“Kill it, Daddy! Kill it!


Not the kind of spider native to Northeastern Ohio!

Lately, my backyard patio has been invaded by several species of gigantic arachnids. I mean these spiders are so big that they feed on rodents. I find half-eaten chipmunks encased in webs nearly every morning. OK, so maybe that’s not exactly true, and, maybe the spiders are just average-sized spiders for their species – but, that doesn’t make them any less frightening. There are two kinds of these eight-legged freaks infesting my patio. First, there’s the brown, hairy ones whose webs are cloudy messes that look like cotton candy. They spin these webs between the rain gutter and the house, then sit and wait for their prey, in hiding, behind the gutter. If they venture out, and you catch their glance, they dart back so fast that you begin to wonder if you’ve even seen them in the first place. They’re like ninja spiders. Second, there’s the brightly-colored spiders with angular-shaped abdomens that spin large webs of intricate design. They spin these webs between the shrubs, then sit and wait right smack in the middle of them. If you look at them, they ignore you. They’re fearless. It was this latter kind that recently spun its web between a shrub and my daughter’s basketball post, prompting her to drag me outside to kill it for her. However, first, she had to take a picture …


Not my daughter’s photo of the spider web on my backyard patio!

My daughter’s photo didn’t come out so well, and, she didn’t have the courage to do a re-shoot. “Kill it, Dad,” she demanded, and those three words, instantly, reminded me of when I was a child …

I had a turtle when I was five or six. It was one of those small ones that fits in the palm of your hand. I named him (or her) Gamera. Why? Well, I loved Gamera when I was a kid. Gamera is a Japanese kaiju (“giant monster”) created by movie studio Daiei in 1965 to compete with Toho‘s popular Godzilla movies. Gamera is a gigantic, jet-propelled, fire-breathing turtle. I loved the Showa-era Gamera films which, as a kid, I watched on local late-night horror shows, but, none of the 7 films produced between 1965 and 1971 thrill me much as an adult (except for the 1st one), like some of the Showa-era Godzilla films still do. However, Shusuke Kaneko‘s Heisei-era Gamera films [Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995), Gamera 2: Attack of Legion (1996), Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris (1999)] are some of the best kaiju eiga (“giant monster movies”) ever made [especially the 2nd one, my favorite!] …


DVD covers for the Heisei Gamera trilogy.

Shusuke Kaneko also directed one of my favorite Heisei-era Godzilla films [Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001)], and other awesome films like Azumi 2: Death or Love (2005), Death Note (2006) and Death Note: The Last Name (2006). The latter two movies are brilliant adaptations of the Death Note manga starring Tatsuya Fujiwara [of Battle Royale (2000)] as Light Yagami.

The Show era, by the way, corresponds to the reign of Hirohito in Japan from 1926 to 1989, while the Heisei era is the current era in which Hirohito‘s son Akihito reigns. Japanese films are typically grouped into these eras. Check out some of my vinyl Heisei-era Gamera action figures …


Some of my Heisei Gamera vinyl action figures.

The winged monster is Gyaos, one Gamera‘s most popular foes. Showa-era Gamera battled Gyaos in Gamera vs. Gyaos [aka Return of the Monsters] (1967); while Heisei-era Gamera fought several Gyaos in Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995). Gamera isn’t quite as revered as Godzilla, but, the giant flying turtle inspired a few. Like me. Or SoCal retro trad surf instrumental band The Phantom Surfers who covered the song played by a Japanese Ventures-esque band in a nightclub scene in Gamera (1965) on their very cool LP The Phantom Surfers Play The Songs Of The Big-Screen Spectaculars (1992). The album also included wonderful covers of “Geronimo” [from The Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow (1959)], “The Beach Girls and The Monster” [from the film of the same name (1965)], and “High Wall” [from the fake movie Go Baby Go! … or Go To Hell]. Anyway …

I loved Gamera, the kaiju, and I loved Gamera, my turtle. However, one day I found Gamera lying on his back in his terrarium. He was not moving, nor did he move when I prodded him. I began to cry. My father rushed into my room. “Gamera died!” I sobbed. My father comforted me and explained that death is part of life. He said we’ll have a funeral for Gamera to celebrate his life, then bury him in the backyard. “Afterwards, I’ll take you to Burger King for dinner,” he added. I loved Burger King as a kid, but, my father was a health and fitness fanatic, so he rarely ever took me to Burger King let alone to any other fast food joints. I wiped my tears away, and smiled. I couldn’t wait to eat a juicy Whopper at last! Suddenly, Gamera twitched, and began struggling to flip himself back over. I looked at that turtle, then glanced at my father, and, with an evil grin, I said, “Kill it, Daddy! Kill it!”

OK, so the possibility that this anecdote is true is somewhere around, well, zero. I had a turtle that I named Gamera, my father was a health nut, and, I loved Burger King (back then). However, the rest is a joke that I loved as child. I feel bad for the ruse, so here’s a true story from around the same time …

In the early 1970s, my parents couldn’t afford a color television. Yes, we had that option back then, B&W or color. I was a big fan of monster movies, as were all my friends. However, all of my friends had color TVs, and they would always talk about how their favorite monster movies looked better in color. Eventually, my father brought home our first color TV and, of course, I was ecstatic. I couldn’t wait to see my favorite monster movies in color. However, in the 1970s, we didn’t have On Demand, DVRs, DVDs, or even videocassettes. We had to wait for the local network affiliates (on VHF) or syndicated stations (on UHF) to broadcast our favorite movies. So I waited, searching the TV guide (which came with the local newspaper) every Friday. My patience paid off when, a few months later, I found that Superhost, a local Saturday afternoon horror host, was broadcasting my most favorite monster movie the very next day. I could hardly sleep that night. The next afternoon, I watched the show only to learn The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953) was made in B&W!


The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953) in B&W!


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