The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953)
Ray Harryhausen, a legendary pioneer of stop-motion special FX, was responsible for creating some of the most memorable creatures in the history of motion pictures. In an interview with Den of Geek, Dougherty also stated that Harryhausen’s work was one of his main inspirations when it came to creating his own monsters.
“He just had a knack for creating non-human characters, whether they be statues that come to life magically or minotaurs or harpies. He just knew how to take these mythological characters that had never been portrayed on film before and turn them into living, breathing characters.”
The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms is the best Harryhausen movie to watch after King of the Monsters. Not only is the film a testament to the artist’s awesome talent, but it’s also the nuclear-themed monster movie that inspired Toho to create their own back in 1954.
Of course, any Harryhausen movie would make a fun companion piece to any Godzilla flick. King of the Monsters just so happens to mine ancient mythology for inspiration as well, so Clash of the Titans, Jason and the Argonauts, and other Harryhausen movies are also highly recommended viewing.
In the new film, Dr. Ilene Chen (Zhang Ziyi) is an expert in the history of the monsters. We also learn that she has a twin sister and they both come from a bloodline of identical siblings. This is a fun reference to the “Mothra Twins”, a pair of fairy sisters who first appeared in Mothra’s solo film as her communication link with mankind. Whether or not Chen and her sister will be associated with Mothra going forward remains to be seen, but this element is a fun homage to the Toho mythology all the same.
Humanity’s main concern in King of the Monsters is finding a way to investigate the Titans. Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) is so focused on saving the world that she invents a device called Orca, which allows whoever controls it to communicate with the monsters. Given that Dougherty is a fan of Spielberg movies and tales about nature getting its own back, the device was likely named after the boat in Jaws.
You’ve seen Jaws a million times, though. For the purposes of this exercise, watch Orca instead. It’s actually more fitting, too, as there’s a scene in King of the Monsters where the Titans are compared to whales. Orca is about a killer whale causing mayhem and it’s a lot of fun. Perfect summertime viewing.
House of Frankenstein (1944)
If there’s one thing Legendary’s latest Godzilla opus accomplishes really well, it’s portraying the Titans in a sympathetic light. Humans are the real monsters, and most of these creatures don’t want to harm us, even though we deserve it.
Chatting with Den of Geek, Dougherty claimed that he mined the Universal Monster canon for inspiration as he wanted to give his creatures some emotional gravitas. Like Frankenstein’s Monster, Wolfman, Dracula, and The Mummy, Godzilla and his monster counterparts are misunderstood.
“The Universal monster movies were great because they were sympathetic monsters. I think that’s what all really good monster movies are. They’re asking you to feel sympathy for a misunderstood creature that is labeled evil or dark, but as a result is asking you to look at it in a different light.”
There’s a bunch of great Universal Monster movies that are better than House of Frankenstein. However, this was one brought several of the monsters together, so it’s more in line with the monster mashing spirit of the new Godzilla. I also recommend Fred Dekker’s Monster Squad, which is a fun comedic take on the Universal Monster lore.
An Inconvenient Truth (2006)
Let’s end things on a depressing note. While Godzilla: King of the Monsters aims to provide a thrilling spectacle and an abundance of fun, its core message is worth contemplating long after the end credits roll. We need to protect our planet while we still have time.
There’s certainly no shortage of documentaries about the planet’s potential downfall. But I’ve chosen An Inconvenient Truth because the film does a great job at highlighting the ways in which we’re damaging the environment — sometimes without even realizing. Governments and corporations are inclined to fire missiles and dump toxic waste, but that doesn’t mean us regular folk can’t make small changes in our daily lives that could have a positive impact in the long run.