Music Webmaster Len Mullenger



Vol. 1 (1954-1975) ‘THEN’ Godzilla 1954 *; Gigantis, The Fire Monster 1955 **; King Kong vs G 1962 *; G vs The Thing 1964 *; Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster 1964 *; Invasion of the Astro-Monster 1965 *; Ebirah, Horror of the Deep 1966 **; Son of Godzilla 1967 **; Destroy all Monsters 1968 *; G’s Revenge 1969 ***; G vs The Smog Monster 1971 ****; War of the Monsters 1972 *; G vs Megalon 1973 ****; G vs The Cosmic Monster 1974**; Monsters from an Unknown Planet 1975 * AKIRA IFUKUBE *  

  SILVA SCREEN FILMCD201 [73:20]  

Vol. 2 (1984-1995) ‘NOW’ G vs King Ghidorah 1991; G vs Mechagodzilla; G 1985; G vs Biollante 1989; G vs Mothra 1992 ; G vs Space Godzilla * 1994; G vs Destroyah 1995; all by AKIRA IFUKUBE except * TAKAYUKI HATTORI  

  SILVA SCREEN FILMCD202 [74:32]  

The Japanese Godzilla movies (Toho Co Ltd) are a genre within a genre within a genre (Horror - Horror-Monster - Horror-Monster-Godzilla). Apart from experiencing them on video they occasionally enjoy a cookey season on UK BBC2 or Channel 4. Quite how they are regarded in Japan I do not know but I suspect they have a very strong following there. Certainly the shelf-life of the series of films has been long as these two well-filled volumes attest. In any event the full panoply of monsters is here: super-mutated and cyborg dinosaurs, aliens, giant lobsters, mantises and spiders, devastated cities, rampaging horrors of all sorts, death rays and venom. The appearance of these two decently-filled discs coincides with the new Hollywood Godzilla movie which will almost certainly stir up curiosity about the long run of Japanese originals. More satellite and Channel 4/BBC2 seasons will be coming up I would guess. Detailed comment is not necessary. The music, though contributed by a range of composers (overwhelmingly by Ifukube), conforms to a standard pattern of effects. Godzilla, monster-hero/anti-hero gets his own forbidding theme which surfaces and resurfaces as a leitmotiv of sorts. Full orchestra is used rather than synthesiser. What a relief! I wondered about some of the sounds mixed in with the orchestra. I suspect a synthesiser is used occasionally and very sparingly for horror, electrocution, radio-activity saturation and city destruction.

Perversely I listened to Vol 2 first. Try track 18 (Vol 2) for one striking example of the music-type complete with effects taken straight out of the second movement of Manuel de Falla’s harpsichord concerto. In Vol 2 track 15 we get a choral contribution as well. The standard menu of musical effects includes a black-toned trombone and tuba blasts for rearing monsters. The marches are a bit cheesy not to say kitsch. Hammering drums proclaim the relentless destructive tread of the monsters and their occasional and spectacular monstrous internecine warfare. There is humour here to coincide with the appearance of baby monsters. Shades of Dies Irae can be heard. Track 20 offers a weird repetitive Latin-American beat. Godzilla vs Space Godzilla (Tracks 19-23) is actually rather good and has a decent theme or two (try track 21) although all a bit sub-Superman in tone. Track 22 suggests that Walton was in the composer’s ‘colouring book’- not a bad march - not bad at all!

Vol 1 suffers in the early tracks from some ancientish sound - though lively and always clear enough. The masters must have been in pretty good condition or someone has done some worthwhile reclaim work on them. Akira Ifukube (the ‘Mr Godzilla’ of film music) provided the very first score. Interesting to hear the Godzilla March asserted right from the beginning in 1954. There are 47 tracks on this volume. If anything the effects and the music is even more varied than Vol. 2. A boy soprano appears in one track. The Birth of King Ghidorah (track 14) is clashingly portrayed and really very well done decked out with harp glissandos and much percussion and brass. Ifukube must surely have heard a few Herrmann fantasy scores or perhaps Herrmann heard a few of Ifukube’s? As we progress through the sixties we get jazz influences and even music that could have been lifted from any episode of The Man from Uncle (track 25). There is a charming music box dance at track 33. Track 34 takes us into Starsky and Hutch territory - the Monsters Get on Down! Track 35 has a jazzy Japanese language ballad for an un-named female singer with a strange male voice choir providing the backing. Big band tracks and eerie theremin-led movements rub shoulders. Hearing this disc is sometimes rather like cutting a trench to expose the different layers of popular music of the period 1950-75.

I am not sure how to categorise these discs and this music. It would make hard going to be listened to purely as music. Really these CDS fall into the large sack of souvenir releases. Film music completists and those craving nostalgic reminders will want them but I doubt the travelling power of the music beyond those quarters. The whole thing is, to Western ears, strong on spectacle and effect but lacking in heart and relaxation.

The orchestras and conductors are not identified which is a pity. Documentation is skimpy but you get an outline of the plot of each film featured. These are fun releases. They may have a curiosity allure for horror film music collectors who will have a nostalgic field day. The music however does not consistently hold the attention for a more general audience.

Format and design is consistent across both volumes. There are stills from the movies but they are rather small - inevitable when so many films are being covered. You get plot-outlines and film titles in Japanese (Genji and transliteration) and English. Titles are shown in English and American versions where they differed. There is nothing about the history of the films or their success.

If you would like to sample the genre then try the new Silva Screen collection ‘Monster Movie Music Album’ (FILMCD 196) spanning a mountain range of monster movies including contributions from Ifukube and many others outside the Godzilla kingdom. That collection is all newly recorded and has a nice sense of variety and balance. You are unlikely to want to listen to either of the present discs all through at a single listening session. The re-recorded single disc is varied enough to be quite listenable in a single sitting.

Recording quality is fine on both discs is never less than reasonable and usually is very good. If you wanted one then get volume two for its musical values and superior sound quality.

 Robert Barnett

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