Much like the world around him, Godzilla found himself embroiled in one conflict or another throughout the 1960s. Outside of the theater, people only had to turn on their TV sets to witness one type of fight or another. The Vietnam War was ramping up, and the body count rose as US forces and the Vietcong clashed more frequently. The Tet offensive in 1968 proved especially bloody. Radical changes occurred worldwide as countries sought independence from long time European colonial rule. The civil rights movement was in full swing in the United States, as blacks and other minorities struggled for equality. Presidents and other leaders fell to assassination. 1967 saw Israel embroiled in the Six Day War with Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. China was marked by political and social upheaval during the Cultural Revolution. The world fell just shy of an all out nuclear conflict during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. In 1969, Muammar Gaddafi led a coup that overthrew the monarchy in Libya. China detonated its first atomic bomb in 1964. Adding to all of this man-made disasters were natural ones as well, with various earthquakes and hurricanes, and one of the most severe storms on record, Hurricane Camille, struck the US Gulf Coast as a Category 5 storm in 1969, with winds reaching 190 mph.
But the 1960s saw progress as well, most notably the rise of the Apollo space program in the US, which reached its highlight of the decade when Apollo 11 touched down on the moon on July 20, 1969. Neil Armstrong cemented his place in history that day, as he became the first man to walk on the moon. The first heart transplant was performed successfully in South Africa in 1967. The civil rights movement, for all of its conflict, did succeed in getting legislation passed that moved the US forward in treating all of its citizens equally. Culturally plenty happened as well. Rock music took a different direction, exploring more diverse themes and giving rise to bands that are still popular today. The first computer videogame, Spacewar!, was invented in 1962. 8-track and cassette tapes were introduced. And some classic films, such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Planet of the Apes, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Psycho, The Birds, Bonnie and Clyde, The Wild Bunch- all were made within the decade, and they still hold up today.
For Godzilla, the big guy appeared in eight movies in the 1960s, beginning with King Kong vs. Godzilla in 1962 and culminating in Godzilla’s Revenge in 1969. Godzilla went from being a villain in King Kong vs. Godzilla and Godzilla vs. the Thing to being a protector beginning with Ghidorah, the Three Headed Monster. Ghidorah would become one of Godzilla’s primary foes in the decade, as he appeared in Monster Zero (1965) and Destroy All Monsters (1968) to menace the Earth, under the control of malevolent aliens. Monster Zero (which was also known as Invasion of Planet X, Invasion of Astro-Monster, and Godzilla vs. Monster Zero) dealt with the aliens from Planet X who come to Earth to “borrow” Rodan and Godzilla to help them fight Ghidorah. This of course turns out to be a ruse, as Planet X really wanted the monsters to aid in an invasion of Earth. Naturally, Godzilla and Rodan prevailed, beating back Ghidorah and the aliens.
Aliens returned in Destroy All Monsters to again threaten the Earth. In the film, the world’s monsters have been confined to Monster Island, a sort of Jurassic Park for kaiju. The aliens free the monsters from their confines, setting them loose upon the major cities of the world. The movie featured the largest collection of monsters in one film (a record that held up until Godzilla: Final Wars was made in 2004). Among the beasties in the film besides Godzilla were Rodan, Mothra, Ghidorah, Anguirus, Minya (who also appeared in Son of Godzilla and Godzilla’s Revenge), Spiega (the giant spider known in later films as Kumonga), Baragon (who also appeared in Frankenstein Conquers the World), Gorosaurus (who also appeared in King Kong Escapes), the snake-like Manda (who also was seen in Atragon), and Varan, who had his own film Varan the Unbelievable in 1958. The aliens were again thwarted, thanks to Godzilla and the Earth monsters defeating Ghidorah with the help of the crew of the X-2 spaceship.
In 1966, Godzilla clashed with the giant shrimp Ebirah along with the help of Mothra in Godzilla vs the Sea Monster. Both this film and the one that followed in 1967, Son of Godzilla, saw Jun Fukuda take over the directorial reins from Ishiro Honda (Honda would return to the director’s seat with Destroy All Monsters in 1968). Son of Godzilla introduced Minya, who was menaced by giant praying mantises and the giant spider on an island where scientists were conducting weather experiments. It was the first film where Godzilla did not travel to any civilized area, and was filmed mainly in Guam, which aided in being able to use the jungle locales and not having to build extensive miniature sets. Godzilla’s look was also softened, to appear more fatherly to little Minya and to make Godzilla less scary for children, who were the film’s targeted audience.
Godzilla’s Revenge (1969), was also targeted more at children, as it dealt with a young boy being bullied at school. The boy wishes to travel to Monster Island, where he meets Minya. He finds out Minya has bullies of his own, and the two stories parallel each other as the boy, Ichiro (played by Tomonori Yazaki), and Minya learn to deal with their respective bullies and fight back. The movie used footage taken from previous films, and Ishiro Honda was also forced to take over as effects director for the flick. The movie marked the final appearance by Gorosaurus. Other monsters, like Manda, Kamakiras (a giant mantis), Kumonga, and Minya would not be seen in a Godzilla movie until Godzilla: Final Wars in 2004.
(trailer for Godzilla’s Revenge courtesy of omemeister)
Godzilla’s Revenge marked the end of the decade for the King of Monsters. In it, he had gone from a menacing villain to a caring father teaching his son how to stand up for himself. His appearance changed a few times, becoming less frightening as the movies were geared more and more to a younger audience. When he returned in the 70s, he would change yet again. But that will be for another installment in our month long salute to Godzilla.
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