John Carpenter knows a thing or two about monsters. The now legendary genre director has created many iconic creatures out of near whole cloth—or with the collaboration of Debra Hill in the case of Halloween’s Michael Myers. And even with a movie like The Thing (1982), which is both a remake and adaptation, the creature designs Carpenter and Stan Winston came up for the eponymous alien is now the stuff of eternal nightmares.
What is less known about Carpenter, however, is that he’s also a massive Godzilla fan. Going back to when he saw the American version of the original 1954 film, Godzilla: King of the Monsters (1956), during its original release, Carpenter has had a lifelong affinity for the giant kaiju movies that came out of Japan, particularly those released by Toho Studios. But as he confesses to Den of Geek, “These movies have been appreciated in silence for years.” Speaking not just of himself, but of the larger U.S. perception of Godzilla movies throughout much of the 20th century, Carpenter adds, “It wasn’t cool to be a fan of Godzilla. It just wasn’t. It was just a shameful thing. I’m not ashamed.”
Indeed, Carpenter is hosting along with Shout! Factory TV a curated collection of kaiju classics from Toho Co., Ltd. that will be streamed across four days by the service, beginning on Thursday, Nov. 3, aka Godzilla Day. And it was in anticipation of this event that Carpenter spoke with us about all-things Godzilla, including why he thinks audiences keep coming back decades later for monsters like Godzilla or his very own Michael Myers creation, who is still going strong at the box office more than 40 years after the original Halloween in 1978.
“We love bad guys, man, we always have,” Carpenter says of the similarities between Michael and the Big G. “There wouldn’t be anything without them. Michael Myers, they love to see him kicking ass and they love to see him get his ass kicked. It’s really bizarre. It works both ways.”
With special regard to Godzilla though, the mutated dinosaur is unique since unlike Michael) he can be hero or villain, or whatever else a storyteller might need.
Says Carpenter, “Godzilla has been everything. He’s been an arch-villain. He’s been a savior, a hero who saves the Earth. He’s an all-purpose monster. Anything you need, he’s there for you. If you need him to be a vicious world-ending creature, he’s there. If you need him to save the earth, he’s there. That’s why we love him. There’s something great about any big reptile who destroys a city, he is in our hearts.”
Still for Carpenter, the appeal of Godzilla is of a specific vintage: the original Showa Era films released between 1954 and 1975. Those are the Godzilla movies that matter most to the They Live filmmaker. And what of the recent American attempts to make Hollywood-sized Gojira movies?
“Oy, well, the first one was horrifying,” Carpenter says. “It’s pretty good. It’s a spectacle. They just don’t have the same charm of the original Godzilla movies, the cast of the Godzilla movies. Even though they brought over old has-been American actors to be in [the originals], the actors were great. I guess most of them were under contract at Toho. American Godzilla movies are a computer-fest. They lack charm, and I’m just not that interested.”
With that said, Carpenter is very interested in showing audiences the Godzilla he knows, the Godzilla he cherishes, and the Godzilla who really is the king of the monsters, beginning on Thursday when Shout! Factory TV will stream the original Japanese language version of the 1954 film, Gojira. That will be followed with Rodan (1956) on Friday, Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964) on Saturday, and War of the Gargantuas (1966) on Sunday.
And come back to Den of Geek tomorrow for our full chat with Carpenter about which is his favorite Toho monster, why the 1954 film reigns supreme, and if we might ever see his unreleased short film, “Gorgo Versus Godzilla,” from 1969…