Godzilla’s Revenge (1969)

Composed by: Kunio Miyauchi

No film in the Godzilla series, outside of the 1998 American bastardization, has drawn as much revilement as Godzilla’s Revenge (titled All Monsters Attack in Japan). The plot centers around Ichiro, a little lower-class boy who escapes his dreary existence by fantasizing adventures on Monster Island. There he hangs out with Godzilla’s son Minya, watching a series of stock footage battles from other island-centric entries. Minya and Godzilla teach him how to stand up to bullies. Fans hate it for its obvious kid-oriented tone and lack of original monster footage. It’s doubly worse for Minya’s detractors, as the little tyke now talks as well (in the American cut he has a Barney Rubble voice). Fans also tend to hate the villain, a goofy looking creature called Gabara who likes to torment Minya. Oddly enough it was directed by the highly respected Ishiro Honda. Honda even thought it was a pretty good film, his claim being that it was socially relevant and valuable for children.

The music doesn’t help out much. It reflects the kiddie tone all too well. “Monster March,” the main theme, doubles as an obnoxious song sung by an aggressive-sounding girl named Lily Sasaki (I think it’s a girl based on the name). The instrumental versions back Godzilla’s battles, as well as Ichiro’s real-life getaway from a pair of crooks. Ichiro himself has a cutesy kid theme (“Alongside the Tracks on the Way Home”). To Miyauchi’s credit he puts it through multiple variations, including a lullaby in “Dawdling Away the Time” and electronics in “Ichiro and the Bully”. Overall the music, like the film itself, seems rushed. Everything between the two themes sounds incidental and the instrumentation is a far cry from Ifukube’s orchestra or Satoh’s big band style. I guess the music matches the film pretty well, but the cutesy moments really do make it all the more insufferable. I guess if one dislikes the music that much, the complete score itself is less than half an hour so there is that.

Rating: 2/10

  1. Monster March I – sung by Lily Sasaki
  2. Monster March II – sung by Lily Sasaki
  3. Alongside The Tracks On The Way Home
  4. Dawdling Away the Time
  5. Message from Mother
  6. “The Love Assignment”
  7. Ichiro Heads Off to Monster Island
  8. Godzilla vs. Gimantis
  9. The Monsters of Monster Island
  10. The Monsters of Monster Island
  11. The Encounter with Minya
  12. The Appearance of Gabara
  13. Ichiro And The Local Bully
  14. One Devastated Building After Another
  15. The Strange Vines
  16. Back to Monster Island
  17. Gabara Attacks
  18. Reunion with Minya
  19. Godzilla vs. Ebirah
  20. Godzilla vs. Spiga
  21. Minya vs. Gabara I
  22. Minya’s Lesson
  23. Minya vs. Gabara II
  24. Minya’s Unusual Strategy
  25. Godzilla vs. Gabara
  26. Live Alone, Fight Alone
  27. The Robber Approaches
  28. Ichiro Gets Busy
  29. “I Can’t Stand Bullies”
  30. Ending
  31. Monster March I (Karaoke Version)
  32. Monster March II (Karaoke Version)
  33. Monster March (Record Version/Karaoke)
  34. Monster March (Record Version)

Destroy All Monsters (1968)

Akira Ifukube - Destroy All Monsters (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) =  怪獣総進撃 (2003, CD) | Discogs

Composed by: Akira Ifukube

Destroy All Monsters was thought up as a possible grand climax for the Godzilla series. Starring 11 monsters (actually, a few of them only register as cameos), the film once again sees aliens mind-control monsters to take over the Earth. When I was a kid I was stoked to see this movie, but was greatly disappointed. Too much time is spent on humans fighting aliens and most of the monsters don’t do much until the final battle. I would say it’s a middling effort, not good enough to be a true classic and yet not silly or terrible enough to stand with the great corny entries. Much of Godzilla’s more revered crew was brought back, among them director Ishiro Honda and composer Akira Ifukube.

As with Monster Zero Ifukube breaks out the Godzilla and Rodan themes a lot for the destruction scenes, though there are other monsters who join in on the fun in these scenes. Ghidorah’s theme also makes a return for “Major Battle at Fuji.” The female alien Kilaaks are given the same motif as Monster Zero’s Xiliens (along with the theremin), though Ifukube does freshen it up with alterations. One version I like is “Escape from Monster Land,” where the motif serves as the start of an action piece. The end of this piece is the same as the end of Rodan’s theme, though this might be a coincidence. “Main Title” introduces the Monster Land motif, for the island where all the monsters are being contained. Some of this material is worked into the opening of “Ending” and also appears when the monsters gather in “The Monsters Pow-Wow on Earth.”

The one theme everybody knows form this film is the military march. It kicks off the film in “Main Title” and appears throughout the film for the humans’ heroic efforts. It’s heroic, but has a harder edge than the previous films “Monster War March.” Reportedly a theatrical rerun of this film a decade later had the audience stamping their feet to the music. “Remote Control Destruction!” is an incredible cue not because it’s great, but because despite being well under a minute its energetic repetitive nature makes it feel much longer. Another cue of note is “SY-3”, which at 0:18 has another march that would later be incorporated into the Godzilla March over twenty years later.

Destroy All Monsters is a solid entry. Once again Ifukube is working with pre-established monsters characters and ideas so he doesn’t create a whole lot of new themes and motifs, but he’s good at what he does. Ironically, the film’s failure to provide monster action results in less repetition in the monster cues. The score’s strongest selling point is its new military march as well as nifty suspense music. After this entry the musical landscape for Godzilla would go all over the place as the series was continued to diminishing box office results.

Rating: 7/10

Tracklisting

  1. The Toho Mark/Main Title
  2. Title Credits
  3. Monster Land
  4. The Lunar Base I
  5. Unusual Change on Monster Island
  6. The Lunar Base II
  7. SY-3
  8. The Unmanned Subterranean Center
  9. The Kilaak Starmen I
  10. Escape from Monster Land
  11. The Unknown Metal
  12. Discovery of the Monster Controls
  13. Rodan Comes Flying
  14. The 4 Monsters Attack Tokyo
  15. The Missile War to Protect the Capital
  16. Ruins
  17. Godzilla & Angilas vs. The Defense Corps
  18. Radon in Pursuit
  19. The Kilaak Starmen II
  20. The Lunar Base and SY-3
  21. SY-3 Sortie
  22. The Expedition Vehicle Breaks Through
  23. The Kilaaks’ Essence
  24. Remote Control Destruction!
  25. The Monsters Pow-wow on Earth
  26. Major Battle at Fuji I
  27. Major Battle at Fuji II
  28. Destruction of the Subterranean Dome
  29. Fire Dragon Pursuit
  30. Ending

Son of Godzilla (1967)

Son of Godzilla (Soundtrack) | Gojipedia | Fandom

Composed by: Masaru Satoh

The Godzilla series was continued in another island adventure. This time humans are trying to find a way to control the weather. Their experiments have the side effects of enlarging some of the wildlife to create Gimantises and the monster spider Spiga (Kumonga in some versions). It just so happens that a baby Godzilla, named Minya, hatches on the same island, and Godzilla finds himself having to defend the infant from the giant bugs (while also frustratedly trying to get his son to breathe fire). Minya is a divisive character. Some think him a cute character who contributed to Godzilla’s character development, but plenty of others find him obnoxious and insufferable. I find myself in the middle of the debate. I’m not a massive fan of his, but I don’t cringe from his mere presence. Son of Godzilla overall is a very fun romp, and Satoh’s score is a large contributor.

Satoh is much stronger on his themes here. The theme for the titular character is a pretty cutesy piece that may not be pleasant for the character’s detractors. This theme open up “Main Title,” which switches over to an adventure theme. A popular tune is that for the Gimantises, which has a mischievous jazzy beat. There are menacing strings interwoven to remind listeners these creatures do pose a threat, though they are no match for Godzilla. One theme that is all menace is a simple eerie rhythm for Spiga. This is probably one of the creepiest themes I’ve ever heard and really sets the monster up as a true threat. Ironically Godzilla has the weakest theme. Satoh was probably attempting to create a theme that was not too villainous or too heroic. Godzilla is by no means a protector of humanity in this film, but his protection of Minya puts him in a protagonist role. The theme works better as an action motif in cues like “Parent Godzilla Comes to Shore” and “Godzilla vs. Kumonga,” where it plays at a faster pace. Satoh does do some theme mixing where the rhythm of Godzilla’s theme merges with Minya’s cutesy theme in “Godzilla and Minya II”.

The humans have a couple motifs of their own. “Visitor from the Sky” has a goofy light-hearted motif with similarities to Minya’s theme. The motif for island girl Psycho, a brief romantic melody, is stronger. I would hesitate to categorize it as a love theme, as like most entries in the Godzilla franchise there is no strong love story. “The Island’s Misery” introduces a suspenseful motif for the island itself, appropriately negative due to its sweltering heat and abundance of mutated wildlife. The music between the themes is more on the level of Sea Monster, with tropical and jazzy bits. The strongest non-thematic highlight is “Ending.” Its first part is a forlorn and subdued motif, with a lonely horn driving the mood home at 1:08. The mood changes at 1:25, where the music crescendos in a heartfelt manner. The rest of the track is highly emotional, one of the best concluding pieces ever composed for a Godzilla film.

Masaru Satoh finally produced a real quality score with this one. He created a much more identifiable and for the most part catchy set of themes. The only issue is that Godzilla’s majesty isn’t evident, but much of the blame can be put on the nature of the film itself. Satoh’s music in this period was certainly fitting for the lower-budget island Godzilla films. Seeing as how he hit his stride here, it’s unfortunate he was not called back for some of the future goofball entries like Godzilla’s Revenge and Godzilla vs. Megalon.

Rating: 8/10

Tracklisting

  1. Opening
  2. Main Title
  3. The Sherbet Plan
  4. Visitor from the Sky
  5. The Uninvited Guest
  6. The Giant Praying Mantis
  7. The Young Girl From Zorugeru Island
  8. Preparing for the Experiment
  9. The Frozen Sonde I
  10. The Synthetic Radioactive Sonde I
  11. The Island’s Misery
  12. Gimantis
  13. The Appearance of the Egg
  14. The Silhouette on the Tree
  15. The Birth of Minya
  16. Parent Godzilla Comes Ashore
  17. Psycho and Minya
  18. Shinjo and Psycho
  19. Godzilla and Minya I
  20. Godzilla and Minya II
  21. Night on Zorugeru Island
  22. The Hot Red Marsh
  23. The Research Team’s Impatience
  24. Psycho’s Crisis
  25. Minya vs. Gimantis
  26. The Appearance of Spiga
  27. Preparing to Escape
  28. Minya vs. Spiga
  29. Preparing for the Final Experiment
  30. The Frozen Sonde II
  31. The Synthetic Radioactive Sonde II
  32. Godzilla vs. Spiga
  33. Snow Falls on the Tropical Island
  34. Ending

Godzilla vs. Monster Zero (1965)

Invasion of Astro-Monster (Soundtrack) | Gojipedia | Fandom

Composed by: Akira Ifukube

In 1965 the idea of aliens and space adventures was not new to Toho, being a central element in several non-Godzilla films. Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster, while having no actual aliens aside from the titular space dragon, did have one of its characters possessed by the psychic energy of a Venusian survivor (Martian in the American cut). This made Godzilla vs. Monster Zero (also known as Invasion of the Astro-Monster) the first of many times the Big G would come up against extraterrestrials. Inhabitants of Planet X agree to give Earth the cure for cancer in exchange for using Godzilla and Rodan to drive off Monster Zero, revealed as King Ghidorah. Of course, they are not as benevolent as they seem and the monsters are used as pawns in a bid for conquest. The human drama in this film is good for a Godzilla film (Nick Adams actually puts in a decent performance as an American astronaut), but I don’t find the overall movie as strong as its predecessors. The final battle itself is just a shorter rematch from the previous film sans Mothra. Continue reading

Ghidorah: The Three-Headed Monster (1964)

Ghidorah, The Three Headed Monster Original Soundtrack - YouTube

Composed by: Akira Ifukube

Right off the heels of two cross-over successes, Toho went further, combining Godzilla, Mothra, and Rodan, a popular giant pterosaur. This time, though, the three monsters would eventually have to stop fighting each other and instead focus on taking down the three-headed space dragon King Ghidorah. King Ghidorah is one of the most iconic Godzilla foes. Towering over the Big G, he is armed with laser beams, powerful wings, and an eerie cackling sound. Ghidorah was a turning point in the franchise, where it started to move in a goofy direction. The monsters are much more humanized. One scene even has Mothra’s fairies narrating a three-sided conversation, in which Mothra comes off like a school counselor and Godzilla and Rodan two troublesome kids. That being said, it’s still a strong entry with one of the best monster battles of the series. Continue reading

Godzilla Raids Again

Godzilla Raids Again (Soundtrack) | Gojipedia | Fandom

Composed by: Masaru Satoh

Following the smash critical and financial success of the first Godzilla film, Toho quickly threw out a sequel to capitalize on moviegoers’ fresh memory. The result was a far inferior film absent of its predecessor’s depth and emotional impact. I don’t consider Godzilla Raids Again to be the worst Godzilla film, but it is the most boring. The plot kicks off when pilots for a fishing company stumble upon two giant monsters. They and their friends and co-workers thereafter find their lives interrupted by monster attacks. This film introduced Godzilla’s first monster opponent, fellow mutant dinosaur Anguirus, but (spoiler) he dies before the last act. The rest of the movie is a bunch of daily drama involving the human characters, until Godzilla appears for a slow-paced fight with planes. I fault the rushed production for the lackluster nature of the film, as the focus on giant monsters disrupting the lives and careers of ordinary workingmen is a neat concept. Continue reading

The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Composed by: Howard Shore

The third installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Return of the King, became the third movie to win eleven academy awards. While the battle scenes are fun and there is no shortage of great moments regarding the characters, I find Return of the King to be a little overrated and undeserving of a couple of the Oscars (though some of those Oscars were awarded for the whole trilogy rather than just the last film). A few attempts at adding drama came as forced deviations from Tolkien’s story and themes. The ending is permeated with overdrawn slow-motion scenes of Hobbits crying or staring at something, which drove some audience members out of their minds.

The music, however, is the best of the trilogy. Howard Shore really earned his Oscar with this one. But if you want a good album, you’re going to have to shell out the money for the complete recordings, because the original release lacks some really good parts.  Before diving into the two releases, it would be good to get into some of the new major themes, or rather themes present in earlier films and only now developed to their full potential. The Gondor theme, which appeared in small bits in the first two films, is finally revealed in its full grandeur. Shore could have used it more, as part of the city was even seen early in the first film, but chose to reserve its full-fledged appearance for the last act. It’s a big, heroic fanfare for the greatest civilization confronting Sauron’s forces. The Gondor theme first caught major attention through a prominent rendition in the trailer. Its appearances in the film months later did not disappoint. Powerful usage at the end of “Minas Tirith” and in the beacons lighting scene immediately marked it as one of the greatest musical identities in the series. I recently read and confirmed that some versions of the theme even incorporate Aragorn’s ascending motif. Continue reading

Dinosaur

Composed by: James Newton Howard

Towards the tail-end of its Renaissance era, Disney released an ambitious fully CGI dinosaur film simply titled Dinosaur. Visually the film is great, but the story and characters are so clichéd and predictable that it becomes a surprisingly forgettable experience. It’s telling that the best part of the movie is the first five or so minutes, where there is no dialogue. The plot itself concerns an orphaned Iguanodon named Aladar who is raised by lemurs. Displaced by the meteor that supposedly wiped out the dinosaurs, he teaches a herd of migrating herbivores on how to work as a team. One of the positives is James Newton Howard’s score, featuring some of the best music of his career. Howard had a brief tenure as a lead composer for Disney as it shifted towards non-musical action-adventure films. While he does not have the songs to make his scores iconic, I have to say that the actual instrumental scores are generally superior to Alan Menken’s. Continue reading

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Composed by: Howard Shore

J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy epic Lord of the Rings was for a long time considered unfilmable. The key issue was the length and scope of the book trilogy. In fact it was meant to be one book and was only released as a trilogy when publishers didn’t want to overwhelm readers with a 1,000 page tome. Film studios on the other hand were wary of committing to three movies, especially if the first one bombed. The story was also impossible to squeeze into one film, a feat that many rejected screenplays attempted. Finally New Line Cinema took a chance, having Peter Jackson simultaneously direct three movies. The series succeeded expectations and now studios have the bad habit of releasing open-ended movies in anticipation of a film series.

Lord of the Rings is about a powerful ring which is trying to be returned to its owner, the dark lord Sauron. The only way to destroy it is to cast it into the volcano where it was forged. The half-sized Hobbit Frodo is tasked with this, and is helped by fellow Hobbits, men, elves, dwarves, and even the wizard Gandalf the Gray. I regard the first film as the best, likely because the source material was easier to adapt. There were less opportunities for questionable deviations. It is also the one with Sean Bean’s Boromir, the only element in the films to be superior to its book counterpart. Continue reading

Van Helsing

Van Helsing by Alan Silvestri on Amazon Music - Amazon.com

Composed by: Alan Silvestri

Following up his Mummy sequel, Stephen Sommers moved on to Universal’s European stable of horror figures. The result, Van Helsing, is more of a superhero action flick, devoid of any true horror elements. The overstuffed plot is about a member of the legendary vampire-hunting family, Gabriel van Helsing, and his war against Dracula. However, he most also contend with Mr. Hyde, several Werewolves, Frankenstein’s Monster, and even the lab assistant Igor. Alan Silvestri also re-partnered with Sommers moving away from his adventurous, desert-tinged Mummy material to a gothic action extravaganza. Continue reading