Monday, March 12, 2012

Miguel Rodriguez of Monster Island Resort Chats with the Cafe About Kaijueiga Cinema

Miguel Rodriguez hosts the "online radio show that goes bump in the night!" at Monster Island Resort. You can also follow him on Twitter as @MnstrIsleResort. Today, Miguel talks with Rick about his passion for Kaijueiga films.

Rick: I suspect many Cafe readers are unfamiliar with the term "Kaijueiga." What does it mean and what is its origin?

Miguel: In Japanese, that would be loosely translated as “monster film,” “Kaiju” essentially meaning “monster” and “eiga”essentially meaning “film.” In the case of Godzilla and his ilk, there is also the term “Daikaijueiga,” which means “Giant monster film.”

Rick: I've heard about the different "eras" of Kaijueiga films. Can you define them for a novice like me?

Miguel: The names of the eras actually come from the reigning emperors of Japan, even if the years don’t completely fit. The Showa Era, or the reign of Emperor Hirohito, is used to describe the first 16 Godzilla films from Gojira in 1954 to Terror of MechaGodzilla in 1975. These are the films most Americans seem to remember when they think about Godzilla, since many of them were brought to the USA, care of American International Pictures. After the somber and metaphorical original film, the rest of this series increasingly became marketed to children.

Hirohito’s son Akihito succeeded the throne in 1989, thus beginning the Heisei Era of Japan. Although the first of the reboot Godzilla movies began in 1984, they are referred to as the Heisei Era for purposes of convenience, and only one of these seven films was released before 1989 anyway. The original 1954 Gojira is always the first film, but this series continues from there, completely ignoring the rest of the Showa Era. The Heisei Era has the most continuity, with recurring characters and references to events in previous films. This era began with Godzilla 1984 and ended with Godzilla Vs. Destroyah.

Finally, after the disastrous American Godzilla, the Millenium Series reboot began with Godzilla 2000and ended (so far) with Godzilla Final Wars in 2004. These six films (with only a couple of exceptions) reboot the series from the first film with almost every new release. Other than Godzilla Final Wars, this is probably the least tongue-in-cheek of the Godzilla Eras. Now, there is talk of a new American Godzilla film (cue me quaking in my boots).

Rick: If I wanted to see one representative film from each era, what would you recommend?

Miguel: The 1954 Gojira, in its true uncut Japanese form, is a must for any era. After that, I would say Mothra Vs. Godzilla for the Showa Era, Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah for the Heisei Era, and Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack for the Millenium Era.

Rick: What was your first introduction to Kaijueiga films?

Miguel: My dad took me to see Godzilla 1985 (as it was called in the US) when it was theatrically released. I’ve been hooked ever since, getting my fix as a kid from daytime reruns and library rentals. Of course, this means growing up with butchered American versions dubbed in English. When I was old enough to get my first job, I started hunting down rare VHS copies of the films. Believe it or not, the Heisei movies are still some of the hardest to find!

Rick: What are your three favorite Kaijueiga films and why?

Miguel: I will leave off the original Gojira because that goes without saying. I actually mentioned my favorites from each era in the above question, so I will give special mentions here. Destroy All Monsters (1968) is a must-see for any fans of DaikaijuEiga. They brought out almost every monster in the gallery for this one. It’s also where I get the name for my podcast The Monster Island Resort! Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla (1974) was one of the first I saw on television. I thought it was so exciting, and I still remember watching it fondly. It has some really cool monster battle moments! It is firmly in the Godzilla-is-a-superhero camp of films, and should be watched like one would watch the 60s Batman TV show. Finally, I will mention Godzilla Vs. Biollante (1989), which was an attempt to introduce an unfamiliar monster in the Heisei Era. I really love this monster, but unfortunately it was a box office disappointment so they rehashed familiar monsters for most of the series.

Thank you so much for the interview. I obviously love talking about giant monsters from Japan!


  1. This is such a fun and informative post, Miguel! I now have a name for the big monsters I have enjoyed on film: Daikaijueiga! I think Ghidorah was a formidable foe, especially with three heads to combat, and liked the idea of Gamera, the flying turtle. There are fun touches in the Gojira movies, too, like the singing Ito sisters (the Peanuts or Mothra twins). Thank you so much for sharing your love of Gojira with the Cafe!

  2. I always jump at the chance to talk about giant monsters! Ghidorah is a fast favorite among fans of the genre--what a memorable monster! Gamera's Showa run was very surreal fun. All of it is a little surreal, I suppose, which is a big part of the appeal for me. And yes, I do love the Peanuts!

  3. I grew up on the Showa Era films. They still hold a fond place in my heart. I still think Rodan was relegated to supporting player all too quickly. Mothra got a rebirth and Ghidorah starred in its own movies. So how come Rodan got the shaft? He got no respect!

  4. It's probably slightly obvious in this post that my greatest love is for the Showa Era films, as well. You bring up an interesting point about Rodan. I would like to have seen him get a bigger role in the series as a whole.

    You can take solace in the fact that he did premiere in his own film, while Toho decided to pad Ghidorah: Three Headed Monster with Godzilla, Mothra, and Rodan in order to ensure it would be more successful.

  5. What a splendid interview! I'm a fan of Godzilla and the daikaiju films. I agree that DESTROY ALL MONSTERS is a "must-see" and should be initiation for anyone interested in giant Japanese monsters. My favorite non-Godzilla daikaiju movie is WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS, if those fellas were considered daikaiju. And while I do understand people's fear of Gojira, I still think he looks pretty huggable, which is why, I suppose, he was sometimes aimed at children, including the animated series. Thanks to Rick and Miguel, and an extra thanks to Miguel for a wonderful website/podcast and for treating the big guy (and friends) with the respect he so richly deserves!

  6. Sarkoffagus (awesome name!),

    Thanks so much for the kind words! Made my day! I am a huge fan of War of the Gargantuas! Did you hear when Brad Pitt named it as an inspiration during the Oscars? I made this tongue-in-cheek podcast episode in response to that:

    Hope you enjoy!

  7. Miguel, was WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS originally intended as a sequel to FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD? I've read that in a couple of places and can see the similarity. I'm dating myself, but I saw GARGANTUAS theatrically in the early 1970s on a doubefeature with MONSTER ZERO. By the way, I always think Ghidorah (called Ghidrah in the US back then) was the "baddest" of the Toho monsters. Maybe it was just the three heads, but he always looked angry!

  8. Rick,

    Yes, War of the Gargantuas was a direct sequel to Frankenstein Conquers the World. In fact, the original title was Frankenstein's Monsters: Sanda Vs. Gaira. When AIP brought it stateside, they wanted to market it as a standalone, hence the title change.

    I actually love the title Godzilla Vs. Monster Zero. I like how it's explained to be Ghidorah by the Xian leader. In the US, Ghidorah was misspelled as Ghidrah for his first appearance in Ghidrah: The Three-Headed Monster. That stuck for a lot of people. In that film(in the original Japanese), you can clearly hear people pronouncing it Ghee-door-ah. I love how these things evolve. So fun!