Film fest celebrates Godzilla

Run, it’s Godzilla! Attendees of the Godzilla and Friends film festival enjoyed a wide array of Cold War-era monster movies. Participants also were encouraged to join in activities, including one where people tried to roar like Godzilla.

James Ahrens

A horde of mutated animals and creatures from outer space came to life on the big screen for the third annual Godzilla and Friends Film Festival, which took place in the Henderson Learning Resources Center.

Science fiction experts and curious spectators alike gathered Friday and Saturday to make the free event a success. Students and the Topeka community came to see a string of trailers, listen to introductions and view some of the best of the more than 50 Godzilla-related films. These included “Gamera II: Attack of Legion,” “Tarantula” and “Godzilla 2000.”

The focus of the event was to highlight some of the classic monster films from the Cold War era and the surrounding fandom that they created. Three of the five feature films shown were created before 1960, and it shows. Much of the draw to these movies is the campiness and relatively poor production quality. That aside, many in the audience seemed to agree with Washburn professor Bob Beatty’s affirmation.

“Giant monster movies can rock,” said Beatty.

Beatty also pointed out that the Topeka Capital-Journal labeled him a true expert, while he jokingly considers himself a so-called or alleged expert.

When you get right down to it, simply imagine the worst superimposed creatures, people dressed as dinosaurs and horribly timed dubbing and you’ve got an idea of how these films look. Next, imagine that same poor quality production in the special effects department and you’ve got your very own special post-WWII Japanese or American monster film. Some of it turns into fun while some of it is just plain funny.

Gamera, Godzilla, Mothra, Tarantula and other creatures held viewers’ attention as if the battles were taking place a few hundred feet away. This feeling, coupled with the excitement of an unstoppable invasion, can explain the gathering of people to this event.

Mark Peterson, WU faculty member, introduced “Tarantula.” He had worked on a short speech, noting the political undertones and sub-themes of the time but joking about the film as well.

“What to make of ‘Tarantula?'” said Peterson. “Not soup.”

The joke struck a chord and summed up the theme of the festival as well. Have fun and watch out for giant spiders.