We’re all familiar, I suspect, with Godzilla as a concept, but how many installments of the legendary kaiju franchise have you actually seen? Thankfully, the Hollywood Theatre’s weekend-long GODZILLATHON! represents a great opportunity to stomp-stomp-stomp through Godzilla’s swinging ’70s oeuvre. The four movies on offer—produced by Japanese production company Toho in rapid succession from 1968 to 1974—represent the big green dino-lizard at his goofiest and most accessible.
These films don’t present Godzilla as an expressionist nuclear allegory so much as a slightly walleyed figurehead for Saturday morning pyrotechnic extravaganzas. Destroy All Monsters (screening Fri Aug 30 and Sun Sept 1), for example, literally has every monster conceived by Toho crashing through a world tour of international miniatures, while Godzilla vs. Megalon (Sat Aug 31) is best summed up by the fact that it’s the only Godzilla film to receive the MST3K treatment. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (Sat Aug 31) indulges the logical inevitability of Godzilla fighting himself, and my personal favorite, Godzilla on Monster Island (Sun Sept 1), features Godzilla wrecking shop in a Godzilla-themed amusement park constructed by nefarious zombie space cockroaches.
Godzilla flicks from this era are exuberantly colorful, cheap, and above all, unpretentious: Each consists of two or three giant monster fights suspended within a loose framework of stock footage and segments featuring humans. They’re formulaic, yes, but they’re also imaginative in their application of that formula. These four movies, in particular, drip with the sort of DIY sci-fi gadgetry that wouldn’t look out of place in a third-season episode of Star Trek (the season they ran out of money), and while the plots couldn’t fill an entire cocktail napkin, they don’t need to. At this point, audiences had seen Godzilla smash up Tokyo harbor half a dozen times, and his motivations for doing so were becoming increasingly perfunctory. When predictably evil aliens show up and get the giant monsters to fight each other, there’s something refreshing about an evil plan that consists entirely of “get giant monsters to fight.” Because giant monsters fighting each other is cool as hell, and there’s no point in overthinking that. Godzilla certainly doesn’t.