Tuesday, July 30, 2019

G-FEST XXVI Part Two: Cheesy Monsters Raid Again!

What has gone before:

My son Eddie and I are attending G-Fest.

The first official day of the convention was Friday, July 12. After a light breakfast at the Crowne Plaza’s Chicago Fire Oven, I spent most of the morning preparing for my “Cheesy Monsters Raid Again” presentation. I love doing these one-man events, but they’re always preceded by mental “flop sweat.” Outside of my writing, I am not a natural entertainer. That I am able to do these one-man panels is a tribute to all I learned from my boss/mentor/friend Stan Lee, who was one of the finest natural entertainers I ever knew.

Wanting to take a break as my presentation drew closer, I went to the “Godzilla’s Revenge at 50” panel hosted by Martin Arlt with his panelists Danny Tokarz, Kym Taborn, Jeff Horne and Kevin Horn. The movie, known as All Monsters Attack in Japan, has never been high on my list of beloved Godzilla movies. Here’s a quick summary from  the Internet Movie Database:

A bullied schoolboy dreams of traveling to Monster Island, where he befriends Godzilla's son, who is also having bully troubles.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the movie, said to be perhaps the most divisive of the Japanese Godzilla films. The discussion of the movie's pros and cons was fascinating. For example, it had never occurred to me that this is the one Godzilla film that takes place in the real world. The monsters appear in the dreams of the boy and only in his dreams. At no time are we asked to believe the monsters are real. That was a revelation to me.

After listening to the panelists talking about how every element of All Monsters Attack links to every other element, I began to gain a new appreciation for the film. I plan to watch it again as soon as possible.

SIDEBAR. When I looked through my DVDs and found the Toho Master Collection edition of All Monsters Attack which I had bought in 2008, I was surprised to see I’d never watched it. Such was my disdain for the  U.S. version of the movie. I’ll be correcting that oversight in the near future and write about the two versions in an upcoming bloggy thing. It’ll be coming your way as soon as I can squeeze the piece into the schedule.

A few years back, I did a “Monsters of the Syfy Channel” panel at G-Fest. Though it was the last panel of the convention and held in a huge ballroom, the room was packed. Indeed, it was standing room only. The presentation went exceedingly well. My corny jokes landed well. At least most of them. We breezed through the movies so fast there was time for the audience to create their own cheesy movies. I believe that standout was: Elephantantula. If someone ever makes that movie, I will watch it.

Before I even got out of the ballroom, people were asking me if I was going to do another panel like this one. That’s when I started thinking about an equally wacky follow-up. Taking my title from the second Godzilla movie - Godzilla Raids Again - I began compiling movies and images for a sequel, one that would cover crazy critters beyond those seen on the Syfy channel.

Local artist Ron Hill did some cool title cards for me and I was on my way. I began by announcing our prom king and queen: Tabonga from From Hell It Came (1957) and the otherworldly bird thing from The Giant Claw (1957). I thought they made a lovely couple.

SIDEBAR. Having made the decision to eschew political commentary in this presentation, I cut the joke that identified the actress who played the bird creature as a young Kelly Anne Conway. Come on, you know you see the resemblance.

With the invaluable technical assistance of Martin Arlt, we shoed the audience giant octopus, giant cheerleaders and centerfolds, a blob or three, giant gila monsters, Reptilicus and Reptisaurus, giant killer rabbits, a “great” alligator so lame its victims had to pull themselves into its jaws, a gaggle of graboids, and so many others. We had movies done over and over again. We had some of the weirdest sharks ever. We had pop stars cruelly killed by monsters. We had a blast.

I was so confident I even announced my next year presentation: Kong Kin Vs. Cheesezilla. I’ll be looking at giant ape creatures and a  bunch of wannabe Godzillas. If you have suggestions, feel free to e-mail them to me. I’ll do my best to watch them all.

If you’re feeling sad on account of you missed the “Cheesy Monsters Raid Again” presentation, I can alleviate your anguish somewhat. In the fall, I will be writing a series of bloggy things duplicating and expanding on the presentation. These blogs will eventually be collected into a trade paperback. Because I love you as much as I love my cheesy monsters.

After the presentation, Eddie and I had lunch at the Murray Bros. CaddyShack restaurant, which was connected to the hotel. They had a special Godzilla menu. I ordered a Godzilla Juice, which was very tasty. Eddie ordered the fire-breathing Godzilla Burger. The food and drinks were good, the prices were not terrible for a restaurant connected to a hotel. Best of all, it was very convenient to G-Fest and G-Fest activities.

After lunch, I visited artist alley, the dealers room and some of the art and model exhibits. Artist alley, which had formerly been located where the CaddyShack now is, was a little crowded for the number of people in it. I know G-Fest will be addressing this for next year’s con. In artist alley, I bought a comic book called Ectyron: The Invasion from the Red Star Nebula by Carter Allen and others. It’s sitting on my reading pile even as we speak.

In the dealers room, I went looking for The Giant Claw t-shirt that Martin had been wearing. They were sold out, but I paid for one to be sent to me when they restocked. I also bought a Godzilla plush for a friend of mine with a new addition to his family. It’s best to get kids hooked on Godzilla at an early age.

Truth be told, hanging out in the dealers room too long would have been injurious to my wallet. One of these years, when I’ve reduced my Vast Accumulation of Stuff considerably, I plan to give myself a G-Fest spending spree.

The G-Fest model and art rooms were spectacular. There was also an exhibit of select items from the Mark Livolsi collection, one of the most impressive Godzilla toy collections in the world. Any day now, it’ll be auctioned off by the Peekaboo Gallery.

The Peekaboo Gallery has produced an outstanding hardcover book for the auction. Vinyl Conflict: The World of Godzilla Toys is nearly 300 pages of beautiful photographs of the Livolsi collection. It’s not a cheap book, but it was worth every penny of the sixty or so dollars I paid for it via mail order. It’s a keeper.

After resting a bit in my room, Eddie and I attended the official opening ceremony of G-Fest XXVI. All of the featured guests were on stage with convention organizer JD Lees. Even when the guests were speaking Japanese, which would then be translated for the audience, you could feel the joy in their hearts at being welcomed so warmly to the convention. It was a joy echoed by the fans who came to the ceremonies. Such a splendid event.

I was especially moved by Akira Takarada’s comments. At 85 years of age, the star of Gojira is still a handsome man and dresses better than any other person at G-Fest. He spoke of the actors with whom he had worked over the years, mourning those no longer with us and celebrating them and us. He is a treasure.

Back in the room, I watched parts of The Demon of Mount Oe and The Golden Bat. Even with subtitles, I had trouble following the plots. I saw enough to know I want to track them down and watch them soon. They looked like great fun.

Blasphemous as it sounds, Eddie and I planned to play G-Fest hooky on Saturday. I’ll tell you about that day when this G-Fest report continues tomorrow. See you then.   

© 2019 Tony Isabella

No comments:

Post a Comment