8/20/20

GODZILLA in America: the 1960's (part two)

Continuing from where we left off last time (which was 1963), things are about to get a lot more three-dimensional.

GODZILLA GAME (Ideal, 1963)

With regard to officially entering the American market, you could hardly have a more stunning official first item for your franchise than this game.  The beautiful and captivating artwork draws the purchaser right in, and has ensured that the game has continued to hold a high ranking among more than one type of collector for all these years.  There is a two-edged sword involved with "crossover" type items though--as we are about to illustrate with the next item in our list--in this particular case, both board game and Godzilla collectors want it, and the price for a nice specimen has continued to rise! While the game is pretty rare, especially in great shape, it is out there if you are searching, so don't give up.  

Godzilla - All-Plastic Assembly Kit (Aurora, 1964)

And speaking of continuously inflating prices, the Aurora Godzilla kit may as well be the symbolic figurehead of American Godzilla items.  This item is the perfect conflation of the era in which it appeared:  the explosion in popularity of model kits,  the beginnings of Godzilla as an icon (when movie monsters were at an all-time high), even the Baby Boomer do-it-yourself mentality comes into play here.  All of these things add up to a recipe for instant nostalgia, and in short, everybody wants this model kit.  It was mentioned above that items being desired by more than one type of collector drive up prices--and, for the record, vintage model collectors are voracious.  This kit has continued to shoot up in past years, with no signs of stopping. If you don't have it, get it quickly.  By the time the sting wears off from the price you paid, it will have gone up so much, you'll feel quite justified!

Rodan the Flying Monster (Ken Films #229 & #529, 1964-65)

And now, we move to the first Toho film that you could see in your own house! Another type of item that builds up a powerful nostalgia among collectors are the early 8mm (and later, Super 8) films that were sold to the public.  Ken Films was an early home movie company that wisely forged licensing deals with major studios, and as a result, played their part in the birth of home video.  For more than 15 years, they released an astounding amount of product (and for our purposes here, all of the Godzilla-related reels in America), eventually acquiring STAR WARS and lasting into the early 1980's.  Their first Toho film was RODAN, which came out in 1964.  
A future article will discuss this further, but it's important to point out that Ken Films were available in two lengths:  50-foot reels, lasting around 3&1/2 minutes, and 200-foot reels, lasting about 14 minutes.  From a front view (such as in a photo from an Internet auction, for example), if you have no other items to compare for scale, the box art alone will not tell you which reel you are seeing, unless you can see the item number on its spine.  The 50-foot reels' numbers always started with the digit 5, and the 200-foot reels always started with a 2.

These early Ken Films were all black and white, as well as silent (subtitles were added to the films to keep the story going).  You might think that the arrival of color and sound created more and more variants of each film, but this is not exactly the case (the above-referenced future article will detail exactly what Godzilla/Toho reels were produced).  In the case of RODAN, what did add another pair to the list was the arrival of Super 8.  The Super 8 format was invented in 1965, and quickly became the go-to format for amateur film-makers and home aficionados.  Ken Films was quick to add this format to its catalogs.  

If you are keeping track, that makes a total of four RODAN releases by Ken Films; two 8mm sizes and two Super 8.

Varan the Unbelievable (Ken Films #236 & #536, 1965)

The very next year after RODAN was brought into collectors' homes, Ken Films released VARAN THE UNBELIEVABLE, in black and white and silent with subtitles.  As above, there are also four different releases in all; two 8mm sizes and two Super 8.  

"King Kong" Trading Cards (Donruss, 1965)

We return to trading cards once again:  Donruss' King Kong set from 1965 included 11 images from KING KONG vs. GODZILLA, scattered throughout the set.  Honestly, they didn't have to include Godzilla six times (one Godzilla card doesn't even have Kong in it!), but they did, which was fortuitous on their part.  Here are the first six of those cards:  #3, 17, 19, 21, 20, and 31.  We will begin Part 3 next time with the remainder! 

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