Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Big Picture: Frankenstein Conquers the World

Over the summer I started watching a weekly video series called "The Big Picture" over at The Escapist. Basically the gist of the videos is that one of the Escapist's regular contributors, MovieBob, has free range to rant about whatever strikes his fancy each week. Topics have ranged from a set on Hollywood History to the revolution in animation that is encapsulated in Yogi Bear's collar (seriously, watch that one, it's AMAZING). 

Considering that content description and the fact that the series' subtitle is "A Hard Look At All Things Geek," it's really no surprise the videos strike my fancy more often than not. I've been planning to feature an episode here on the blog, and I think last week's installment presents the perfect conflux of MovieBob's style with a number of my personal interests. I hope you enjoy The Big Picture: Frankenstein Conquers the World.

Ok, now that you've seen that I want to present a quick commentary on why I selected that video in particular. First and foremost it's about a movie I have never seen, and one that features Frankenstein's monster no less. This immediately piques my interest since Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is one of my all-time favourite novels, and I love to explore its various adaptations (even though most of them are kinda crap). I realize now that I haven't talked about Frankenstein at all on this blog, and perhaps that's something I need to rectify in the near future... Regardless though, that fact alone has me curious, but the hits don't stop coming. On top of that the movie is made by Toho of freaking Godzilla fame, and I've made no secret of my love for all things big, radioactive, and green.

So the movie features a giant, radioactive monster that's (inexplicably) referred to as Frankenstein stomping around Japan and generally acting like everyone's (read: my) favourite king of the monsters. That's more than enough to sell me, but wait! There's more! MovieBob rightly tells us how this is one of the only movies to really dive right into the darker aspects of Japan's 20th century history, featuring not only their alliance with the Nazis in WWII but also the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima as major plot points. Holy shit! 

I've mentioned before how one of the reasons I find Godzilla so interesting is the fact that he's more or less a cinematic manifestation of the social/cultural/political/psychological scars left on the Japanese populace by the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These are some of the darkest moments in modern history and the orignal Gojira was a clear attempt to negotiate the literal and figurative damage done. Regardless of the increasingly ridiculous and irreverent latter films in the series (although I would argue they build off the initial framework in interesting ways) that first movie dealt with some very serious subject matter via metaphor, leaving the real context off-screen in the hearts and minds of the audience.
Frankenstein Conquers the World eschews subtlety altogether and dives head-first into the historical fray. The movie not only deals with the bombing of Hiroshima as a historical fact and incorporates it as an integral plot point, it moreover depicts this event on film. Seriously! You saw the video above, you know as much as I do, even MovieBob is stunned by this choice. On the one hand this honestly doesn't sound nearly as tasteful or clever as the approach taken in the Godzilla franchise; there the idea of nuclear power was the plot rather than merely an event driving it forward, and the actual history was respectfully left to the audience to remember. On the other hand, Frankenstein Conquers the World is unique in its explicit response to such a horrifying event a scant two decades after it actually occurred! The movie was made in 1965 so the damage done was still very much fresh in the minds of the Japanese populace, and yet Frankenstein seems to use the event as a mere justification for getting a dude to stomp around miniature sets. Hell, the bombings are (rightfully) still a touchy subject, so it's incredible to think that they were depicted on film at all so shortly after occurring, and moreover that they were used in such a (seemingly) irreverent way.

So Frankenstein Conquers the World has shot right to the top of my "To Watch" list, number one with a bullet! I don't expect it to be deep, artistic, or even good for that matter, but I do expect it to be an "interesting" take on Frankenstein and a uniquely explicit look at Japan's response to the bombing of Hiroshima. I expect it'll play on a lot of the themes and concepts that I find so captivating about the Godzilla franchise, albeit a little less tastefully. Finally, I expect to have a good time enjoying some classic "MAN-IN-SUIT" action (Frankenstein fights Baragon!!!).

This post ended up being more about Godzilla (again) than about The Big Picture or even Frankenstein, but I think it served its purpose. I wanted to give a shout out to one of my new favourite video series and also talk about a movie that I really want to see, and I'm always happy to talk about Godzilla. Plus now I have a few new post ideas in the bank. Anyway, take my advice and check out The Big Picture, it's pretty damn awesome (again I specifically recommend the one about Yogi Bear's collar). And if you've seen Frankenstein Conquers the World or have a different opinion on Godzilla or whatever then, as always, let me know in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. Neat videos, thanks for the link. One of the many things I love about the Internet is that it gives time and space for people to focus on seeming inconsequential things (like collars) that wind up being illuminating. Hard to imagine that happening before.