Monsters & Memories Special Report: Godzilla Kaiju Battle 2011 By Ed Davis
Godzilla is back, Groovy Ghoulies! He stomped through Schenectady, NY this past Friday when It Came From Schenectady presented Godzilla Kaiju Battle 2011. It was their 2nd annual Godzilla film festival. A giant four story screen at Proctor’s GE theater was home to two great Godzilla movies, “Son of Godzilla” and “Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack.”
It was a night that brought back memories to me, of seeing Terror of Mechagodzilla on the big screen. And I wasn’t alone. The Godzilla fans were out in force. One Godzilla fan named Tom said to me, “My Grandfather would put them on when I was little, and would just start watching them. And eventually, I just caught on myself.” Him and his wife, brought their kids with them. They had started watching Godzilla movies a few moths ago, and now they were hooked.
It was definitely a family night. Tons of kids sat down front to take in all the monster greatness. I talked to one of It Came From Schenectady’s founders, Peter Hughes, “Last year, we had about 250-300 people, in the theater. It sits about 400, but our configuration is about 250 because we take out the first five rows of seats. We put in couches and bean bag chairs. Try to think of it like a big living room. So, it will be packed!”
I asked him, how all this came about? “It Came From Schenectady is the genre-based Horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and cult features we do at Proctor’s. It’s an alternative movie program run by myself and a couple of other guys, Paul Kazee, Richard Lovrich, Larry Mossey, and Zebulon Schmidt. We started by putting together a 24 hour film fest every year, which has become known as Proctoberfest which we will be doing our 4th annual at some point the coming year. We try to do just collections of films you just normally don’t get to see. We don’t also just show films, we also have a festival. We’re playing games, we give away prizes, we do contests, we show short films, we play jokes, and we go for a long time!”
The doors opened at 6:30 that night, and we didn’t leave until midnight! It was a fun-filled night that just flew by, due to the good times we were having. As we walked in, kids and adults had a chance to fight it out on Marvel vs. Capcom video game. We found some seats about halfway up, and soon the night started. A great Ultraman tribute by Zebulon Schmidt started the evening, showcasing some of the foes that he’s fought. Next, we were treated to our first feature, 1967′s “Son Of Godzilla”. The series was in full kid-mode by then. Godzilla wasn’t as scary as originally portrayed on the screen. Scientists are conducting experiments to control the weather on a small island. Godzilla shows up when an egg hatches, introducing the world to Minilla. The scientists have to figure how to finish their experiments and get off the island in one piece. It’s a campy, light fun movie that shows the series has definitely switched gears, and was aimed at the kid market. The audience was having lots of fun with the movie. Laughs and talking back to the screen, had most of the theater in stitches for it.
Following that, we were treated to two kid contests with some great t-shirt, DVD, and poster prizes. Two audience members were picked to sing the 1970s Godzilla cartoon theme song, and I couldn’t remember the words, but the two younger audience members rocked it out. Next, was another kid friendly contest to see who had the best monster roar. I think they all did a super job, and all belong on Monster Island. We were treated to a video game tournament next for the adults and kids. Godzilla Unleashed had some good graphics, and the crowd was into each of the matches.
The 2nd feature was 2001′s “Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack.” This was a much darker entry in the series. Godzilla was the embodiment of tormented souls of World War II. Guardian Monsters, Mothra, Baragon, and King Ghidorah were called on to face and destroy Godzilla. This was a scarier Godzilla then we are used to. He’s much more of a force of nature, destroying everything in it’s path. The crowd was quieter for this one, not as many jokes thrown at the screen. The effects had come a long way from the 60s, and the CGI-created Mothra was a nice touch. You have to love a man in a rubber suit, though!
It was a real nostalgic night. Most of the people I talked to mentioned watching Godzilla movies around the holidays growing up. “I think Godzilla was Thanksgiving to me, as a kid,” said Peter Hughes. WPIX out of New York would do a King Kong marathon one day and follow it up with a Godzilla one the next. I remember watching these, and of course, Creature Double Feature was home to many of the great Toho classics.
Hilltown Kaiju was also there. Scott Martin brought two tables worth of Godzilla figures. “What I brought tonight is not even a quarter of my collection. Just some assorted Bandais and some more of the harder to find vinyls. Just trying to give a good example of Godzilla and his foes over the years.” When asked about his Godzilla beginnings, “I’m 37 years old now, and I’ve been a fan since I was three years old. Grew up in the 70s with my first movie being Megalon or Gigan, and after that I was hooked. I grew up with all the monsters, and Godzilla was a normal thing to be attracted to.”
You can find Hilltown Kaiju on Facebook by doing a search for “Hilltown Kaiju Club.” They hope to bring more Godzilla films to the Capital Region. As does It Came From Schenectady, They plan to continue their Godzilla Kaiju Battles, hopefully on the main stage next year. But in the meantime they are wrapping up their Soul Cinema Series with Lady Sings The Blues in April and Samuel L. Jackson Super show featuring Shaft in May. Also, April 28th, they’re showing Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, some say the worst movie ever made. Proctorberfest, the 24 hour horror/sci-fi fest will be on the horizon and you can get more information on these events and more at http://www.itcamefromschenectady.com. They have hotels nearby Proctor’s and I would suggest checking out some of their future events when you come to the area. Godzilla made a great impact Friday night, as did It Came From Schenectady. I can’t wait for the next one. Till next time, keep watching the skies!