It’s funny, but the 1950s/'60s Godzilla franchise is a huge part of our lives here, and yet I haven’t written about it until now! It might be because I found it daunting in its hugeness, but that was before I actually gave it more than two minutes of thought. Once I did that, I realized the best thing to do is tell you why we love ‘em and how far you can go with this genre. (The short answer to that last part is: to about 1972.)
Again, I must mention that my husband is a huge fan of monster and horror films in many guises (the more low budget and unknown, the better), but these in particular have always struck a chord with him, and he once dreamed of having a kid who loves them as he does. And gee, his dream has come true (not without a little work!). K’s idea of a good time with dad is watching Godzilla vs. the Seamonster. I’m sure this will change sooner than we want to admit.
The Godzilla films and their many spinoffs begin, of course, with the original Godzilla (1954), from which all the others came. The key thing about these movies (for inquiring parents) is that they are for the most part, pretty innocuous, with crude special effects and monsters that are kind of lovable in their primitive renderings. (In one film, Godzilla does a little victory dance after battle with one of his nemisises, and the moves are now a staple in our house. It’s crazy cute.) When you’re dealing with younger kids, it certainly helps to see the strings attached to flying gigantic moths, or to point out that Godzilla is really just a guy in a rubber suit (ok, only go there if you really need to).
Another positive is consistency. There are consistent themes throughout that look pretty much like this:
- The movies are dubbed, clumsily, in English
- Cites will be stomped on and crushed
- There will be fire
- The armies of the world are incredibly inaccurate when it comes to big guns and missiles
- Godzilla is usually a good guy
- There will be scenes of panic and running in the streets
- Surprisingly, there is often a smart, attractive woman helping the scientist/army guy/genius figure out what to do
These things can be counted on in the genre.
So you always know, pretty much, what you’re going to get with one of these movies. Even the offshoot films, like All Monsters Attack!, follow the same basic formula, and have the same lovably cheesy quality (D would strongly disapprove of the word “cheesy” here).
You know your kids better than anybody, so using this basic knowledge about the films’ content, you should be pretty well armed to decide if these are appropriate for your seven- or nine-year old. (For the record, I believe K started watching these with us at about age seven.)
Now, the caveat is that you don’t want to go too far into the ‘70s, and certainly not into the ‘80s.
(Wait, let me clarify: you can wander, at your own risk, of course, but we did a couple of times, and just FYI, we regretted it at least once. Things tend to get dicier in terms of language, innuendo and, later, in more intense violence.)
Here is a list of films that worked well in our household (yeah, we’ve seen all of these!):
Gojira, or Godzilla (1954) Japanese version, without Raymond Burr
Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (1956) American edit, with Raymond Burr (many say the original is the better film)
Return of Godzilla or Godzilla’s Counterattack (1955)
King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)
Godzilla vs. Mothra (1964)
Godzilla vs. Monster Zero ( (1965)
Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster (1966)
Godzilla’s Revenge (1969)
Son of Godzilla (1967)
Godzilla vs. Smog Monster (1972)
Gamera Return of the Giant Monsters (1966)
Gamera vs. Monster X (1967)
All Monsters Attack (1969)
Ok, that's a lot to chew on, for now. I have a feeling there are some other Japanese monster movies I've missed, so I'll consult D and see if we have some gaps to fill in.
There are a couple of titles here that the guys have watched twice now, so believe me when I say they have a huge fun factor built in.