GHIDORAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER
1964 - dir. Ishiro Honda
****I've seen a lot of Godzilla movies as a kid but I never... until lately. Man, GHIDORAH is the best one! Maybe it's Akira Ifukube's great, blowsy ominous-cool bassoon jazz score, which perfectly captures the drunken heaviness of these here monster giants as they stagger around and down volcanoes and bump into apartment complexes. Ifukube's cues repeat over and over but that's fine. The dubbing is solid. The framing and colors are comic book perfection. Maybe it's because it ingeniously integrates a lot of fringe science elements. GHIDORAH: Number One!
It seems a bunch of scientists have been having nightly meetings with UFOs, so they invite a lady reporter to come check out how cool they are. When the UFOs don't come the night she's there, they accuse her of sending skeptical brainwaves out into the atmosphere and scaring the aliens off! Skeptical brainwaves! When the reporter dismisses the idea that brainwaves even exist, the scientists smile patronizingly. That's cool despite being sexist because it shows the easy way science can flip-flop on issues, condemning non-believers with an array of defense mechanisms, from witch burning to shows like Fact or Faked and Myth-busters. One day they sneer at the 'nuts' who believe UFOs exist; the next day they sneer at the 'cranks' who believe they don't. Look at the scientist's desk above and you see the way science might have matured had not events like Roswell been so effectively hushed up.
Anyway, later that night some hot princess of the mythical kingdom of Sergina (Akiko Wakabayashi) is abducted from her private plane by a UFO right before a terrorist bomb blows it to bits. The next day, scientists investigate a meteor that crashed in the mountains and left a huge Ghidorah egg. The princess appears at the dock, now possessed by a Martian (below) for a dockside press conference: "I come from the planet you call Mars! The earth--your planet-- is on the brink of destruction, and you refuse to take it seriously." They laugh. And the hatching egg is their reward. Look who's come all the way from space to show you that three heads are better than one, and that killing whales, dolphins, and Nanking is wrong! Ghidorah functions here as a kind of anti-global terrorist bomb, sent to wipe out violent civilizations before they can become a threat to the Galactic Federation (which is a real thing, according to my in-the-know informants!)
Of course, the glee with which Japan is wiped out time and again has become dampened by recent cataclysms, but can we doubt this scrappy dolphin-hating nation won't bounce back? So I got to go with Ghidorah on this one, even if those cute Mothra handler sisters are around to sing their little songs to get Godzilla and the latest incarnation of Mothra (still in caterpillar form) to unite against him. Then that Ifukube drunken bassoon score really stumbles into low, low gear, and the rumble atop the volcanic jungle is on.
It's true, I used to root for the bad guys as a child watching Speed Racer; being a tot and inexperienced, I kept thinking "This time... this time they'll finally win." They never won! Like me, in kickball. Ghidorah, I want that Mach-5 crushed underfoot!
1988 - dir. Don Coscarelli
***Who knows where we go after we die? The Shadow and Don Coscarelli know, or at least dare to look in the same trans-dimensional direction as fringe theorists like David Icke and Nick Redfern. Like its predecessor, PHANTASM II deconstructs down to reveal what it's like to see the warped mysteries of humanity's archaic funeral rituals through the eyes of a young terrified child and getting lost in the mausoleum while his parents engage in whatever odd formalities parents go through, and being freaked out by the glint of the fading afternoon sun on the shiny marble walls, imagining a flying metal ball coming around looking for you, to drill out your pineal gland (the home of the soul) for use in bizarre fourth dimensional enslavement rites. Also, there's the ingenious STAR WARS-associative use of Jawa fashions for the tall man's undead ghost-dwarf minions.
Considering all the bizarre accoutrements of the funeral trade, you can imagine there being a hidden white room in the mortuary, where corpses are compacted for rebirth in a dimension where the gravity is much stronger, the colors morphed, and the winds relentless. The dimension when finally shown eerily resembles near-death experiences of the unlucky ones who miss the white light. Such people report their astral body/soul floating up to the white light and then being snatched by hands emerging from the dark shadows along the tunnel's sides, yanked into this prison of Hell, where untold despair is instilled and harvested!
Whoa, hey! Too much? Then just enjoy this low key TERMINATOR-meets-EVIL DEAD thrill ride movie, with its periodic in-jokes (the name on one bag of cremation ashes is "Sam Raimi") and pretend you're in a car at a crumbling drive-in in the early 1980s, the world alive with youth, health, and bravado... all of which about to shortly crumble down around you, like the drive-in itself, until all that's left are ashes in an urn and an undead dwarf in a brown robe, texting furiously.