This week on the Richard Crouse Show we celebrate Halloween with two of the stars of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” Patricia Quinn and Nell Campbell. They both appeared in the original stage production and the movie, as castle maid Magenta and the tap-dancing Columbia respectively.
Then, we’ll spend some time with horror maestro Guillermo Del Toro, director of movies you love like Academy Award winning “The Shape of Water,” “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “The Devil’s Backbone,” “Pacific Rim” and many more. In a conversation we recorded nine years ago, we talk about why he is drawn to the horror genre, why children play such large roles in his films and much more.
Land finally, I recommend “Let Me In,” a great vampire movie you may not have seen… something fun to watch this weekend. We’ll also meet the director, Matt Reeves, who’ll talk about the movie and why we get scared when we go to the movies.
Each week on the nationally syndicated Richard Crouse Show, Canada’s most recognized movie critic brings together some of the most interesting and opinionated people from the movies, television and music to put a fresh spin on news from the world of lifestyle and pop-culture. Tune into this show to hear in-depth interviews with actors and directors, to find out what’s going on behind the scenes of your favourite shows and movies and get a new take on current trends. Recent guests include Ethan Hawke, director Brad Bird, comedian Gilbert Gottfried, Eric Roberts, Brian Henson, Jonathan Goldsmith a.k.a. “The most interesting man in the world,” and best selling author Linwood Barclay.
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Idris Elba is a busy man. He’s released seven movies this year and has several more on tap for 2017. He’s on track to join Dwayne Johnson, Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio as one of the world’s highest earning actors after turns in the mega-grossing The Jungle Book, Finding Dory and Zootopia.
If you don’t know the name you haven’t been paying attention. Rev up Netflix and check out his work on TV shows like The Wire or Luther and movies like RocknRolla or Beasts of No Nation and become a fan. You should know he was once voted one of People magazine’s 100 Most Beautiful People in the World and more than one twitter friend of mine refers to him as a “pretend boyfriend.”
Not only busy but good looking as well! I was pleased to be granted a fifteen-minute phone interview to discuss his debut in the Star Trek franchise as Krall, a hostile alien who causes trouble for Kirk, Spock and company in Star Trek Beyond.
I don’t usually write questions but I thought I might ask him if he watched Star Trek as a child. Would he consider himself a Trekker? Did he have a favourite Star Trek character growing up? Did he wonder what Star Trek fans would think of the predatory new character? Are there parallels between the film—and his character—and our world today? Has he considered what being part of the legacy of the show means?
If there was time at the end I might even follow up on the rumours and ask if he even wants to play James Bond.
Then the first call came in. “Idris is running behind.” Cool. This happens all the time on press days. Then another call and another and another. My phone hasn’t gotten this kind of workout since a Nigerian Prince called over and over to solicit my assistance in moving his fortune to North America. Each time a publicist announced another delay with the assurance the interview would still happen. As the time wore on the actual length of my interview began to tumble downhill from fifteen minutes down to seven.
In all two hours passed from my scheduled start time until my phone rang for real.
“Hi Richard, I’ll connect you with Idris,” said the perky voice on the other end of the line.
A minute passed before Elba’s familiar husky London accent filled my ear. Hallelujah! Better late than never. We talk over one another. “Hello… HELLO… Can you hear me?” It’s a bad cell phone connection. It sounds as if we’re talking through two tin cans connected by strings but I’ll take it.
I ask him about his childhood memories of Star Trek.
“It was a show me, my mum and my dad watched together,” he says. “They both liked it. It was a show that really took your imagination places. That’s my early memory of it. It was a really imaginative show that showed space travel in a way that was different, you know?”
It took him 23 seconds to speak the 50 words that told me his parents liked Star Trek. I mention this because as soon as he stopped talking and I started asking the next question I heard a strange beep beep sound followed by… nothing. The great void. No more husky voice. And like that, poof. He’s gone.
“Are you still there? I think we just lost him,” the eavesdropping publicist said. “Let me get him back for you. Just one second.”
I had visions of the actor walking around Fifth Avenue desperately yelling into his phone, “Can you hear me now? Can you hear me now?” but in my heart I knew that wasn’t happening.
Minutes later she’s back. “I’m so sorry. We lost him. I know you only had a couple of minutes to speak with him…” actually it was twenty three seconds… “Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with him.”
My interview with Idris was over. Still born. Terminated before it even really began.
Was I mad? Not really. Frustrated? Yes. Not only had I wasted the afternoon waiting for Idris but now I didn’t have a story to file.
My friends on social media didn’t exactly see it my way. “What do you expect?” wrote one person. “He is the hottest man alive.” Another chose to look on the bright side. “That’s 45 seconds more Idris than the rest of us.” (I hadn’t yet timed the actual quote when hit facebook to vent.)
In the end it’s not a big deal. I’m choosing to look at the bright side. I didn’t get to chat with him but I do have a contender for the Guinness Book of World Records for Shortest (And Least Satisfying) Interview Ever.
Few modern directors raise the hair on the back of your neck like Guillermo del Toro. From the eerie Pale Man character in Pan’s Labyrinth to the deadly mechanical scarab of Cronos, he has trained viewers to expect the unexpected.
His latest, Crimson Peak, is a spooky thriller starring Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska and Tom Hiddleston that del Toro describes as an “almost classical gothic romance ghost story,” before adding, “it has two or three scenes that are really, really disturbing in a very, very modern way.” Also expect a fest for the eyes. “I’m not giving you eye candy,” he says. “It’s eye protein.”
Films like Pacific Rim, The Devil’s Backbone and Hellboy have made del Toro a fan favourite but for every film he makes there is Internet buzz about the movies he didn’t make.
“I’m famous for the ones I turned down,” he told me a few years ago in a candid conversation on my radio show.
Indeed a quick Google search reveals a list of hit films he said no to.
The script for Se7en came his way but was judged to be too cynical for del Toro’s tastes. Horror hits Blade: Trinity and AVP: Alien vs. Predator went to directors David S. Goyer and Paul W.S. Anderson respectively when Guillermo declined because he was too busy getting his version of Hellboy to the screen.
I asked him about that period. “To get Hellboy made you turned down…” “A lot,” he said, finishing my sentence.
More recently he walked away from The Hobbit, a decision he called “extremely painful,” and took a rain check on Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens because “basically I have so much stuff already of my own, and I’m pursuing stuff that I’m generating already.”
One project has kept the del Toro fan base purring for years, a proposed version of Frankenstein.
“This is the one that I pursue and drop. It’s daunting. This is the most important story in the history of narrative. The most important book in my life is Frankenstein and the most important movie is James Whale’s Frankenstein.
“It’s like that girl you have been dating for 35 years and you can’t say, ‘Would you marry me?’
“I read the book and realized nobody has done the book. It is amazing to me that nobody has done the emotions that are in the book. The way I want to treat the one I do is not to be slavish to the book but create the same effect the book has which is the incredible journey of the creature.”
I ask if he has any second thoughts about the films he turned down.
“Every movie I have left behind or not done I don’t regret at all but there’s one that I can’t help but wonder (about), Prisoner of Azkaban. I really loved the books. I don’t love all the movies but at that stage I saw the first two movies and they were a little too happy for me. I thought, ‘Do I really want to go on and try to change the entire universe like that?’”
The job of directing the third Harry Potter movie eventually went to one of del Toro’s friends, Alfonso Cuarón. “When I saw that movie I told Alfonso, ‘I love you and I hate you. You made a great movie.’ That’s the only one that went away that I will always wonder about.”
1. Admission: Tina Fey is Portia Nathan, a mildly compulsive Princeton admissions officer—they jokingly call her their “golden retriever” because of her record of recruiting a-plus students—who leads a quiet, ordered life with professor Mark (Michael Sheen). They share a love of poetry, hatred of kids and not much else. Her well ordered life is thrown into disarray when John Pressman (Rudd), a free-spirited former classmate and now teacher at an alternative school, introduces her to Jeremiah Balakian (Nat Wolff), a brilliant young man who may be the child she gave up for adoption seventeen years ago. “Admission” is familiar enough to not jar the sensibilities of undemanding rom com fans, but there is more here than immediately meets the eye.
2. The Bling Ring: Based on actual events, “The Bling Ring” centers around a group of narcissistic Los Angeles area teenagers, Rebecca (Katie Chang), Marc (Israel Broussard), Nicki (Emma Watson), Sam (Taissa Fermiga) and Chloe (Claire Julien).
Their modus operandi? They track the comings and goings of their favorite celebs on via internet. While one-named millennial stars like Paris, Lindsay, Megan or Audrina are out on the town or out of town completely, the Ring “go shopping,” breaking into their homes and help themselves to jewels, designer clothes and loose cash. More than that, they live vicariously through the lives of the rich and famous folks they’re burgling.
“The Bling Ring” plays like a “Law & Order” episode of “The Hills.” The crime spree is device that keeps the story moving forward, but the fascinating thing is the portrait of these self-absorbed kids who aspire to hosting reality shows or becoming a “lifestyle brand” as a career. They want fame and money, but are so tied up with the idea of fame and money they are blind to virtually everything else.
“The Bling Ring” is a fascinating art-house glimpse of fame found, just not the fame the thieving teens sought. They are the robbers TMZ made famous, a group of kids who redefined narcissism in an already narcissistic town.
3. The East: Britt Marling stars as corporate spy Jane Owen, code name Sarah. Her latest job involves going deep undercover to infiltrate a shadowy group of eco-terrorists called The East. The collective—think real life activists Anonymous—run by the charismatic anarchist Benji (Alexander Skarsgård), is on the eve of their biggest demonstration yet, an act of sabotage that will make headlines and make a very public statement of their anti-corporate stance.
Sarah is accepted by the group, save for the truculent Izzy (Ellen Page), and begins to develop Stockholm syndrome. Or does she?
It’s a morally complex movie, with Sarah at the center of the ethical hurricane as she starts to question her role as both a spy and a would-be member of the radical group. She weighs the morality of both sides and… well, go see the movie.
“The East” deliberately paints shades of grey into the story, allowing for good and bad, evil and sympathetic characters on both sides. It may be too nuanced for folks who like their spy stories to take sides, but Sarah, as the source of the plot’s push-and-pull, is too complex a creation to play it straight. Marling brings strength and fighting spirit to Sarah in a performance that could finally make her a star.
4. The Iceman: Based on “The Iceman: The True Story of a Cold-Blooded Killer” by crime writer Anthony Bruno the movie begins on Kuklinski’s first date with his wife to be Deborah (Winona Ryder). He’s quiet and reserved, but charming and she is won over by his charisma. They marry, have kids and lead a normal life. At least at home. Deborah had no idea her mild mannered husband was an expert assassin, who paid for the kid’s private school and her jewels by slicing throats, shooting and choking the enemies of his boss Roy DeMeo (Ray Liotta).
Kuklinski was dubbed the Iceman for two reasons. When he was arrested police found a stash of bodies he had frozen to obscure time of death and because of his icy demeanor. It’s a role Shannon was born to play. From certain angles he looks like an everyman, the kind of guy who goes home at night to his wife and two kids. From other angles he’s menacing, the kind of guy you don’t want to meet in a dark alley.
Shannon is cooler than Mr. Freeze as the title character in “The Iceman,” and he’s joined by Chris Evans in a career making performance as a ice cream truck driving killer, Liotta in mobster mode—between Shannon and Liotta it’s a showdown of the steely stares—the welcome return of Wynonna Ryder and David Schwimmer playing against type as a slimy mafia enforcer.
5. The Last Stand: Near the beginning of the movie the head lawman of the sleepy border town of Summerton Junction, Sheriff Ray Owens (Arnold Schwarzenegger), says, “Should be a quiet weekend.” Of course whenever Arnold, or any eighties action star says, “Should be a quiet weekend,” you know all hell is about to break loose. And break loose it does.
In a parallel story ruthless drug lord Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) stages an elaborate escape and heads for the Mexican border, which just happens to lie outside Arnold’s… er… Owens’s town. As Cortez speeds toward the border he has a quick cell phone call with Owens. “Do you wanna play?,” he yells. “Let’s play!” And play they do… with big guns.
Schwarzenegger is moving noticeably slower these days—How are you Sheriff? “Old,” he says.—but his comic timing is still there and no one else can battle through this kind of cheesefest and emerge with his action cred intact.
“The Last Stand” is not a movie to be taken seriously, but it wasn’t made to be taken seriously. Why else would cult director Jee-woon Kim cast Johnny Knoxville?
6. The Lone Ranger: Set against a backdrop of corruption during the building of the railway’s westward expansion through Native American territory, this is the origin story of how attorney John Reid (Armie Hammer), a law and order man who doesn’t believe in vengeance, met Tonto (Johnny Depp) and became the Wild West’s masked crusader.
The unlikely pair are brought together by their mutual enmity toward Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner), a cannibalistic outlaw who Reid wants to bring to justice and Tonto wants dead. That pursuit uncovers massive corruption during the building of the railway’s westward expansion through Native American territory beginning with a conspiracy to start a war between the US Calvary and the Comanche Nation.
“The Lone Ranger” is state of the art nouveau Western, complete with circling vultures, unspoiled landscapes, gruff, unshaven men and even a beer drinking horse. Surprisingly nimble footed for a two-and-a-half hour epic, it is unexpectedly funny but more violent than your typical summer tent pole flick.
7. Pacific Rim: Director Guillermo Del Toro has made an end-of-the-world scenario fun.
In the world he creates in “Pacific Rim” the planet is threatened with destruction by Kaijus, colossal beasts with an appetite for destruction. Coming to our world through a breach in a portal beneath the Pacific Ocean, the earth is losing the war against these beasts. The main of line of defense, giant robots called Jaegers—operated by pilots who mind meld with the metal behemoths; the deeper the connection, the better they fight—are being decommissioned in favor of a giant wall. “Kaijus are evolving,” says one military man, “and we’re losing Jaegers faster than we can build them.”
In the months before the machines are made obsolete a driven colonel, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Alba), assembles a crack team of Jaeger pilots—including burned out former pilot Raleigh Becket (Charlie “Sons of Anarchy” Hunnam) and talented but untested trainee Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) to launch one last attack to close the portal and save the planet.
Del Toro has supersized a Godzilla story, adding in 50s b-movie tropes with state of the art sci fi to create something fresh. It’s a thrill ride from the beginning, a giant action movie that doesn’t just rely on a cool premise.
In other words, “Battleship” this ain’t.
8. Pain and Gain: Near the beginning a voiceover says, “Unfortunately, this is based on a true story.” It’s the real-life tale of three Miami-based body builders (Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, and Anthony Mackie) chasing the American Dream. Pumped up and steroid crazy they abduct a prominent local businessman (Tony Shalhoub). They beat and torture the self-made millionaire until he signs over all his wealth—houses, cars, boats and money. The story eventually becomes so outlandish Bay flashes up a graphic in the last half hour reminding us that this is “still a true story.”
This is a seriously weird movie. It’s Bay working with a tiny—for him—budget of just $26 million. The guy has made commercials that cost more than that, but has delivered the darkest comedy—imagine if the Coen Brothers did gruesome slapstick—to come down the pike in a while.
9. Rush: When we first meet Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) and James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) they are third stringers, talented Formula 3 drivers desperate for a chance to move up to the big show. Lauda makes a financial deal that lands him on Team Ferrari while Hunt uses tenacity, charm and a touch of desperation to grab a spot with the McLaren team.
Bad blood flows between the two, stemming back to an incident when Hunt edged Lauda off the track the first time they faced off against one another. That rivalry spills over from the track as the two engage in name-calling and spar in the press.
In the 1976 season Lauda seems unstoppable, a sure bet to reclaim his World Champion title. Then tragedy strikes as Lauda is badly burned in a fiery crash. During his recuperation Hunt rises in the ranks, leading to a showdown, just 50 days after Lauda’s accident, for the World Championship at the Japan Grand Prix.
“Rush” is more than “Rocky” on four wheels, it’s an exhilarating, stylish film with pedal-to-the-metal verve.
10. The Sapphires: The year is 1968. Dave Lovelace is an English (Chris O’Dowd) piano player with a love for Otis Redding and booze. While hosting a talent show in remote Australia hosting he discovers three sisters, Cynthia (Miranda Tapsekll), Gail (Deborah Mailman), Julie (Jessica Mauboy), with amazing voices but a tired country and western style repertoire. Adding cousin Kay (Shari Sebbens) as background singer and dance captain, he molds them into the Australian Supremes and gets them their first gigs—in Vietnam singing for the troops.
“The Sapphires” is a feel good movie that succeeds despite the cliché story. It’s based—one imagines very loosely based—on a true story, but make no mistake, this is a Hollywood-ized (filtered through an Australian sensibility) version of the tale.
Authenticity aside, it’s the performances and the music that make “The Sapphires” worth a look. We first noticed O’Dowd on this side of the Atlantic as the charming love interest in “Bridesmaids.” He brings it again in “The Sapphires,” mixing roguish appeal with bang on comic timing.
“The Sapphires” is a slight, but entertaining take on the effect of music to change people’s lives.
11. The To Do List: High school valedictorian Brandy Klark (Aubrey Plaza) is an overachiever. She’s the publisher of her own magazine, Women With a Y, a straight A student with a full scholarship to Georgetown University and has a Perfect Attendance certificate proudly hanging on her wall.
She’s also a virgin, a status she hopes to change soon with the help of Rusty Waters (Scott Porter), a college surfer stud with a perfect smile. Attacking her new project with the gusto that won her accolades in school, she gets the advice of friends and family (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Alia Shawkat, Sarah Steele and Rachel Bilson) and makes up a “to do” list, applying the same zeal that made her a mathlete to losing her virginity.
Telling the story from a female point of view is a nice turnaround from the usual boycentric sex comedy story.
“The To Do List” is endearingly off-kilter, a different take on the “Porky’s” style of sexual coming-of-age stories usually that are usually headlined by the male members of the cast. I wish it was a bit shorter—did they really need 100 minutes to tell this story?—and a bit funnier, but for anyone who came of age just as The New Kids on the Block were calling it quits (for the first time) there is much to enjoy here.
12. Warm Bodies: Nicholas Hoult plays R (pronounced “arrgghhgghh”), an existential zombie who wants more out of life… or death, or whatever it is you call his current state. “Why can’t I connect with people?” he wonders in the narration. “Why is my posture so bad? Of yeah, I’m dead.” There’s been a plague of some sort which has left him and most of the population hungry for brains, while the sole human survivors live behind a giant wall.
Zombies and humans alike are terrified of the Bonies—evolved zombies who’ll eat anything with a heartbeat. “So will I,” says R, “but at least I’m conflicted about it.”
On a feeding trip R encounters a team of humans on the search for supplies. One zombie attack later he has eaten the brains of Perry (Dave Franco). When he gets a glimpse of Perry’s girlfriend Julie (Teresa Palmer) he loses his appetite. Perry’s memories come flooding into R’s zombie brain and he begins to feel something he hasn’t felt for a long time—human emotions.
It’s “Walking Dead” meets “Romeo and Juliet” with a twist—it just might be that love and hope can still set hearts a flutter, even ones that haven’t beaten in a while.
Any movie with the line, “I know it’s really hard to meet guys now… in the apocalypse and everything,” is OK by me.
13. You’re Next: On the occasion of their parents 35th wedding anniversary the Davidson kids and assorted wives, girl and boy friends gather at a remote Tudor mansion—is there any other type in these kinds of movies?—to enjoy dinner and one another, but instead end up in a fight for their lives. Only one of the guests, Erin (Sharni Vinson), has the know-how to protect herself, but will it be enough?
It’s hard to discuss “You’re Next,” which had its world premiere at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival Midnight Madness program, without giving away a major plot twist, but I will say there is a Manson Family aspect to the story that really creeped me out. That plus the anxiety-inducing John Carpenter style score throbbing in the background and the “moist” sound effects accompanying the wet work. It’s all effective but it is the idea behind the movie that is truly disturbing.
There is a rawness to the filmmaking—and let’s just say that there are no future Meryl Streeps in the cast—that although there is very little actual gore, is chilling.
I don’t know what it says about my mental make-up, but I really liked “You’re Next.” It’s disturbing, violent and without any redeeming social value, but I enjoyed sitting in the theatre with my hands over my eyes, afraid of what I might see next. I’m not usually a fan of head trauma, but from what I saw as I peeked through my fingers, it works well.
Synopsis: From January to December 2013, hundreds of movies opened on our screens. We saw everything from American Hustle to Zero Charisma, from the ridiculous — 30 Nights of Paranormal Activity with the Devil Inside the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo — to the sublime — 12 Years a Slave. The Reel Guys watched a lot of bad movies this year so you don’t have to and saw many great ones to recommend. But some of the good flicks slipped by without finding an audience. This week they revisit some movies you may have missed but should take a look at.
Richard: Mark, Pain and Gain seemed to me like it couldn’t lose. Starring Dwayne Johnson, who was recently named 2013’s biggest money-making star, Mark Wahlberg and directed by Michael “big bucks” Bay, it was the funny-but-true story about a trio of greedy dumb criminals who kidnap a rich guy. It plays like an episode of CSI: Miami performed by the Three Stooges and should have done boffo box office, but for some reason it didn’t. What did you like that slipped through the cracks?
Mark: I loved Pain and Gain, and if anyone told me one of the best movies of the year would be directed by schlockmeister Michael Bay, I would take it as a sign of the upcoming apocalypse. Another overlooked gem to me was Trance, Danny Boyle’s genre buster. Is it about an art heist? Mind control? Sexual obsession? Revenge? Best to ask James McAvoy and Rosario Dawson, both in fine form, and in the case of Dawson, I do mean — ahem — fine form.
RC: Also in fine form were the giant robots and sea monsters in Pacific Rim. I know they always say about Hollywood that “nobody knows anything,” that you never know what will be a hit, but I thought the combo of Guillermo Del Toro, colossal sea beasts with an appetite for destruction and humungous rock ‘em, sock ‘em robots was a winner. It’s a supersize geek freak out that transports you back in time to wherever you were when you were lucky enough to see your first Godzilla movie.
MB: Sorry, Richard, to me, actual rock-em, sock-em robots are more interesting, and are better actors. Another undiscovered gem for me was Side Effects, Steven Soderbergh’s Hitchcockian mindbender from early winter. Starting off as a condemnation of the pharmaceutical industry, it turns a lot of corners and becomes a thrilling cerebral murder mystery. And Jude Law, no longer acting with his looks, is magnificent.
RC: Warm Bodies was essentially one joke — the zombie as a metaphor for awkward teenage love — but it’s a pretty good one and well performed. Too bad more people didn’t see it. The movie doesn’t exactly make sense, particularly if you’re a zombie fan of either the Romero or Walking Dead schools, but no matter how fast and loose it plays with the established mythology of the undead it’s still a new twist on an old form.
MB: Warm Bodies reminded me of Ricky Gervais’ Ghost Town in mood and had the same limitations of premise. A foreign film I thought was brilliant was China’s A Touch Of Sin, which interwove four stories Pulp-Fiction style about the new economy in China and its victims, often ending in sad violent episodes. Brilliant Richard.
Have a curious and curiouser Christmas with a copy of “Cabinet of Curiosities,” a new book from director Guillermo Del Toro.
From amazon.ca: Over the last two decades, writer-director Guillermo del Toro has mapped out a territory in the popular imagination that is uniquely his own, astonishing audiences with Cronos,Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, and a host of other films and creative endeavors. Now, for the first time, del Toro reveals the inspirations behind his signature artistic motifs, sharing the contents of his personal notebooks, collections, and other obsessions. The result is a startling, intimate glimpse into the life and mind of one of the world’s most creative visionaries. Complete with running commentary, interview text, and annotations that contextualize the ample visual material, this deluxe compendium is every bit as inspired as del Toro is himself.
Contains a foreword by James Cameron, an afterword by Tom Cruise, and contributions from other luminaries, including Neil Gaiman and John Landis, among others.
For someone who grew up watching Godzilla stomp his way through the major cities of the world, the idea of a sea monster large enough to use a battleship as a baseball bat is very exciting.
In Pacific Rim director Guillermo Del Toro presents the biggest movie monsters seen since the Blue Oyster Cult sang, “Oh no, there goes Tokyo, go go Godzilla!”
Pacific Rim’s monsters are direct descendants of the “kaiju” or strange beasts that became popular in the sci fi films produced by the Japanese company Toho in the 1950s and 60s. Most famous is the King of All Monsters, Godzilla—he even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame—the giant lizard who wreaked havoc in twenty-nine movies.
Rounding out Toho’s Big Five are a “Divine Moth” called Mothra, and a trio of kaiju named King Ghidorah, Mechagodzilla, and Rodan.
The first Godzilla film came in 1954. The story of an ancient dinosaur-like colossus created by American nuclear weapons testing, was inspired by a news story about the Lucky Dragon 5, a Japanese fishing boat contaminated after sailing too close to a U.S. nuclear test.
“Suitmation actor” Haruo Nakajima played the beast and could only walk thirty feet at a stretch in the 200-pound Godzilla suit. To create the monster’s fearful roars a audio engineers threw reverb on the sound of a resin-coated leather glove rubbed on the strings of a double bass.
Ten years after that movie King Ghidorah, a fearsome alien dragon, was created as Godzilla’s archenemy. In the script he is described as having “three heads, two tails, and a voice like a bell,” who travels to our planet in a magnetic meteorite. Equipped with nuclear fire breath, in the 1964 film Ghidorah The Three Headed Monster he devastates Japan until repelled by Godzilla, Rodan, and Mothra.
The following decade Mechagodzilla, Godzilla’s mechanical doppelgänger, was introduced in a movie originally called Godzilla vs. The Bionic Monster but was changed when the copyright holders for The Bionic Woman threatened to sue. Retitled Godzilla vs. the Cosmic Monster, it’s the first movie in the series to feature a laser “eye” beam.
Rodan, the 1956 kaiju movie about mutant pterosaurs and prehistoric insects who terrorize humanity, has two significant firsts. It was the first Japanese monster movie to be filmed in color, and, according to George Takei’s autobiography, was his debut as a professional actor.