presence in the story. The performances from the rest of the cast are decent, although no one particularly stands out. This is Lon Chaney’s gig all the way! It is a shame they chose not to give the Wolf Man a sequel all his own. I say SHAME Universal Studios! SHAME! Despite its flaws I really enjoyed Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man. Recommended!

Films Inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein – Music Composed by Alessandro Alessandroni

Posted in movies with tags , , , on July 12, 2011 by goregirl

Lady Frankenstein Composed by Alessandro Alessandroni with slideshow…Films Inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein!
Music from Mel Welles and Aureliano Luppi’s 1971 film Lady Frankenstein.