Quentin Tarantino called it the “perfect giant monster movie,” Tim Burton sites it as one of his all-time favorite films, and Brad Pitt recalled at an Academy Awards Ceremony it being the first movie he ever remembers seeing. Sometimes referred to as TOHO Studio’s “Kane and Abel” story, the beast vs beast opus I’m referring to is none other than War of the Gargantuas or, as it was referred to in its native Japan, Furankenshutain no kaiju: Sanda tai Gaira. If that title conjures up images of a certain classic Universal monster, that’s no accident. This movie began as a direct sequel to TOHO’s Frankenstein Conquers the World before taking on a persona of its own. In July of 2016, exactly fifty years from its release, fans at G-FEST (Godzilla Festival) in Chicago paid homage to this often overlooked giant monster masterpiece and I wanted to share some of those highlights.
Check out the amazing monster models of G-FEST XXIII!
Last month I attended Chicago’s G-FEST (Godzilla Festival) for the thirteenth year in a row – a lucky number for me as it marked the return of my eldest son, Alex, to the Godzilla fold. Back in 2004, when we first started attending, he was a six year old Godzilla-obsessed kid who’d later anticipate this event more than Christmas itself. That is, of course, until puberty reared its ugly head and whisked away all love of dinosaurs, spaceships, and the “King of Monsters” in favor of hanging with peers and militaristic video games like Call of Duty. Needless to say, I was taken aback when he requested to join my youngest son, Luke, and I for this year’s event. I’m thinking it might be his way of seeking past childhood comforts before he leaves for the Air Force Academy next month. Whatever the reason, it was great having him back as the Fuentes headed to Rosemont.
I remember growing up in ‘70s and having my own small turntable complete with a collection of “Disneyland Records.” These were usually the smaller 45 varieties that would recount the studio’s animated features and accompanied with a storybook that helped you follow along. You’d be signaled to turn the page whenever you heard Tinkerbell’s chime (or something like that). They helped see me through many a rainy day but, had I grown up on the other side of the Pacific, I’d of been far more enthusiastic for shut-ins! This realization hit me during one of the last forums I attended during G-FEST XXII when I learned that children growing up in Japan also had records and stories; only theirs featured Godzilla, Gamera, Ultra-Man, and just about every other kaiju imaginable!
On Saturday July 11th a gathering of Gamera (Japan’s 2nd most famous monster) fans celebrated the giant turtle’s 50th birthday! It was one of the highlights of this year’s G-FEST (Godzilla Festival) as the kaiju reptile was a favorite of mine growing up back in the ‘70s. Though I prefer reliving those films via Mystery Science Theater 3000 these days, I believe his 1995 return, Gamera: Guardian of the Universe, is one of the best in the genre. The “50 Years of Gamera” panel was moderated by August Ragone and Kyle Yount. This was another big draw for me as I’ve wanted to meet Mr. Ragone for some time now. His contributions to both the horror host realm as well as Japanese monster fandom is far too numerous for me to list here. Suffice it to say, we encourage everyone to check out and follow this Rondo Award winning writer/commentator on his own blog, The Good, the Bad, and the Godzilla. Yount moderates his own Kaiju themed podcast, appropriately named KaijuCast which you can check out HERE.