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Godzilla
© 1998 by H.B. Koplowitz

First there was "China Syndrome." More recently "Wag the Dog" and "Deep Impact." Lately it seems no one can make a movie without it being downright prescient. Maybe that's why Sony's official "Godzilla" website <www.godzilla.com> doesn't bother to mention that India set off five atom bomb tests, and Pakistan may be next, just as its movie about a monster spawned by nuclear fallout was coming to a theater near you.

Or maybe it's because the newest Godzilla owes its genesis less to radiation than computerization and marketing. And maybe, like earlier Jewish movie moguls who didn't want to draw attention to themselves by raising too big a stink about the holocaust, today's Japanese owners of a Hollywood studio, whose movie was opening on a record 7,363 American screens Memorial Day weekend, didn't want to spotlight their own ethnicity by drudging up messy memories of such historic blips in Asian-American relations as Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Which may also explain why the screenplay by Producer Dean Devlin and Director Roland Emmerich, who also collaborated on "Independence Day," lays the blame for the mutant reptile on the hapless French.

OK, so it's just a monster movie, and "Godzilla" sequels have been muddying up the anti-nukes theme of Toho Studios' original 1954 Japanese classic since the first Americanized "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" in 1956. But at the websites of Godzilla fans, the degree to which the newest Godzilla has lost touch with its roots is a hot topic. The websites also provide insights into the beast's gender and genealogy, and more information than you ever thought could exist about the scaly movie monster.

The oldest surviving Godzilla website is "Barry's Temple of Godzilla" <www.stomptokyo.com/godzillatemple>. Created in 1995 by a Boston attorney, Barry S. Goldberg, the site reviews and analyzes all 23 Godzilla movies, has pictures of his collection of Godzilla nicknacks, and recounts his experiences at the recent New York Godzilla premiere. 

The 1954 Japanese Godzilla movie, called "Gojira," "stands as a credible allegory for the horror of nuclear war," Goldberg notes at his website. Unlike today's computer generated Godzilla, the original was half puppet, half man in a rubber suit. But for Japanese audiences still reeling from the nuclear finale to World War II, the grainy, black and white film of a giant reptile mutated by atomic tests trashing Tokyo with its radioactive fire breath was all too realistic.

A Japanese scientist saves the day with an even more destructive weapon, but perishes in the battle, taking the secret to his weapon with him so that it may never be used again. In the 1956 Americanized version, the action scenes remain while the back story is replaced with narration by a world-weary foreign correspondent played by Raymond Burr.

Goldberg writes the first Godzilla was meant as a one-shot "movie with a moral." As sequels were made, Godzilla became more like a professional wrestler, doing battle with ever more campy movie monsters including King Kong, Rodan, Mothra, Ghidrah, Monster Zero and the Smog Monster.

In his review of the latest Godzilla, Goldberg asks whether it is "truly a Godzilla movie, or is it simply a great monster movie?" He goes back and forth, but ultimately decides it is not a true Godzilla movie because the monster lacks atomic plasma breath, and "Godzilla without his flame breath is like Batman without his batmobile."

"Temple of Godzilla" also examines a theory that the Godzilla in all the movies after the first one was actually Godzilla's mate, and therefore female. The same issue is dealt with at another site, "Conster's Museum of Godzilla" <www.microlink.net/~conniegn/musem.html>, where webmistress Connie Goodnow concludes the two possible answers are that Godzilla is a rubber suit, or we're not meant to know, since who's going to climb up a huge radioactive monster's leg to find out? (The new Godzilla suggests another possibility.)

"Conster's Museum" also has Godzilla beauty tips (leave the pearls in the ocean if you are dressing up for a night out on Tokyo town); "Godzilla Girls," a bulletin board where feminist fans of the monster can post messages; and a cautionary tale for Godzilla addicts.

"Goji-World" <www.inteleco.com/gojiworld/default.shtml> has links to G-rated Godzilla sites supposedly created by kids, and another Godzilla website of note is "Alan's Kaiju Room" <www.parlorcity.com/awinterrowd/kaiju>, which has pictures and information on Godzilla fan conventions and festivals. 

Then there's Sony's official Godzilla website, which after all the secrecy has finally posted some pictures of its digital monster, plus the usual trailers, sound and videoclips, screensaver, merchandise and a Godzilla Online Database with "everything you wanted to know about Godzilla but were afraid to ask!"

Click on "Friends" for links to all the Godzilla commercial tie-ins, including Godzilla cups and toys from Taco Bell; Hershey's Kiss "Monstrous Promotion!"; Godzilla toys at K B Toys; Kodak's "Terror in Times Square" Godzilla movie poster; Duracell monster power offers; Sprint's sign up for long distance and get free Godzilla tickets; Dreyer's/Edy's Godzilla vanilla ice cream featuring chocolate Godzilla pieces; and Kirin, the official beer of Godzilla.

No kidding.

  © 1998 By H.B. Koplowitz, all rights reserved.
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