"Godzilla Attacks Worcester! A Creature Double Feature!" was a show put on by the good folks at That's Entertainment in Worcester (MA) a couple nights ago. Luckily, I was able to attend and met up with two good friends at the Elm Draught House in Millbury for the proceedings. What can I say, it was a blast!
Monday, April 4, 2011 was a cold, raw, rainy day in the Worcester area. Pretty much what one would expect from an early April day in New England. There was even some thunder and lightning too. Perfect weather for going out to the movies! Not to mention perfect weather for Godzilla movies. It kind of reminded me of the sort of day that was tailor-made for watching Creature Double Feature on channel 56 (WLVI) in the Boston area back in the 1970s and 80s. If the weather was too nice you might be forced by your Mom to go outside to play, but dreary conditions like Monday's meant you would be able to hunker down in front of the TV at 1:00 on Saturday afternoon for three hours of monster movie heaven!
As I mentioned in my earlier blog about this show, tickets were free--but had to be picked up in person at That's Entertainment comic book store in Worcester. Obviously store regulars would be in a great position to get tickets. But people who had never been there (or lived further away and couldn't find the time to get out there) might not be as likely to get these coveted passes. It was a good ploy to bring bodies into the store, but I was a bit concerned about how many people would actually make it to the show. In addition to the ticket policy the show was being put on on a Monday night (not the best time frame for a four-hour Godzilla-fest, but the only day that the Elm Draught House is closed--and thus available for a program like this). Well, I needn't have been worried. I am not great at estimating crowd numbers, but a lot of people did indeed show up. I can't imagine that the show's promoters were disappointed by the attendance. Late in the evening I was chatting with the owner of the Elm and he said that he felt there were around 125 people there. That's a VERY good number for a show that was being put on for the first time, with a somewhat off-beat ticket policy, on a Monday night... I guess it goes to show that Godzilla can still fill seats even after all these years!
The show was advertised as being family-friendly, and a lot of people seemed to take this promise to heart. In addition to all the young adults that one might expect for a comic book store's show there were some slightly older folks (such as myself) in their 30s and 40s who would have remembered watching Godzilla back in the Creature Double Feature days. Not only that, but a number of people brought their children too! There was a group of ten-year-olds hanging out in the first couple rows having a grand old time all night. It truly was an all-ages event!
One of the interesting aspects of the show was the fact that they didn't announce which two Godzilla movies would be featured until showtime. It would be difficult to complain about their choices regardless of what they ended up being--I mean, if you like Godzilla and come out for a show like this pretty much any Godzilla movies would be fine. I guess some people might have a preference for the older movies (the ones from the 1950s to the 1970s) and some people might prefer the more recent ones from the 1980s up to the present, but they're all Godzilla movies, right? Okay, I also suppose that some might even be turned off by the 1970s-era films where Godzilla was usually a good guy and became increasingly kid-friendly and, dare I say, "lovable"? As for myself, I was hoping for two from those early days, and I would have been fine with the "Godzilla-as-a-good-guy" ones because those are the ones I grew up watching on TV. Well, they ended up splitting the difference and going with one old title and one new one. The first movie was "Godzilla vs. Gigan" (aka "Godzilla on Monster Island") (1972). This was a great choice, as this corny episode had plenty of funny stuff to keep the crowd laughing and throwing out puns throughout the movie. This is also the movie that has probably the oddest Godzilla moment ever: namely the part where he orders Anguirus to leave Monster Island and head to Japan to see what's going on. What makes this so "odd"? Well, we actually hear Godzilla and Anguirus talking to each other...in English! Hilarious! Regardless of the cheese factor, the crowd really got into it during the climatic monster battles. It was a great thing to hear everyone cheering the good monsters on and reacting to every body slam and cheap shot as the action unfolded.
The second movie was "Godzilla: Final Wars" (2004). When they first announced that they were going to show a newer film I felt a touch of disappointment, but it turned out to be a great choice. Fans of the original series of Godzilla movies who might not have watched any since they were kids (and who therefore wouldn't be familiar with the newer ones) got a chance to see how Godzilla movies have changed over the years. And younger fans who might be most familiar only with the newer titles (through the movies and the video games) got to experience the fun of an older title like "Godzilla vs Gigan". The action in "Final Wars" was certainly big-screen worthy. And, it features pretty much ALL the monsters who have ever battled Godzilla over the years (with the exception of Mechagodzilla). Some only appeared for a very short time, but it was fun to watch anyway. Appropriately enough, Gigan and King Ghidorah were heavily featured in both movies. Also, both movies featured aliens (disguised as humans) who planned on taking over the earth with monsters that are under their control. Not sure if these facts had anything to do with the choice of titles, but it did tie the two otherwise very different movies together pretty well. Some of the biggest cheers of the night came when Godzilla kicked the ass of the monster from the 1998 American version of "Godzilla". That movie bombed big time when it was released, and is pretty much universally despised by all Godzilla fans.
Before the first movie the That's Entertainment people welcomed the crowd and thanked them for coming. Next came a vintage "Coming Attractions" bumper. But, instead of trailers for old movies they showed the excellent Tom Selleck narrated Father's Day PSA that featured Godzilla and his son Minya, and the old Nike "Godzilla vs. Charles Barkley" commercial from the 80s.
Another treat was that they had an on-screen introduction to each movie by local Horror Host Crypt Meister (and his sidekick Warren) from the show Creepy Castle. I'm a big supporter of public-access shows like this and had never heard of Creepy Castle, so it was a treat to be introduced to something that was new to me. Here's the introductions as they appeared at the show.
The Creepy Castle Introduction
Between the movies they put some classic drive-in intermission ads (including the very suggestive one where the hot dog jumps into the bun) on the screen while the crowd mingled a bit, used the restrooms and got more food and drink. Then they gave out the door prizes. Prizes included an Anguirus toy, a Godzilla toy, a gift certificate for That's Entertainment and a DVD of "Godzilla vs. Gigan"!
The raffle prizes were a big hit
The Elm crowd enjoying the intermission activities
The toys were appropriate of course--since the monsters were featured in the movie we had just watched. After intermission the second half of the show began with the title sequence from the 1970s Hanna-Barbera cartoon "Godzilla" (the one with his son Godzooky).
Then the Creepy Castle folks made another on-screen appearance, introducing "Final Wars". It seemed that nearly everyone stuck around for the whole show. I thought that the kids would leave and the crowd would significantly thin out for "Final Wars", but it didn't seem like too many people left. The roars of laughter, cheers and applause from the crowd were every bit as loud as they were during the first film. Everyone seemed to have a great time.
All throughout the evening the Elm Draught House's snack bar/refreshment stand was kept busy fueling the crowd with pizza, hot dogs, burgers, nachos, soda, beer, wine and some of the best-tasting popcorn anywhere. Their extensive and reasonably priced menu is always a highlight of a visit to the theater (and the fact that they serve beer and wine is obviously a plus!).
Godzilla prepares to demolish one of the Elm's pizzas
After "Final Wars" ended the That's Entertainment gang returned to the stage to thank everyone once again and raffle off the rest of the prizes. The second batch of prizes included a King Ghidorah toy, tickets to the Elm Draught House, another That's Entertainment gift certificate and a "Godzilla: Final Wars" DVD (which they promised was only viewed once!). A little over four hours after the scheduled start time of 6:00 everyone filed out of the theater and headed home happy and (I imagine) hoping for future installments of shows like this one. I know I was! Outside the theater the night was cool, quiet and there was a lot of fog. One could almost imagine it as being the setting of a Godzilla movie. A perfect ending to a great night of food, friends, fun and monsters. What more could one ask for? Maybe...another show like this in the future? Let's hope so!
Now, THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT!