G-FEST (Godzilla Festival) is the quintessential celebration of Godzilla and all his fellow Kaiju (Japanese Monsters). I’ve been a fan of Godzilla and Gamera ever since I was a kid. Growing up in the 1970′s, it was via shows like Creature Features or The Son of Svengoolie to bring those movies to me. People who did not grow up with a horror host usually have a hard time understanding why some of us adult fans get so weepy with adulation at the mere mention of our childhood ghoul. Well, when you’re a “monster kid,” surrounded by more “normal” kids who want to play baseball or watch The Dukes of Hazard, the person faithfully delivering your favorite films becomes more than just a TV star, he becomes your idol…one of Godzilla proportions. In my case it also helped that I found my host’s corny humor hilarious and his less than stellar singing voice pitch perfect.
G-FEST, the quintessential Godzilla event, is known for bringing rare and wonderful stars of the Japanese Kaiju genre to the unlikely venue of my sweet home, Chicago. This year was no exception with the return of Akira Takarada & also the original Ultraman, Bin Furuya. Before I delve into that, I feel like I should mention that while I have illustrated in previous posts much of what G-FEST has to offer, there is no way that I can truly convey its essence. Yes, like other fan-based conventions, it offers celebrities, dealer rooms, and eager fans. These are incidental, however, to what really makes it unique. For lack of better words, G-FEST has heart!
Behold some of the great Kaiju-inspired works of art on display in the G-FEST XIX Artist’s Gallery…
Without question, the MOST popular facet of G-FEST is the costume thread! Fans who spend the better part of the previous year creating their own Kaiju inspired costumes head to Chicago to each July to partake in one of the most unique contest contests around. This was my ninth G-FEST and it amazes me just how much its grown since I tried my hand at costume making and entered my own kids in the contest years ago.
When I say that it was a dream come true for National Horror Host, Svengoolie, to be a guest at the quintessential Godzilla event, G-FEST, I am really not kidding! I rediscovered that Sven was back on TV in 2003 and went to my first G-FEST in 2004 – wondering for the last 8 years why the two had never joined forces. After all, this was the Horror Host who helped cultivate my love of these films back in his “Son of Svengoolie” days. He’s also family & fan friendly, and there are few other events that capture that spirit like G-FEST does.
I have to confess that my favorite part of G-Fest is checking out the amazing models created by fans and put on display during the weekend. I had tried my hand at it a couple of years too but found out that I am better off sticking to writing as opposed to model-making. This stigma, however, is a personal issue, as ALL ages and skill levels are not only welcomed but encouraged here.
I was thrilled when I heard the news that Svengoolie will be appearing at this year’s G-FEST in Chicago! For those less savvy in the Godzilla world, “G-FEST” is short for Godzilla Festival and for fans of Godzilla, Gamera, Ultraman, or any other facet of Kaiju (Japanese giant monster) cinema, this is the event for which we revolve our calendar around. As a life long fan of Godzilla, I was happy when my 6 year old son, Alex, took to the Big G. We attended our first G-FEST in 2004 and I haven’t missed one since!
While it was the National Horror Host, Svengoolie, who is indirectly responsible for bringing the Daves together as friends, it has always been our stance that TERROR FROM BEYOND THE DAVES was really the bastard child of the 2010 Vampira Tribute and SCARY MONSTERS MAGAZINE. In reality, the two are complimentary of each other. Within the pulpy pages of the world’s only “REAL Monsters Magazine,” classic monsters as well as Horror Hosts have always been featured side-by-side. And why shouldn’t they be? For many of us adult Monster kids, it was the classic commercial hosts who introduced us to all the greats be it Godzilla, The Universal Monsters, the films of Hammer Studios, the wonderful “B” movies of Roger Corman, as well as those from directors who were slightly…ahem…less gifted.
It’s very rare these days to have a horror host present a giant monster movie. How ironic considering that many of us were introduced to the these films via weekend Creature Features and late night hosts. For the past ten years, however, the opportunity to see these films on commercial television has become few and far between. TOHO (the Japanese studio that owns Godzilla) has made the films less accessible – their legal team hungry and eager to feed. To me this is a terrible error on the studio’s part. By making them harder to acquire, they are blocking many potential new fans from the genre.
Needless to say, I was happily surprised when Chicago’s Svengoolie obtained the rights to air the 1961 TOHO classic, MOTHRA. Not only had he managed to procure a movie featuring one of TOHO’s greatest monsters, but also one of the rarer titles in their vast library. At the time Svengoolie first aired MOTHRA , it had not seen official DVD release while long since “out of print” in it’s VHS form (and this was even before the medium became obsolete).
Boasting a larger scale Mothra costume than subsequent entries (40 feet long), this movie contains one of the most detailed miniature sets ever used by the studio. Many folks assume that all Japanese monsters contained men in suits. Tonight’s Svengoolie, however, features the only Mothra that actually had a man inside (or, in this case, several men). For great details on Mothra and her many designs over the years, check out issue #82 of G-FAN Magazine.
Although MOTHRA is now available on DVD, I urge any Chicago fan to tune in tonight and watch. There’s lots of great Svengoolie touches which include this hilarious parody of the Three Dog Night hit, “Mama told me not to come’…..
During it’s first airing, Svengoolie even showed a picture of my kids meeting Harou Nakajima (man who played in the Godzilla suit from 1954-1972) at the 2007 G-Fest. Since my boys are big kaiju fans, it was an amazing thrill for them to share television time with Mothra herself.
Although we’ve watched it together before, we plan on doing it again tonight. Hopefully I’ll be joined by my fellow Chicago fans as well. Anyone outside the viewing area that wants a copy can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I do NOT charge for copies or even the blank disc – just ask that you either handle the shipping or trade for something else.