Godzilla movie fest: bringing campy back

Kyle Almond

Starting at 7 p.m. May 2 in room 112 of the Henderson Learning Resources Center, Washburn will host its third annual “Godzilla and Friends” Movie Festival. The event is free to the public and will last until 10 p.m. Friday and run from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday.

The festival starts with two Japanese monster movies: “Gamera II: Assault of the Legion,” which features a giant, flying turtle that breathes fire, and “Godzilla Raids Again!,” the sequel to the original Godzilla movie.

“Godzilla Raids Again!” will be shown on Saturday morning. Saturday afternoon will be dedicated to American monster movies such as “Tarantula,” “Godzilla 2000,” “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” and the trailer to the movie “The Giant Claw,” which is considered to be so bad that event organizer Bill Shaffer of KTWU doesn’t think anybody should have to watch it in its entirety.

For this year’s event, organizers have managed to save money by not having to rent movies through the expensive Toho studios, the company that started the franchise with “Gojira” in 1954.

There is more to “Godzilla and Friends” than just watching monster movies, though. The two-day festival will be interspersed with short talks by Bob Beatty of the political science department, Tom Prasch of the history Department, Shaffer, and William Tsutsui, a distinguished professor in the field of East Asian Studies from the University of Kansas. Throughout the festival there will also be giveaways and contests, such as the Godzilla roar contest.

The event started more than two years ago with a group of friends that shared a common passion for monster movies. Beatty, Shaffer, Tsutsui and KTWU intern Jared Gregg got the ball rolling on the event, which is now sponsored by Washburn’s International Programs Office, Multicultural Affairs, the Center for Diversity Studies and the University of Kansas Center for East Asian Studies.

In the past two years, the event brought in approximately 50 and 100 people, respectively, despite being held during Easter weekend both years. Shaffer said most of the people who attend tend to stay for all of the films.

Certainly each of the organizers has their favorite film. Beatty, for instance, is a fan of “Gamera,” and as a political scientist he likes the themes of “Tarantula.”

“[It’s] a 1950s film about nuclear power gone bad,” said Beatty.

Shaffer, on the other hand, is partial to “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” which he says is one of the rare movies in which the cast, script and special effects just come together.

Of course there are some monster movies, such as “The Giant Claw” or “The Giant Gila Monster,” that are just too over-the-top or corny for almost anybody’s tastes.

“A ‘Gojira’ fan would be forgiving of a lot of mediocre parts,” said Shaffer. “You have to forgive movies like ‘Godzilla’s Revenge.'”

Don’t expect to see “Godzilla’s Revenge” at the festival any time soon, though organizers are looking toward future plans. One of these is a possible salute to Ray Harryhausen, who worked on such films as “Jason and the Argonauts” and “The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad” and is generally considered one of the great masters of stop-motion animation. The salute would feature several of Harryhausen’s films and possibly culminate in an appearance by Harryhausen himself.

Posters for this year’s event are located across campus and a large display has been erected outside the Multicultural Affairs office.