Godzilla -- King of the Monsters and My Childhood

When I was growing up, there were four really important weeks when it came to television shows. One was the week where the networks revealed the previews of their new cartoons. This was back in the days before there were cable networks which showed nothing but cartoons.1 The others all had to do with special movie weeks.

There were a couple of different shows on the local UHF stations that showed movies in the afternoons.
2 There were a lot of westerns, a lot of dramas, plenty of black and white movies and classic color films. They would frequently have special weeks -- John Wayne westerns one week, Humphrey Bogart mob films another.3

I wasn’t interested in either of these. The three weeks that were important to me and my friends were, in no particular order, Bruce Lee week, Monster Week, and the all important Godzilla Week.

Bruce Lee movies, and to a lesser extent all kung-fu movies, were super influential in to any kid growing up in the ‘70s. I won’t begin to tell you the number of injuries I and my friends sustained while trying to imitate the various moves we saw in the films. We knew all of the (dubbed) dialog.

It should come as no surprise that Monster Week was highly influential to the young horror lover that I was growing into. Most years, the films would be classic Universal Monsters. Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, and my personal favorite, The Creature From the Black Lagoon would be supplemented with the greats from the Hammer Collection. I would go on, but this seems like something which should be covered in a future post.

The final, and perhaps most looked forward to, batch of films were the rampaging kaiju films of Godzilla Week. They combined the delicious taste of fear with the over the top fighting of the Bruce Lee flicks. Plus, well, they had giant fucking monsters fighting each other. What could possibly be better than that?

Interestingly enough, I still love all three of these types of films. As I grew older, I learned to appreciate them in new ways. When I was a kid, I loved the kaiju films on a surface level. This didn’t change when I went to see
Pacific Rim. Giant mechs fighting giant monsters, amazing. However, it wasn’t until decades later that I appreciate the role big G played as a representation of the horrors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Even knowing this, I was floored the first time I saw the original (non-US) release of the film. If you are only familiar with the Raymond Burr vehicle, I strongly suggest you track down the Japanese release.

One of the fun portions of Godzilla Week was wondering which movies would be shown. Yes, we could have looked them up in the
TV Guide6, but it was more fun to be surprised when the
film started. Would Godzilla be the antagonist or the protagonist? How many monsters would he have the chance to battle? Would we have to endure Mothra and those stupid fairies?
8 What city would be destroyed?9

I’m not going to go into the history of the various periods of Godzilla films, but keep in mind there were far fewer of them back in the day. Occasionally we would get one of the goofy, more kid friendly ones, but usually we were lucky and got to see amazing monster on monster action.

Since childhood I have caught up on all of the Japanese films. I haven’t had a chance to see the most recent American movie.
11/12 As I write this, I’m watching the first of the animated Godzilla films available on Netflix. It takes place thousands of years in the future after humans had to abandon the Earth to the monsters. The animation is amazing and the action pretty good. Godzilla looks a little rocklike, but still pretty awesome.

I’ll be 50 years old this year and I still get chills when I hear that classic kaiju roar.

1 This was back before there were cable networks, period.

2 Again, this is before cable.

3 It wouldn’t be until much later that I would appreciate the Bogie films.

4 To give you an idea of how important these weeks were, and how cool my parents were, we would move the black and white television
5 up to my bedroom for the week. I and my friends would gather around each afternoon and soak up the cinematic goodness.

5 This was no small feat. The tv didn’t was the size of a suitcase and weighed about as much as a suitcase of similar size filled with bricks.

6 This was a weekly magazine which would list the television programs scheduled to be shown each week. Remember, this was before on-screen viewing guides.

7 Truly, this was a dark age.

8 I’ve always hated Mothra.

9 Just kidding, it was always Tokyo.

10 Again, this was the 70s/early 80s so this was before all of the aliens invading earth and controlling monsters movies.

11 We don’t talk about the other American release.

12 Because I’m cheap and I’m waiting to see it for free.