Star Godzilla (1978)

Own it!
(Fat Chance!)

review by Scott Hamilton and Chris Holland
See also:

The Dellon Godhead

Nature Trail to Hell

Director's Cut

Goliath and the Cheerleaders

A Very Star Wars Christmas

Star Godzilla

Lava Lamp

Our rating: one LAVA® motion lamp.

Star Godzilla emerges from his humidor.
An interesting footnote in the history of Godzilla films, Star Godzilla can not be properly called a Godzilla film, because it was not produced by or with the consent of Toho, the company that created and owns the character of Godzilla. Star Godzilla was made by a Hong Kong studio, quite probably illegally. This does happen, though, like that Indian version of Superman that goes so far as to steal the special effects scenes and music from Superman (1978), but uses Indian actors and has musical numbers every 15 minutes.

Probably emboldened by the fact that Toho had not produced a Godzilla movie in more than four years, First Studios ran an ad in Variety announcing their intention to make this film. The ad is quaintly ambitious, featuring Godzilla, a Dino De Laurentiis King Kong, flaming cities, and flying saucers. It seems to promise a movie with tons of spectacle.

Reality turned out a little different. Apparently Star Godzilla never got any outside financing, because the film is obviously cheap. The model cities are made of cardboard, and they aren't often stomped, but rather the destruction is limited to burning. The few exceptions to this (like the mansion that Godzilla stomps at one point, apparently some kind of landmark) look like they were stolen from some kid's model scale train set-up. As a matter of fact, we think you can hear that kid crying just off camera a couple of times. The Godzilla suit is cheap looking, probably made of foam rubber, and there is little surface detailing.

If only Adam Sandler had been in
that mansion, this movie would be perfect.
In fact, this is not the first giant monster film made in Hong Kong. The film Mighty Peking Man preceded Star Godzilla by a couple of years. But Star Godzilla probably put an end to the production of other HK giant monster films in the works. Its production displeased Toho greatly, inspiring lawsuits and the eventual burial of the film itself. Other studios looking to make such films thereafter were understandably leery (like Cannon, and their proposed project, Godzilla vs Cleveland).

Like many such Godzilla stories, Star Godzilla features an alien invasion in a not-too-distant future setting. This time the aliens are the "Yodec Warrior Clan" from a far-off star system looking to add Earth to their list of conquests. How do they propose to do this? By sending in the giant monsters, of course! Their variety is a huge bug who tromps the countryside, spitting corrosive venom on everything in sight. Godzilla is awakened from his submarine slumber by the desperate Earth government to fight off the alien bug. Good idea! Now there are twice as many destructive giant monsters in your midst!

Finding his stomping grounds occupied by a humongous insect, Godzilla does the only natural thing -- he torches the bug with his radioactive breath and tries various other methods of fending off the intruders. Unfortunately, he wreaks his own brand of destruction on the countryside as he does so.

Only really interesting because it is a faux Godzilla film, the parts of Star Godzilla that don't feature the faux Godzilla are pretty awful. It didn't help that Star Godzilla has some of the worst subtitles we've seen, even in an old HK film. Reading them was more of an exercise in interpretive poetry than actually a path to understanding what plot there was in the movie. Also a hindrance to this film's credibility is the fact that the future setting is essentially the early eighties with more little blinking lights. Most of the story has to do with a normal-looking guy who somehow has access to all levels of military and government.

Mothra's big brother, Roachra,
comes to town looking for
stale Ding-Dongs.
On the plus side, it's pretty neat to see the the HK treatment of Godzilla, even if it is cheap. Hong Kong films tend to be fun because of their anything goes attitude, and the monster fights are moderately amusing for their sheer wackiness. Only in Godzilla vs The Smog Monster or in Pee Wee's Big Adventure has Godzilla been played more comically than this.

Looking at the circumstances surrounding Star Godzilla's release, it's not hard to figure out why it's not better known. Toho must have put the kibosh on this film early, and it may never have played in theaters, even in its native land. We saw a copy we acquired from one of our favorite bootleggers, and it didn't look like it was dubbed from a laserdisc. It was blurry most of the way through, and the tape case featured a hazy xerox of the Variety ad.

Star Godzilla was ultimately prevented from being a large blot on the reputation of Godzilla by the fact that it was buried deep. That's a shame on one hand, because more people really should see this movie, but hard core Godzilla fans will probably get a better Godzilla fix by watching Bambi vs Godzilla, those Dr. Pepper Godzilla 85 commercials, or Charles Barkley vs Godzilla.

Review date: 04/01/1998 (Hint!)

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