|Godfrey Ho; Image source: popmatters.com|
One year ago, I dubbed August “Godfrey Ho Appreciation Month”, named for one of my favorite schlock directors of all time. I love his over-the-top dub acting, the silly plot lines and, of course, his legendary cut-and-paste editing, which mixes two entirely unrelated films together. At one point I actually really hated this director’s films, but over time they grew on me, and now I enjoy the insanity. So, last year, I dedicated a series of articles to some of his films. This year I will continue in that tradition.
There is something to be said about Godfrey Ho’s films. They aren't exactly unique, as there are a ton of these poorly-dubbed, poorly edited, kung fu/ninja films out there from the 70’s and 80’s. What makes Ho’s different, if not slightly so, is the way he would often film new footage, usually with white actors, to edit into the old footage, often attempting to change the context of the film entirely. Sometimes this actually works. As silly as it is, Ninja Terminator sort of works as a movie plot-wise. Most of the time, however, it’s a mess; a beautiful, hilarious mess.
So how did Godfrey Ho make it in America? Well, it all comes back to the home video market, which opened the doors for hundreds (if not thousands) of wannabe filmmakers and foreign veterans to begin inexpensively releasing their films in the U.S. Early on (mostly in the 70’s) distribution of these films was pretty much chaotic, but generally easy, since there was no stranglehold on the home video market from larger studios, nor were there any strict laws about content (in the form of censorship; because that is what it is) from the government. If you could make a movie, and the master could pass customs, you had a release.
The rise of home video stores in the 80’s fed this push and ultimately, it collapsed as the studios began to crawl out of their fifteen-year-hole as the mid-to-late 80’s saw blockbuster after blockbuster begin to make huge sums of money. They bought up most of the distributors they could, and, for the most part, the mostly-free home video market died in the early 90’s, leaving only a few of the original distributors (pretty much the ones who were already big enough to stand on their own two feet) to ultimately die a slightly slower death.
Godfrey Ho did continue to release films into the 90’s, thanks to revenue he earned in the 80’s, and is, I think, largely responsible for the rise in popularity of ninjas in pop culture, though you may not know it. Yes, his movies were goofy, but they predated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and they followed an extremely popular kung-fu craze in the 70’s and early 80’s. Godfrey Ho released dozens of ninja films in the 80’s, and yes, they made money. So, it stands to reason his ubiquity would lead to influence somewhere. Could Godfrey Ho be the reason for the massive popularity of ninjas in pop culture? I dunno. I just think it would have been one hell of a coincidence if he weren't.
So, I start this month with a very... special movie. Ho’s attempt at making a Kaiju film. Well, sort of a Kaiju film anyway. It is a hilarious mix of a child’s pet story, mixed with an evil overlord trying to take over the world’s food supply. I’d say that’s a perfect way to start things off this month, wouldn't you?