4/8/21

GODZILLA vs. KING GHIDORA(H) Rare VHS Revision Discovered!

 

Here's a weird one.  It's pretty rare for a VHS box to have ever received any kind of update.  Sometimes a year will be replaced, or the manufacturer's address will change, but here is a major example that was apparently done at Toho's insistence.


Now, granted, lots of the 1980's Godzilla VHS were semi-legitimate at best, and there often wasn't a lot of attention that went into them.  In 1998, when  the Hollywood debacle known as "GINO" caused another surge of Godzilla merchandise in the United States, the Heisei series of Godzilla movies began to finally get official releases in the U.S., by Columbia/Tristar.   


The front of the box for this movie was then printed as "GODZILLA vs. KING GHIDORA," giving us yet another spelling of everyone's favorite golden space dragon's name.  (Both "Ghidra" and "Ghidrah" had been prevalent since the 1965 release of his film in the U.S.)  

Now, it's clear that by the mid-to-late 1990's, Toho was earnestly trying to normalize and streamline all of their preferred kaiju names (remember when you first started seeing the little pictures in the circles, each with the character's "proper" name, on products?).  Soon after 1995's GODZILLA vs. DESTOROYAH film came out, American fans typed about "Destroyer" pretty commonly, but Toho was having none of it, and has done a good job at correcting us all to his actual name of "Destoroyah," which continues to this day.

Which is a good example:  the VHS box for the 1995 film was correct when issued, which lends further credence to the reason for this one being revised. Also, the original (crummy, non-letterboxed) DVD of GODZILLA vs. KING GHIDORAH was released in the fall of 1998 too, and strangely, the title had the correct spelling of "Ghidorah" on that artwork. (What's hilarious is, in the synopsis on the back of both versions of the VHS, the correct spelling of "Ghidorah" is used in the text!)

The initial DVD release of this film (paired with GODZILLA vs. MOTHRA) was very lackluster, but they did spell Ghidorah's name right.

The back of the revised tape still gives 1998 as its date, and it's not just a straight copy of the previous artwork, because the (vertical) title had to be changed there as well (see photo below)...plus, there are some differences in the fine print that add King Ghidorah to the copyrighted characters.  And the strangest, most baffling  move of all was changing the running time from 103 minutes to 89 minutes! That one I can't figure out.  

No doubt this was a "running change" done in production, although it must've been done quite late in the game, because this tape is apparently super rare.  I was lucky to snatch this up, and I should credit the eagle-eyed Ebay seller who knew of its existence (he said it was only the second one he'd seen in his life!).  I know I will definitely be looking twice at any tapes of this film that come up (the incorrect version is quite common).


One further oddity:  while the title is corrected on all sides of the box artwork, the label on the tape remains incorrect! This is further evidence for the "running change" theory! By the way, this tape has been added to our sub-page that keeps track of all Godzilla & Toho VHS released in the USA!

4/5/21

The Prince and The Dragon (KidStuff Records, No Year Given)

This is the worst kids' record that I've ever heard, and that's saying a lot.  It's just so bad, it's difficult to put into words.  I bought it because I thought the cover was sort of cool (even that falls apart; the longer you stare at it, the more problems you find with the art...for example, the dragon's tail, and his absence of back legs), which is never a great reason to buy an album, of course.

"Remember your complete involvement as you listened to your favorite tales?" Yikes. Remember the complete revulsion when you listened to this album?

It's so obscure, KidStuff couldn't even be bothered to print any details about it on the sleeve, much less the year it was even made.  It wasn't even on Discogs (it is now; I had to add it myself), and I suspect there was a good reason why.  Most likely, I've brought back an unholy power that was supposed to stay buried forever.  And for that, I'm sorry.

You won't be surprised to learn that the times given on the labels (the only info about this LP that we even get) are incorrect.  KidStuff (really should be a backwards "S" there, but who cares) often credited their ridiculousness to the highfalutin title of "The Kid Stuff Repertory Co.," which in this case is just two men, a woman, a piano player straight out of a silent movie theater, and lots of accents that go all over the place from minute to minute (and some occasional ad-libbing).  I'd be shocked if there was any organized method behind this "production" other than just buying a tape from amateur theatre students, or somebody's brother-in-law.  I say "buying" a tape, but most likely, it was "trading for a sack of Big Macs, or possibly rolling papers." 

My favorite line? "The dragon's tail whipped around his body like a whip."  The whole thing somehow drags on for just over 28 minutes of your life--which you will never, ever get back--and the last few minutes are even extended by letting the piano player improvise and vamp endlessly (these are listed as two separate songs on the label, but that's wrong too).  

The worst problem though, is the story, which makes no sense.  There's a prince, whose father is a king (duh), but there's another princess somewhere, whose father is also a king (also duh), and they have the same voice, so meanwhile the listener (me) is thinking they are siblings, and perhaps don't know it? Eww. (Insert George Lucas joke here.) There's a dragon that's eaten nearly everyone, and the prince finds out that there are a bunch of random animals inside of each other (you read that right) like nesting dolls, that are "the source of the dragon's power," and he sets out to fight the dragon (hand-to-hand, I might add).

All of this confused me so much, I did what I do for nearly everything else that confuses me:  consult Wikipedia, who tells me that "The Dragon and the Prince" (KidStuff obviously reversed it so they could retain the toy rights) is a Serbian fairy tale (so you know it's going to be extra happy).  The synopsis sort of matches, in that there are various (but different) animals inside of one another, and they are the source of the dragon's power, who must be burst open...only in the KidStuff version, it's not very clear at all (and there's a second dragon for some reason at one point) how this works out, or even what happens to the dragon.  They just stop talking about him.  Also, the prince has to get three sticks that open a prison somehow, and all of the people that the dragon has eaten are captured there (alive, because reasons), which makes no sense EITHER...they are freed, of course, but the Wikipedia version ends with the whole town disappearing, and the prince crying and having to dig their graves.  So, there's that uplifting ending to enjoy. (The KidStuff version only ends with the listeners crying.)

Here's the take-away.  If you don't know, no matter what culture they are from, basically, fairy tales are drug-fueled, paste-eating fever dreams of nonsense, originally designed to control wayward children by scaring them in or out of doing something...this is all fine, but what boggles my mind is that somebody wrote this crap down, and saved it for posterity, as if it would be meaningful to any of us in the future.  And that is the real crime, my friends.

3/31/21

Learn the Secret Powers of the Deadliest Killers in the Orient (Comic Book Ad, 1975)

 

Remember all of the bizarro, too-good-to-be-true items that were advertised in comic books back in the day? You may recall some of the famous ones:  the purported 7-Foot Polaris Submarine, X-Ray Specs, 6-foot Moon Monsters, Sea Monkeys, and heck, even real monkeys.  All of these were offered in the pages of comics.  And, don't forget GRIT, or the promise that I could become rich enough to buy my own Atari games, just by selling seed packets.

The other day, I was enjoying a classic slab of primo 1975 Jack Kirby goodness, when I ran across this full-page ad.  I'd seen it before, but I had never stopped to take it all in.  It's quite a read.  


Try to remember the kung-fu craze that had taken hold of the world and had reached its peak by the early 1970's.  By the time this ad was run, Bruce Lee hadn't even been dead but probably a year and a half; maybe less.  Ninjas would become, for the 1980's, what kung-fu fighters were to the 1970's.  By the time you got to the byline of THE PHYSIO-MENTAL POWERS OF THE NINJA, you had the attention of most kids...although admittedly, this ad was too wordy to have interrupted my comic book reading...and in 1975, I was too little anyway.

So, right away, under the headline, we bandy the term "invisibility" about twice, and we aren't even into the ad proper yet.  But, you have my attention!

Right away, we are launched into a whirlwind of capital letters and incredible claims.  You would expect an ad like this to make lots of cringey mistakes, but despite the hugely-entertaining hyperbole, it really doesn't.  (In lots of American fiction, ninjas are wrongly associated with China, for example, but they don't make that mistake here, and even use the name of the discipline of Ninjutsu correctly.)  All of the secrets discussed here are in a manual they will be glad to sell us--and, we are told that revealing the secrets of Ninjutsu meant "a gruesome death," implying that, well, somebody bit it big time in order for us to have this knowledge.  So, shouldn't we honor that?

Generously, they also make a point to offer discounts to law enforcement agencies...although to this day I have never seen the Ninja Task Force of my local police department...but, you say, that's because they are obviously invisible.  I know.


We are also promised that we will learn "the all important time-lag factor...instrumental to the art of disappearing."  Yes, please!  That would be handy at work.  They also tell us that "NINJA were the deadliest of fighters who were unbeatable in unarmed combat."  (Wikipedia tells me that ninja actually used lots of weapons.) The text then immediately discusses an "incredible array of weapons" (huh?) such as "Stars of Death, or their deadly Retrievable Stone."  "Stars of Death" I think is a breakfast cereal, but this "Retrievable Stone" perplexed me.  From some mild yet lazy Googling, it looks like it is some sort of weight on the end of a rope, probably used for climbing.  

The farther you get in the text, the more subtle bombshells they keep flinging:  "These fighters were unsurpassed in their ability to overcome all of their enemies.  They employed magic and stealth, and--" hang on, how did magic get into this? Somebody's 20-sided die just fell out of their pocket in public.  I mean, you had me at ninja, and now we are talking about magical ninja.  "You can protect yourself and your loved ones against ANY ATTACKER under ANY CONDITIONS.  Even while sleeping."  Wait, what? Suddenly I have questions about somnambulist fisticuffs...in the later bullet points, they mention "The NINJA'S special techniques of invulnerability--Even While Sleeping," so which is it? My takeaway from these factoids is that if you hire a ninja, you should let them sleep at work, like Google does.  After all, you're getting them at their best.

Another random bit that they just drop in is when they promise us the "Closely Guarded Secrets of Atemi-Waza," without even giving us a remote clue as to what that is (I looked it up; Atemi-Waza is a series of body-striking techniques adopted into judo in 1882...what this has to do with ninja stuff at all, I have no idea).

And then we get to the mail-away coupon, and discover that this manual will cost $5.00, with 80 cents postage.  For those of you who don't know, five dollars in 1975 was a week's wages.  You could buy an entire personal computer for five bucks back then.  Of course, I am kidding, but my point is, $5.80 was very steep for what was probably just a pamphlet.  

When you submit the order form, they force you to promise "to use the deadly SECRETS OF NINJUTSU only for defense and that I'll never use it as an aggressor," during which I would have firmly had my fingers crossed the entire time.  If I get this power, I am definitely messing some people up.

Now I come to the point in this discussion where I wish I could find somebody who ordered this "manual," so we could see what it really contained.  Then again, maybe that person became a super hero and is far too busy...then again, maybe that person just used it to disappear! 

3/24/21

STAR WORN - Theme Covers Collection (Discs 4 & 5, Leaping Fox)

 

Today we conclude at last this Herculean effort that made me question my very sanity, with discs 4 and 5 of the Star Wars Theme Covers Collection.  

If you are here, then you no doubt remember the iconic Star Wars LP that launched Meco's career:

Meco (here we refer to the artist; the backing band used for live performances was also called Meco), who had seen the film on opening day and several times soon thereafter, can attribute a portion of his success to his expediency and speed.  His idea for a disco project based on John Williams' soundtrack was arranged and recorded in just a few weeks, and was at the head of the pack of Star Wars cover records.  Not only was it a hit, but it cleverly reduced the soundtrack and story of the film into a fun, 15-minute side of an LP (and had a great cover, too--I have one in a frame!).  

What I failed to ever realize was that it had apparently spawned a cottage industry...covers of his cover quickly began to appear all around the world.  We can only assume that this was approved and/or licensed, but as we say in the liner notes to this project, it sounds like some of these records even occasionally utilized Meco's backing tracks!


Some were trying to get a piece of the pie from that sweet, sweet edit version of the Main Theme from Star Wars, which was a #1 single, by the way.  But some opted to cover his entire 15-minute suite, as you will see.  

Results vary, as you would expect.  Somebody called "Galaxy 42" decided that the song needed some words (it didn't work).  James Last, the "Gentleman Conductor" from the UK, gives us a rousing live version (from the Royal Albert Hall), as does the backing orchestra for the Japanese duo, Pink Lady, and both are great.  One rare record from Germany by "The Force," which I actually waited on--in our new habitat of Virus World--for many months, arrived disappointing, and even a little skippy.  An outift called "The Tennessee Guitars" attempted to put some steel guitar swing into the arrangement, and as such it's a standout track for its uniqueness.  Surf-rock legends, The Ventures, sound like they are at a desperate crossroads of their career, however (and the track was only released in Japan), and may have been asleep.  It should also be pointed out that several of the other tracks are merely the same recordings under new names--as stock filler tracks for kids' albums--which we explain in the liner notes.  


Meco, of course, went on to an entire career that was launched by his Star Wars project, and released several other albums of film themes and soundtrack music (another vintage phenomenon which would be impossible in the modern day...how many current film themes can you name that have been hits, even to the point of spawning covers? Right.).  He also was smart enough to continue his Star Wars output with great music from the two sequels...with the innocent but dreaded "Christmas in the Stars" LP coming in between.  We could joke about that album being right behind the Holiday Special in cringe factor, but: 1) we all treasured it as children, and 2) he no doubt made a FORTUNE from it, so more power to him.

We hope you've enjoyed this journey through no less than 53 versions of the Star Wars theme.  Should you ever discover an additional, pre-ESB version that we've missed, send it our way. 

3/22/21

GODZILLA KING OF THE MONSTERS Ad Slicks Set (Trans World Releasing Corp, 1956)

 

Sometimes, pressbooks come with a set of ad slicks (sometimes not, and sometimes they are built in).  For KING OF THE MONSTERS, a hefty set of ads was included in a separate stapled bundle.  They are oddly sized at an inch shorter than the actual pressbook that we looked at last time, at 11 x 16". But they are GREAT.




I really like the smaller, bumper-sticker shaped ads at the bottom of this page.  Here they are, cropped out:

Another value of pressbooks is that they serve as checklists for all of the materials that existed for a particular film.  Can you believe a 24-SHEET poster existed for this movie? We have looked at the album of radio ads in years past! If you are interested in hearing them, go to this post!


And, they also would provide copy for fluff articles and reviews, to be used in newspapers of the day.  Here is a better look at a couple:


None of the crazy ballyhoo ideas that would permeate the later pressbooks, though! And of course, this movie didn't need it!

3/19/21

GODZILLA KING OF THE MONSTERS Pressbook (Trans World Releasing Corp, 1956)

 

I'm very excited to say that after ten to twelve years, I have finally tracked down a copy of the last Godzilla pressbook that I needed for my collection...which was the very first.  This 11 x 17 beauty is the largest pressbook of the group, and a thing to behold.  It's also pretty stinking rare.


If you notice a difference in some of the picture quality, it's because some of these photos came from my personal archive...this thing was difficult to photograph well.
As you see from the above page, this is an unusual pressbook because the film had already played in several places when it was printed ("It stayed 3 Weeks!").  It unfolds into a giant tri-fold, and we are treated to several images of decorated theatre fronts and marquees, as you can see in the next couple of photos, below.


At the right of the montage above, don't miss the photo of the child gazing up in admiration at the film's poster...best photo I have seen in YEARS.

But, there's another first inside of the center spread as well.  Right between the articles and photos is this image:

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe we are looking at what is probably the very first printed cartoon depiction of Godzilla...who knew, at the time?!


Next time, we will look at the equally-impressive set of ad slicks that were included with this pressbook!

3/10/21

STAR WORN - Theme Covers Collection (Disc 3, Leaping Fox)


Here is the middle of our set of vintage Star Wars Theme Covers, and it's the slowest of the bunch, but not completely without interest.  These tracks fall into the second category of SW covers, namely orchestral re-treadings of John Williams' score.  Now, if we are being fair, we should mention that the soundtrack album was a huge seller, and the idea of some of these cover albums was to entice you (or your penny-pinching parents) to buy the cheaper LP, which no doubt worked very well.

One such album ended up being the only thing I knew existed that couldn't be tracked down for this project:  "Music from Star Wars Performed by The Silver Screen" is actually an album-long, one-disc remake of the film's score, but apparently it's just not anywhere to be found.  Four people claim to own it on Discogs, but it's never been sold there, with zero copies for sale.  Should it ever turn up, there's room on this disc for it to be added.


One item placed here to break up the monotony was the second of two (yes, two) Star Wars LP's starring pipe organs.  The one featured in an earlier volume utilized a large church organ, but this one (entitled SPACE ORGAN, which is living proof that I will not always take the obvious joke) starred a "theatrical pipe organ," which, at the time, was the largest in the world.  It was built into the very walls of a restaurant in Portland, Oregon called "The Organ Grinder," and it must've been more than a little unsettling when your dishes and salt and pepper shakers kept vibrating off of your table.  According to Wikipedia, the restaurant developer's goal was to acquire every type of pipe and voice ever manufactured by the Wurlitzer company--which he did--as well as include some non-traditional effects, including "a dive alarm from a submarine."  Unfortunately, the restaurant closed in 1996, but on this disc, we have a 13-minute medley of more than just the Star Wars theme, in fact including other parts of the Williams score, as well as "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."  It highlights the organ's many voices and sounds, and is certainly the high point of this volume...yes, because the rest of it is so boring. Work with me, here!


If you are intrepid enough to hang on, AND if you enjoy the Star Wars disco interpretation by Meco, then you are going to love the concluding two volumes of this series, so stay tuned...


3/8/21

Vintage Godzilla/Godzooky Sleeping Bag Discovered!

 

Thanks to Sean Linkenback for alerting me to the presence of this dealer's catalog from 1980 that was recently discovered! Among the many vintage sleeping bags offered inside, right between Dennis the Menace and The Pink Panther, was this one:

A Godzilla sleeping bag? That includes Godzooky? From 1980? With completely original artwork? It's almost too good to be true.  Which leads me to point out, occasionally these sorts of dealer catalogs would present items that never actually went into production.  On our Chronological List of American Godzilla Items page, we have a couple of such examples at the bottom of the list.  

So now, the race is on, to actually find one! If anyone has any info, please drop us a line!

As a footnote, here is the next most interesting page of the catalog!

  • This page is full of interesting concepts.  Somehow, I never ran into "Super Jrs." (which is a terrible name).  Wikipedia says they "first appeared" in 1982 style guide, but here they are in a 1980 catalog, with a 1978 copyright date.  
  • Seeing what the Doritos bag looked like when I was a kid engulfs me in a wave of nostalgia.
  • Flash Gordon and Popeye are interesting to see (although it strikes me that the Flash Gordon sleeping bag could've at least used artwork from the then-current Filmation animated series, and it would've made more sense (like Mighty Mouse did, above).
  • I swear I knew somebody who actually had the Tootsie Roll sleeping bag.
  • Lastly, the generic "SPACECRAFT" bag, with it's Millennium Falcon and R2 ripoffs, is pretty hilarious, and showed that the Star Wars-mania was still going strong at the time.
  • And we didn't even mention Benji!

3/5/21

Godzilla King of the Monsters (Wonderland Records, 1977)

 


Over the years, there have been a few Godzilla "resurgences" in the USA, and the time period of 1977-78 was certainly one of them.  Marvel had launched a new GODZILLA title, Mattel was cranking out some show-stopping toys and games, but that wasn't all (see it all here at our chronological list of American Godzilla merchandise!), not to mention Hanna-Barbera's animated series that was about to start.  This album was part of that wave of merchandise.  I've said this before, but in short, it was a good time to be alive.

If you are a fan of the old Power Records/Peter Pan/etc., book-and-record type dramatic stories, you will enjoy this.  It's not an easy task to produce audio stories about Godzilla, when the main character can't talk, narrate to himself, or interact directly with the cast.  It would be a little easier if this were one of the products that came with a book or comic, but we don't have that luxury (or budget) here.  All in all, the cast and writers do an admirable job.


Another characteristic of the 1977-78 time period was that the image used for this album cover (Herb Trimpe's cover for Marvel's GODZILLA #1) basically became Godzilla clip art, and was used in lots of places. It's an iconic piece of art.  (I've always thought that the man in the lower right-hand corner looks a lot like S.H.I.E.L.D.'s "Dum Dum" Dugan, who actually made several appearances in the comic, so who knows.)


Two different, side-long adventures are presented, each less than 14 minutes:  "Godzilla vs. Amphibion," and "Godzilla vs. The Alien Invasion."  It would have been interesting to have included some sort of artwork showing us what some of this looked like, especially with Amphibion, an invention made just for this album.

This LP was re-released in 1998 (another "resurgence" period, because of the dumb American in-name-only movie) on CD by Golden Drive, which included some tracks of rather dull techno music to fill out the already-short disc.  This disc went out of print, and may have been re-released in 2001 according to Amazon, but is once again believed to be out of print...if I'm wrong about that, the link you're about to see will disappear, and this post will become an "album review," so here goes:

Godzilla King of the Monsters (Wonderland Records, 1977)

3/2/21

STAR WORN - Theme Covers Collection (Discs 1 & 2, Leaping Fox)

 

Do you ever start a project, and wonder why you started it? Do you ever start a project, and wonder if it will ever end? After many, many hours of work, and a four month delay, we are pleased to reveal this new project, at last.  

The question was this:  How many vintage covers of the Star Wars theme exist? The song was everywhere in the late 1970's, and it seems like everybody had a go at it.  The subject is covered in various books and articles, although they all seem to include different material in their lists.  Like our earlier project of Star Wars rip-off songs, I wanted to stay in the original era, and go no further than the first sequel.  As it turns out, the answer was "a whole lot;" in fact, about 268 minutes' worth, and 5 discs!

Thinking back, when I was a young kid, it always irritated me when I obtained a record with a cover version of a song, and the cover didn't sound exactly like the original song (which is what I was after in the first place, no doubt).  I now know this was simply musical immaturity, but it makes me laugh to think about, because I later learned that a well-done cover is one where the artist puts something of themselves into it, and translates it somehow into a new-ish sort of thing.  And, that is the case with the best of the tracks here...why would you want to listen to bands parroting John Williams' original theme note for note, more than 50 times?

This is a good place to explain that covers of the Star Wars theme fall into three categories.  First, we have general interpretations of the theme, which are all over the map in styles (which makes for a fun listen).  These tracks are contained in Discs 1 & 2.  Secondly, we have what I have jokingly referred to as "Boring Orchestral Covers and Suites," because that's what they are (see above comment about listening to copies of the original track 50+ times).  Luckily, these tracks only take up one disc, which is Disc 3.  Lastly, we shouldn't underestimate the phenomenon that was Meco and his disco interpretation of the John Williams score, because he spawned myriads of covers himself...so many, in fact, that they take up the entirety of Discs 4 & 5! And it probably goes without saying, but lots of these tracks were specific to individual countries, and have never been re-released since their original vinyl outings, with no signs of that ever changing.

So is this collection complete? Far as I know.  Are there more, somewhere? Could be.  I'm always amazed at how the amount of vintage media, which should be quite finite, continues to grow...which, is pretty much a paradox.  

Here are the first two discs, which give you thirty tracks displaying the original theme in just about every way it can be done.  It's really not like listening to the same song over and over, and if you agree, then it means this was a successful project...that I barely lived through!

Disc One: Theme Covers

Disc Two: Theme Covers