In honor of Film Forum's upcoming showing of the original, uncut Japanese verison of Godzilla, we bring you an interview with the big fella conducted by Dave Tompkins. Like 'Zilla, Tompkins is seven steps ahead of science and several leagues outside of time. (A shorter transcription of this interview appears in the new issue of Arthur, as well as an interview with Devendra Banhart, who would likely not fight with a moth. It is a beautiful world that can accomodate them both.)
WHAT IF GODZILLA WAS ONE OF US?
Known for his bad sense of direction, Godzilla, “King of Monsters,” was recently spotted lumbering around Long Island, insisting to bewildered local officials that he was on “Monster Island,” asking where the hell was Rodan and in general making a big mess of things. Apparently, the Kaju Eiga legend hadn’t been notified that local mecha-faced rapper MF Doom had transferred the title of God’s former stomping ground to Long Island--the New York suburb known for its tasteful lawn furniture, cracked toenail polish and a crew of rappers called Monster Island Czars. Confused but flattered, Godzilla was in good spirits when Arthur correspondent Dave Tompkins found him in Doom’s backyard, resting comfortably in an orange floral lounger and popping Beta-capsules. After an unprecedented 50 years in the monster game, Godzilla is finally retiring. Under a bruised sky, the bomb-born icon reflected on his career, quoted Public Enemy and marveled at how he nearly had his ass whooped by a moth.
Q: Godziller, wake up.
G: I dreamt I was a 400 foot tall black guy having sex with a volcano, a very active Mount Fuji.
Q: That was Chapelle's Show.
G: He was Blackzilla.
Q: You’re everywhere.
G: Baseball pitchers, Parliament bass players. I can’t be mad at that.
Q: Paul Hogan spoofed you too.
G: An atomic drunk Australian in flip flops, crumpling Foster cans.
Q: Booming burps upon the people.
G: If you're that large, you don't burp—you eructate.
Q: If you wear flip flops, you burp.
G: I could use some flip flops. I've been walking all over towns for half a century and my gods are barking.
Q: The same gods that squashed Bambi in Godzilla Vs Bambi.
G: Whambi. And just like that, I'm wearing fawn flops.
Q: But that didn't really happen.
G: Of course not, it was animated.
Q: Have all the documentaries been accurate?
G: Not really. Them bones at the end of the first one Inoshiro Honda did in 1954 weren't me. And if Dr. Serizawa had really deoxidized the ocean, we'd be shit out of fish. At least he immolated himself so his invention couldn't be inflicted on humans. Nice touch. Japanese version only.
Q: The US version woke you with a Hydrogen bomb instead of the A-bomb.
G: The Japanese version wasn't intended to be anti-American, just anti-nuclear. What destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki merely got me out of bed. The bomb gave me the starting nod. Something's really wrong with that. I'm a constant reminder of one of history's darkest moments. Talk about guilt and a military industrial god complex. It's confusing. I could be defending Tokyo and the next thing I know they're popping peashooters. Bullets sting like sweat bees and my feelings get hurt. Then I find it was the Americans who initiated the atomic testing. They woke me up. Like that Pharoah Monche song that says "Get the fuck up!"
Q: Right, "Simon Says," the one that sampled your theme music.
G: They got my horn section. Actually they got the composer's horn section—Akira Ifukube. Monsters would kill for a horn section like that. Dun-dun-dun-dun! How could I not tromp Tokyo?
Q: And The Roar. Sounds like two rusty frigates slow dancing.
G: Again, Ifukube, rubbing a resin-coated leather glove against a contra-bass. It's on the Godzilla Alarm clock.
Q: So you woke up and started swinging at Japan.
G: Japan was close and convenient. It was instinctive. I was groggy. Grogzilla. Can you be instinctive and groggy?
Q: A groggy man's instinct is to not look where he's walking.
Q: Or go back to sleep.
G: And they woke me up.
Q: To meet your metaphor.
G: To mash my makers.
Q: They made you a star.
G: Loved, feared, merchandised. Maybe I helped Japan economically avenge itself. But they didn't need me to crush GM. There’s a Nissan named after me now.
Q: Faster than Fast Eddie.
G: I'll step on it. Where do you watch me crush Tokyo?
Q: On a Sony Trinitron.
G: Not some GE jankasaurus.
Q: Japan is very forgiving of you.
G: I'll never be able to set foot in some towns again.
Q: Like the island of Odo?
G: (Snort) I feel bad about that. I was looking for the island from Attack Of The Mushroom People. Imagine taking a global economic center while on toadstools. It would've looked like tinker town.
Q: Now kids can be giants and stomp their Godzilla models.
G: The tables turn.
Q: Suckers burn to learn.
G: They can't disable the power of my fable.
Q: The Godzilla legend lives on eBay and DVD.
G: It's crazy, right? Use your Godzilla Calculator to add up all the damage. Estimated 6 trillion yen just in Godzilla 1985 alone.
Q: Too bad the movie didn't rake in—
G: Watch it!
Q: I haven't...
G: You should!
Q: ...the time.
G: Next question.
Q: You've been lionized by the very culture you destroy.
G: I'm king of the beasts. At least I've defended the world from Ghidra—the three headed garden hose gone wild.
Q: And Monster Zero.
G: Who's got zilch on me.
Q: Godzilla's got jokes for the folks.
G: You've got to when the United Nations Godzilla Countermeasures Center is funding all this Mecha-mitsubullshit. And I get blamed for every oversized space cricket that craps in a crater. I wasn't the one who defrosted that giant grasshopper in the arctic.
Q: That was a mantis.
G: That's the thing—
Q: No, mantis.
G: No the thing is...
G: The Godzilla Vs The Thing thing?
Q: The caterpillar?
G: That's the Thing before The Thing.
Q: Before the winged Thing.
Q: But James Arness was the first Thing...
G: That’s my Thing.
Q: The Thing From Another World.
G: ...thawed from a block of ice
Q: like the giant mantis.
G: You say mantis, I say locust—whatever. One man’s plague of bad movies is another man’s childhood. Meanwhile every A-Bomb boob in a monkey suit wants to knuckle up with me.
Q: You still talk to Kong?
G: Sometimes. We're cool with each other. It's kind of like professional wrestling, minus the bad hair and fake moves. I don’t think Kong should get back in the ring. It reminds me of when OJ played for the 49ers with his shot-up knees. Kong and I've had great seasons but, I dunno. My knees are in a bad interarticular space right now.
Q: Kong kicked your tail huh?
G: Kong grabbed my tail and threw me across Tokyo.
Q: Helicopter spin!
G: Sometimes it doesn't pay to have a tail.
Q: Kong doesn't have a tail.
G: Kong is paid.
Q: So it ended in a draw.
G: It ended in the ocean.
Q: And Kong won.
G: If you buy the American version.
Q: The only version I had.
G: You got had.
Q: In the Japanese version, Kong surfaces in the water but we hear you roar.
G: Hear me roar!
Q: Did Kong roar?
G: Kong didn't have the pipes.
Q: What started the beef between you and Kong anyway?
G: It started when Kong clobbered that Tyrannosaurus at Skull Island back in '33. That Rex was my prototype, minus the isotopes. Plus Kong was salty that I was labeled "King of the Monsters" without being tested.
Q: But you were atomically tested.
G: Still, Kong wasn't trying to share his crown when he thought he could whoop Leroy Brown's junkyard dog's ass.
Q: So it was a title thing. Tohos before bros.
G: Also, I'm Gojira—Japanese for gorilla. So I'm Gorilla, King of the Monsters. That’s funny. That really enriches my uranium. What a Donkey Kong dumbass. Actually, I'm supposed to be this monkey whale combo.
Q: And you don't see Orca bitching about that.
G: Because Orca's dead.
Q: My bad.
G: So, you have Kong, Malay god of Skull Island, billed against Me, the Manhattan Projectile Ray Leonard. Still, Kong taught me a lot. That flying drop-kick I used on Megalon? All Kong. Nothing mamby Bambi about that. And Kong learned it from Willis O' Brien, the great stop motion animator who "created" him, if you will.
Q: Sure, don't mind at all.
G: Anyway, Willis 'Obie' O' Brien, in addition to being a genius who mentored Ray Harryhausen, was a big boxing fan. He trained Kong as this pugilist.
Q: Who had a problem with dinosaurs?
G: Maybe it was a mammal reptile thing, I don't know. I always resented being tagged a mutant dinosaur. Dinosaurs are stigmatized as old folks, broken down bulldozers and purple pills. If Peter Lorre can be down with the Flintstones…
Q: I was never scared of dinosaurs.
G: But you're scared of me.
Q: Not all monsters are bad.
G: It got too cute, didn't it? Gamera, the Flying Turtle. Mothra and the Peanuts Sisters.
Q: Mothra was female. She was good-natured and wasn't played by a guy in a rubber suit.
G: It's beHEmoth, not beSHEmoth.
Q: Dude, it’s not 1954 any more.
G: But fighting a moth!
Q: Her larva silked you up and you fell off.
G: I fell off a cliff. Talk about bad threads.
Q: More like a dud.
G: Watch it!
Q: I did!
G: I was impressed with Mothra as a caterpillar, in a Monster That Challenged The World kind of way. But they should've hired the amazing Mooncalf from First Men In The Moon. Now there's a caterpillar!
Q: Yeah, Mothra never really scared me. Neither did Kong for that matter.
G: Don't let Kong hear you say that. His new manager, the hobbit guy, knows there's a lot of qualified monsters out there, chomping for a comeback. Remember how Gorgo took London.
Q: That took the cake.
G: Gorgonzola cheese.
Q: The Ymir took Rome.
G: Reach out of the darkness, son. Who didn't have a monster problem back than? The atom ants of Arizona? The big-ass rabbits in New Mexico?
Q: I'm surprised the gnat wasn't supersized.
G: Gnatmare on Elm Street, Gnat of the Hunter, The Gnat That Saved Pittsburgh.
Q: Please stop.
G: Then there's the Beast from 20,000 Fathoms! He took Manhattan.
G: Okay, flipped a few buses. He took his lonely monster blues out on Greyhound.
Q: That's what happens when you fall in love with a lighthouse.
G: Right. It was based on The Foghorn, that Bradbury story.
Q: When he got electrocuted at Coney Island, they say he died like an opera singer.
G: It was so sad. The Muppets had an easier time taking Manhattan. Or Gork.
G: Gork Eats New York And Gets A Thank You Note From President Ford.
Q: But Fred G. Sanford fabricated that one.
G: Another example of my influence.
Q: Do you have credibility issues because you've always been played by a guy in a rubber suit?
G: I've got incrediblity, son. I’m the most popular monster on earth.
Q: Right and Rex Reason had whitest hair on This Island Earth.
G. I got into modeling for the glue. I never had the discipline for stop motion animation. And CGI may be fancy but the rubber "suitimation" get-up has the charm. I’m analog like Yog.
Q: You needed more than a rubber suit for Hedorah, the smog monster.
G: Here comes the sludge! That guy was a mess, a real chudsucker. How do you shog a 400 foot industrial wasteoid who can turn into a Frisbee that spits acidic mud?
Q: Mule Team Borax?
G: Hedorah showed up in '71 after the Chisso Corporation finally started compensating victims for dumping nearly 70 tons of Mercury acetaldehyde in the Minamata Bay after the war. While Chisso’s plastic production was booming, they were poisoning people and fish. Not that I'm Mr. Save The Whales or anything. I breathe radiation for crying out loud! But Hedorah played on fears like the Minamata Disease. He came from tadpoles hitching a ride on a contaminated meteor.
Q: What are your concerns raising a son in a world that's gone in the ecological shitter?
G: My concerns are like any other parent's. Crappy movies, SARS and the fact that a lot of warheads aren't screwed on too tight. We might all need rubber suits soon. Thawing giant grasshoppers is one thing. But unfreezing nuclear weapons program... I guess no one listened to me.
Q: Or Bulgasari.
G: “The North Korean Godzilla.” A leftwing revolutionary DMZilla from 1985. But he was backed by Kim Sung-II who gave the director (Shinn Sang-okk) suggestions on how Bulgasari should look. I guess you need help if you're named after a Starfish. Luckily they imported my personal image consultants from Japan.
Q: Bulgasari was the people's monster.
G: He had a no nuke stance. The government wanted to convert confiscated farm tools into weapons to squash a peasant revolution. But Bulgasari ate all the metal. Kim Sung-II endorsed this! And now his son antes his arsenal while his people starve. Talk about irony.
Q: While you were flossing your teeth with Tokyo's Bullet Train.
G: (Sigh) Talk about stupidity.
Q: Talk about man.
G: Nukes, biohazards, genetic engineering--how does that old song go? The message is the monster. You know it's time to hang up the contrabass when they're using your own DNA against you.
Q: Godzilla Cells!
Q: Spliced with a rose bush haunted by a mad scientists' dead daughter and.
G: Voilá! "Bioallante!" A plant named after an enviro-friendly Cadillac.
Q: Greenhouse in effect! Your biggest opponent.
G: The greenest but not the meanest.
Q: Speaking of asexuality, there've been questions about your gender ambiguity. Does your son sometimes feel like a motherless child?
Q: Struck a nerve?
G: More like a plothole.
Q: Your son helped slay Ghidra in Destroy All Monsters. That must be a special memory.
G: But Monster Island wasn't too happening. It wasn't like we were dancing around singing "I Scrumble For Ya." You know that movie was also called Godzilla's Electric Battle Masterpiece. Destroy All Monsters has been adopted as this cultural battle cry. Take a look around. I'm the least of your worries. Like the Twilight Zone guy with the eyebrows once said: "The monsters are on Maple Syrup."
Q: That's Maple Street.
G: That's splat. Flat as a Bambi pancake.
Q: Please stop.
G: Did you just call me Godziller?
Posted by Sasha at May 3, 2004 03:02 PM