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Dai-ing to be Kaiju: Non-daikaiju films that really should to be daikaiju films

Sometimes films that don't have giant monsters as such in them are actually giant monster films in all but genre. This is a meditation on some of them.


Twister (1994; dir. Jan DuBont)

It was once suggested to me (by the co-editor of Daikaiju! Giant Monster Tales) that the hurricane film Twister (directed by Jan DuBont) can be seen as a giant monster film. So I took a look and, indeed, on watching it with this in mind, you can see that it has many of the elements, especially in the gradual introduction of not just a big tornado, but the "King" of tornados (as one character describes it). There is even an in-script reference or two to the tornados as "monsters". And the scenes of destruction only need a glimpse of a giant foot to be amongst the best monster destruction scenes (from a right-there-amongst-it perspective -- as distinct from the more voyeuristic step-right-back-and-watch-via-monitors-or-from-a-rooftop approach) I've seen. Very impressive. The human story works, too, as the human-side of a daikaiju film, though in fact it is a fairly exact transliteration of the His Girl Friday plot.

But thinking of Twister specifically as an unrealised Godzilla film is even more interesting. I'm not sure how it would have gone in toto, but the idea of scientific observers chasing Godzilla around the countryside is a neat concept (done to some extent in the US Godzilla and even Godzilla 2000, of course, but not in this way).

Bob Eggleton, the Hugo-award winning artist and daikaiju eiga enthusiast, tells me that the idea of "monster chasers" was Jan DuBont's basic idea/premise for his own proposed Godzilla film, pre-Godzilla 1998. "At one point," Bob wrote, "[the scenario] had a team of "Godzilla chasers" going after Godzilla (and the Gryphon). DuBont had initially cast Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt as the leads, though the characters were slightly different from those that subsequently appeared in Twister.

"DuBont had a script (this was a revision of the much circulated one) and a model, and had even storyboarded a whole scene for the theatrical 'teaser'. But supposedly Toho dragged their heels, held up the approvals, and DuBont simply gave up and resigned from the project. This was in 1993 when Sony first acquired the property. So he got together with Warner and Michael Crichton and they made Twister the year after (1994). Supposedly he admitted he simply took Paxton and Hunt out of their Godzilla roles and put them into Twister.

"Some of his ideas still made it into the Emmerich/Devlin script, the obvious being Broderick's scientist and Azaria's cameraman chasing Godzilla around NYC."

Another One: Can You Pick Which Non-kaiju Film This Is?

This one is a period film, which follows the fortunes of a man so disillusioned with his life that he gets a job on a ship in order to fulfil an almost mystical attraction to the sea, only to discover that the ship's captain is a man who has been crippled by a legendary giant monster and is determined that he and his crew will scour the world to find and destroy it. There are strange prophecies of doom, moments of weird supernatural insight, a strange alien character who comes to accept his own fate and that of the crew and thus miraculously creates a means for the main character to escape the general doom....

Other fantastical elements abound. It is as though the ship is being drawn into a different world as its dark destiny closes in around it. After a lengthy search, following the giant monster's trail of death and destruction, the obsessed captain and his crew find themselves the target of the monster's wrath. In a violent climax the monster destroys their boats and, by swimming around and around the main ship, creates a huge vortex that sucks it under the waves. Only the narrator escapes to tell the tale.

Yes, it's Moby Dick, of course, specifically the John Huston version from 1956, starring Gregory Peck and Richard Basehart. It has most of the ingredients of a giant monster movie set at sea, and certainly the ambiance, though no city-stomping occurs, of course.

Remember, the name "Gojira" (Godzilla's real moniker) is a combination of the Japanese words for "ape" and "whale"!

In addition to the above daikaiju indicators, a correspondent comments: "I can still remember one of my favorite scenes. Ishmael goes into a pub and sees a painting of a whale that's destroying a ship. He asks in bewilderment, 'Can whales do that?' Then a crusty old seafarer replies, 'Arrgh, bless me, whales can do anything!' He goes on to list all the havoc whales can wreak and concludes with this gem, 'If God wanted to be a fish, he'd be a whale, believe me, he'd be a whale!'"

More to come when we think of them. Feel free to make suggestions!


The anthology is to be published by Agog! Press.

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