Giant rubber monsters. Hallelujah. SIFF Cinema brings a full week of them, May 2—May 7th. Curator and confirmed Gamera nut Clinton McClung took a few questions over email.
Seattle Star: What are your earliest memories of giant monster movies? Which titles, and where/how did you watch them? What were your first thoughts?
Clinton McClung: I grew up in the ’80s, and caught some of the Godzilla films on TV as a kid, but was never quite hooked. Then in my twenties I saw the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 episode featuring Gamera, which was not only hilariously bad, but made me realize that giant monster movies (even the worst of them) had a certain charm that I really liked. So, I rented the first Godzilla film and was surprised at how genuinely good it was (even though I, like many others, saw the US version with the bad dubbing and the Raymond Burr inserts).
Seattle Star: What lead to establishing this series for SIFF?
Clinton McClung: Rialto’s reissue of Godzilla: The Japanese Original was a great opportunity for me to being back some of the follow up Godzilla films (I’ll mention which ones and why). But rather than just focus on the Godzilla movies, I thought it would be fun to do a few of those and then bring in some other types of kaiju films. I made a list of all the great giant monster films and went from there, trying to select a good variety.
Seattle Star: Will the films be digitally-projected, shown on film, or some of both?
Clinton McClung: All will be digital (DCP) except for Infra-Man (which is an archival print) and Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (not archival, but an older 35mm print).
Seattle Star: Which of the films are your favorites and why?
Clinton McClung: Like I said above, the original Godzilla is a really good film, made by a cinema master (Ishiro Honda, a lifelong friend of Akira Kurosawa), and sparked a whole genre, so I have to say that is still the best of the bunch.
But, for sheer beer-and-popcorn monster movie fun, I have to go with 2001’s Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack, which is total fun (and makes Godzilla evil again, after years of being a “good guy”).
Also, Infra-Man is just batshit crazy, so I try and show that whenever I have an excuse to do so.
Seattle Star: Are there any films in the series you wanted to include and were not able to? If so, which and why?
Clinton McClung: Oh yeah, a ton. Mostly because I only had a week, so had to narrow it down to eight films (plus the Godzilla restoration). Honestly, I would love to do a screening of ALL the kaiju films, but that’s a tall order.
If I had a little more room, I would have expanded the series a bit more to include a couple of contemporary giant monster movies which I love, like The Host or Trollhunter. Maybe even something out of the box, like Ghostbusters. Also, Gamera is still a favorite, but I wasn’t able to find the current rights holder for theatrical licensing (though it is on DVD, so seek it out). And I’ve unfortunately never seen Frankenstein Conquers the World, but after reading up on it a bit, that’s one I’ll be searching for myself.
There’s always next time…
Seattle Star: Which version of King Kong will be shown? What lead you to include that version
Clinton McClung: The original. There really is no better version in terms of sheer entertainment value–especially considering when and how it was made, and that it really holds up. Years ago I held a party where my friends and I watched King Kong, Godzilla, and King Kong vs. Godzilla all in a row, so this is me recreating that a little bit.
Seattle Star: Will Infra-Man be shown with original Chinese dialog, or in the hilariously-dubbed version?
Clinton McClung: Oh, the dubbed version, absolutely! While I think Shaw Brothers films deserve to be seen in their original form, this one is even crazier and more fun with the dubbing.