Godzilla spawned a bunch of corny sequels with different nemeses like Mothra and Megalon, but I’d like to introduce a much superior one:




This is Bertha Mason. I adopted her from a guinea pig shelter (yes, those actually exist!) as a companion for Beaver, whom I introduced in a previous post.



Not Pigzilla.


Bertha’s not really into classic films. She prefers Nicholas Sparks adaptations. The Notebook is her favorite (also that one with Miley Cyrus). When she’s not binge-watching Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead, she likes to read James Patterson novels while jammin’ out to Kenny G. on her iPod.


Bertha chowing down mercilessly on a carrot train.

Bertha chowing down mercilessly on a carrot train.


Sadly, she and Beaver didn’t get along. He’s laid-back and Bertha has a dominant personality, so she drove him crazy (hence the name). Thanks to an unexpected new roommate, though, everything ended happily. But that’s for another post. Now back to the film.

godzilla_1954_poster_03The original Godzilla came like a kick in the gut for its target audience, which was still reeling from the Hiroshima disaster and operation Castle Bravo. Hydrogen bomb tests destroy a harmless sea creature’s natural environment. Radioactivity deforms it into a giant voracious monster that emerges on land to forage for food — i.e., humans, and a couple of cows. Daisuke Serizawa, the eye-patched scientist, refuses to kill it with his top-secret formula. Kyohei Yamane, a prominent archaeologist, wants to keep Godzilla alive for research … which would make sense if they had any way to contain it. Yamane’s daughter, Emiko, goes around crying (although it looks more like she’s trying not to laugh), and tripping at crucial running-away-from-Godzilla-moments.


Emiko and Daisuke observing The Oxygen Eliminator’s effects in pure terror.

I love the top-secret formula’s name: “The Oxygen Eliminator.” Serizawa insists it can be used for good … in spite of the fact that it removes oxygen from the environment and then liquefies its victims’ flesh. That kind of thinking happens when you’re holed up in a basement lab for years. Plus in its present form, he argues, it’ll be manipulated by politicians. Newsflash: nothing’s safe from that in any form. When the others attempt to persuade him to use it, he tries to destroy it — in a scene that reminded me of this great Mitchell and Webb skit:

I thought ———— SPOILER ALERT!!! ———– Serizawa’s sacrifice in the end was needless. They could have pulled him up with the rope after he detonated the Oxygen Eliminator. Maybe the producer was trying to make a point — the scientific community suffers when its discoveries are manipulated for personal gain.

Godzilla surprised me. I walked in expecting a goofy, B-type film with no substance, just shots of a monster terrorizing Tokyo. Instead I saw a sombre, dialogue-driven film denouncing war and atomic weapons. The acting is powerful, the dialogue thoughtful, and the special effects — for the most part — are impressive for the time. Godzilla depicts the toll weapons take on society, regardless of their shape. If ever there was a film promoting peace, this is it.

The Creature from the Black Lagoon

Liz: The Creature from the Black Lagoon is one of my favorite 1950s sci-fi/horror movies. It is a “must see” along with The War of the World, Forbidden Planet, and The Day the Earth Stood Still. When I say that it’s one of my favorites, it’s not because it’s a movie I want to watch over and over again, but because it’s unique (in my movie watching experience anyway), and memorable, particularly for someone who first saw it as a little girl. With a dangerous creature that comes back to life, a handsome hero and a lovely heroine, and the exotic setting in the Amazon, I couldn’t help but like it as a child. Even the title had a certain something to it. To this day, I think of the movie when I hear the word lagoon, and when I’m swimming, I think of Julie Adams swimming in the muddy Amazon—doing graceful backstrokes to be precise—and of course, the creature who might be lurking beneath her, its long claws reaching out for her.

When I watched the movie as an adult, I still enjoyed it and found it somewhat suspenseful. I was surprised to realize that Richard Carlson was the handsome hero. I’ve always associated with him with the quiet, absent-minded doctor in the Abbot and Costello movie Hold that Ghost.  I’ve seen him in several movies in the last few years, and I enjoyed his performances, but it still feels a little strange to see him as the bold, muscular hero instead of the mild-mannered, nearsighted, professor type.

Fun fact I found on IMDB: The creature (Gill Man) appeared in the “Love Comes to Mockingbird Heights” episode of The Munsters as Uncle Gilbert. (I remember seeing this episode now. It was cute. He wore a trench coat and hat.)

There is a sequel to The Creature from the Black Lagoon, called The Revenge of the Creature, in which the creature is captured and taken to an aquarium in Florida, but I didn’t care for it. As often happens, the first was better.

Jaz: Picture this: You’re a famed bilingual ichthyologist meandering through Brazil when you come across a human-like fossilized webbed hand sticking out of a rock. This could be a “missing link”! What do you do? Do you:

  1. Rush back to the Biological Institute and return with research equipment and a team of learned scientists
  2. Take photos, document, section off the area and report your findings to a scientific organization
  3. Yank the thing out of the rock with your bare hands and leave unarmed natives as guards in the Amazon jungle

If you guessed c, you’re right! This is correct scientific procedure, people.

Little does Dr. Maia, the famed ichthyologist, know that his discovery will lead to numerous deaths (First four are natives — natives are expendable), and also ruin a perfectly good swimsuit.

Blissfully ignorant, Dr. Maia eventually returns with his former student, Dr. David Reed, and Dr. Reed’s assistant/wannabe fiancé, Kay. Being a beautiful woman, she has no need of a degree, only a little field training and a pair of short shorts. Also, he brings the highly egotistical and mercenary lab head Mark Williams.

There’s some kind of vague love triangle insinuated here: Kay leads on Mark because she feels in his debt for her training, but really wants to marry David because they’ve been together for six whole months. Mark is possessive and David is annoyed. Kay just wants to show off her nice backstroke in her white swimsuit.

The creature is the only one who truly appreciates Kay’s backstroke and kidnaps her. This of course suggests that a female version of the creature exists, but we never see a second creature, which begs the question: is this the last of the species? Or can it reproduce asexually?

Anyway. The creature is smitten and traps them in the lagoon, creating panic on board. How are they to escape?

This film left me with a few unanswered questions as well, such as: how did the actor in the creature suit manage to swim in that thing? Why would anyone swim into creature-infested Amazonian waters in the dead of night wearing only swim trunks? And, where can I buy that white swimsuit?

The Creature from the Black Lagoon is a genuine horror classic. It’s cheesy, suspenseful and quite artistic, especially in the underwater scenes. Along with The Blob, it’s the perfect Halloween film.

And yes, I did draw that header image.