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Fiz 7.27.05

Godzilla vs. retirement | Ding-Dong, heaven calling

Godzilla vs. retirement

The Dai Pool at Toho Studios has been demolished and an era has ended. You probably don't recall this huge, shallow pool, but its pop culture rating is somewhere between 50 and 400 meters high because this was the frothing sea that birthed Godzilla, that ill-used avatar of nuclear apocalypse. The terrible "Whale-Gorilla" captured the popular imagination at a time when life had proven appallingly fragile on a massive scale.

In 2004, to mark the 50th anniversary of the first Godzilla film, Toho Studios released Godzilla: Final Wars and announced that it would be the last movie to feature the great and powerful creature. Even on the off chance that the monster would return at some future date, a man in a rubber suit would no longer portray the beast. Whether cinematic luddite or CGI geek, we should all mourn the day that an actor can't make a decent day's wages by sweating profusely and stomping his way to heaven.

Godzilla (real name: Gojira) began busting blocks and taking names in 1954, when Steven Spielberg was less than knee-high to Mothra. American distributors fretted that domestic audiences would not appreciate such a film without sympathetic American characters, so Raymond Burr was hired for a day's work and the character of American reporter, Steve Martin, was added to the US version, turning a tragic horror story into a disturbed and fractured tale.

After showings at a smattering of West Coast monster movie festivals and little else in North America, the DVD for Godzilla: Final Wars is due for American release by the end of July. Many, many sequels were produced during the preceding 50 years. As Marcel Proust once said, "Everyone needs to eat madeleines and watch Godzilla at least once in their life."

The original Godzilla from 1954 is worth seeking out. Under no circumstances should the American-made Godzilla of 1998 be considered a reasonable substitute. Almost 30 sequels are available to the undiscerning viewer. Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla is representative. On the other hand, Godzilla vs. Bambi ends predictably, but has high entertainment value.

--- Craig Brownlie

Ding-Dong, heaven calling

"Hello, my name is Angelina and I'm telling all your neighbors about the New Millennium." She was young and unlike any door-to-door evangelist I'd ever seen: black leather jacket, sunglasses, thick black hair unbound, tight checkered skirt.

What kind of little angel is this, I wondered. She was sexy. But in a dulled, dim sort of way. Not like live bait dangling, bright and glittering. She was definitely not hot-wired into God's dynamo. "Do you know how you'll spend the next millennium?" she asked, in a far-off voice.

They usually come in pairs, trudging up my street together, somnambulistic, slack-faced, dulled by the endless repetition of come-on lines and the emotional hardening of all those doors slammed in their faces.

Angelina gave me a single-sheet bi-fold tract, like a flimsy Sunday school flyer. Bad colors and cheap printing. Thin apocalyptic images on one side. Soldiers, red dragons, fighter planes. And those weirdly tepid New Millennium pictures on the other. A kid with a lion, a basket full of fruit, beautifully bland landscape. If that's paradise, I thought, I'll stick with my suburban bunker visited once a year by sexy evangelist girls. "What does the future hold for you?" her tract asked.

She gave me a wan smile, bored as a Wal-Mart checker, and bid me to "have a nice day."

Was she a renegade evangelist? An endtime angel doing a little last-minute soul-trawling? Did she represent some new wrinkle in the door-to-door salvation biz? No, I decided. She's an anomaly. Doing her duty, her own way. But if the elders knew what kind of ripples were spreading out behind her, they'd yank her off the street in a minute.

--- Th. Metzger