Son of Godzilla DVD Review

Every truly great monster has an offspring. Dracula had one, Frankenstein had one (though it wasn't exactly the monsters son), and of course Godzilla had to have one. The second Godzilla film to be set on an island, "Son of Godzilla" is a quirky entry into a (then) fast declining series. That doesn't mean it's missing some charm.

Scientists have set up a research facility on Sollgel Island. Their goal is to change the weather pattern in order to create more fertile land for food. When the experiments go awry, the islands already large mantises grow to enormous proportions and an egg is discovered. Its inhabitant, an odd Godzilla-like creature, breaks free to cry out for dad. He comes calling, making things difficult for the team and even worse for the other giant monsters.

The only thing telling audiences that Minilla (or Minya if you prefer) is Godzilla's son is the title. Even with all of the stock footage and terrible dubbing this series would sadly become known for, Minilla remains one of the toughest things to deal with for a die-hard fan. This goofy, bug-eyed, crying, temper tantrum having, deformed "child" is impossible to defend.

It's even tougher to defend the big guy himself in this incarnation, suffering from many of the same issues as the Minilla suit. The teeth are so large his mouth doesn't even close. The eyes are set high on the head, much like an insect, a wild variation on any of the previous designs. Yes, it does keep with the somewhat playful nature of the film, but every time the monster appears on screen, you simply have to cringe.

Beyond the suits, there are some very inspired creations. Kamcuras are the giant praying mantises, all controlled via puppetry. Everything is handled very well, their movements conveyed as realistically as the technology would allow. The same goes for Kumonga, the islands other giant insect resident, portrayed in the same manner. It adds up to some great battles that would likely put this one near the top in terms of giant monster action if the two main suits weren't so bad.

There's a surprising amount of human drama here as the island begins to take its toll on the crew. Everything goes wrong for the group and the whole giant monster issue just adds to the stress levels. They interact quite a bit with the monsters thanks to some nice matte shots, which put everything in scale. Helping things along are genre vets Kenji Sahara and Akihiko Hirata who put in solid performances considering the otherwise oddball subject matter. Masaru Sato provides the lighthearted, energetic, fun soundtrack to cap everything off.

In the end, it's hard not to be grasped by this entry. For whatever reason, the relationship between the two monsters is almost touching (!), especially when the final shot rolls around. The sight of the two kaiju holding each other close as the snow begins to reach blizzard status is classic stuff even if the rest of the movie isn't. Even some of Minilla's antics will bring a smirk to your face. The island photography (shot on Guam) adds the final positive to one of those entries that splits fans right down the middle. (*** out of *****)

Though the print has taken some heavy damage at a few points, the movie looks remarkable on DVD. Colors are just incredible and the above-mentioned photography is firmly preserved forever. The overall transfer is soft, but it's very clean with no grain, an achievement to say the least. It's so clear, that for the first time, you can easily spot the strings maneuvering the monsters, something that the lower resolution of previous formats prevented. That's either a positive or a negative depending on your view. (****)

This is about the only mix in this "50th Anniversary" line that has major problems. The soundtrack on the Japanese language track completely overpowers the dialogue. Even some of the louder scenes in which the monsters struggle have the same problem. The English track has no trouble but the dubbing is pitiful, screwing up names along with the usual over-acting. It's a no-win situation here. When things are quiet there are no issues, though that doesn't excuse the obvious problems with this 2.0 mono mix. (**)

Not surprisingly, there are no extras. You can view a few trailers and that's it. (No stars)

Obviously someone thought Minilla was entertaining. He would be brought back in the next entry, the one that was supposed to finish off the series, "Destroy All Monsters." Then, he would take part in what is widely considered the worst movie in the series, "Godzilla's Revenge." Finally, fans will get to see him once again in "Godzilla: Final Wars" whenever that movie finds a full audience here in the US.

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