The Return of Godzilla (a.k.a. Godzilla 1985)


I was introduced to Godzilla by my cousin Ed, who passed down to me his Shogun Warriors Godzilla toy as well as his love of WLVI 56’s Creature Double Feature. I took to the big green lizard like a fish to water–something about the fire-breathing, skyscraper-sized beast spoke to my young soul. I won’t bother to analyze that right now. In any event, I grew up on Godzilla movies. (In fact, Godzilla would eventually help me get into college–but I’ll tell that story some other time.)

In August 1985, at the age of six, I finally got to see a Godzilla movie in the theater. Godzilla 1985 (or The Return of Godzilla, as it was known in Japan) was an important event in my childhood.


Friday the 13th, Part II

Here’s the second (and final) movie review I wrote before my mind began to melt. Enjoy!

Friday the 13th Part II: A stream-of-consciousness review from memory

Let’s see…the movie starts with a street. We find out later it’s five years since the events of the first film, though this movie came out in 1981, a year after the first. Anyway, we see a girl’s legs walking down a street and then she goes inside, and she’s followed by a mysterious guy in boots. The music tells me he’s bad. By the way, we’re on a suburban street or something. Then we cut to Alice (Adrienne King), the heroine from the first movie, who’s lying in bed dreaming of stock footage from the first movie, which recaps the climax of that film in excruciating, lengthy detail. Finally Alice wakes up, putters around for a while, then gets herself stabbed in the head with an ice pick. Then the credits roll. Ha ha, excellent job director Steve Miner, you made me think Alice was going to be the protagonist but then she died! Kind of reminds me of the opening of Scream.

There’s a noisy credit sequence featuring nutty, chaotic music by Harry Manfredini that reminds me of The Evil Dead. I forgot to mention the distinctive “K-K-K ma-ma-ma” sound in my review of the first film, which was allegedly created by Manfredini distorting his voice saying, “Kill her, mommy!”

Of course I know going into this that the killer is Jason, but the movie’s not exactly subtle on that point anyway. But it raises the question: why the heck is Jason alive? Later we discover that he’s been living in a shack for years?hold on, I’ll save that rant for later.

Once Alice has been dispatched, we join a cast of nubile young teenagers who are basically clones of the ones from the first movie. No, someone isn’t stupid enough to re-open Camp Crystal Lake, but someone is just stupid enough to open a different summer camp nearby. The camp leader/owner/authority figure tells a legend about Jason, hammering home the fact that he’s the killer in the first twenty minutes of the film. The Last Girl?by which I mean the heroine?is named Ginny, by the way, and she’s a cute blonde played by Amy Steel. The camp leader guy is named Paul and I didn’t like him enough to look up the actor’s name on imdb.

A bunch of the counselors go to town to drink, leaving us with our core group of victims. Somewhere in there a cop sees Jason and follows him to an old shack, where he gets himself killed (the cop, of course). It turns out Jason has been living in a shack his entire life. This is bizarrely explained through a monologue from a drunk Ginny, who somehow manages to divine the entire backstory with absolutely no evidence whatsoever. It seems Jason didn’t drown, and allegedly no one ever found his body (so one wonders why Mrs. Voorhees is so sure he drowned…anyway). Apparently Jason decided to live out the rest of his life as a hermit in the woods, rather than going to his mother and explaining that no, he lived, actually. Ginny speculates that he may have seen his mother die, which accounts for why he has her head in his shack, but that makes me wonder?didn’t the cops wonder where Pamela Voorhees’s head went? The film makes it clear that it’s known Pamela was the killer in the first film. So did Jason dig up his mother’s corpse later? Or just take the head right then and there? Actually, wait, he had her sweater, too…

Lots of people get killed and Jason gets revealed as a guy in overalls with a pillowcase on his head. No hockey mask or machete in this one?just a pitchfork. Ginny manages to thwart Jason by pretending to be his mother, which is a fairly interesting scene in an otherwise lame movie. For the record, Ginny’s clearly smarter and more interesting than Alice.

Ultimately, though, I was glad just to get through this thing. These straight slasher movies are so dull. I want to see some supernatural elements and maybe some character development, if that’s not too much to ask.

Friday the 13th

I wrote this piece a few months ago, when I was still thinking I could sit through all the Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Halloween movies. It turned out I couldn’t, but I did manage to write two reviews before I gave up. Here’s the first one.

Hello and welcome. I’m Jander Rothberg.

And my name is Sir Nigel Sandstone.

We’re here today to discuss the celluloid trash—I mean, the cinematic masterpie—the film Friday the 13th. Filmed on a budget of $700,000 and released in 1980, this so-called ‘slasher flick’ spawned—and I do mean spawned, as spawn is a word most often associated with slimy things with tentacles—spawned a series of sequels.

Now now, Jan, you’re getting ahead of yourself, no?

Oh very well. Hand me the tea, will you? The film’s plot, such as it is, can be summarized thusly. The movie begins in a place called Camp Crystal Lake in 1958. Two teenage camp counselors sneak off to copulate and are brutally murdered. Twenty years later, the camp is re-opened and teenage camp counselors are brutally murdered, usually after sneaking off to copulate.

Now now, Jan, there’s a bit more to it than that.

Is there? I was under the impression this was a quickie rip-off of John Carpenter’s far superior Halloween that happened to have enough nudity and gratuitous violence to be successful and give the filmmakers the wrong idea that they should keep making movies rather than turning their talents to some other medium that might better suit their talents. Like fabric sculpture, perhaps.

All right, enough. I for one thought the film was relatively effective at what it was trying to do, which is to scare you.

But what kind of goal is that for a work of art? Is there nothing more?

What about Psycho?

Touché. But I do hope you’re not comparing Alfred Hitchcock to Sean S. Cunningham, the director of this film?

What if I were?

Then I should beat you about the face and neck until I was certain your fit of madness had passed.

As everyone knows, the big twist in Friday the 13th is that the killer turns out not to be a masked male psychopath—that came in the later films—but a middle-aged woman, the mother of a boy named Jason Voorhees who drowned at the camp in 1957 while the counselors were off copulating, as you put it.

Hmph. ‘Twist.’ I suppose it was fairly clever. But once the woman, played by one Betsy Palmer, was revealed, I have to say the heroine did not handle herself very well. How many times did she beat the woman down, then leave without making sure she was unconscious?

Well, one must expect such conventions of the genre.

Oh please. But I did like the old crazy fellow in town who told them that the Camp had a death curse. If I had a nickel for every time I was told one of my vacation destinations had a death curse…

…then what?


If you had a nickel for every time that happened, then what?

I’d be rich, I believe the expression goes.

People have actually told you that a place you are going on vacation has a death curse?

I was merely making a joke, Nigel.

So no one’s ever actually told you a place you were going had a death curse.

Well, there was that one time, when I was going to visit New Haven. But that turned out to be true.

Moving on. What did you think of the cast? I thought the actors were generally a bit stilted and untrained, but that was fine, since all they really had to do was die in horribly violent ways.

Yes, it was a very rewarding film in that regard.

I suppose we ought to mention that this film features a very young Kevin Bacon.

Yes, he gets stabbed through the throat from under the bed. Excellent role for him. Unfortunately for those of you who like to play “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” none of the other actors in this film have ever done anything else.

Now that’s neither nice nor quite true.

It’s mostly true.


Also, I’m unclear as to why I had to be subjected to Mr. Bacon wearing a skintight banana-hammock and, later, his exposed buttocks.

I did like the heroine, Alice. I thought Adrienne King made her charming and believable.

Aside from the character’s astounding lack of common sense and mild-to-moderate arm strength, I’ll agree with you.

Of course, it’s the next film that the infamous Jason Voorhees takes his place as the antagonist of the series. But I’ll let Mr. Clarke tell you about that. Until next time, my friends.

Enjoy the day.

Hallowed out

As I hinted at in my first October post, I’m just not feeling the Halloween love this year. Maybe I burned out last year and need a year to recuperate. I’ll keep the Halloween theme, of course, but I’m afraid you’re not going to get daily postings. However, I’m hoping I can manage to pull together something for Christmas.

I had debated whether to post this next tidbit. But for anyone who’s curious, I participated in a faculty reading on Tuesday night at the college I work at, and they put the video up on their website (Quicktime MOV). I’m about half-way in. I appear to have been going for the land-speed record for reading a short story out loud, and I forgot to add, y’know, emotion. So you could say I’m not pleased with my performance. But I suppose it’s all a learning experience–next time will be better.

DG and I have finally started watching Heroes. And it’s great. I don’t want to discuss it here, though, until I’ve caught up.

Del Toro + Lovecraft = happy JFCC

At the Mountains of Madness

Somewhat on-topic, here’s some fantastic news: it seems Guillermo Del Toro (The Devil’s Backbone, Blade II, Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth) has finally gotten the green light to make his big-budget adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness. (I like to think it was partly my influence–see the last question.)

Finally, someone will take a crack at a true A-movie version of Lovecraft’s work. ATMOM is probably the best one to start with, though I think The Dunwich Horror would make a great film as well. With any luck (and skill), ATMOM will be the beginning of a run of big-budget Lovecraft films (like the Austen films of the nineties or the current epic fantasy boom).

Welcome to Halloween Month 2007

OK, so it’s the second and I’m already behind. I should give you a heads-up that I definitely won’t be posting daily this year–I’ve just got way too much other stuff going on. But I’ll try to post as frequently as possible.

First off, let me take a moment to thank both Kate Racculia, who designed the new logo, and Sean O’Brien, who redesigned the site’s look. I like the “blood in the water” feel this year–it’s cooler than the orange-and-black theme I was going to use.

So October is here, and Halloween approaches. I’m behind on more than just this blog–I haven’t decided on a costume yet, haven’t figured out a good movie night, nothing. All I’ve managed to do is put up some of my Halloween-themed action figures. For some reason, the process wasn’t as gratifying this year as it has been in previous years–I think because I can’t find my Simpsons Treehouse of Horror set. I’ve been putting it on display in October for years now, but I think I put in somewhere in my parents’ attic last year and now I can’t find it. I’ll have to do some more digging on Saturday when we head down to the South Shore for King Richard’s Faire.

Maybe this year I’ll remember to bring a camera so we can take some pics at the Faire.

As always, my fellow ToyFare writer Matt Caracappa has his own Halloween countdown over on X-Entertainment, who tracks down stuff like Jason Voorhees’ appearance on Arsenio Hall. Whatever happened to that guy? Hall, I mean.

Something wicked this way comes…hopefully.

This time last year, I was knee-deep in writing reviews of movies like Spaced Invaders and Deepstar Six, to say nothing of my ill-fated attempt at writing a zombie story (well, not that ill-fated; I did finally finish it about two months ago).

I’m behind this year–having not written anything at all yet–but I’ve got some good ideas, and I should be able to get going this week. In the meantime, in an effort to make sure I can fill every single last day of October, I’m going to take suggestions. A topic you’d like me to discuss, a movie you’d like to see reviewed, perhaps even an idea for a (really) short story–reply below or shoot me an email, and I’ll do my best to grant your wishes.

Halloween Grab Bag

Unsurprisingly, our big winner for most comments in October was Ed. Ed has decided to forego the actual Halloween Grab Bag prize in favor of mad props. So, mad props to Ed for his superior ability to run up his comment count.

Still working on Vengeance Upon the Dust, which I think is officially a novella and not a short story. However, I owe it to you all to finish it, and will do my best to do so as soon as possible. I’ve pulled the previous chapters off the site for a few reasons. First, I’ve already done some revising and the website version is no longer accurate. Second, I don’t want to be continually taunting you with an unfinished story. Third, I’ve decided to issue the completed story as a PDF chapbook (I’ll have alternate versions if you can’t read PDFs) rather than post it here. This way, I’ll have the option of publishing it professionally in the future (if I can interest anyone in it).

However, all my faithful readers here will get a copy of the chapbook if they want it. I’ll even mail a paper copy of it upon request.


I thought I’d take a break from Vengeance Upon the Dust (it looks like the story will finish up Halloween Month) and provide something a little lighter before the month was out.

I had intended to do a big retrospective on the history of my Halloween costumes over the years, starting when I was a wee tyke, but it looks like I’ll have to save that for next year (which is good, since I can pretty much guarantee I won’t be doing this again—so it’s good to have a big-ticket item to run next October). I’ve been so busy I didn’t even get a chance to carve a pumpkin.

So instead, I thought I’d provide you with a photo of the costumes DG and I wore to a Halloween party last night…and the lengths to which I went in the name of costume accuracy.

All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Scary Movies

I’m still working frantically to finish the short story for tomorrow, and as such, I ended up one post short. However, in the interests of fulfilling my promise of a post every single day this month, I’m going to hand the blood-stained rudder over to Kate Racculia of Marquee de Sade. The lovely Kate also drew the initial sketches for both the regular Biggerboat logo and the Halloween variant. Today she’s going to enlighten us as to how scary movies have changed her life. Enjoy!

All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Scary Movies

10. Priests are sexy.


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