SON OF KAIJU DAY MARATHON: Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974)

Sure, I’m excited about Godzilla vs. King Kong, but the truth is, I’ve never been more excited about a movie than this in my entire life. This movie was it when I was a kid, bigger than Star Wars or anything else. I walked hand in claw with my Shogun Warrior Godzilla all day long, constantly ready to battle Mechagodzilla.

A direct sequel to Terror of Mechagodzilla, this movie starts with a dark prophecy — “When a black mountain appears above the clouds, a huge monster will arise and try to destroy the world; but when the red moon sets and the Sun rises in the west, two monsters shall appear to save the people.” — that it lives up to and ends with Godzilla and the guardian diety King Caesar* kicking the hell out of Mechagodzilla. Do you really need anything else in a movie?

Oh yeah, Anguirus also shows up and in a nod to the Ape mania that was going on worldwide, the aliens from the Third Planet of the Black Hole look like, well, characters from Planet of the Apes. Again, I ask: do you really need any more?

I got it for you: Godzilla rips Mechagodzilla’s head clean off.

Cinema Shares brought this to the U.S. under the name Godzilla vs. the Bionic Monster before Universal Television threatened to sue them for having the chan tama to use the word bionic, seeing as how they owned the word pretty much on television. It was renamed Godzilla vs. the Cosmic Monster.

There’s an interesting real world wish in this movie, for the mainland — Godzilla — and Okinawa — King Caesar — to recognize their differences and unite against common enemies.

*I’ve seen his name spelled King Seesar and King Shisa, too.

In Search of Dracula (1974)

When I was a kid, my dad had a paperback shelf filled with paranormal books that I spied in fear. One of those books was Radu Florescu and Raymond McNally’s In Search of Dracula. Between that tome and the ad in Warren comics for a necklace filled with dirt from Dracula’s grave, I lived in mortal fear of vampires, as if I lived in Santa Carla instead of Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Now that I’m grown up, I’m obsessed with tracking down the early 70’s pop culture paranormal that often expresses itself in Schick Sunn Classic films and movies like this, directed by Calvin Floyd* (Terror of FrankensteinThe Sleep of Death).

To illustrate the history of Dracula, Christopher Lee shows up as Vlad Tepes, Count Dracula and himself** Plus, Swedish actors Tor Isedal and Solveig Andersson show up. They were both in Dagmar’s Hot Pants, Inc. and The Lustful Vicar together and she also played one of the prostitutes in They Call Her One Eye.

Thanks to the research of Florescu, Vlad Tepes is an accepted part of the Dracula mythos and his further research into Frankenstein’s Monster has led to the alchemist Konrad Dippe being associated with that legend. Yes, before he wrote that book, no one knew that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was influenced by history.

*Floyd is pretty much an auteur, as he also produced this film and composed all of the music. He was also a pianist, author, composer, pianist and president of music-publisher Kalmar, Inc.

**Footage is also taken from the Hammer films and Jess Franco’s version, too.

You can watch this on Daily Motion.

Incendio (1974)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Herbert P. Caine is the pseudonym of a frustrated academic and genre movie fan in Pennsylvania. You can read his blog at https://imaginaryuniverseshpc.blogspot.com.

Incendio is a brief but disturbing documentary distributed by the National Fire Protection Association documenting the Joelma Fire in Sao Paolo, Brazil. In February 1974, the Joelma Building, a twenty-five-story skyscraper, caught fire on its twelfth floor after an air conditioner short circuited. Due to poor construction facilitated by lax construction codes, the fire spread rapidly through the upper floors of the building, blocking people’s means of escape and resulting in over 170 deaths. Until 9 / 11, it was the deadliest skyscraper fire in modern history. Incendio covers these events in graphic detail, with the somber atmosphere heightened by an unsettling electronic soundtrack.

Part of what makes Incendio such a disturbing watch is that it avoids the sensationalism of films like Mondo Cane and Africa Addio. Rather than wallowing in the carnage caused by the fire, the documentary takes a more clinical approach, laying out in detail just how such a catastrophe happened. The exterior of the building was constructed of concrete and withstood the fire. However, the inside had wooden walls and cellulose fiber ceilings, as well as flammable rugs, curtains, and shelves. There was no sprinkler system or compartmentalization to prevent the fire from growing once it started, nor were there any plans for evacuating the building. There were only four elevators and some stairwell, all in the center of the building. Even the air conditioner which started the fire was fitted with the wrong type of circuit breaker. As the narrator puts it, “The Joelma Building was a fire-resistant, reinforced concrete shell which had been filled inside with combustible material.”

This impersonal approach makes the film all the more chilling, as describing how it happened in detail raises the question in the viewer’s mind of just how safe the buildings they live and work in are. Although the narrator is quick to inform us that American building codes would prevent anything like the Joelma fire from happening here, the often-lax enforcement of regulations in the United States, especially since the Reagan Era, and disasters such as the Station Fire give one pause. Recent fire disasters in other first world countries, such as the Grenfell Tower Fire in Great Britain, also lead one to cast a wary eye at tall buildings.

This clinical approach does not rob the film of the ability to shock, however. Towards the end, the film includes footage of people leaping to their deaths from the higher stories of the building and dead bodies on the sidewalk. Although the film does not linger over this footage, sights such as a bloody dead person receiving last rites from a priest will remain with the viewer long after they’ve watched the short, as will scenes of people flailing like rag dolls as they plunge to earth. The footage of people falling is, if anything, more disturbing than the footage from 9 / 11, as we get much closer views of the people descending. Even more disturbing is the revelation by the narrator that many of the people actually jumped after the fire had been extinguished because the remaining smoke led them to believe the skyscraper was still burning.

The short is all the more effective because of its synthesizer soundtrack, which has an eerie doom-laden quality. The theme played over animation of the fire’s beginning and spread is particularly, bringing to mind the incursion of some alien creature in a science fiction film. The composer, Robert Ceely, unfortunately did not do many soundtracks. However, he composed an opera and a ballet and had a successful career as a music professor.

Being a short, Incendio does not appear to have had any type of official VHS or DVD release, although some YouTube commenters claim to have seen it running on afternoons on PBS during the 1970s. (Hmm, some kids probably got “treated” to this film while tuning in early for Sesame Street.) However, it can be found here on YouTube.

La Diosa Virgen (1974)

You may have noticed that there are two tropes so often at work this week: alien women who battle the men of Earth and H. Rider Haggard’s She. This is another of the latter, a white jungle goddess being attended to by the native populace. As long as she remains a virgin, she can live forever. And then the men of the outside world visit.

Isabel Sarli plays the Virgin Goddess of the title. She was discovered by filmmaker Armando Bo* — who is Hans in this movie — and became this muse, starring in his film El Trueno Entre Las Hojas, a movie whose nude scenes scandalized Argentina.

South African filmmaker Dirk de Villiers wrote, produced, directed and even appears in this movie. James Ryan also shows up, who is in the much better Kill and Kill Again and the just as bad as this if not worse film Space Mutiny.

*Armando’s son Victor is also in this movie and plays his father’s lover’s — in real life —  lover — in the movie. His son Armando would go on to write Birdman.

Santo y Blue Demon Contra El Doctor Frankenstein (1974)

Miguel M. Delgado’s directing career stretched from 1941 to 1990 and along the way, he made 140 movies, including The Three MuskateersMr. Photographer and three Santo and Blue Demon films that put in the men in the silver and blue masks up against Frankenstein’s daughter, the wolfman and Dracula. Here, in the final of his three Santo movies, Delgado has unleashed Doctor Frankenstein’s grandson against the technicos.

113-year-old Dr. Irving Frankenstein (Jorge Russek, The Wild Bunch) is trying to bring his dead wife back to life — who he keeps in a glass case — and it doesn’t matter how many young women have to pay. What brings Santo and Blue Demon on the case is when he goes after their friend Alicia Robles (Sasha Montenegro, an Italian-born actress who is also in Santo in Anonymous Death ThreatThe Man and the Beast and Santo vs. Black Magic Woman).

Frankenstein also has an army of zombies that either fight en masse or take lucha matches against our heroes, which are always the best parts of these movies for me. One of those monsters is named Golem, which is a great enough name, but then they give him a mask and he wrestles as Mortis. He gets a match against Santo and nearly kills him — Irving is his manager and also has on a mask — until Blue Demon spots one of the zombies in the crowd and figures out what’s happening. They chase Irving and Golem into the rafters high above the arena, where they of course fall to their deaths.

I’ve said it before and I’ll certainly say it again, but no genre attracts me as much as the Santo films. He’s such a perfect foil to be cast against all manner of genres, adversaries and themes. Even if you’re not a fan of wrestling, I urge you to watch at least one.

Ciak Si Muore (1974)

A giallo that takes place on a movie set, the title of this film (Clap, You’re Dead for those that speak English) refers to the “clapper” that stops a scene from being filmed. It’s directed by Mario Moroni, who also made Mallory Must Not Die!

Annabella Incontrera (Black Belly of the TarantulaThe Case of the Bloody IrisSo Sweet, So DeadCrimes of the Black Cat) stars as quiet actress Lucia, who is in a movie within the movie that sees a director battling with his writer and a yellow gloved killer murdering women every time they take their clothes off.

The director of said movie, Benner, has some of the best outfits a man has ever worn in a giallo. Seriously, the dude’s fashion sense is completely off the rails.

That said, this is more of a comedy giallo which unfortunately has a police chase that ruins any good will that the movie has built up with its funky soundtrack and frequent bursts of sleaze. The ending is pretty fun, with every character all wearing the same costumes and a punchup breaking out and all the misdirection.

It’s not great, but hey, it’s definitely a giallo you may have not seen before.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Delitto D’autore (1974)

Translated as Crime of Author, this giallo has pretensions to high class, as it’s all about a wealthy countess named Valeria Volpi Gerosi has been warned that if she gives away a valuable painting that she will be killed. Instead, the painting is stolen, she is still murdered, her niece Milena (Sylva Koscina, HerculesLisa and the Devil, Deadlier Than the Male) is kidnapped and the police, as always, blundering in the dark.

Look — it’s only 70 minutes long, Luigi Pistilli (A Bay of Blood, Iguana with the Tongue of FireYour Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key) shows up, as does Pier Paolo Capponi (who played cops in Seven Blood-Stained Orchids and The Cat o’ Nine Tails). I mean, if you watch this and have a complaint, remember that the hippie body painting scene and Koscina being chased through the Roman baths are pretty great moments.

Director Mario Sabatini also made A Gunman Called Dakota, SquilloSheriff of Rock Springs and Peccato Originale, as well as shooting second unit on 1989’s Blue Island.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Jînzu Burûsu: Asu Naki Buraiha (1974)

Jeans Blues: No Future is the kind of lurid, violent and downbeat film that I adore. And there’s no better star for these kind of movies than Meiko Kaji, who embodies revenge like no other actress ever, thanks to turns as Lady Snowblood and Female Prison Scorpion.

This time, Meiko plays Hijiriko, a bar girl who has stolen all the money from work and a car that doesn’t belong to her. She literally runs into Jiro, who has done the same thing, ripping money off from his gangster friends. They steal another car and try to get away.

As Serge and Bardot once sang, “De toute façon, ils n’pouvaient plus s’en sortir. La seule solution, c’était mourir.” There’s no way out of this that ends well for anyone, you know?

Meiko has gone on record saying that she was embarrassed by this movie, but I didn’t see much that would make me feel this way. Maybe I give her an eternal pass.

Terror on the 40th Floor (1974)

How can this be a ripoff of The Towering Inferno when it came out a few months before that movie? I assume that they read in Variety about that film and said, “Let’s get this on TV in a hurry!” That’s not a bad thing, though.

Director Jerry Jameson made HurricaneHeatwave!The Deadly Night TowerSuperdomeRaise the Titanic! and Airport ’77, so he knows all about disasters (he also made The Bat People and The Secret Night Caller, so he’s a favorite around here). He’s working from a script by Jack Turley (Prey for the WildcatsEmpire of the Ants) and Edward Montagne.

A Christmas party goes on way too long, which leads to a fire starting in the basement and making it to, well, the fortieth floor. But if you love disaster movies, you know that the plot is secondary to the cast of stars who will be sacrificed for our entertainment.

This one has Dynasty star John Forsythe, TV movie vet Joseph Campanella, Lynn Carlin, Anjanette Comer from The BabyMonday Night Football announcer Don Meredith, Pippa Scott, Bon Hastings (who also faced death in The Poseidon Adventure) and more. Yeah, it’s not the kind of cast that Irwin Allen would have assembled. Even stranger, only one person dies. Come on — have we learned nothing from movies like Earthquake, where Hollywood favorites are snuffed out with impunity?

You can watch this on Amazon Prime.

The Tenth Level (1976)

The Milgram experiment was a series of social psychology trials conducted by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram, who measured the willingness of men to obey an authority figure who instructed them to administer electric shocks to someone else, even forcing them to continue the punishment until they killed someone. Strangely — or not all that strangely, when you realize how humanity can barely put a mask on when they spend ten minutes in a grocery store — a high proportion of the subjects would fully obey the instructions, even when they thought that it was all real.

That’s what inspired this controversial TV movie, starring William Shatner as Professor Stephen Turner, who is shocked when he discovers just how much pain his students can dish out in the name of science.

Written by George Bellak, who worked on the kind of old TV like Playhouse 90 that this resembles, and directed by Charles S. Dubin, who was ABC’s head director for thirty years, this film was so shocking that it took eight months to line up enough sponsors to get it on the air. It’s never been released in any format.

Shatner gave up his divorce visitation rights on Christmas Day to film this, showing how much he believed in it. It’s pretty stagey — like I said before, it’s very old TV — and even Professor Milgram, who was paid $5,000 as a consultant on the film, thought it was dull.

Somehow, this is my second TV movie in a row with Lynn Carlin in it, so that has to be the universe sending some kind of message. Or maybe she did a lot of 1970’s TV movies, as she was in Silent Night, Lonely NightA Step Out of LineMr. and Mrs. Bo Jo JonesThe Morning AfterThe Last Angry ManTerror on the 40th FloorThe Honorable Sam HoustonThe Lives of Jenny DolanDawn: Portrait of a Teenage RunawayGirl on the Edge of TownForbidden LoveA Killer in the Family and The Kid from Nowhere.

It also has Ossie Davis, Viveca Lindfors, Stephen Macht (in one of his first roles), Estelle Parsons, Charles White, Roy Poole, Mike Kellin (Mel from Sleepaway Camp) ad supposedly a young John Travolta, which may be an urban legend.

You can watch this on YouTube.